Some summer reading has reminded me that I might belong to the last generation with any direct memory of party lines, a form of phone service that required customers to share the same line with their neighbors, depending on an honor system to limi…
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Saturday, July 08, 2017
My wife and I were watching TV in the den a few Fridays ago when a thump at the front door told us we had a visitor. I could see no face through the top door pane, which meant the presence was low to the ground, and possibly of the four-legged kind.
Saturday, July 01, 2017
We’re keeping a terrarium on the kitchen counter, something our son brought from his dormitory when he came back home to live with us for the summer. In a lidded glass globe that looks like a cookie jar, a bed of chocolate-dark potting soil nouris…
Saturday, June 24, 2017
For Father’s Day, I got a new hammock, a present that stormy weather prevented me from trying out. Even so, the idea of the hammock has been good enough. It promises what we all want from summer — a chance to rest within the folds of some private …
Saturday, June 17, 2017
We decided to visit our friend David in the country last weekend — to putter around the barn, to look at the cows, to watch the birds, to see what else there was to see. The only problem was picking a day when it wouldn’t rain.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
A hundred things tell me that summer is here — the empty schools, the rising heat, the blooming of beach balls and flip-flops from the shelves of the drugstore down the street.
Saturday, June 03, 2017
Last month, thousands of commencement speakers told this year’s graduates how to succeed in life and work. Now, a few weeks later, does anyone remember what they said?
Saturday, May 27, 2017
For Mother’s Day, we gave my wife a patio table, a beach bag, a suspense novel, a travel magazine, and a gift certificate for something new and bright to wear in the sun.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Saturday, May 13, 2017
For several years, my morning walk took me past a house where two young girls stood at the corner of their yard, backpacks at their feet, waiting for the bus to school.
Saturday, May 06, 2017
I was sitting at my desk a couple of Mondays ago, quietly grumbling about the workweek ahead, when word came that my friend Curt Eysink was in trouble. He’d fallen gravely ill on a drive to New Orleans and was in the hospital fighting for his life.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
As a journalism student three and a half decades ago, I thought of newspapering as a kind of transcription, the making of stories with quotes from other people.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Even if the IRS didn’t cast its long shadow over the middle of April, other duties of spring would remind me that the march of the calendar brings plenty to do.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
In 1943, Betty Smith published a novel, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” that mentions a little tree thriving against the odds in its urban landscape. I think about Smith every time I see some wild thing trying to make a go of it in a city setting.
Saturday, April 08, 2017
Saturday, April 01, 2017
A few weeks ago, as part of a newspaper assignment, I read Florence Williams’ “The Nature Fix” — a task I first undertook because I had to, then quickly came to enjoy.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Into the first days of spring, I’ve carried a slender volume, called “Grumbling At Large,” that had landed under last year’s Christmas tree. It’s a small collection of writings by Englishman J.B. Priestley, who was nearly 90 when he died in 1984.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
I recently exchanged emails with a friend suffering from incurable cancer, which prompted his suggestion that we meet for lunch. Though seriously ill, he continued to work and socialize. It seemed that he’d continue to be with us a while.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Saturday, March 04, 2017
It happened the other morning, as I was standing at the mirror shaving, not quite ready to start the day. Some work the night before had kept me up late, so I was still feeling physically tired.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
In my college days in the 1980s, as I’d head to the latest movie about the Vietnam War, death camps or organized crime, my late mother would shake her head.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
A few weeks ago, while returning some pliers to the backyard shed, I saw on the shelf a small figure perfectly made in the image of an owl. It looked like one of those plastic predators some gardeners place on poles as a scarecrow to keep pest bir…
Saturday, February 11, 2017
In a world so full of problems, I’m reluctant to add another one to the list. But the challenge I’m about to mention is really more a blessing than a burden, so here it is:
Saturday, February 04, 2017
Even before last month’s news that Mary Tyler Moore had died, she was already the talk of our household. By coincidence, my wife and I were in the middle of one of our “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” marathons when Moore passed away.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
For several years, a writer I know has written and mailed a Christmas poem to her friends and loved ones, although there have been winters when her yuletide verse doesn’t arrive until February. She’s sometimes too busy during the holidays to compo…
Saturday, January 21, 2017
When I go to my favorite feed and seed store these past few years, I’m always wearing a suit and tie. The store sits across the street from the house where I grew up, in a town I now rarely visit except for funerals of friends and relatives.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
In the Sunday afternoons of my adolescence, when there was no football to watch or much else to see on TV, our household viewing typically turned to “Firing Line,” the public television talk show hosted by conservative commentator William F. Buckley.
Saturday, January 07, 2017
Every Dec. 31st, we mark the minutes until midnight, measuring time by the teaspoon in a rapidly departing year. But on the last day of 2016, I was struck not by the passing of time but the illusion, however brief, of the clock standing still.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Last month, under the weather with a winter bug, I was feeling bad — and feeling bad about feeling bad. There was too much to do, at both home and office, to take the time to be sick.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
I’m told that in the room where I greeted every Christmas of my childhood, people now sit each day until the doctor calls them back.
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Maybe you won’t think me a terrible father for those Decembers, not many years ago, when I might briefly wish for the serenity of decorating a Christmas tree without kids.
Saturday, December 03, 2016
A season of political strife has reminded us that we generally don’t do a very good job of listening to each other. One way to learn listening, as Will Schwalbe noted in a recent essay in The Wall Street Journal, is to open up a book and read.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Men aren’t known for remembering special occasions, so only recently did I realize that you and I have a silver anniversary. This autumn marked the 25th year that I’ve been meeting with readers through “At Random,” which debuted in The Advocate in…
Saturday, November 12, 2016
When my wife and I got married more than two decades ago, she gave me a windup mantel clock she’d found in an antique store. It was, like the man she’d taken as a husband, simple, old-fashioned and guaranteed to go slack by the weekend.
Saturday, November 05, 2016
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Actor Anthony Hopkins once suggested that what scared him the most was the thought of an ominous presence simply waiting for him to notice it was there. He used that idea in portraying Hannibal Lecter, the psychopath who’s already standing at his …
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Eight years ago, after my mother died and we were clearing out her house, my son, then 7, saw an item in the closet and asked for help.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
My nephew turned 11 this month, so I got him a pair of binoculars for his birthday — a gift he didn’t request, though I hope he’ll enjoy.
Saturday, October 08, 2016
Just in time for Halloween, our yard has been remade to resemble a cemetery. Mounds of dirt, clay and broken roots rise up from the lawn, looking like freshly dug graves.
Saturday, October 01, 2016
Danny Plaisance and I began new careers in the same month of the same year — September, 1986. That’s when I started my first daily newspaper job, and it’s also when Plaisance began operating Cottonwood Books in Baton Rouge.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Every autumn, as the year begins to show its age and the calendar thins to a handful of pages, the new farmer’s almanacs arrive at hardware shops and drugstores, pointing us, as always, toward another year not yet born.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Until Alison Ligon shared her video of a caterpillar eating, it hadn’t occurred to me that you could actually hear a caterpillar enjoying his dinner.
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
After I shared a few words here last week about spotting a monarch butterfly in my yard after the great flood, Alison Ligon wondered if the butterfly I saw was one of her own.
Saturday, September 03, 2016
A couple of Fridays after the Great Flood of 2016, as I was in the yard with our plumber discussing a repair, a monarch butterfly landed on the shrubbery near the porch. It was a lovely thing, black, gold and pumpkin orange, its wings shimmering l…
Saturday, August 27, 2016
As a scholar who had studied the 19th century remarked some years ago, when people asked you how you were doing back then, they really wanted to know how you were doing. At a time when death and loss were all too common, a friend or neighbor’s wel…
Saturday, August 20, 2016
More than three decades ago, as a cub writer for a small-town weekly, I was assigned to cover the local drainage board, a penance almost too hard to bear. Like most young reporters, I had entered journalism with dreams of doing the big stuff — nuc…
Saturday, August 13, 2016
When my wife asked me to stow our suitcases on the high shelf of the closet last week, I knew we’d be around for a while. Although our children are no longer small, we still answer to the calendar of the school year, so when campus life resumes ea…