Personal Essays

Putting Away the Holiday Season

        When I woke from the nap it was dark in the room except for the lights on the tree. I was headachy and confused, and when I moved, my laptop woke too and lighted my face. The neighbor, coming home from work, was walking past my window just then and glanced […]

Represent Yourself Before Others Can Represent You

        I was explaining to my son how classical Asian poets known as Stonehouse, Cold Mountain, Spring Essence, and Bashō (a raggedy, unproductive form of banana tree) took pen names from significant places or things in their lives. These names have a comic quality now for their simplicity and the way they […]

The Eternal Christmas Tree

        I bought a new Christmas tree: there is a phrase that should tip you off. I never had an artificial tree in the house when our sons were little. Every year, real pines filled the high-ceilinged bay window in our old house or pressed the ceiling in that other house. Their […]

Five Things I Learned at Greenwood Cemetery

        A history repository: Greenwood Cemetery matters because it is a history repository. Established in 1874, it holds the distinction of being the first nonsectarian historically Black Cemetery in the St. Louis metropolitan area. It houses the final resting places of notable figures, from Civil War veterans to influential community leaders. It […]

Found Objects: Curb Chairs

        I saw another chair on the curb. The old sadness washed over me at its being discarded in such a fashion: A public ejection from a private space, after good and faithful use, the rainy wait for the garbage truck, wet fabric and wood grain swelling, a scene that would end […]

On Becoming a “Morning Person” 

        Centuries before we turned to wristwatches and cell phone screens it was sundials and the ancient obelisks of Greece and Rome that told us the time of day. There was no electricity to mediate the day, hour, or minute. Light did it all. If we want to discuss metaphors light, perhaps […]

A Scarf Can Hold the Universe Together

    About six years before she died, my mom began suffering with rheumatoid arthritis—and yeah, it was “suffering,” not “living with” or “surviving” or any of the other empowering turns of phrase. RA’s fatigue and pain and stiffness made it hard for Nette, whose life had been a blur of sports, work, housework, and […]

Time as the Spooky Thing

        A bunch of us were swapping spooky stories as we followed my niece’s little girls through the subdivision on trick-or-treat night. One was a princess in a stocking cap, the other a witch in tennis shoes. It is a hallowed night when there are young children in the family. My niece […]

Disappointment and Horror

        A friend was expressing frustration with things not being what they pretend to be. He had gone to one of the big comics/cosplay/fandom conventions, where the first floor of the center was supposed to be multiple vendors selling artwork and other high-end collectibles. Instead, it was dominated by a company that […]

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

        A recent visitor to a United Methodist Church in a St. Louis suburb came in from the parking lot with confidence but hesitated at the door, as if he did not know how to proceed. (“At Kirkwood UMC, we say ‘all are welcome, all are forgiven, and all are invited to […]