On Anne of Green Gables giving up her dreams (or not)

“It’s okay that Anne Shirley never became a writer,” offers Anya Jaremko-Greenwold in a recent Los Angeles Review of Books article cropping up on my Facebook feed. Women who loved Anne of Green Gables weighed in: “it’ll never be okay” (me), in defense of the wife/motherhood Anne chose (others), “I sort of get it” (my friend).

For those of us who hold this book as tightly as Anne Shirley holds everything, Anne will always be a mirror.  Continue reading

Postcard: New Orleans, Dec. 2014

Mississippi River

Mississippi River, New Orleans

You see the river, swollen and brown, lapping cake-tongued at the bank. You know it stinks even though you’ve never been to this river before, even though you aren’t close enough to smell it, couldn’t be for another half-mile at least.

The first night, you sit back in a lawn chair and look up at the swamp trees overhung with paper lanterns and light bulbs in Christmas colors trailing from the branches, the way the night falls softly over the patio, which is what they call these big, open spaces here. You lean back into the laughter humming from the tables, wine bottles scraping against metal wire, chairs pushed back and forward like music. This town creating its own beat.

Continue reading

Postcard: On Leaving Culebra, Mar. 2017

Since I don’t write, I often think in imaginary conversations that work like writing. On our last drive through Culebra, I imagined a co-worker asking me if I missed Culebra and how I would be able to say “no.”

Culebra is for tourists and for locals and for perma-tourists living their strange half-life.  It’s not New York or Barcelona or Colombo where you can be a traveler, a stranger for a lifetime. In three days, we saw as much of Culebra as allowed to us, and it was exactly enough. Continue reading

metro-north-hudson-river-valley

On Making Like Thoreau: Manitou Point Preserve, Oct. 31, 2015

Speaking of, Kathryn Schulz’s recent Thoreau take-down in The New Yorker is so delicious, I could spread it on toast. It launched the mandatory thousand think-pieces–“Why Thoreau Matters,” “Sorry, New Yorker, Thoreau Matters,” etc. I’m among the many who haven’t read a word of Thoreau in context so I still feel easy with his easiest takeaway: nature’s cool, let’s go there.

I was determined to hike “every weekend this fall”–of course, my ambitions were wrung and shrunk until I was left with just one hike–the destination was changed to closer and closer woods, all the morning trains missed, finally seeing us arriving at Manitou Point Preserve well after 2 PM. Continue reading

On Grease: A Portrait of a Woman

This is a stream-of-consciousness sketch I wrote about an “off-stage” character in my short story Kirkenes, Norway (p. 95, Ginosko Literary Journal). In that great way it happens sometimes, this character, Marit, swam to the forefront of the original story and became the most interesting figure in it for me.  I imagine she is in her 30s, living in post-war Norway in the 1950s. I don’t think we could be friends, but I like her.

Grease spots were profoundly irritating to her, and her clothes were full of them. She remembered scrubbing and scrubbing; lemon juice, baking soda, hot water, cold water–still the spots. There was no way to fry without sustaining these little oily insults, and she loved to fry. Vegetables, meat, anything. Her mother thought she was helpful–cold and quiet but helpful. It’s true she did other chores, but she fried because she wanted to. There was that side to her. The part that liked to see a piece of soft meat covered in egg and flour, all white and malleable, plunged in sparking oil. It always shocked her how quickly a thing could brown. Continue reading

ravaged-umbrella

On Leaving for the Parasol Paradise in the Sky

It was a cool, spring evening after the rains when I first saw you in Union Square. You were leaning heavily against the brick wall of the Barnes & Noble. Nothing housed in that cathedral of words could have matched the poetry of your slant, the pathos of your solitude. You had been left–but why? When I unfurled you like an early rose, you were strong. Under your bright, geometric blues and whites, the gray sky became again the vault of heaven. I took you home that day. Continue reading

Paleolithic cave drawing, Chauvet Cave. Werner Herzog, Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

On the hand of the spirit, or where the inspiration came and went

There is an anecdote from Werner Herzog’s 2010 documentary film Cave of Forgotten Dreams that comes back to me often. Searching for the answer to the 30,000 year old riddle on the cave wall, Herzog interviews several impassioned eccentrics. Among them is unicyclist-turned archeologist, Julien Monmey, who tells a story of how a Western ethnographer and his Aboriginal guide came across a decaying rock painting in the Australian bush. The Aboriginal, saddened by the painting’s deterioration, began to touch it up, and the ethnographer, disturbed, asked “Why are you painting?” The Aboriginal said,  “I am not painting. It is the hand of the spirit who is painting.” Continue reading