The Declaration of Independence includes this fairly remarkable statement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” I’m jealous of their assurance. If you look around at the world today, if you talk to anyone, I think the one common thread of the descent into our current chaos is that no truth is just taken at face value anymore. Everything is up for debate.
It’s been a rough year for everyone, and for me personally it’s been difficult because I do a lot of my thinking through writing. I joke to my loved ones that sometimes I don’t know what I’m feeling until I’ve written it down, but it’s not actually a joke. And when you get hit with one thing after another like we have been this past year, sometimes the words just don’t come. You sit there banging your head against the wall and you get to feeling a bit lost. …
A friend reposted something on Facebook the other day, an anonymous screed essentially telling people to chill out with the online arguing and offering a call for humility and empathy in these trying times: “All of us need to calm down. Quit telling people who are financially struggling that they don’t care about human lives. Quit telling people who are truly at risk of dying from this virus that they are cowering in fear. Remember that until you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, you should probably be careful in your judgements and subsequent harsh words.” It hit home, because only a week prior I had gotten into heated online arguments with someone I know personally within the #ReOpenNC camp, my main point being — over and over again — that human lives are more important than money. …
There’s an island in New York where they lay the dead to rest,
those unclaimed deceased whose coffins stack three-deep within a trench.
Easter weekend, how they dig. Lay the bodies in their tombs.
Hospitals like Christmas inns, no ventilators and no rooms.
You’ve heard it called a potter’s field, a pauper’s or a “common” grave
(the “common” of the uncouth poor, the stranger, criminal, or slave).
These fields are nothing new, I know. The indigent will always die.
The truly “common” thing being how no one ever bats an eye.
Statistics speak of “curves” and “spikes,” but Hart’s Island is full of holes.
Not just the graves, the absences, people with lives and selves and souls.
I cannot make my peace with this. I mourn the now-gone “least of these.”
You plead to return to what was. …
Imagine a world where you wake up at 7 or 8am and get your morning coffee or tea. Maybe walk the dog or jog if that’s your thing, or skip straight to the shower if it isn’t. You eat breakfast with your loved ones, send them off to work or school, then get in your car (or take some other mode of transportation) and head to work.
Imagine working eight hours a day, five days a week, with an hour off for lunch, at a job that is challenging and requires physical and/or mental labor but doesn’t destroy your body or your mental health. You may enjoy what you do, but even if you don’t you understand its worth and can take pride in it. …
Notre Dame burned the other day.
The world mourned. In the days to follow, wealthy donors reached out to offer assistance for the restoration of the glorious architecture and works of art that were damaged in the blaze. Among those to offer assistance was the U.S. White House.
When I heard this I was angry, but couldn’t express my feelings well. I posted a link to the article and all I could think to write in the haze of my rage were the words “Puerto Rico” in all caps over and over again. …
(Note: Originally written in June of 2017, I promptly forgot about this little piece. But I like it so much I’m posting it a year late.)
There are icebergs floating past.
Here in St. John’s, Newfoundland it happens every year. I found out about it in all the guide books before I came. It’s part of the image they sell you: you’ve got the pretty colorful row houses and the heritage sites and the music and the locals and the icebergs.
I know they’re out there, but I haven’t seen one yet myself.
Friends keep posting pictures of their sightings. Here’s a photo one friend took a half hour outside of town. …
When it comes to creativity there are two virtues you hear praised over and over again: vision and action.
Michelangelo is famously quoted as saying, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” That’s the blessing and curse of every artist: the ability to perceive what could be. An understanding of a specific potential that exists inside that block of marble, that waits on that empty canvas or page or screen or stage. Seeing what others don’t.
My whole life I’ve had this complicated relationship with the word.
It’s my name, so it’s a word I hear over and over again to the point that sometimes it loses all meaning. Then, of course, there’s the fact that it’s a word with many meanings. I would often hear growing up: “Oh, you’re Grace — that must mean you’re graceful like Grace Kelly.” I’d then have to explain that no, I’m no ballerina. I wasn’t named for that attribute akin to poise and elegance, but a different sort of grace altogether.
“It’s like mercy,” I’d try to explain. “Mercy is when someone spares a punishment or consequence you deserve. Grace is when someone bestows a gift upon you when you don’t deserve it at all.” …
I didn’t hear the ending to the story of “Pandora’s Box” until I was twenty years old. Before then this was all I knew: Pandora is given a box (really a jar, the purists reminded me) that contains all the horrors of the world, and she opens it and lets them all free. Boom. The End. It seemed like another tale of “forbidden fruit,” a reminder of the evils that will befall you if you don’t follow the rules and stay in line.
But in college, I encountered the full version of the myth: yes, Pandora opens the jar, and all the evils escape it, but one thing is left behind which she is able to trap before it gets away — Hope remains. …
Paris, France. February 2006.
We’ve woken before the sun, which should be just fine as this is the City of Light. That must be Paris proper, though, nearer the city center. Here in the outskirts, the far-flung reaches near Disneyland where hotels pander to cheap tourists like us, there’s no sign of “romantic twinkle.” The world is just a sort of seamless gray.
There are six of us including myself. We’re American college students studying abroad in England, who escaped for a long weekend adventure in France’s famed capitol. Now we are standing on the platform of this open-air train station, waiting for the first train of the day to whisk us into Gare du Nord so we can catch our Eurostar departure to London and arrive back in time to finish our homework before classes tomorrow. …