Empathy, It Seems, Is Overrated

    A heart willing to welcome someone else’s pain inside. A brain with the superpower of unlocking other psyches. Skin so tender, anybody’s mood will brush against yours—then penetrate. Empathy seems a noble trait, potent and generous, an instant cure for injustice and xenophobia. I watch “empaths” on my husband’s beloved Star Trek and […]

One Tree Is Enough

    Just one line in a one-paragraph writeup in The New Yorker, but it stopped me for ten minutes. “For the past decade, her sole subject has been a maple tree that’s growing outside her studio window.” Seriously? How does any artist focus that calmly, and that narrowly, for that long? Who is Sylvia […]

Solar Eclipse 2024: the Band of Totality Tour!

  Strong feelings shaded yesterday’s total solar eclipse in North America, ranging from worries about terrorism against big crowds gathered in rural areas, where first responders would be overwhelmed, to fervent hopes for the rapture. Maybe it was because I was living farther away from the ominously-named band of totality in the eclipse of 2017, […]

Was the Eclipse Anticlimactic?

    You would think we were planning an expedition to the moon. First I researched ancient and medieval narratives of eclipse, read the scientific explanation of the crimson ring we might see (hydrogen in the chromosphere) and the erratic behavior of wildlife, and got sidetracked by solar wind and the music of the spheres […]

Will Our Hyphens Join Us or Divide Us?

    Hours of my life have been wasted dithering over which compound phrases should be hyphenated, which separate, which mushed together. When Angus Stevenson, an editor of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, braved scandal by yanking the hyphens out of 16,000 words, I yelled “Woohoo” at my desk. The act honored aesthetics (hyphens annoy […]

Steinbeck and the Baby Bunny

    The dog drops into a play-bow, a fuzzy toy in his mouth. He leaps up, pounces, energy high, eyes sparkling with fun. Boy, he really loves that toy, I think, curious which of the thousand has sparked his imagination. My husband, always more alert than I, stops in the doorway. “What’s he got?” […]

How Color Left Nature Behind

    Artists select their palettes ever so carefully, but an old piece of parchment with all the colors, circled in a wheel or disciplined into a grid, their names inked gracefully beneath them? I can pore over those antique charts for hours. Seeing the colors ranged next to one another, like somebody pinned a […]