Oaf in Ophir
The highlight of every summer for Emory and his little sister, Faye, was their special annual visit to their grandmother. At Baba’s house, the kids played by the streams, ate blackberries, watched deer, and ran through the woods to their heart’s desire. This summer, Emory was particularly intrigued by the rumor of a magical oaf living near Baba after discovering his dad’s Ophir newspaper clippings.
Emory was alert as he explored the streams and wandered through the woods. A flash of light up the hillside began the magical summer he hoped for. A voice floated through the air, the sound of wood twisting in the trees, and a glimpse of a ragged piece of cloth were the first hints of the Oaf. Baba was delighted by Emory’s adventures and urged him to offer a sandwich along with a note to the mysterious being who was revealing itself for Emory.
The Oaf revealed his magic with nature after Emory was mysteriously protected from a mountain lion attack. Baba finally shared her encounters with the irresistible Oaf and his ways in the woods. Tantalizing encounters ensued when Faye arrived and the Oaf slowly befriended the children. The Oaf helped them discover their own personal relationship with nature and their own innate gifts of magic with the plants, trees, and wildlife.
In Daniel G. Linsteadt's wonderful book, "Oaf in Ophir," Emory, a little boy spending the summer at his grandmother's rural home, enjoys being away from his own neighborhood with rows of houses and apartments, with "trees and bushes ... crammed into tiny yards or neatly placed in the small neighborhood park."
Being able to roam among trees and streams and flower-filled clearings, Emory seems to be surprisingly in tune with the plants and birds. The jays are particularly quiet one afternoon, as if something is causing them concern. Could it be the mysterious, mythical Oaf reported to live in the area?
Emory sees a knothole in a tree; the next day the knothole is gone. Was the Oaf there and did he disappear into the knot?
Emory questions his grandmother about the Oaf, who not only encourages him to try to find the Oaf, but also prepares a very special sandwich for Emory to give to him and suggests he write a note to the Oaf.
Does his grandmother know more than she's telling?
Without lecturing or moralizing, Linsteadt quietly lets the reader in on the history of the Oaf, his reasons for living outdoors, and his efforts to preserve and protect the countryside and the plants and animals living there.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live in this extraordinary place should read this book and share its message with children so they, too, will appreciate and defend it, and perhaps, one day, become a special knot on a special tree.
Linsteadt's book, "Oaf in Ophir," is available at OafInOphir.com, Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, FishPond.com.au, and Book Warehouse.
Linsteadt is a resident of Auburn.
By Reene Abbott, for the Auburn Journal