Monthly Archives April 2013

Try a Little Tenderness: Notes on a Daughter’s Broken Finger

We were sitting in a private room in the ER, X-rays done, waiting for the doctor to arrive to show us the pictures and prescribe a course of action. That’s when my 14-year-old daughter had what was her first, I think, enlightenment moment, fully grasping, in a personal and urgent way, the strange tragic happenstances that can alter life in a brief blink. And thankfully, the in-breaking bit of wisdom didn’t cost her very much by way of bodily injury.

“It’s so weird,” she said, a shallow laugh coming into her voice somewhere near the top of her throat. “This morning I woke up and went to school and everything was all usual, and now I’m in ER with a broken finger.”

She’d been playing first base for her high school’s JV softball team when she reached to dig a throw out of the dirt and the ball struck her non-gloved hand in just the right freakish way to dislocate the joint at her knuckle and cause ...

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The Intimate Genius of Jesse Winchester

Words, so many words. Sometimes, it is helpful to have fewer of them—and set to music.

And sometimes, the intimacy of a solo singer songwriter, writing and singing soul to soul, is the perfect antidote to the vastness and almost inevitable abstractions of Big Questions and Conundrums. And few singers do “intimate” like Jesse Winchester does. It requires a peculiar kind of genius to lay one’s soul quite this bare while working to harvest the artistic and creative chops that coalesce into such timeless art.

I needed something from the likes of Jesse Winchester after the week we’ve had in these United States. Maybe you did, too.

I’d thought all week of doing a follow-up to the post on the Boston Marathon bombing, so many troublesome, ponderous questions did it raise...

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Forgive the Boston Marathon Bombers?

No matter the event, whether tragedy or triumph, we look for connections. “I was born and grew up there!”

“My sister lives around the corner!”

“I did a summer internship in that building!”

“My nephew was his college roommate!”

Most grievously, when the connection has been foisted on us by life’s merciless and random roulette wheel: “That was my 8-year-old son who died in the blast.”

My own connection to the Boston Marathon is manifold. Exactly 20 years ago, I had approached that same finishing line where the explosions happened, exultant, like everyone, after finally living every runner’s dream: I had run Boston. It would be my final marathon, a grand occasion that had drawn me out of “retirement,” and for which I endured many months of difficult training and injury setbacks, none of which mattered as I floated down Boylston Street into the finisher’s chute.

I’ve also been in ...

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Weeding the Poppy Patch

If I were inclined to believe in God as a helpful, sky-residing fellow lording it over us all from his perch in the heavens, I would present him with three words of challenge by which he might explain himself and his creation: fleas, mosquitos, and the (damn) weeds that repopulate my poppy patch with unremitting, increasing fecundity every year. Of the three, this last one is the matter that most occupies my thoughts every April, as spring and its weeds kick into high gear.

Let me be clear: I bow deeply to the wonder of the earth’s regeneration. The exultation, reverence and passions unleashed by spring? Count me among their staunchest friends. (If spring were on Facebook, I’d be posting like mad on its wall this time of year.)

But weeds? And the back-aching, muscle-tensing work required to clear them in order for another of God’s masterpieces—the perfectly developed California poppy—to pop unbidden th...

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On a Too-Short Road With Jack Kerouac

There is this one life we are given. This we know. All the rest of it—the heavens, the reincarnations, the other life-as-rehearsal scenarios—let us set those aside for the moment and concentrate on the indisputable facts staring at us: We are born, we live, we die.

And most often, even if we are fortunate enough to ripen through the full flesh of our cycle on this earth, we will say it has passed too quickly, as unto a dream.

The grains. Through the hourglass.

Jack Kerouac has been pushing his response to these essential facts since he wrote his cultural icon of a novel, On the Road, at the cusp of the 1950s. (It wouldn’t see publication until 1957.) Dead since 1969, Kerouac maintains a living, throbbing literary identity, his spirit among many that hover barely behind our dead-of-night, ceiling-staring queries:

Is how I’m living worthwhile? Is this how I want to spend my time? What would I be doing,...

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