Star Wars

Our first night living miles away from downtown’s bright lights, I went outside, looked up, and felt a deep contentment wrap around me. I was used to a night sky that looked like a black shoebox with a few holes punched. This looked like diamonds sewn onto layers and layers of tulle, so even the […]

Confessions from the Aisle of Shame

“You don’t know what the AOS is?” The shock in Shawn’s voice borders on pity. “We’ll take you,” promises Susan. They dive into a conversation about the latest hot item, a rug of magical price and quality. The lucky folks who snagged one started photographing their dogs sitting cute atop the fuzzy rug, and one […]

Personal Effects

The wallets were what got me. They fool you, because they seem so practical, just neat, safe folders of money. Yet they also hold us, flattened into paper: our name, our age, where we live, who we love. Their edges soften a bit more each day as we reach for proof, currency, or our honor, […]

In Disagreement, Where Can We Turn?

Family, friends, and other trusted people often serve as back-ups to parts of ourselves we hope to return to. They are our satellite campuses, our branch libraries, our outposts in wildernesses where we do not often go. The other day I posted a screed on social media by a dead political writer, about a long-dead […]

Returning Minimalism to Its Roots

“Minimalism champions living with less, but Marie’s tidying method encourages living with items you truly cherish,” says the site for Marie Kondo, the self-help guru you are probably familiar with, if only as a reader. For a few days last year, some viewers of her Netflix show took to social media to decry her plan […]

Paradise Lost

The room is a velvety, lightless black, except at the center, where light refracts through dichroic glass pendants and makes rainbows on the holographic floor. They are meant to cheer us up. This is Margaret Keller’s Botanica Absentia installation at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and we have just stepped seventy years into the […]

Four Seasons—in One

“Today, it’s spring,” I announce to myself, taking the cheery tone kindergarten teachers use with the recalcitrant. Deep inside, I am still stomping my foot, because this is all wrong. It is still winter. Last week, there were a few sunny, chilly days that felt like late fall, and now the air feels warm and […]

Nowhere Man

Last week I finished three of Pico Iyer’s recent books: Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells (an anatomy of a single season, over the years, in Japan); A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations; and The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. All are nonfiction, and excellent. For a self-proclaimed non-adherent to […]

A Screen Test for the Academy Awards

I was happily watching a British murder get solved by two smart female detectives when my husband pointed out that every conversation that was not about murder was about men. Neither of us realized that he was applying the Bechdel test; I learned only later about Alison Bechdel’s deliberately, ridiculously low standard for movies. Announced […]

Why We Are All Amazed

I titled my friend’s recipe “Susan’s Amazing Candied Pecans.” I called my favorite Bosnian restaurant “amazing,” recommended a film as “amazing,” gushed about Robert Macfarlane’s “amazing” nature writing and my friend’s “amazing” travel photographs. To even called a slow-cooker pot roast “amazing.” Writers should have more vocabulary. I imagine my English literature professor in college, […]