Essays

Breakup Joints

Anyone can think of a romantic spot to dine on Valentine's Day, but finding the right restaurant to leave your lover is another story   I’M NOT A GOOD dumper. I have no style. Well, at least not the kind of style you might expect from a woman who has had as many husbands as you...

Summer School

I learned about church as community from my hymn-singing Iowa aunts.     IT WAS ONLY an Iowa farmhouse filled with Lutherans. But to me, a Catholic kid from Minneapolis, it was an exotic destination. Summers we would travel there, my five sisters and I, squeezed into the backseat of a two-toned Chevy station wagon, breathing down my father’s...

What’s In A Name?

SO THE GUY who blows the leaves off my sidewalk turns off the turbo-charged jet engine he carries slung on his shoulder, lifts his goggles, and asks me, “What’s the name of that plant over there?” He means, of course, coreopsis auriculata—a tall, hardy perennial covered with yellow blooms that look like a daisy and...

Zula

SHE HAD ASKED  for no flowers at her funeral, likely fearing her gardener friends would struggle to outdo themselves, enveloping the church in combative perfumes. But a man brought in irises, an immense basket of them, and set them down near the altar. Simple, purple, everyday irises—not the exotic black, red, yellow, or white species she nurtured...

Mouse Wars

WHILE I WAS cleaning a mouse nest out of my car engine with a bent wire hanger one afternoon—hang on, I’ll get to that—I began to philosophize about the relationship between women and rodents. First of all, let’s abolish the myth that women freak at the site of four legs and fur. If this were true,...

Ready to Rumble

AH, FALL. The time of year when the mice I chased out in the spring move right back into the house. Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter illustrations suggest the unlikely but charming notion that domesticated rodents run around on little mice freeways directly beneath our feet, commuting up and down between layers of floors as...

Parents Paying for Tuition

IN MARCH, I took my first midterms since 1976. At the advanced age of never-you-mind, I was a student again. Along with acquiring notebooks-full of stuff about journalism ethics and history of the media, I’ve learned two other things. One: They still use those little blue books for midterms. Two: It’s hard to be a...

Bloom Where You’re Planted

MY FRIENDS arrived at the kitchen door carrying a tree. My wedding day was a week away, and they thought we all ought to mark this occasion by planting a tree. Mr. Friend thought I ought to know the genus and species of the thing; I demurred, and said all I cared about was whether or...

Gales of November

THERE IS THE meditative beauty of what is undisturbed, what seems to be content with itself, what allows itself to be entered and explored. And then there is the beauty of turmoil. Of tempests. Of warring forces that forged the earth. Some like the water placid, still, serene as the color blue. But some...

Faux Family Trees

ONE DAY YEARS AGO, my daughter, Gretchen, came home from school in crisis. “I have to draw our family tree,” she wailed. It isn’t that she has trouble sketching leaves and bark. It’s that our family tree has been uprooted and replanted once or twice. OK, four times. And that’s just on my side. I was first...