September 27, 2018

For my forty-first birthday, I decided to write a personal rule of life. Turning forty hadn’t magically made me wise in the way that translates into action, and I didn’t wish to spend the next decade wading in the same bog of issues and habits and disordered affections that kept me from feeling present to my thirties. I gathered some resources, ranging from the Rule of St. Benedict to works by some of my favorite contemporary spiritual writers like Paula… Read more

September 26, 2018

Last night, as I walked on the road that leads me home, I saw a deer sitting in the meadow.  The moon was out, and the few stars not clouded with the glow of human endeavors kept their lights unmoving in the endless sea of almost darkness.  The deer sat there, away from the road, away from the forest. Though I did not mean to, my feet carried me off the path, away from the lamps that tried so hard… Read more

September 25, 2018

Sassy wasn’t her real name, and she wasn’t “sassy” at all. But as happens with many grandparents, the oldest grandchild names her—and the name sticks. I was that oldest grandchild. Her name was Sarah, which is what I’d hear the grownups call her. But when I tried, at age one-and-a-half or so, to say “Sarah,” it came out “Sassy.” So Sassy she was, for all us grandkids, for the rest of her life. (more…) Read more

September 24, 2018

I lost it at the dentist’s office the other day. I was there with my mother and had been flipping through copies of Good Housekeeping, waiting for hours. I was hungry and impatient by the time she emerged, then the receptionist presented us with an itemized and very detailed list of expensive dental work my mother needed to have done during subsequent visits. (more…) Read more

September 21, 2018

According to the Church’s liturgical calendar, this is the twenty-fourth week of Ordinary Time, the numbered weeks between the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Lent, as well as the weeks following Pentecost Sunday until the first Sunday of Advent. Ordinary Time is the period in which the faithful live not in feasting or penance but in watchfulness and expectation. Littlepage Smith’s poem of the same name, “The Ordinary Time,” similarly advocates watchfulness (l.22), but directs our… Read more

September 20, 2018

I hobbled into beginner ballet at age thirty-six, late for my first class, whirring between meetings, racing up the steps to the dance studio that was located, felicitously, next to a burrito joint that served beer. I switched into beginner ballet after a disastrous attempt at intro to hip-hop a week earlier. Ballet, I hoped, would offer a gentler path into dance for a body also finding its way into middle age. So there I was in sweat pants and… Read more

September 19, 2018

My first “Hallelujah” was sung by Rufus Wainwright in Shrek. I was a preteen and baffled that my grown siblings were interested in the soundtrack. The lyrics were deceptively simple words, referencing biblical passages I recognized. I knew it was Dovid who saw Batsheva bathing on the roof; I knew it was Delila who cut Shimshon’s hair. But why was he tied to a kitchen chair? Did they even have kitchen chairs in the age of the Plishtim? I couldn’t… Read more

September 18, 2018

By now, I could have read Psalm 27 at least twenty-seven times, once a day for the past twenty-seven days. I could have participated in communal prayer on Shabbat morning three times during this month: Elul. Regular prayer—a practice that may create conditions in which the worshipper can see herself as she is seen by God—can help facilitate the process of heshbon hanefesh, accounting of the soul. By now, I could have heard the morning blast and blast and blast… Read more

September 17, 2018

The Emmys air tonight, and here at “Good Letters” we’re gratified that our bloggers have written about some of this year’s nominees: This Is Us. “Beginning its third season, the Emmy-nominated NBC drama devotes serious time to exploring the emotional complexities of relationships among adoptive and biological families,” writes Tania Runyan, who added to her family though open adoption. “This Is Us teaches us about protecting and parenting children, but it also teaches us about loving and understanding parents. Even… Read more

September 14, 2018

Spoiler alert: here is a poem that purports to describe a vision of heaven but ends up celebrating parental love.  Actually, both are going on at once in this poem. The speaker recounts a dream envisioning heaven as a field which he is driving an old truck across. The truck is his grandfather’s: he’s the first parent to appear. Then the speaker is a child sitting on his father’s lap to pretend-drive across the field. But his father soon morphs… Read more


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