Sisyphus with a Lawnmower

I hate mowing the lawn. I hate lawnmowers.

Our unkempt yard stands out among our neighbors’ lush green lawns. Their leaves and sticks are promptly removed after storms, their yards are neatly mown, and their borders are crisply edged. My wife and I imagine that we get a pass on our shaggy, limb-cluttered yard because everyone knows we’re academics, bookish types who aren’t much use at real work—otherwise we might have already been voted off the street.

I don’t see the point of constantly struggling against nature when she will certainly outlast me. What’s more, I like my yard shaded and shaggy, with leaves and sticks all around. It feels more natural—it is more natural. Why put so much energy into fighting it? [Read more...]

The Peril of False Spring

It’s January, but the weatherman says the temperatures will creep up near seventy for the next day or two. In fact, things have been warmer than usual for a spell now. Tiny buds are popping out on some of the trees, and croci (yes, a bunch of crocuses) are spackling the earth in little paintbrushes of yellow and purple. The birds, from black starling to blue jay, are wild about it all.

This shouldn’t be happening, of course, because this is the mid-Atlantic, and the average temperature this time of year is in the low forties. The skies should stay dark and unruly for weeks to come. Windshields should be sheathed in icy skins that have to be chafed and busted off with barely-effective scrapers that send shivers of freezing pellets down your shirtsleeve.

The ride to work should be intolerable, the seat a glacier beneath your pant legs and too frost-bound to lean back against. The heater controls should take a merciless pounding as you demand more from them than they can possibly give in such tundral conditions.

But that’s not happening right now. Right now, the car windows are down a tad to let in a waft of fresh air, like an old friend finally come to call. Right now, you walk to places instead of drive, and find a way to get out during the noon break. There’s no need for a big coat pinning your arms down or a scratchy scarf rubbing your neck raw. Free of thick, globby Chapstick, lips can be used to whistle. [Read more...]

Traditional New Year’s Food

At the end of December I talked to a friend of mine who lives in Seattle. He was going to a New Year’s Eve dinner and was having trouble deciding what to contribute to the meal. “It’s strange,” he said, “that Americans don’t have any traditional New Year’s foods. We have Thanksgiving food, and Christmas, but not New Year’s.”

What I found strange was that he’d grown up without a food tradition on this holiday, because my family always ate black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread on the first of January, and although I knew it had originated in the South, I’d thought the tradition was now widely known, if not widely practiced.

Each year my parents, brother and sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I would gather in my grandmother’s kitchen.

“The black-eyed peas are coin money,” Grandma told me, stirring the big, black pot where the beans floated in a bubbling liquid, a smoky chunk of fatback bobbing in the middle like a buoy. [Read more...]

Twelve Days To Sit with the God-Made-Man

As a child, I was somewhat confused by the partridge in the pear tree and by Advent calendars. I liked both—especially the calendars, with their stiff little paper tabs opening up to an image of a toy or a bird or a tree for each day—but I didn’t understand the numerology.

Advent calendars were calendars, but they didn’t last the entire month. They ended at twenty-four, the payoff of the often-arch-shaped double door opening up to reveal a honey-tinted scene of the Christ child in the manger. [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X