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Welcome to The Alchemist of the Woods!

This blog is a living documentation of the adventures shared by my beautiful wife, fearless adventure pup, and myself as we journey across the world. These journeys have taken across from our home state of Michigan, to a new home in NC where we have become avid campers, hikers, and mountain bike enthusiasts.

I hope you enjoy following our outdoor adventures that we document with photos, videos, poems, and short stories. These adventures can be found under the tabs Poems, Adventures, and MTB. You will however, discover that not all of our adventures are in the woods as I am a computational chemist by training at NC State. My experiences as a scientists will be shared under the tab #SciComm.

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George Van Den Driessche

Since I was a child, the power of a great book has not been lost on me. When I was growing up the stories and worlds bound between the covers would call to me throughout the night and keep me up until the dawn as I eagerly read every line until the end. Then, at books end, my world would grow a little smaller and become less full until the next great author could fill that void. It wasn’t until the fifth grade that I would begin to notice the author and comb through the Barnes and Noble bookshelves in pursuit of their books. These first authors were Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; the creators of the DragonLance universe.

But, it did not take long until I had to seek out a new author and a new series. My next two idols would become Robert Jordan and J. K. Rowling. Both, Jordan and Rowling, would torment me throughout my high school years as each created new worlds in a series that kept growing and growing and growing in volume as the Wheel of Time became 14 volumes and Harry Potter ended at seven. Rowling, she took pity on me and ended her series before my high school years ended. But, Jordan took no quarter as the last Wheel of Time book was not released until the Spring of my college senior year.

Naturally, as a young teenage boy will become when he is told to wait, I grew impatient with Jordan’s never ending series (besides, every time a new book was released I had to reread the previous three to revisit his intricate plots and who has the time for that every two to three years?) and began searching for another. At this time a new hero emerged, well a hero for a fifteen year old boy. This new author was Christopher Paolini who had just published his first novel, Eragon, by age 19.

It wasn’t until I attended Aquinas College that my true passion for writing began to develop and it started with a dare. I was reading the school’s paper, the Saint, when I began critiquing the grammar and format of one reporter. While doing so, I did not realize that one of my audience members happened to be on the editorial staff for the same paper. She asked if I could do better and I arrogantly replied, “Of course!” And so I was given my first journalistic assignment. I then wrote for the Saint until my college graduation.

My time with the Saint introduced me to a life long friend I met in an interview about Tea. This friend had a burning love for poetic verse and story, that soon became reflected in me. Soon, in my free time away from the chemistry lab, I began to create my own poems and short stories. And each week I would share these poems and stories at weekly tea with this friend.

But, my time at Aquinas ended and I left Grand Rapids for new adventures. I moved in pursuit of my Master’s in Chemistry at Illinois State. While I was there, my writing began to decline without an audience to entertain. However, my thirst for great authors did not, as my adviser prodded me to read the infamous Tolkien and later informed me that the Wheel of Time had concluded. During my studies at ISU, I began a new form of writing as I sat down, one night, to inscribe two year’s of quantum chemistry into a written thesis.

After the successful defense of my thesis, my beautiful wife and I moved east to a land between the mountains and the sea. My struggles with scientific writing reminded me of the joy found in a well-spoken poem and I began scribbling them down. But, I quickly learned that poems and stories in my journal were trapped and bound. There wasn’t an audience to enjoy them. And so, The Alchemist of the Woods was created to free my written thoughts from their paper prisons.

I hope my stories bring you as much joy as they have brought me to write.

George