June 12, 2017

What I've Been Into - Spring 2017

All,

It's...the middle of June! How that happened, I can't explain. Well, I can, but the explanation will be a very simple one: baby. Baby, baby, baby. How sweet she is, and how sweet it is to be her mother. All the feels. All the gazing. All the lazy afternoons in bed. And now that her brother has joined us for the summer, all the ways in which we are settling into the new dimensions of our days (and nights). Who knows when I will read a full book again!? No matter. I am reading other things: cries, coos, wide eyes, the width of her milky thighs, the way she responds to the wind. It is not for everyone, this mothering, but I am glad it is for me.



Books: 
  1. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into The Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett -- I really truly think this was the only book I read this spring. And if I was going to read one book only, I'm so glad this was it. It was one of my favorite books that I've read in years. It's not one to read quickly. You can't, really. There's too much to think about, too many quotes to transcribe somewhere, too many moments of authentic wisdom. I checked it out from the library, but when I find my feet again, I will walk leisurely through a nearby bookstore, buy it, reread it, and keep it near.
TV and Movies:
  1. Avatar: The Last Airbender -- My husband stumbled across this Nickelodeon animated series when he was in his early twenties, and he's loved finally being able to share it with our son. I've watched some of the episodes, and they're pretty good! Lots of humor mixed in with kid-accessible morality & philosophy. My husband insists I'm Katara, and our son has gotten really good at pretending he's bending the elements. ;) 
  2. Hook -- Yes, the one from 1991 with Robin Williams. We watched this days after our daughter was born, and we felt a lot of nostalgia for our own childhoods.
  3. Poldark, Seasons 1 and 2 -- The newest BBC Masterpiece set in Cornwall in the late 1700s. So melodramatic, yet so gooooooood.
  4. Manchester By The Sea -- Heart-wrenching. Lord. But superbly acted.
  5. Gilmore Girls, Seasons 1 and some of 2 -- Because I was uninterested in it when I was Rory's age, but now that I'm Lorelai's--and now that I have a daughter--I get it. (Some of my students insisted I would.) Cute literary references all over the place, too!
Find and Arrow Signs:
  1. This Dear Sugar column about deciding between having and not having children, and moreover, about the sister life you aren't living.
  2. "The Blue House" by Thomas Transtromer, the poem referenced in the above article.
  3. Luna Bars. The chocolate cookie dough kind. This spring, they've saved me. 
  4. Three-letter-words. Our son is starting to read. Makes me all melty and eager and proud.

Enjoy these full and lovely months, friends. As always, please pass along your recommendations for anything and everything. xo

May 2, 2017

Baby Girl

In the middle of April--all the leaves reaching up and out above the marsh, the ground covered with green shoots and blades, the air full of fresh breath, the sky blue with rain--our daughter was born. We named her Charlotte. And to us, she is sweeter than anything else that is clean and fragrant and hopeful this spring.

With my first child, words came naturally, and fast. I felt a need to say all the things, to record somehow the way I was feeling, the way it all seemed, how particular were the moments I spent getting to know him, getting to know myself as a mother, getting to know the newly defined world. I reread those musings now, and they still feel exactly right. I can remember who I was when I wrote them. I can remember how that version of the world felt, as viscerally as I can touch and sense my own skin.

But with this baby--there is less urgency. I'm not sure exactly why this is, as she will be my last child. I know she will never be eight pounds again, her days of being seven pounds already something that slipped away with April. I know there will come a day when I will realize her sounds are less murmurs and more requests. When her gaze is less dreamy and more direct. When her cheeks are not this impossible softness. I guess, this time, it is more about being still, being quiet with her, watching her eyes blink open and shut, thin petals blooming in my arms.

Tonight, the maple leaves are wide enough that they obscure everything but my neighbor's twinkling porch light. All winter I have watched its reflection in the ice and water of the marsh, a kind of star: Here a child would be born. Soon the leaves will wave so thickly that everything that came before them will be memory. Which is why, I think, I watch that shimmering light tonight upon the water, beautiful and mysterious, with me like this, in its perfect and transient form, right now.


March 1, 2017

What I've Been Into - Winter 2017

Hey all,

I don't know about you, but this has been a strange and sometimes scary but often wonderful end-of-winter. To say that it is already March feels bizarre, but at the same time, here in Minnesota we've experienced one of the warmest winters on record, so...despite my reservations about what this means for our planet, I'm already in spring mode. And since I'm due to meet my second baby in early April, there is no rewinding for me: Spring is arrival. Spring is wakefulness. Spring is revelation. I say: Welcome, welcome.

I'd love to hear what you've all been up to. I'm not sure how much reading I'll get to in the coming months (buh-bye, hands-free bedtime routine!), but I always keep a will-read-later list running. Suggestions, please! And I hope the sun warms you in these coming months all the way down to the bone.




Books: 
  1. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle -- Ruefle was a professor of mine in grad school, and the title of this, her craft book, about sums her up. I wrote the weirdest, most magical, most unpublishable piece in her class, but the experience of writing it is one that I'll never forget, simply because I felt myself in a space created by madness and honey, both. I didn't read every essay in this bunch, but what I did read made me wish I was back in grad school, notebook on my lap in Dewey Hall.
  2. A Sense of the Mysterious by Alan Lightman -- I liked the essays that verged closer to memoir more than the ones that examined--in lyrical style, no less--the difference between applied and pure mathematics. No surprise there, I guess. I am glad I finally picked up one of Lightman's books, though, and I'll likely return to another when I find the urge to understand how the STEM people think. :)
  3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo -- Who knew how interesting the proper method of folding clothes could be? I read this right after winter break began, and it kicked off a major nesting impulse. There really is something to creating a space at home that mirrors the state of mind you desire.
  4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi -- An incredible book following two ancestral lines--one that leads through the slave trade and colonialism in western Africa and the other that leaps across the Atlantic, following the experiences of African Americans coming to terms with their place in society. Ambitious and realized, I stayed up late to read this one. 
  5. Commonwealth by Anne Patchett -- I read Commonwealth because I heard an author say it was a "perfect book." I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I was interested in this story about two broken families, largely told through the eyes of the children as they aged. 
  6. News of the World by Paulette Jiles  -- Part western, part history of America (specifically Texas) after the Civil War, part heartfelt tale about an older man and his transport and eventual care-taking of a young girl who had been taken hostage by a native tribe, this novel started off slow, but eventually took off as the relationship between the man and the girl developed. I wouldn't have read it had it not been recommended to me, but I'm glad I did. 
  7. Open City by Teju Cole -- I was hearing a lot about Teju Cole, so I decided to pick up his first novel. Despite all the praise--and I can appreciate why that praise exists; there is SO MUCH in this book, so many ruminations--it just wasn't for me. My guess is if I had more time to read slowly and consider, I might enjoy it. But, in my experience, it was too much essays-in-novel-form, when what I was wanting was straight novel.
  8. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer -- Although I didn't read every essay in this large collection (it's comprised of over thirty individual essays tied together by theme), I loved many of the pieces I did read ("The Honorable Harvest," "The Consolation of Water Lilies," and "Burning Cascade Head" come to mind). I had a repeated impulse while reading to look up Kimmerer on Facebook, follow her, and somehow take a class with her in the future. She's a modern sage.  
  9. O Pioneers!, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Great Gatsby, and various essays and poems by Symborska to Hughes -- all curriculum rereads.
TV and Movies:
  1. Song of the Sea -- We just started official family movie nights with our son, and this animated film--an Oscar nominated one--was beautiful, and one that my husband and I enjoyed just as much if not more than our almost-four-year-old. It was based off of Irish mythology, and the visual style, music, and bond between an older brother and a little sister? Thumbs up from me!
  2. The Fall, Season 3 -- So dark! Why do we watch this stuff? Still, we watch this stuff. And we think about it and wonder at the limits of humanity.
  3. Westworld, Season 1 -- In a random conversation, my husband and I realized that both my students and his clients had both been talking about this show, so we decided to dive in. It's HBO, so it was violent in a way that was eventually too much for me, but the premise--a western theme park populated by highly sophisticated artificial-intelligence-driven "hosts"--was thought-provoking, and it's easy to see why it has inspired so many conversations.
  4. The Minimalists -- A well-done and great reminder of how little we actually need the stuff we buy. Reduce, reduce! Definitely something we are trying to bring into our home more consistently.
  5. Boyhood -- When this film first came out, I heard and read a lot about it, as the concept was interesting (a team of filmmakers and actors who got together over the course of something like fifteen years in order to show the true passage of time and how it might affect a boy through his formative years). The movie itself was good--sad--but likely pretty realistic in terms of what a lot of kids experience. I know it reminded me of a good number of my students. We all just want to know we are loved and have purpose.
  6. Jim Gaffigan's Cinco stand-up show -- Because we all need a little humor in our lives.
  7. The Americans -- Just started. Into it!
Find and Arrow Signs:
  1. Eula Biss. I've been taking an online essay writing class the last few weeks (I'm crazy. But with Baby #2 coming, I felt I had to take advantage of whatever clarity is left in my brain while I still have it.), and one of the things I've loved the most about the course is how the instructor has pointed me to a lot of great nonfiction writers I hadn't previously read. Biss was one of them. I'm pretty impressed by her. "Time and Distance Overcome," her essay first on the telephone, then on telephone poles, and later how they intersected with the lynching of black men, kept me rapt from beginning to end. I'm going to pick up one of her essay collections and swim my way through soon.
  2. Some dear friends have brought out their first books (Yes, this makes me both proud and stir-crazy. Someday, Emily! Someday!). Please do check out Kate McCahill's Patagonian Road, Cheryl Wilder's What Binds Us, and Tyler Dorholt's American Flowers
  3. Although I'm generally what I consider the farther thing from a political writer, I couldn't hold in my observations about our recent election and how it impacted my classroom. What I wrote (eventually titled "Silence for the Sake of Peace: On Politics, Huck Finn, and Lies We Tell Ourselves") was published just before the inauguration by Atticus Review, and you can read it here.
  4. This article from the New York Times about President Obama's thoughts on books, reading, and writing. It's no wonder he's always struck me as a deeply thoughtful man.

Birds chirping this morning as if it were May. Hope these words find you well, friends.

February 5, 2017

Lewis River, La Center, Washington: In Photos






A few weeks ago, my husband, son, and I journeyed out to the Portland, Oregon, area to visit family. As luck would have it, we arrived just two days after one of Portland's biggest snowstorms in years and years. (Apparently, when people out there encounter a snow event, they abandon their cars on the highways and somehow hitch a hide home, ostensibly on the nine snowplows Portland has for the entire city. Suffice it to say, this baffled us Minnesotans. :) Our luck involved landing at the airport after it was up and running again, and also being able to enjoy an already gorgeous part of the country under a blanket of fresh and frosty white. I took these photos on a solo walk along the Lewis River one early morning. It was a beautiful way to greet the day, and it reminded me of a walk I took at the very end of my pregnancy with my son. This time, I whispered to a new baby, and despite the single-digit temperatures, I was warm.

Happy February, friends. Spring is near, and yet let us not forget how important it is to be able to see through the trees.

December 1, 2016

What I've Been Into - Autumn 2016

Hello world,

What an autumn, huh? In Minnesota, the weather has been fantastically long and glorious. We didn't have our first frost until just before Thanksgiving. That meant a lot of time outside, and some grateful leniency with how long we had to rake up all those millions of yellow leaves. And also, there was the election in there, which threw everyone I knew for a loop, no matter which side of the political line they landed on. It's still something many of us are sifting through, and the mess has been hard to see around at times. But it all keeps moving forward, doesn't it? I'm holding as many people's hands as I can.

As we crest into the holiday season, however, I've decided to focus on how very much I have to be thankful for. Did you know that there's a lot of research on how practicing intentional gratitude on a daily basis actually has positive effects on one's health? It's no shock to me, but I like knowing there is science behind it. My family's biggest point of gratitude is, as I alluded to in my last post, the promise of a new child who is due to join us in April. Being parents is not easy, and my husband and I are nervous at how another wee one will complicate our already busy lives. But our son has brought us so much joy. We feel a sibling is one of the most lasting things we can give him, so -- April, darling. You will meet this new little companion in a few short months. We will keep working on being patient. :)

Hope each of you are doing well in your respective places. Let us remember that where there are words and a way to connect them with the hearts and minds of others, life never has to feel lonely. And that, indeed, is something for which to feel grateful. 

Merry (early) Christmas!


Books and Journals: 

  1. An American Childhood by Annie Dillard -- Although slow in places, the overall effect of this memoir was gorgeous and moving and take-up-your-banners-in-defense-of-place inspiring. The last section of the book? I felt like I was in the middle of some orchestral finale.  
  2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman -- A student left this book for me at the end of last year. I've heard great things about Gaiman's writing, and I used to teach a class on mythology, so I thought this one might be right up my alley. But -- ehh. I stopped half-way through. I think it was a little too male for my tastes.
  3. Love Warrior by Glennon Melton Doyle -- I encountered Doyle's Momastery blog when I was a new mother, and I've appreciated her authentic voice ever since. This was the first actual book of hers I read, and although much of the content was not surprising, I read it quickly and with feeling. We are all just doing the best we can.
  4. River Teeth, Autumn 2016 edition -- One of my essays came out in this literary magazine, and I then had the pleasure of reading the other fantastic work within the same edition. Great narratives -- about driving rigs down a remote Alaskan highway, about twin children who almost drowned (tears, people), and a fantastic and complex ender by Alex Lemon called "How Long Before You Go Dry" that I had to read in pieces and digest, digest, digest. Brava, River Teeth!
  5. Upstream by Mary Oliver -- A collection of essays written by a poet. Yes, please. The first essay "Upstream" is worth the cost of the entire book, although I also loved her musings on her relationship with other writers and thinkers like Whitman and Emerson.
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time, Oedipus the King, The Scarlet Letter, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and various essays and poems by Thoreau, Emerson, Douglas, & Dickinson -- all curriculum rereads.
TV and Movies:
  1. Bloodline, Season 1 -- We learned about this show from some "series you are probably overlooking on Netflix" lists, and we were not disappointed. There is strong acting in this family drama, and although we won't continue into the second season (it was becoming too much of a cop show for our current interests), we were glad we found the first. And I miss it now, like I often do when I finish a good book. 
  2. Black Mirror -- This had been dubbed a modern Twilight Zone. I can't comment on that, as I never saw TZ, but in any case, many of these episodes penetrated deep into my head and kept me thinking for days. Each one is its own mini-movie, so some episodes are definitely better (and others distinctly weirder) than others, but they provided great fodder for conversation between my husband and I after our boy was in bed.
  3. 13th -- A look at how the 13th amendment, which made it illegal to own slaves, in many ways led to the injustices existing in our current prison system. A stark, take-your-breath-away, infuriating documentary, but one I think everyone should watch.
  4. Mockingjay - Parts 1 and 2 -- Because it was finally time to know what my students were so upset about two years ago. :)
Find and Arrow Signs:
  1. "Don't Turn Away" in River Teeth, Autumn 2016 edition - In the ways of the internet, somebody has made a PDF thingie of the hard copy version of this recently published essay of mine. If you get a moment, I hope you check it out. It's short and weird, and easily one of my favorite things I've written lately. 
  2. "Spring Forward" in The Fourth River -- This is an old blog post revamped. Thank goodness for this little Landing on Cloudy Water space. Though I am barely here anymore, it still serves as a voice in the back of my head reminding me that I can write whatever I want whenever I feel the need.
  3. Healthy Kids Running Series -- Our son participated in the 50 yard dash in this running series at the beginning of the season, and he LOVED it. I wasn't sure about the six week commitment initially, but our guy was so excited for all of his races, and as expected based on all the running he does around our house and yard, he's pretty darn quick. :)
  4. This article from The Washington Post was fascinating: Minnesota as a top place to raise a family, yes, but also how "geography is destiny." 
  5. Soup. Always soup in the fall.


November 24, 2016

I Will Show You This

Littlest One,

It is snowing outside. Last week the grass was green, my begonias still vaunting their soft pink petals. And tonight, your brother asleep, the night a quiet dark, I watch the way the white changes everything over into something new.

You do not know yet, the way things fall at different speeds.

You do not know yet, the way a cup of hot tea can calm.

You do not know yet, the feel of soil between your fingers.

You do not know yet, the sound of singing.

You do not know yet, the possibilities of a daydream.

You do not know yet, the scent of wood smoke.

You do not know yet, the pleasures of the body.

You do not know yet, how humans can disappoint.

You do not know yet, this snow softly falling, this apple on my tongue, how beautiful and fragile it all can seem.

I have tried to guide your brother. “Look,” I tell him. “Look up, look low, look there, look under, smell that, touch this, listen to that crow that chickadee that owl. Breathe deeply. Do you sense how it feels, on the inside?”

I will do the same with you. I am not the loudest, Baby, I am not the bravest. There are others who lead more boldly. But I will offer you what I know is good. I will bring you into this imperfect world, and I will demonstrate for you the way I pray: with my attention.

It is snowing outside. You are warm and safe and probably sleeping, sucking a tiny thumb, stretching small limbs, pressing in the quiet dark against the only home you have ever known: me.


There is more for you to see. Every day will be new--not perfect, but worth it. I will show you.

November 12, 2016

"Spring Forward" in The Fourth River



Because sometimes you need to think not cold but warmth.
Because sometimes you need to think not dark but light.
Because sometimes you need to think not fall back but spring forward.

Here's an old essay, friends, that I first tapped out right here in this space that has, in the meantime, become a newish thing, a reminder that we can find a balance between two unsteady places.

Visit the most recent online issue of The Fourth River, and once you open the PDF, read the other wonderful stories, essays, and poems, and then find my essay "Spring Forward," on page 96, at the very back.

Thanks for reading. And believing in the transformative power of art. It is what will save us. It is what always has.


August 31, 2016

What I've Been Into - Summer 2016

Hi Friends,

I'll be saying this with a sigh, but O Summer! 

I am already deep into classes with my students, and where it does feel good to be back with young minds talking about things that matter, summer is a particular treasure. We were everyday outside, at parks, at beaches, in lakes and rivers and streams, up to our armpits in our garden flowers. We also spent a lot of time with family and friends, at cabins, birthday parties, splashpads, and swimming lessons. My boy learned to fish. He wanted to fish every day. He would spot the earthworm wiggling into the hole behind the branch and grab it, lift it up, study its perfectly spaced indentations. I watched his body lengthen, and I listened to him tell me stories, and it is a little astonishing to me, that I have been in this world for three and a half years with him, and he is still articulating things with the lift of his eyelashes that I hadn't known existed. I am a proud mama, a happy mama, a mama thankful for a season in which to love him in every stage of light.

I am thankful also for books, of which I read more this summer than I have for a while. I will let my descriptions below stand for themselves, but let me also share that I led a book discussion on The Round House yesterday with a group of students. And Louise Erdrich, the author, happened to be sitting next to me, too. It was strange, how quickly it became simply about books--how we both loved them and believed in their specific power to tell the stories that need to be told. Still, Louise Erdrich was sitting next to me. I won't forget that. Fuel for something future.

I hope you are well, friends, and that you also had summers full of what you chose. Here comes another school year, and another autumn, and another winter, and another set of changes that I can faintly foresee, and yet how freshly they will arrive. There is always something new. Let us embrace it.



Books: 
  1. The Crucible by Arthur Miller -- I read this play about the Salem Witch Trials (and indirectly about the Red Scare) in a day. So creepy. But also so good. 
  2. The Wild Gardener by Martha Hellander -- After taking my students for the second time to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden just a few blocks away from where I teach, I stumbled across a plaque dedicated to Butler, the garden's original creator. It mentioned she was a teacher of botany in the early 1900s who often brought her students into the wild for study. My curiosity was piqued. I found this biography, and read it with a notable degree of interest. Butler was an incredible women who contributed greatly to the history of Minnesota.
  3. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert -- My first true summer book, and what a massive, impressive book it was. About a female botanist in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and also about so many many other things. It's the longest book I've read in a while, and although I felt myself reading quickly over some of the historical details, by and large, I was wonderfully engaged.
  4. The Death of Jim Loney by Jim Welch -- A goal for my North American Literature class is to incorporate more Native American texts. Loney was a possibility. I didn't love it, but I wonder if that's because I can't relate to the extreme disenfranchisement that Jim Loney's character experiences? It was so sad, so dark. But maybe -- yeah -- exactly right. (If you have more suggestions along this line, I'd love to hear them.)
  5. LaRose by Louise Erdrich -- It took me a while to get into this one, but the braided stories eventually hooked me, and I found myself desperately rooting for Maggie.
  6. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf -- The turn-of-the-century women of Butler and Gilbert's Alma made me want to revisit some of the classics. I didn't love Mrs. Dalloway--it often felt like work reading the pages--but I was reminded why it made such an impact, and some of the passages did strike me as brilliant.
  7. The Awakening by Kate Chopin -- Swept away by this one. I remember reading this when I was in high school or college, thinking about how very old Edna was. And now her character is my age! A good reminder at how interesting it can be to reread books at different times in one's life.
  8. Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan -- Another turn-of-the-century female character, but this time about a women in small-town Minnesota written by a well-loved Minnesota author. Not my favorite read of the summer, but I enjoyed how Sullivan was able to tell the story of an entire life--and a growing nation--in one book. 
  9. Half Wild by Robin MacArthur -- This one was extra extra fun to read because it was written by a friend from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a place person, in all the ways I appreciate my place people, so reading her stories was a delicious dip into the Vermont woods and its folks, a reminder of what I loved about my time there and what I love about people, no matter where they call home. If you're hankering for some solid short stories, friends, check this collection out.
  10. Mindsets by Carol Dweck -- A nonfiction psychological/self-help book I read for school. We talking a lot about the growth mindset this past year, so the information wasn't particularly new, but it was helpful to slow down my mind and really think through how I can make Dweck's research an even greater contributor to how I structure my classroom and the feedback I give to students.
  11. The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey -- Another summer reading book for school. There was some great information here, for teachers and especially parents. I believe in this research whole-heartedly. We must allow our children to make mistakes when they are young. How else will they ever learn to work through struggle and find the lessons in the challenges?
  12. The Round House by Louise Erdrich -- As I said above, I lead a discussion of this book with a group of students who read it over the summer. It was a reread for me--one I first devoured while I was home with my infant son--and even the second time through made me grab at my heart when Joe and when Cappy. Uh! Cappy! Erdrich is such a talented story-teller.
TV & Movies:
  1. Narcos, Seasons 1 -- This was recommended to us by a lot of people, and where the history of the Columbian drug wars was interesting, I was kind of give-or-take half way through. I think this was because the voice over drove me crazy. And also, don't start a series talking about magical realism unless you are going to live up to that literary greatness, a la Gabriele Garcia Marquez.
  2. Concussion -- One of those movies--when I still watched full movies regularly--I used to sit back, think about, and enjoy. I was happy to find it now.
  3.  Jason Bourne -- This movie will forever stick with me because of how old it made me feel. I really liked the first JB movies, but this one was so non-stop-action that at one point I had to close my eyes, shake my head, and just laugh. After, my husband turned to me and said, "I feel like I just went to the gym." Oh, Hollywood!
  4. Mad Men, the final season -- The show lost some of its luster for me a while ago, but I'm a sucker for resolutions, no matter how ambiguous.
 Finds & Arrow Signs:
  1. "How it Slips Away" -- An essay of mine up at Two Hawks Quarterly. It's a sad one -- dreams deferred, I suppose -- but it was fun to write. Check it out, if you want!
  2. "I Am Still Here" in Hippocampus -- I wrote a specific post about this essay, but do give it a read if you haven't already. I'm humbled it seems to have resonated with a number of people, especially fellow Minnesotans who remember Jacob Wetterling.
  3. Gotham Writers Workshop --  Although I intended to take a class at The Loft in Minneapolis, the ones I was interested in filled up before I got my butt in gear, so I decided to take a chance on an online course through Gotham out of NYC. It was on the (gulp!) novel, which, yes, was something I began this summer. I'm happy with what I came up with so far, and I suppose this means the class was a success. I liked the online format more than I thought I would, too, so that was a nice surprise.
  4. An intriguing piece from The Guardian about women who walk: "A tribute to female flaneurs: the women who reclaimed our city streets"
  5. This article from The Washington Post was fascinating. Minnesota as a top place to raise a family, yes, but also how "geography is destiny."
  6. Nutella and marshmallows. I blame Bre. 

August 11, 2016

"I Am Still Here" in Hippocampus Magazine

Taking a break from my plant-focused summer to point you all to a recent publication of mine in Hippocampus Magazine. It's a very short essay, called "I Am Still Here," which focuses on my immediate reaction twenty-some years ago to the abduction of a neighborhood boy. As one would assume, the events surrounding his kidnapping haunted me as a young girl, and still do. For me, writing is generally a matter of trying to figure something out. This boy's case has now gone unresolved for decades. I doubt I will ever stop writing into the center of that night, not at least until some closure is reached.

So: there's that. Not flowers or bouncing summer grasses. But one of my earliest memories of understanding the necessity of story, and how upturned and unstable things can feel without one.



Also, as a result of this essay, a young woman from a college in Massachusetts read it, and asked for a short interview for one of her classes about publishing. I'm including my responses here because I find these kinds of insights from other writers interesting, and because the happy truth is, friends, though I have not been here on LOCW much, I have been writing more consistently this last cycle of seasons than I have in years. And that means, yes, I can take questions like these and answer them and not feel like a fraud (at least most days).    :)

  1. How much of your time do you spend writing?  This would have been much more difficult to answer before I had a child. Now that I do, while teaching a full course load, I have to schedule in time to write. I give myself permission to write for three straight hours one morning every week (for which I wake up extra early). I tend to set these hours aside for new writing. I fit in revision in the creaks and cracks of my days. This set-up would have seemed paltry and pathetic at an earlier part of my life, but now it is the only way I get creative work done, and because of that, I cherish those hours, and I get right down to business. 
  2. When you were submitting to literary journals/magazines, did you have anyone edit your work before you submitted it? I've received feedback on early drafts from teachers and mentors, but I've never worked specifically with one editor before I've mailed work off. In the past year, though, a colleague and I have established a monthly swap where we each send each other new work and give the other one feedback. This has proved invaluable; she always has excellent recommendations of where I can strengthen and pare. 
  3. How do you deal with rejection? I try not to think about it too much. When a rejection comes in, I sigh and doubt, but I've learned there really is no better next move than pressing delete on the notice and diving back into something creative. I'm never going to entertain or intrigue or move everyone. The important thing is that I continue to enjoy the process of writing. If I'm doing that, my work will find an audience eventually.
  4. How do you measure success as a writer? To me, the fact that I'm still writing new work and publishing it while working full-time and parenting a small child is success. The sane thing would be to quit and take up cooking. But, no. Writing is an integral part of my identity. Those three hours a week refresh me, and keep my sights set on what is possible.

How about you, dear friends? What have you been working on this summer? When can I read about it?

July 20, 2016

June in July





  1. Bittersweet nightshade
  2. Eastern daisy fleabane (aster family)
  3. Some kind of lovely leaf -- who knows what this is???
  4. Daisy
  5. Creeping bellflower
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. Some kind of grass ???
  9. Motherwort
  10. Clover
  11. ?
  12. Common mullein
  13. My boy, out in it all
Quite a few plants I couldn't identify this month, folks, so I need your help. What did I get right? What did I miss? Goodness, this world is a wild and beautiful place.