Jim Mayer wrote recently to suggest that I read “The Overstory,” a novel by Richard Powers in which the lives of characters unfold over many years against the backdrop of local trees. It’s a way to underline the short lives we lead compared to big…
As a troubled summer comes to its official close this week, with fall formally starting on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking about what my family’s trips to the beach over the years have taught me about the power of possibility — a lesson I want to ca…
One of my biggest memories from Hurricane Katrina was the many helicopters that flew by my house on their way to help those in urgent need. Our family was lucky to survive that epic disaster with a house intact, but the rescue craft that passed ea…
My wife and I returned to Louisiana after a two-week vacation to find Hurricane Ida on our doorstep. It wasn’t the best homecoming, but I wasn’t surprised.
When I got married 27 years ago, my wife gave me a chiming mantel clock she’d found at an antique shop. She envisioned it one day resting in a writer’s study we had yet to build.
As I grew up in the 1970s, my family ran a plant nursery next to our house. With inflation soaring and budgets tight, I sometimes wondered if people would spend money on flowers and shrubs.
When I bumped into my schoolteacher friend Laura over the summer, she mentioned that she was spending her time away from the classroom reading Eudora Welty — just for fun.
Larry, who helps us with yard chores, is an Air Force veteran with a deep love of order, and this puts him at odds with our big sycamore, a dissolute tree that refuses to be housebroken.
When our family traveled to the Gulf Coast for a few days last summer, a copy of Thomas Lynch’s “The Depositions” went along for the ride.
Last month, no one in our family batted an eye when I reached into a gift bag on Father’s Day and found a sack of worms waiting inside. At our house, we’ve grown accustomed to exchanging presents that others might find odd or even gruesome.
As I mentioned in a column a couple of weeks ago, July has brought us to the midpoint of the year, a good time to consider where we’ve been and where we’re going.
My wife and I aren’t diligent gardeners, so we greet the good things that grow in our yard as a nice piece of luck. Our luck has run high this summer as rain and sun conspire to create a bumper crop of blooms.
The Fourth of July finds us at the midpoint of 2021, a good time to see how well I’ve done in honoring New Year’s resolutions I made in January. To be frank, I probably wouldn’t remember the resolutions if I hadn’t bothered to write them down. I h…
Like many people, my wife and I hope to travel again this summer now that pandemic restrictions have eased. We’ve planned trips to California and North Carolina to see loved ones, and I’m looking at the travel pages in newspapers and magazines to …
What I like best about summer are days when the weather is mild enough for time outdoors, the yard now feeling like just another room of the house.
“This tastes like summer,” my son told me as we ate dinner on our patio a few days ago. We had potatoes from our garden roasted in olive oil, with some bell peppers and onions thrown in. Along with scrambled eggs and a salad, it made a nice meal t…
In last week’s column, I recalled the reading life of former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who died recently at 77. Roemer loved books, and having leaders who champion reading is an especially good thing in this state, where illiteracy runs high. A…
As another Memorial Day weekend arrives, Louisiana begins its summer reading season without one of the state’s abiding champions of the written word, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.
It’s been a soggy spring in Louisiana, the path through April and much of May like sailing through a sea of rain. The downpours, a boon to many lawns and gardens, have also brought floods and suffering to much of the region — and even several deat…
Last month, we arrived at my mother-in-law’s house for the weekend to find that the cable TV and internet were out, not to be repaired for several days.
Pandemics are messy things, and it will be hard to know the date and time when the crisis of COVID-19 has been firmly put to bed. But a page turned for me at 11:43 a.m. April 8. That’s when I drove away after getting my final dose of the Moderna vaccine.
I didn’t mean to start something when I wrote about a snake eating one of my backyard birds. But when you mention snakes and birds, along with a cameo appearance by a possum, I suppose the reader mail will inevitably come in.
Among my wife’s family treasures is a vintage copy of “Evangeline,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem about star-crossed lovers separated during the persecution of the Acadians, ancestors of today’s Louisiana Cajuns.
I got my first professional byline in 1981 while working as a high school student for my hometown weekly newspaper. It involved the increase in price of a first-class postage stamp to 18 cents. The story was easy to report because I lived across t…
For my birthday two Januarys ago, among other nice presents, my wife gave me a small globe to keep near my desk. The world globe included a packet of push pins to mark spots I’d visited. It was a way to think about places I’d been, places I’d like to go.
As the trees lose their leaves each winter, sound travels farther in my neighborhood, bringing me news more clearly from up and down the street.
While fetching our mail last Saturday, I spotted a garter snake on our porch as he was eating a bird. It wasn’t the gladdest tiding of spring, though I couldn’t bring myself to look away.
Last year, while recovering from a mild case of COVID-19, I quarantined from the rest of the family, keeping my own company as best I could.
My friend Cammie once told me she plants potatoes every Valentine’s Day, a practice I’ve tried to embrace over the years, too.
What I’ll remember most about this month’s winter storm was the first sight of our trees defeated by cold, their limbs bent like dromedaries as they struggled under the ice.
Michael Fanning, who taught me American literature in college, liked sharing the story of how Mark Twain had once caused a rift at the Fanning family dinner table.
In 2011, when I heard that actor Hal Holbrook was bringing his one-man production of “Mark Twain Tonight!” to the Baton Rouge River Center, I felt not only that I wanted to go but that I had to go. Holbrook was then 86, so it was obvious that this…
By the time my birthday rolls around at the end of each January, the big sycamore in our front yard has finally lost its last leaf for the season. It’s as if the old tree has cleared its head so that it can rest awhile and dream of spring.
Emily Dickinson said something wise when she called hope “the thing with feathers.” Or so I’ve been reminded in this anxious winter as I look out my window and find cheer from the birds at my feeders.
Writer Jan Morris, who died recently at 94, is best known for the many travel books she wrote about destinations as varied as New York and London, Venice and Oxford, Hong Kong and Sydney.
Earlier this month, in putting away our Christmas things, I returned to my shelf the holiday stories that cheer me no matter how often I reread them.
As a college student in 1984, I worked as a summer intern on Capitol Hill. Memories of that summer came back to me last week after the U.S. Capitol was assaulted.
Our son normally attends college out of state, but last year, because of the pandemic, he stayed home with us and took classes online. We watched the news together each night, which was a daily reminder of the broken world I’m leaving him. It nudg…
When my wife and I rented a London flat last year, we were quickly made to understand that it was a no-frills affair. But I noticed one small nod to the comfort of guests. On an otherwise bare row of pegs near the front door, a single umbrella hun…
In a strange season of social distancing, the best place to mark Christmas this year might be outside, where sickness is less able to spread.
Aching, feverish and coughing, I tested positive for COVID-19 on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a diagnosis I didn’t expect. I’m careful about social distancing, and we had limited our holiday gathering to our household, setting the table for on…
Last month, for family business, I drove to Dallas for a couple of days — only the second overnight trip I’d taken since the pandemic began.
In an angry and anguished year, it sometimes seems that we’ve talked, tweeted and Facebooked the English language beyond recognition.
Among the many things for which I’m grateful this Thanksgiving is my daughter’s success since leaving college. She’s making a good life for herself out of state, though like most Louisiana expatriates, she misses our food.
A big drainage canal runs behind my office — a wide channel, lined with concrete, that takes away the neighborhood’s rain.
In the first grade, my classmates and I were ushered into a bus one morning and taken to meet Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States. Lincoln had been dead a bit more than a century by that point, but he returned to us for a couple o…
Last autumn, my wife and I traveled to England and France for our silver wedding anniversary, a trip we almost didn’t take. There were a hundred reasons not to go, but we went anyway, and we’re glad we did.
In Louisiana, many of us respect the tradition of assigning human names to big storms. Calling an ugly weather event Katrina, Rita or Gustav gives it a useful if illusory sense of scale, designating a villain we might hope to meet on equal terms.
In a troubled season, I’ve taken solace in the sight of our old persimmon tree, against the odds, bearing fruit for another autumn.
Last month, a contractor doing some work for us accidentally snapped the line that brings the internet to our house. Until the problem could be fixed, we were without service for a couple of days.