Tourism and Ownership

So, last month, we visited Oxford, which was bittersweet. A high season Saturday meant the sidewalks were teeming as they never were during my Michaelmas term. And then there was the discomfort of change. I will never again be a student there.Read More »



I remember the golden Friday afternoons in college, the afternoons when I’d soon be on my way. I’d throw clothes and a couple textbooks in a bag, and my roommate and I would set off, through the south Georgia countryside which, in my memory, always rustles with roadside cotton. There are songs that still instantly transport me: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Jayhawks, Nick Drake. I rolled the windows down low. I was headed home, headed back to the boy I loved.

Travel was uncomplicated then, my life at college easy to put on hold. By contrast, life now is a sprawling thing. Because as it turns out, for every root you put down in a place, leaving it becomes just a little bit trickier. Read More »

Family Work


“Have you ever asked what work your family is supposed to do together?”

It’s a question I came across this winter in Jennifer Fulwiler’s One Beautiful Dream as I recovered from a particularly nasty stomach bug. And sometimes, as on that day, the answer can be summed up succinctly: SURVIVE.

It was a striking question, because while I vacillate a lot about what work I’m supposed to do — tiny library job? pouring more of myself into writing? fully embracing this time at home? — I think I do have a sense of what our family is supposed to do together.Read More »

Baking with Little Kids

I have always let my kids help me in baking. Part of this is the oft-cited belief that picky eaters are more likely to try what they’ve helped to create (demonstrably false in my household); part of it is just that I love to bake, and I love to please my children with unhealthy things.

Along the way, I’ve found that some projects lend themselves more easily to tiny helpers. Here are some easy starting points for even the smallest kid to take real ownership:Read More »

Commonplace Book

I’m feeling hopeful these days because I read that when you plant bulbs, you can expect that sometimes the first year they sleep, the next year they creep, and finally they leap. We are pretty firmly in creeping territory, and I’m not sure any of my new ones from last fall will bloom this year round. But six of my peonies have returned, and that is a great source of satisfaction and hope.

Read More »

Trash Talk: Why Composting Is > Recycling


Here in our small Virginia town, there is no separate recycling service. For years, the city assured us that recycling is pulled by hand from the trash. (Sure, maybe.) Then it stopped saying that and started telling us we needed to truck it over to the recycling facility ourselves. Which stinks, but we do it anyway, because THAT IS HOW WE WERE RAISED.

We all know this: Good people recycle. That’s the milieu in which I grew up, and probably you did, too.Read More »

Kate Morton and Layers of History

back cover? 2.jpg

As a child, I played a private game. I could pick it up wherever I went. As the school bus rumbled along the roads of our very average Florida subdivision, I’d dial back my vision to imagine what else had passed under these stately moss-lined oak trees. I could envision the contractors first rattling the canopy as they began construction twenty years before; I could imagine the Native Americans passing beneath the ancient live oaks in centuries past.

But the place I could always play the game best was, and still is, at church. In the Mass, I was not particularly well-catechized and no doubt misdated the parts of the liturgy wildly, not knowing the epiclesis from my epidermis (and I was probably wrong about the Native Americans, too), but that isn’t the point. What matters was, and is, this: the shivery conviction of the ancientness and universality of all this, a clue to its rightness.Read More »