My first national piece…

I am humbled and thrilled to be published by Yes! Magazine. Originally, I queried a story appealing to my dissertation work–a story on Rock Creek, the urban wild space that has captured my imagination, fueling a look at why natural urban spaces are often overlooked and neglected. Rock Creek is a gem, and the article I’ve completed for Yes! will appear in the summer 2016 issue. I am proud of it–it accurately portrays the Rock Creek story, and connects to other such marginalized spaces in the nation. It also calls for personal action, asking citizens to begin looking at these spaces and how they live their lives around them.

The editors contacted me and asked if I had printed a little piece I sent as a writing example, one I had written about a neighborhood soup night. Yes! published it to their website several weeks ago, and apparently, the piece resonated, as I have received emails and the comment thread on the Yes! Facebook site is rich with people’s responses about doing similar things in their own neighborhoods or finding inspiration to initiate such an event. I am so grateful.  How sweet it is to have this piece published in the perfect magazine and to receive such surprising, affirming response.

I supply a link to the piece here. Perhaps it will provide some gentle encouragement to connect with your own community.

A Neighborhood Revolution in a Pot of Soup

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belle petitesse

I recently returned from France.  The trip itself was spectacular with most time spent in a 300-year-old villa near Montpellier and the Mediterranean in the heart of wine country. An introduction to Paris was part of the adventure. It all served to wet my appetite for more. What a country! Fresh morning croissants from a neighborhood bakery after morning runs through vineyards became the daily routine. I found myself enjoying saying “Bonsoir” as much as I’ve mocked my dear Julia Child for saying “Bon Appetit!” (And they really say that there if they see you eating!)

The French do things with such attention to detail. The architecture continually beckoned and enthralled, and I’ve never seen so many well-dressed, beautiful people in one place. There really are red geraniums on the windowsills and the street lamps are ornate, like something out of a storybook. The French also have gravitas. They take their time–perhaps because they have enjoyed such a rich history? They linger over meals and seem to enjoy a deep sense of community. Their sense of time and space is so different from how we operate in the West where time equals money and relaxation translates to laziness.

They also enjoy small portions.

Yes, skillfully prepared baguettes and croissants are eaten daily. The wine is plentiful and flows from spigots at every convenience store, and the cheese is spectacular. But the key is the portions. This really struck me when I returned to the states, where everything just seems…well…bigger.

Take coffee, for example. I think nothing of ordering a grande triple-shot soy latte from Starbucks. It’s my MO, especially on graduate school commuter days. But when you order a café au lait in France, it is served in a beautiful ceramic cup with accompanying saucer, sugar cubes, and spoon.

Post-France, I find myself wanting to take things slower, to downsize, and although I’m not ready for a dorm-sized refrigerator quite yet, I am ready to have more food in my life that doesn’t keep and to savor small, delicious portions.

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Staring at the stars

It’s hot.

Damn hot.

Did I mention we don’t have central air?  For my 1930s home, It’s on the “to-do” list, for sure, but at this point, it looks like it will be something to be enjoyed in summer, 2014.

Both Em and I were so sticky and hot the other night that we considered sleeping in The Basement–not a bad plan, but the basement is dark, almost too quiet. This was the point where Em proposed the tent.

Our tent is HUGE. “Sleeps 4-6.” We have a smaller, cooler one (for more “active” camping), but the enormous Coleman tent I purchased at Costco on a whim several years ago has only ever functioned as a play tent–it’s cavernous interior begs to be filled with stuffed animals, blankets, painting supplies. It’s been pitched in the basement more than once.

The air mattress was my idea. I snapped this photo on my iPhone upon walking out in pjs to see how Em had prepared our little quarters. With the twinkle on the garage and the fly open, it was all the more inviting, magical.

Our evening was perfect–Phineas and Ferb on the wifi, along with analog Candyland.

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Man. I wish I had written that.

Scouring the “personal” archives at work today.

Among the gems was this poem by Jack Gilbert that I saved back in 2010.

I loved it then, having a vivid memory of the painting inspired by the myth, and I love it now.  Today it had me contemplating that painting, Icarus’ feet pointing toward heaven after his fall.  I tend to forget he also came close to touching the sun in his enthusiastic ascent.  What beauty.  What must that have been like for Icarus to witness?  I sit today, wondering about the moments in my life to which I will return, my personal versions of   “almost touching the sun.”

Failing and Flying

by Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

“Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2005 . Reprinted with permission.