My Days of Awe, 5776

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImpatience. Anger. Wastefulness. Restlessness. Desire. Haughtiness. Greed. Judgement. Pride.


I’ve been paying attention, especially the last few days. Now it’s getting serious. It’s the morning of the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.


Yesterday, just after I walked into the house after ten-and-a-half hours at the university, before I dropped my heavy book bag on the floor, I spotted a bowl of chips and an open container of my favorite salsa. But before I was able to crack the first of forty chips in my mouth, my wife said, it arrived crushed.

She was on hold, forty-five minutes waiting for a customer service rep. The post office. How to file a claim. A box of wedding gifts. [Read more...]

Blood and Silver

3605998863_b9ea37f5c6_zBy Caroline Langston

I stood in the security line at the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans wondering if I was going to be detained, and taken for dangerous. Hell, I didn’t know, was this something for which I could be arrested? Maybe I should’ve let my brother talk me into sending the glossy, fitted wood box on ahead via mail—though that would have been exorbitant. Plus, I didn’t want to let it out of my hands.

I couldn’t have packed it in checked luggage because it might have been stolen. And who knows? It might have been even more illegal to bundle it away in a packed bag. But I didn’t know about checked bags, since it’s a point of honor going back to boarding school days for me to never have more luggage than I can carry onto the plane, which had led to the spare travel wardrobe of a Greek widow, a succession of black dresses.

I could even feel myself sweating a bit, as I watched the box disappear into the X-ray and I walked barefoot through the scanner. I imagined how the bulky square edges of the box would appear on the monitor, the metal inside in skeletal form.

But not a word from security. There was a small problem with the necklace I was wearing, but that was solved by swinging it behind my neck. I slipped back on my pewter Cole Haan wedges, grabbed my bags, and felt protectively for the heavy tray of sterling silver flatware at the bottom of my suitcase. [Read more...]

Gethsemane Companions

12233212894_02c549532e_zBy Dyana Herron

Over the past couple of months, facing two family crises that impact the whole relational web of my tribe down in Tennessee, I’ve learned something about myself: I’m not very good at fessing up to my own needs.

Instead I am attentive—sometimes over-attentive—to the needs of others.

Instead of saying, “I need help,” I ask, “How can I help you?”

Instead of saying, “I need someone to talk to,” I ask, “Is there anything you want to talk about?”

Instead of saying, “I don’t want to be alone,” I say, “I am here for you.”

I say these things to my relatives, my husband, and my closest friends—those who know me best and love me most.

This may sound like a virtue, but it isn’t. It’s cowardice. [Read more...]

Downturned Face, Upturned Eyes

16031088392_2eed4d7889_zThere is no writing more precious and self-indulgent than the essay about the difficulty of writing, so I will not write an essay about that. The truth is that writing is easy if you have a little talent. A little talent affords some writers a fine living, in fact. The only real pain comes not from the act of writing, but from a voice hovering in your ear, which may be your conscience or your mother but most likely is the devil, whispering: They’re not going to like it.

What does the devil get for his trouble? A cheapening of words. Another breezy, bullshitty essay, or another snarky, hopeless one: It makes little difference; the devil edits them all.

(See how he’s angling for your sympathy, with his poor-tortured-truthful-soul-in-a-sea-of-mendacity shtick?) [Read more...]

The Boy Who Lived Large

3295985119_346ac2aed1_zFriday we took the kids and hit the road for Aiken, South Carolina. We were going down to attend a memorial service for my sister’s stepson Tyler. Tyler was sixteen years old.

The service was nice. The pastor had lost a six-year-old daughter to asthma, and was particularly tuned in to the family’s pain.

My nephew Jesse wrote a letter to Tyler, which one of his friends stood and read for him. He wrote to Tyler, “You were so warm, so happy, so loving, and as wonderful as those words are they still don’t seem to do you justice.” He wrote, “Tyler, you were the embodiment of unconditional love…”

The pastor spoke of everyone’s memories of Tyler. He loved to sing, and he had a specific song he attached to each significant person in his life, singing it when he saw that person.

His favorites: Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Night”; The Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight,” which he changed to party tonight; “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” which he sometimes changed to I’ve got the whole world in my hands. [Read more...]