Broadsides from the Ozarks
When we see, over and over again, a favorite photograph taken in early childhood, the distinction between our memory and the frozen image blurs. Do we really remember that event captured on film? Or does the picture simply ignite our imagination and trick us into memory? We usually settle for a combination of both.
Having spent a morning with writer Sue Hubbell, I find myself at this fuzzy inbetween. Did she tell me about Black Edith, the boy kitty, howling at the sight of the Kennedy Center, or did I read it in one of her books? Did we talk about the satisfaction of shingling your own roof, or was that the subject of an essay in her book about Ozark life, A Country Year?
Sue Hubbell is amiably straightforward, gracious and perhaps a bit odd. A self-taught naturalist, Hubbell has lived in the Ozarks for 20 years and is author of four books and innumerable magazine stories that have appeared in Smithsonian, The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine and Sports Illustrated among others.
She has written about life in the Ozark hills surrounding her home, beekeeping, Greer Spring, pies, Michigan Elvis sightings and a feature about the tabloid editors who broke the story of five U.S. senators who are really space aliens. In her 1993 book, Broadsides from the Other Orders, A Book of Bugs, Hubbell serves as ambassador from the world of bugs to ours.
Peculiar? Maybe, but beside the point. She is relentlessly curious, an elegant, profound writer, who takes us thankfully away from the uniformity and predictability of everyday life.
"To me," she writes in Broadsides, "the astounding thing is that for the past 20 years, ...I've been able to talk editors into letting me go around asking that question - What are they (he, you, she) up to? - and make a living out of it. It seems presumptuous, and it has been so much fun that I am afraid one day a grown-up will come along and put an end to it."
Twenty-five years ago, Sue Hubbell was a librarian at Brown University and active in the anti-war movement. She and her husband at the time, Paul Hubbell, head of the biomedical engineering program at the University of Rhode Island, grew weary from the fight.
"It really seemed like the government was out of control, and with both our salaries we were making a fair amount of money and we were