The essays in Sam Pickering’s new collection sing with thoughtful observations on life, death, love, and literature. Whether attending a reunion at Sewanee, cruising the Caribbean, wandering the streets of Storrs, Connecticut, or rambling through Nova Scotia, Pickering is able to work a quotation, insight, or reminiscence into almost every page. His collection sparks with copious observations from other writers and books that he’s devoured through the years. One of the many joys in Happy Vagrancy is finding a new author or essay hiding in the deep foliage of Pickering’s prose. He delivers his insights with humor, wit, and a keen eye for the ordinary wonders that surround us.
Many of the essays touch on death and the dying, and nothing escapes description and fascination whether profound or seemingly less so: the death of a dear friend or two fledgling cardinals blown from a nest in the back yard and now covered with “periwinkle at the corner of the yard.” During a walk down a country lane, the names of flowers, birds, and bugs fill the page. Even in a meadow buzzing with life, there are reminders of our mortality and brief light too soon gone—and they remind us to read, think, and live with gusto and love.