Uncommon Courtesy

pub housing

 In the early 1990s I worked for a foster care agency in New York City.  It was my job as a “homefinder” to interview potential foster parents and assess whether they could provide a nurturing home for traumatized children.  The work was an intimate education in human nature, from its most generous to its most sordid, but from a quarter-century’s distance one couple stands at the forefront of my memory. Continue reading

The Revenant: A Savage Grace

campfire

As a child I felt the call of the wild.  Jack London’s book sat on my bedroom bookshelf and every so often I would take and read.  Or rather, I would drink it in, as I did all of my favorite books, living moment by moment Buck’s eerie transformation from favored pet in sunny Santa Clara to wolf fiend of the Arctic.  Why did I love the tale?  Its cruelty held no charms for me, but its stark beauty captivated me.

One day my friends and I found a small, hurt animal – mouse, bird, I no longer remember what.  When one girl wanted to rescue it I spoke frostily of the law of club and fang until she protested, “Well . . . jeepers!”  That gentle “jeepers” sank its fangs into my soul.  Why would a Christian girl love The Call of the Wild? I decided I had overdosed on wolfish creatures (“They were savages, all of them . . . ”) and read London no more.

This past Christmastide I heard an NPR review of Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant and knew that I had to see it.  I had a professional motive, besides.  As a history professor specializing in the early nineteenth century, I did not want to be mauled by a student who had seen this film when I had not.  So, one fine Friday before the spring semester hit, I took myself to see The Revenant. Continue reading

Silver Stars: An Epiphany Story

Xmas Star 2015

There is a street I pass on my daily commute called Tanglewilde.  I’ve never driven down it, but the name pretty well describes my home life for the past half-year.

Things got dicey on Memorial Day when the rain came down in such torrents that the street in front of my house became a river.  Around midnight I noticed a shallow puddle spreading across my living room floor from under the baseboard. I stayed up most of the night, sponge in hand, defending my house from water intrusion.  I thanked my lucky stars that I had decided to purchase flood insurance the previous summer. Continue reading