Old School > (is less than) Old Hat > (is less than) Passe.

But the bald truth about this place right here  where your eyes landed is greater than the sum of all of those. It equals —it is — pretty close to useless.  There might have been a brief shining moment about ten years ago (about the time I wrote the first post on this site as a matter of fact) , when we weren’t  sure what a blog was actually for, but now we know.

It’s all about selling, of course!  How could we not have seen this?

So just to cut to the chase:  there’s nothing to see here, just move along.

Friends tell me there’s a Facebook group devoted  to the cares and frettings of women to the north of 40 —What Would Virginia Woolf Do? — and this is my cohort, for all that I’ve deactivated Facebook and can’t read it.

What would Virginia Woolf do?

My guess — she would either be scanning the ground for more and better stones with which to weigh down her pockets, or, and this is a pretty big or,  it would be the inverse of that, and she would be seeing the commonplace, the everyday, fringed with—radiating — joy.

At least, my Virginia Woolf would.

So here I sit.  The past few weeks, the offspring I once called Elder Girleen has been trying to absorb a year’s worth of Pre-Calculus.  (Online, of course.)  The lecturer’s voice is so sonorous, she might deserve an A just for staying awake. Using sines and cosines and such, she’s learning how to figure out how far a cruise ship is from a jetty (I think; I’m two rooms away.)

The trajectory I’m trying to calculate is othewise: from the skinned knees of one’s children to the long-term care insurance (or lack thereof) of one’s parents.

Nobody’ll pay you for that one.





Pubs, Summer 2016


The new issue of Cold Mountain Review, which includes my story “Forage,” has just gone live. 

A “mountain story” inspired by morel-hunting on Cold Mountain in North Carolina, for a mountain journal, out of Appalachian State, in Boone:

Clare looks at the slant of the rusty tin roof and the white paint that peels in strips from the siding. The house is the same sort of place that usually sits at the edge of somebody’s grandparents’ land, about to fall back into scrap, jammed, from the scarred pine floor to the 12-foot ceilings, with stored bales of hay: the old place. Whenever there is a newer one, it’s a ranch-style set a little farther back from the road or backed up to a cowpond. Propane tank tethered close; the well out front turned into a planter. They drove past half a dozen like that just on the way here.

Pubs, Spring 2016 Edition


The new issue of Shenandoah, which includes my story “The Fossil Record,” has just gone live.

The working title for “The Fossil Record” was “The Nanny’s Tale,” and I guess that just about covers it:

The Davenport’s beautiful house is filled with beautiful art.  Art Molly loves to look on. So for a while, the stage before this stage, she supposes, she tried to convince herself that was reason enough to stay with the job, reason enough to be happy — the slant of light on the gleaming wooden floors and the quiet, and the milky bubble at the corner of Odette’s mouth whenever she falls asleep clutching a bottle.  Which she is not supposed to do, or Molly to allow, because it’ll be bad for the teeth Odette doesn’t actually have yet.  The fact is that there are bold still-lifes hung everywhere, even the kitchen, oil paint on canvas, such an orgy of art that Molly can hardly comprehend it.  She begins to run a sponge over the marble countertop.   How much longer can she rationalize what she’s doing?  She needs to go back to school, so she can get her education certificate, so she can teach art to preschoolers, at least until the next downturn, when such positions will once again be cut.

Apropos of the First Day of School…


IMG_6633 - Version 2Stepping Off

Always, in the big woods, when you leave familiar ground

and step off alone into a new place there will be,

along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement

a little nagging of dread.

It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and

it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.

What you are doing is exploring.

You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place,

but of yourself in that place.

It is an experience of our essential loneliness;

for nobody can discover the world for anybody else.

It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that

it becomes a common ground and a common bond, and

we cease to be alone.


-Wendell Berry

The One-Inch Journey

Because It Never Hurts to Remind Oneself…

Stay in the room. It needn’t be an actual room. You can be alone in a busy cafe. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas while walking, or riding the Paris Metro (I recommend Line 8). I’ve never gotten a good idea while checking Twitter or shopping.

You need to be blank, and even a little bit bored, for your brain to feed you ideas. The poet Wendell Berry wrote that in solitude, “one’s inner voices become audible.” Figure out your clearest, most productive time of day to work, and guard this time carefully.

Always carry a pen, a paper notebook and something good to read. A lot of life consists of the dead time in between events. Don’t fill these interstitial moments with pornography and cat videos. Fill them with things that feed your work and your soul.

From “How to Find Your Place in the World after Graduation,” Pamela Druckerman, The New York Times.

The V Word: or More on Value

Now I’m 79.  I’ve written many hundreds of essays, 10 times that number of misbegotten drafts both early and late, and I begin to understand that failure is its own reward.  It is in the effort to close the distance between the work imagined and the work achieved wherein it is to be found that the ceaseless labor is the freedom of play, that what’s at stake isn’t a reflection in the mirror of fame but the escape from the prison of the self.


Lewis H. Lapham, “Old Masters,” New York Times Magazine.