Key Largo cotton mouse endangered species life jacket
The heart of an adventurer, the soul of a poet,
and the body of the Pillsbury Doughboy
Diane Schirf at Illinois Beach State Park, north of Chicago

I grew up in Hamburg, New York, south of Buffalo, with parents from the central Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Thanks to my local public library and a five-cent manila paper library card with my name typewritten on it, I absorbed the works of Agatha Christie, Arthur C. Clarke, Charles Dickens, and T. H. White at an impressionable age.

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My brother recently found this slide. Says it all.

At the University of Chicago in Hyde Park I studied:

  • Anglo-Saxons
  • Eastern thought
  • Music appreciation
  • Music theory (FAIL!)
  • Chaucer
  • Shakespeare
  • Malory
  • Latin American and Russian literature
  • Silent film
  • Modern drama
  • A smattering of British and American history

I wanted to write my required paper on The Once and Future King by T. H. White, but when I got odd looks I switched to Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. Success!

On a gorgeous Saturday in June, I graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English language and literature and no plan for Monday — or the future. I’m still working on one.

Diane at convocation, 11June1983
June 11, 1983, convocation at Rockefeller Chapel, University of Chicago

On weekends when I can, I point an iPhone (now a 14 Pro) and a Nikon D7100 with image sensor spots at nature and sometimes surprise myself.

I support our National Parks and public lands.

With sycamore leaves
November 2023 at Sand Ridge Nature Center (Forest Preserves of Cook County). I have a thing for sycamore leaves.

My life has been steeped in loneliness, Mr. Smithson. As if it has been been ordained that I shall never form a friendship with an equal, never inhabit my own home, never see the world except as the generality to which I must be the exception.

John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman

— Diane Schirf

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