Honeycomb and Cream

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“I held on to Ginnie Hempstock. She smelled like a farm and like a kitchen, like animals and like food. She smelled very real, and the realness was what I needed at that moment.”
–Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The novel, like many fantasy novels, is about good and evil. But masterfully—pointedly?—Neil Gaiman casts the large-scale drama of frightening, abusive forces against the forces of kindness and sacrifice in the little theatre of domestic life. It’s all on one lane, this drama, set in a family house, a farmhouse, and the little patch of land in between. It’s a seven-year-old boy who participates in the fantastical adventure, too: there’s a kind of little theatre there, in a narrator who still needs looking after.

Hopeful Mysteries

Line drawing of the Stratford grammar school drawn by Edmund Hort New.

“Shakespeare’s School” – Stratford grammar school drawn by Edmund Hort New (1899).

“Mrs. Feyen, do you like professional football teams?” This comes from George, one of my 8th grade students. He’s asking me about football because I’m wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt today. I probably shouldn’t be wearing it; it’s not very professional, but every so often I get dreadfully homesick for the Midwest and this morning as I got dressed I decided to pull Notre Dame over my head and feel a little of South Bend on me as I walked through the day.

The Martian

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The Martian / 20th Century Fox

“Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.”
  ––David Foster Wallace

There was a lot to enjoy in Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Intriguing science fiction, a beautifully austere landscape, an admirable main character––Mark Watney (Matt Damon)––who was innovative, resilient, funny, and humble – all made the film great entertainment. But, for all it was, it could have been much more.

Put Weather In

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It can’t make sense everywhere. I assume it has a temperate climate bias. Or, to be more precise, a four-season climate bias, yet it’s arguably one of the most lasting pieces of colloquial insight bequeathed to us from the recent past:  “March comes in like a lion and goes out like lamb.” Or vice versa. That’s the allure of the phrase, I think, its seesaw mechanics. Pay attention to this one month, this little adage promises us, and you too can predict the weather. It’s tempting to make weather simple. The weather in any given place is distillable to a few features, to northeasters and lake-effect snow and Santa Ana winds. Where I live, any given day is likely to be ruined by wind, first and foremost from the northwest, straight out the arctic, and second from dead south, straight out the furnaces of hell.

Simply Enough

"Wheat, Poppies, and Bamboo' by Kano Shigenobu

“Wheat, Poppies, and Bamboo” by Kano Shigenobu

When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop.
   —Leviticus 19:9

At first, it’s frightening to say “Enough is enough,” but after a while it gets easier. These are words that we say mainly when we are frustrated or angry; they sound like a threat. But really, when I stop to think about everything I have—what I need, what I want—I’ve discovered that I have enough—food, clothing, furniture, a satisfying job, nights out, and hair products. At first, it may feel like denial, and who wants to deny themselves?