The Beauty and Care of Children

Yesterday morning, I heard the sound of children’s voice, and when I looked out the window, a preschool teacher was taking a picture of her students with our ridiculously large rhododendron as the background.

Those sweet faces and smiles were exactly what I needed to see after the awful news out of Texas the day before.

Leaving aside, for a moment, the discussion of guns and gun violence in this country, we need to do everything we can to protect our children in every way, not only from killings but also poverty, neglect, and abuse. If we aren’t willing to care for and protect children, whether they are ours or someone else’s, what kind of a society are we?

Still There Is Much That Is Fair…

I took this picture after a fierce deluge battered our just-blooming dogwood tree yesterday. It seems a good illustration of the Tolkien quote below–the kind of reminder I need with all that is going on these days.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Halfway Through My Pandemic Project: Reading the Entire Bible in German

In early April 2020, when we were less than a month into the pandemic shutdown, I was going through some old books and found a copy of the Bible in German a friend had given my wife years before. The cover said the writing inside was in “heutigem Deutsch,” which means contemporary German.

I’d never read the entire Bible before and I’d been wanting to improve my German, so I decided to make reading that Bible my pandemic project. I figured if I could average two chapters a day, I could read the whole thing in about three years.

That was exactly a year and a half ago, and yesterday I reached the halfway point in my reading. I still have a year and a half to go, but I have no doubt now I’ll finish. That’s one good thing that has come from this awful pandemic period.

Here’s a look at my low-tech record-keeping:

A Strange Beauty

While walking yesterday, I saw these mushrooms bubbling out beside the sidewalk and felt drawn to look more closely. They reminded me how important it is for a writer–or anyone, really—to remain aware of and sensitive to the world around you. That sensitivity can be painful at times but it also can bring moments like this: when something some would consider unsightly suddenly shines with strange beauty.

Coming Soon: An Essay on Goodness

Three months ago, in the midst of all of the post-election rancor, the editor of Notre Dame Magazine asked me what I would think about writing an essay on Goodness. He was tired of reading so much about the badness in the world, he said. I told him I’d take the project on but had no idea what I’d do with it. He seemed especially pleased at my not-knowing.

Given the times, with death and uncertainty, everywhere, nothing could have been better than spending the holiday period thinking about Goodness. The essay came to me in bits and pieces while I took long walks alone. I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to write some kind of traditional essay, but I didn’t expect the more lyrical piece I ended up creating: a meditation on what Goodness is.

The issue my essay will be in is at the printer’s now and will be mailed out to the magazine’s almost 200,000 subscribers sometime in the next 2-3 weeks. When it goes up online, I’ll post the link here.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to think about where Goodness appears in your own life. It’s a much better lens through which to see the world than the ones you find in most news outlets or social media.


Remembering My Mother’s Struggles and Beauty on Her 99th Birthday

Today would have been my mother’s 99th birthday. A remarkable woman, she raised two children by herself on a bookkeeper’s salary. Once, when she asked her male boss for a much-needed raise, he told her raises were only for men, who had families to support.

I tell other stories about how she was treated by men and the strength she showed in dealing with them in the memoir I’m working on, which includes the days around her death.

Don’t worry, I tell stories about happier times and events too!