Commentary

This is all commentaries on WVPE including Friday's Michiana Chronicles Feature and occasional one-time contributors.

"Flowers"

Aug 28, 2015

When I get flowers...

The Shepherd's Life

Jul 3, 2015
Published here by permission of the photographer.

You read a book about what? You’re recommending a book about what? That’s the reaction I’ve been getting from people, and I can’t blame them. There are sheep on the book’s cover, after all. What does that have to do with our life? Shepherds on harsh yet beautiful mountain farms in a far corner of a distant country?

We Are Caitlyn

Jun 5, 2015
ABC News.

I wonder if people will look back on this moment in history and say that this was the week when transgender people began to be understood and respected around the world. Caitlyn Jenner has completed her public transformation from “he” to “she,” after a long process of struggle and change that was grounded in personal truth. The event of her self-presentation in Vanity Fair seems comparable to Magic Johnson's 1991 HIV announcement. That event universalized the AIDS epidemic and made it possible for people to see the unfolding tragedy as something that belonged to all of us.

Justin Solomon (@JSolomonCNBC)

In the movie State and Main actor Alec Baldwin plays an eratic and irresponsible fellow who at one point manages to get his station wagon airborne on the streets of a small town. When he emerges from the wreckage he laughs nervously and blurts out just three words: “So that happened.”

Gimme Shelter

Apr 3, 2015

My daughter is building a shanty. 

She comes from a long line of shanty builders.  In our family, we have been building these makeshift dwellings since our oldest child first set foot in Central High School.  It's a project for World Geography -- normally sometime in ninth grade.  And it's a great opportunity . . . for procrastination.

In my view, my son is a perfectly competent human being. In my son’s view, I am a fight-picker.

Now, I think that the way he became a perfectly competent human being is due to stellar direction from not just the village, but in large part from me. That being the case, it stands to reason that others too easily can benefit from my direction. That’s not fight-picking; that’s the sharing of information and life-experience. I ask, how could anyone possibly interpret the giving of a gift such as that as spoilin’ for a fight?

You know, sometimes I think my troubles started when I learned how to read. A good book stops me in my tracks—political ones, such as The Way of the Knife—about the CIA’s secret army; histories, like Vietnam and America; novels, mysteries—I just finished a chronicle of the Gastonia, North Carolina, 1929 textile strike—and a novel that surrounded that experience with the beauty and anguish of the mountains: Call Home the Heart, by Olive Tilford Dargon.

Telling the Truth

Mar 6, 2015

Oh, month of March -- I greet you with an ambivalent heart. After all, the snow still falls outside the big window in our little kitchen – that relentless lake-effect sifting that isn’t a storm, it’s a state of mind.  Still, I tromp through the crusted drifts to our forsythia bush to cut twigs to force into clustered canary blooms in windowsill vases.  The twigs are rough bronze on the outside but fierce green within.  Dead? Or Alive? I’m forcing them – and myself – to remember what hope looks like. 

Two Women on Their Way

Feb 27, 2015

The youngest member of our family will graduate from high school in a few weeks. On Tuesday we wandered the maze-like corridors of the neighborhood school for our very last set of parent-teacher conferences. We said our farewells to beloved faculty members and to the rows of brightly-colored lockers and to the just-a-little-dusty trophy cases and framed and fading photographs of the valedictorians of 1962 and 63 and 64. The cunningly tedious FAFSA financial aid report will put its dagger deep into the heart of our weekend.

Graham King--Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Once Upon A Time, when I was fat in the way only a healthy twenty-five-year-old girl can be fat (i.e.: perfect with tiny flaws only she can see with the help of three hand mirrors and a bad romance) I did yoga naked. Well, mostly naked. In the secluded backyard of my friend's house, with two wonderful gal pals, we did (almost) naked yoga one fine summer day. It was glorious: warm sun shining on our nubile bodies, wind rustling our hair. The naughtiness of it was thrilling and dangerous . . . until we heard someone call out!

Joe Chaney

Two winters ago on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i I met a man in his mid-thirties, a Midwestern loner who’d been kicking around on the island for five years. He was from one of those wheat-growing plains states with stubble fields caked in snow to the horizons, and he didn’t talk much, but I kept nudging the conversation along, speaking of the beauty of the island, saying how nice it must be to live there. Dreaming of a life in paradise but clinging to my pessimism, I ventured the supposition that jobs were hard to come by.

It's time.  The New Year is in full swing, already a little frayed around the edges.  What resolutions were hastily made at the end of December are by now already achieved or have accommodated themselves to reality.  The snow, which arrived so unceremoniously at the beginning of the month, has seeped under every door, laying salty waste to carpet and hardwood alike.

Outside, one of our giant inflatable lawn ornaments last week simply gave up and lay down.  Ollie the penguin, my trusty glow-in-the-dark companion, is now no more than a few strings connected to a puddle of vinyl.

Here between the major merchandising events of the manufactured sentimentality of Christmas and the massive schmaltz of Valentine’s Day, we in Michiana have an opportunity for a big ol’ wallow in genuine emotion. As you may have heard both from David James’s Michiana Chronicle last week and from the promo spot for this coming Saturday night’s Jazz by the Border, WVPE Program Director, Lee Burdorf, is retiring.

Selma—Movie and March

Jan 16, 2015

Twenty-fifteen is the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. A person can get a good idea of the issues and the drama of the events down there back then by viewing the movie Selma, in local theaters this week. I’ve studied a lot of civil rights history.

George A. Spiva Center for the Arts (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license)

A few weeks ago, I was one of a half dozen guests invited to speak to a class of teenagers working through a Unitarian Universalist curriculum called “Our Whole Lives.”  The cute acronym for this program is OWL and it’s a multi-staged, holistic sexuality course that invites young people to think about their development and relationships in rich and nuanced ways.  Don’t worry; nothing I’m about to say is more than G-rated.  Our discussion was about the ways people creatively map out their lives in a culture that often seems to offer few alternative pathways.

The Internet Troll

Jan 2, 2015

Who doesn’t remember the cruelty of little children? In my grade school there was a boy with a single discolored front tooth. At our bathroom break, if he got to the water fountain first, none of the other children would drink there. Nobody spoke to him about it, but Sister Paulette must have noticed many of her fourth graders heading back to the study of Saudi Arabia unquenched.

Seasonal Truth

Dec 26, 2014

Now that Christmas is over, I’m thinking of some seasonal truths I want to take with me into the new year.  There are (of course) some standard old saws about over-indulgence, and children liking the boxes presents came in as much as the gifts, and how to keep Christmas all year long in your heart.

Christmas Caroling

Dec 19, 2014

As my wife and I were strolling through the neighborhood this week, we noticed a group of people walking toward us along the street. Most were teenagers, and they all seemed to be carrying sheets of paper. I said, “They must be Christmas carolers.” My wife said, “People don’t do that anymore, do they?” But as they were passing us, one of the adults said, “We’re going caroling. Would you like to join us?” He was obviously the youth minister, and it was clear to us now that they had come from the church at the end of the block.

Christmas Cookies

Dec 12, 2014

Thirty-five years ago, my Grandmother Graber - from Goshen, Indiana - sent me a birthday card.  A simple yellow card with a picture of some flowers and a duck.  Inside was folded a well-worn ten-dollar bill.  For some reason, probably because we were living in England at the time, the card was put aside, together with its contents, and came to rest in a box of old family letters.  And there it stayed.  For decades.  Only this fall did the card, and the money, finally make its way back to me. 

This is what she said:

“What am I going to wear?” could well have been Mother Eve’s thought as she prepared for her hasty foray from the flora and fauna into the larger landscape. Since the invention of those of the female persuasion, this has been the question. So, there Eve was, presumably with no good ready-to-wear boutiques, with the probably unhandy-as-dressmaker Adam, and with that damned talking snake having slithered off and now nowhere to be found. Nothing for good old Eve to do but construct the world’s first home-sewing project!

When Matriarchs Help the Birthing

Dec 1, 2014

My pay per minute cell phone rings at 2 am.  It is Cindi calling, her voice is soft and tired.  I’m her doula and she is calling for some moral support.  She’s been uncomfortable for a day or so with contractions every 10 to 15 minutes.  Unable to sleep she is desperate for the contractions to either stop or really start in earnest.  My Spanish is fairly choppy at this hour of the morn, but I am able to reassure her that this long start is fairly normal. 

Turkey Tales

Nov 28, 2014

 Starting in 1967 and for many years, a bunch of us who were single and courting and subsequently married folk, gathered for Thanksgiving. We divided the food preparation almost by status, with the host gaining the honor of cooking the turkey, and others the subsidiary fare. I started out making a baked onion casserole. Sound strange? It’s delicious. You take Vidalia onions—very sweet—peel and slice them in half, and put them in a glass baking dish with some “cream-a”: cream of mushroom, chicken, onion, celery, or broccoli soup, thickened with flour and some milk.

Little Pink Hightops

Nov 25, 2014

It was two in the afternoon and I had been awake since four this morning. I had planned on going to the mall, hoping to find a new pair of baby-pink high tops, to celebrate the coming of spring and my second child.  Alas, this was not where I ended up. 

Seneca Falls Blues

Nov 21, 2014

Here’s a tale of a feminist mother’s fantasy gone off the rails.  Spoiler alert: I am that feminist mother.  And the fantasy was the plan to give a talk at an academic conference with my own college-aged daughter and a friend at one of the hallowed sites of herstory – Seneca Falls.   All good.  In theory.

Days of Remembrance

Nov 14, 2014

Combat veterans are a famously reticent bunch. Some of them won’t tell their stories to just anyone, and some won’t tell their stories at all. And in the stories they do tell, you have to listen for clues because they have witnessed things that nobody can fully tell another person. A friend of mine who served in the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II shared just a few episodes.

They say less is more, but I’m a girl for whom more is more.  I like things a lot.  I am zealous and easily obsessed or excitable.  I live my life well most days, but my obsessions can make me a little crazy.  I guess I am a binger.   I’m a little bingey.  I bingeth.  I am a women bingeonified.  Of course that was a word before I used it.

Oak 'a la Home

Nov 5, 2014

A new piece of furniture came to live with me recently. I say “live” because a sense of the animate seems to pervade this heavy, well--‐built item that I fully expect to outlast me. Two off--‐season linebackers wrestled it from the truck, up the walk, through my front door, around the stairs, to its current resting spot. My dining area is now complete. Houston, the hutch has landed.

Our Masquerade

Oct 31, 2014

Judging just by its economic impact, Halloween is the second-most popular holiday in the U.S. It's the day when you get to be someone else, and that someone indulges in sweets of all kinds without any concern for the consequences. Perfectly respectable citizens dress as ghouls and turn their front lawns into graveyards, playgrounds for ghosts and devils, and bloody crime scenes. On Halloween we get to try on a different role, perhaps becoming what we secretly wish we could be, in a world without real consequences.

Our Trees

Oct 24, 2014

This was our first house. That first fall, back in 1993, we sneaked over here under cover of darkness, to rake leaves, even though we hadn't actually bought the place yet.  Two flimsy green metal rakes from the True Value on Main Street.  There was no fence, and we worked for hours under the night sky, dreaming and hoping the neighbors wouldn't notice.

At Her Pace

Oct 21, 2014

I am waiting.  Sitting on a hand loomed throw rug on the floor in front of her kitchen sink.  The eighteen by eighteen inch ceramic tiles are immaculately clean.  There are no crumbs along the kickboard of the floor.  I checked.

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