“Downton Abbey”: The Delicious Addiction

Doni M. Wilson:

Super excited that a version of this essay appeared in The Houston Chronicle today, 4 January 2015, just in time for the big Season 5 Premiere of Downton Abbey tonight….look for more essays of mine on Downton Abbey in the Gray Matters section of the online Houston Chronicle this spring–it is going to be a great season! Here is the linkhttp://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/The-Downton-abyss-5990632.php?t=4744c5025a&cmpid=twitter-premium via @HoustonChron

Originally posted on Reflection and Choice:

81934241bAdmitting the problem is the first step. Except here is the thing:  I don’t want to get over this.  I just want the PBS miniseries “Downton Abbey” to go on and on forever.  I don’t want to recover.  I don’t want them to stop writing scripts.  Prequel, sequel, I don’t care.  Please: don’t let it stop. Sunday from 8-10, I am not available.  No. Matter. What.

Does it make it better if it is Masterpiece Theater on PBS?  If not, I don’t care.  I would watch it even if it was on that channel that has all those Housewives shows.  Once you see an episode, not much else matters. Sad. I don’t want an intervention.  I won’t cooperate.  I have lots of rationalizations at the ready.  Here are some of them:

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Every Day is January First

Doni M. Wilson:

I wrote this at the end of last year…thanks to my readers for their very kind emails all year–I appreciate it so much! Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2015.

Originally posted on Reflection and Choice:

All week I have been looking forward to January first, my favorite day of the year.  One of my most beloved authors famously said that “There are no second acts in American lives,” but no one really believes that.  If that were true, the minute you made a train wreck out of something, you would stop booking any more trips.  Why would you want to do that?  Plus, he was writing that line in a novel, a place where you have to keep things lively, even if just for dramatic effect.


The cool, smooth slate of January makes it feel like you can start all over, pack up the past, make a better plan.  I looked for poems to make my point about this, but everything I found was about regret, and from what I can tell from every single person I have seen or talked to this year, I…

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Graduation Day; Or, Onward and Upward

A version of this piece also appeared in The Houston Chronicle in the Gray Matters section on 15 December 2014.


It’s 63 degrees in December, and I am flying down the highway to Houston Baptist University.  I have left early, but I am still running late because I didn’t count on all the closed ramps around Clear Lake.  I am in a hurry because I will be reading the names of the graduates for the first ceremony that starts at 9 am.  That is, if I make it. Advice-to-graduates

I start to wonder what my explanation will sound like if I can’t make up the time on Beltway 8.  I start to think of all the people who might wonder where I am, what I am doing, and why I am late.  I start to feel a little sick, and I realize I don’t have the cell phone number of Linda Clark, the Provost’s Administrative Super Woman, who seems to handle everything with perfect ease. She is the easiest person to work with in the world, and I hate the thought of letting her down. For heaven’s sakes, we are a team at graduation!  I can’t just not show up! This isn’t like missing a class–there isn’t another one to make up.  Then I realize everyone–President Sloan, Provost Reynolds, the board of trustees, donors–will know that I have been unable to fulfill the one requirement I have today:  showing up.

It’s not like they are going to hold the ceremony for me–I mean I am not Lindsay Lohan. But I am starting to understand what she might feel like sometimes, with her ridiculous tardiness and lame excuses. Oh, Lindsay:  this is no way to live.

All I want to do is get on 45, but all I see are red tail lights, feeder road, and despair. Continue reading

Emily Dickinson’s Birthday; Or, This World is Not Conclusion


This piece was also published by The Houston Chronicle in the Gray Matters section on 10 December 2014.


Emily Dickinson was born on 10 December in 1830, but on Monday at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., they celebrated early with a day-long marathon reading of her poems–over 1700 of them, in order.  How many other American poets would get this kind of birthday recognition?

Try zero.

I may be far away in Texas, but as Dickinson herself wrote, “There is no Frigate like a Book,” and I can be all the way in Houston and feel her angst (and joy) in my beaten-up, highlighted, and dog-eared collection of her poems.  Sometimes it takes awhile to wrap your mind around her poems, because she can turn on a dime, turn it up a notch, even turn on you–sometimes even before you know it.  Like all drama queens, she keeps it lively, even 184 years after her birth.

If you read her poems individually, you might think you could figure out her position on a few things.  The doyenne of the declarative statement, she can define things with confidence, letting you know that “Publication– is the Auction/ Of the Mind of Man–“, or that she would rather be “Nobody” rather than “Somebody” if it means that one is praised by “An admiring Bog.”  Yet, there is a wistfulness, a desire to be heard, by someone, maybe a better reader than most of us are, as when she wrote the famous Atlantic Monthly editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson.  She wanted to know if her poetry “breathed.”  In an age of click-bait and Buzzfeed, it might be hard to comprehend that she didn’t care so much about crunching the numbers or what would be the equivalent of “breaking the internet,” but that doesn’t mean she did not want to be heard at all.  Her poems were her “Letter to the World,” but she was also okay with selecting her own “Society.”  Dickinson has something to say to us about being “discriminating” before that word became so politically charged.

You cannot read her poems individually and figure out her final word on anything. You have to see her as a poet who can channel the contradictory emotions we all feel through the venue of the poem.  Think of the poem as her stage, and her words as the monologues that fit her mood at that moment:  it is great theater, something to see.  Just when you think she couldn’t be angrier at God (a “burglar” who makes her lose twice–and that is “in the sod”) then you witness her turning to God for inspiration–a way to define the divine, even if she is conflicted about it.  I know it sounds sacrilegious when Dickinson says “The Brain is Wider than the Sky” followed by “The Brain is just the weight of God”–but the point is her frame of reference is what she can imagine, and that changes.  For someone who claims she doesn’t like “Paradise,” she sure spends a lot of time thinking about it. And, through Dickinson’s queenly decrees, so do we. Continue reading


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