Tax Day

I wish when you paid your taxes you saw pictures of happy Head Start children and strong bridges.  

Yes, I know about prisons and pipelines and waste and war, but the fact remains that some government is good and I want to do my part.  

Champagne Cocktail

So full of love on my birthday. The years are moving too fast, and at the same time there are some things that seem to take way too long to happen, like writing and children, but there are also so many things that are just solidly good right now, this year, tonight. My beautiful friends and family, my home, my job, a sense of vocation, anticipating trips to Boston and Texas and St. Louis and Princeton and Philly and Brooklyn and Tacoma, a backpack full of new books to read from Cathy, and old songs to play on the piano— I played Gershwin and Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen for an hour today… This combination of nostalgia and heartache and spring weather and getting up early and writing pressure and hope and belatedness is what youth felt like and it is a good mid-thirties cocktail too. Sugar and bitters and a little effervescence.

The Empathy Exams


James Baldwin, meet Leslie Jamison! There’s a new beloved essay on literary sentimentality in town, “In Defense of Saccharin(e)”… 

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Happy Birthday Aretha & Flannery/”Never Grow Old”


My friend Ash has gotten me into bodily resurrection lately.  Let this song resurrect you.  

Borrowed Nostalgia #1: Marion Cunningham


During the early 1940s, the war years, I was in Laguna Beach, California, learning to cook.  My husband was in the Marine Corps, stationed nearby, and we had rented a tiny house close to the ocean.  During the five years we lived there, every friend we knew from our school days arrived to visit (and often to stay).  I loved those years— cooking and eating with cheery, hungry friends.

Among my great memories of that time are grunion hunts, which were wildly suspenseful and always exciting.  Grunions are small silvery fish about five inches long that belong to the smelt family.  They spawn during the summer on the beach above high tide, by the light of the full moon.  Grunion runs are accurately predicted by the Fish and Game Department, but no one knows on which stretch of beach they will choose to spawn; it could be Santa Monica or San Juan Capistrano.

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Some day I’m going to write a book called Lean On.

Some day I’m going to write a book called Lean On.

I Would Like to Write a Beautiful Prayer


I preached this sermon on Emily Dickinson and Flannery O’Connor last Sunday at All Souls New London.

Mindfulness Meditation vs. Prayer


I like this article, which says: mindfulness meditation is good, but we should recognize its limits and the ways both its practice and its practical implications have been wrenched from their religious roots in this latest Western self-help appropriation.

I am not anti-mindfulness meditation, and I love Western appropriations and self-help.  But I live much more in the Puritan (also Catholic) self-inventory tradition, partly because Puritanism presumes that there is more to spiritual life than coping and self-improvement, and partly because self-inventory helps me to name things and change them instead of just idly watching them float by.  (I recently read a book which recommended sitting and watching your loneliness, letting yourself feel it with detachment and then letting it go. This is fine, and it may get you through a bad evening, but it doesn’t thaw your heart or propel you out the door.)

Still, I do pray without sentences as well as with them. I kneel and light candles almost every morning and hold them in my hands and slowly say names. And I notice the difference between days I start that way and days I don’t. And if I say the names of people I’m having trouble with (something I usually make myself do), I am much better at staying hopeful and forgiving, at prying open once again my raspy oystery heart.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day


For everyone who struggles and fails with their dissertation and goes on to live a useful life. For everyone who doubts. For everyone who says the risky loving thing. For everyone who hears the prophetic utterance in the voices of people who cannot read, who are not presentable, who are not white…

The Problem with Happily Ever After

I wrote something about Gatsby for Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

My God is Real for I Can Feel

Mahalia’s song is a beautiful musical bridge between the two books I’m trying to review:  one about how you know God is there. One about the emotional sense of religion. 

I love this song and I would say it sums up my faith pretty well, but as it happens I never feel God like this:  not like love and pure gold. My God feels more like power, justice, and a billion gallons of brine.

Dear Flannery


Ash and I wrote about Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal over at Killing the Buddha.

Invented Family


As Dodie Smith says: “The family— that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.” 

I just read this Frank Bruni column on invented family and reflected again on the inventiveness of family life.

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Is Love, Actually Actually Romantic?


Unlike this reviewerI don’t think Love Actually is the least romantic film of all time. And even if it were, I love holiday movies that are more or less anti-romantic (see my reviews of It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas In Connecticut).  I think that’s why my favorite stories in this film, by far, are Laura Linney’s perverse insistence on aloneness (“Why are all the good guys taken, gay, dead, or hot and available and in my bed?”) and Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman’s strained marriage. 

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