The Death and Life of American Imagination

In February 1953, a violent North Sea storm crashed through the Dutch levee system, killing 1,835 people and leaving a hundred thousand others homeless. In the aftermath, the country responded by building the Delta Works, the world’s most sophisticated system of flood defenses. According to John McQuaid, a reporter for Mother Jones on assignment in […]

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Third Time’s a Charm

Contrary to recent media reports, local artist and performer Faith Farrell is not the self-proclaimed Spam Queen. “I don’t know where that came from,” Farrell told me. “My friends were the ones who started calling me the Spam Queen. I would never be presumptuous enough to proclaim myself the queen of anything.” Farrell is technically […]

"The Sanctity of Marriage"

"If I see that tie one more time, I’ll shoot myself.” My husband Jon was browsing through photos from our recent wedding, lamenting his last-minute decision to rent a tux rather than buy a suit. “Look at that,” he groaned. “Did I somehow not notice it was made of pressed plastic?” I laughed, but lightly, […]

The Life-Giving Secret of Bees

The long, pointed whisker stands out sharply from the undulating mass of curious bees beneath the Plexiglas. Next emerges a lonely ear. And finally the whole, unmistakable outline of the tiny skull: a common field mouse. It is completely lacquered in something dark, sticky, and resinous. Just three days earlier, this little skull—not much bigger […]

Some Are Reading

Sometimes I get sick and tired of writing. Especially when I’m facing a slew of deadlines. So I lie on the couch feeling sorry for myself. Or, if can keep my wits about me, I bury myself under the covers in my attic bedroom with a good book. If I were a society woman of […]

Flower Power

Max didn’t mean to kill those toads. Still, years later, their demise remains one of my son’s most painful childhood memories. Max was three years old, and the morning was cool and dewy, but toasting up as the sun climbed. In capturing the toads, Max was dexterous, but also humane. He understood that they needed […]

Apathy vs. Action

America-bashing is so in vogue. Teenagers, especially, are vulnerable to this general sense of “how bad we are,” based on a couple of tragic elections and a war of lies. I’m brokenhearted over these things, too, but the “how bad we are” mantra grows wearisome when it comes from what is, according to a recent […]

Wear, Tear, Repair

The doctor stared over her glasses and leaned closer. She caressed the stumps where Blueberry’s arm and leg had once been. This grandmotherly surgeon, Clare Erickson, might be our region’s most prominent dollologist, and at this moment she was clearly weighing Blueberry’s prospects. “Do you know what a morgue is?” she said to Lillie. Lillie […]

Paradise Reconsidered

Even Jon, who sees everything, wasn’t expecting to see the drowned man rolling in the waves. We were sweetly exhausted from sun and saltwater on the first day of our vacation when Jon took me by the elbow. “Look there,” he said. “Is that a person?” Jon’s uncanny tendency to see everything used to stun […]

The Last Resort

Real-life emergency rooms are nothing like television. For one thing, there’s the pace. If you filmed a one-hour real-time show in an actual emergency room, the scene might never change. Last month, while I was finally leaving the ER with a freshly diagnosed “honkin’ kidney infection on its way to the bloodstream,” I heard the […]