Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 


123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789


You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.


Filtering by Category: Place

Above Earth's Lamentation

Laurie Granieri

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. / Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
 —Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours, translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

I administer these words to my body like a balm as I heave and weave, clambering up mountains, hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail, the Rockies, the Adirondack High Peaks.

Read More

Longing for Home

Joy and Matthew Steem

I remember the first time I experienced the blunt heaviness of homesickness: the pulsing desire to return to the place of belonging, to people who care, and an environment that’s safe. I was in grade two and had been away from my family for about five days at a non-profit kid’s camp a few hours away. Curiously, the wumping of homeward ache didn’t hit me until after arriving at my friend’s house, where I awaited mom to pick me up. Suddenly, less than half an hour from home, the telltale symptoms of loneliness started leaking out my eyes. I remember my friend’s gentle dad leaving a message on my parents’ machine, “come whenever you can, I think someone is quite homesick.”

Read More

Sub[urban] Creation

Jayne English

“A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.”
     —J.R.R. Tolkien

I grew up in the suburbs. Those places where you could only see distance if you looked up, because the houses and yards and hedges of your neighbors and their neighbors became the extent of your horizon. These views were vastly different from the ones that inspired Coleridge and Wordsworth on their walking tour through moorland and woodland, and along the coast of Bristol Channel. They weren’t like Emily Dickinson’s views at the Homestead, where she wandered through orchard and gardens, tending the flowers that thrived in her poetry. And they’re not the English countryside Tolkien knew as a child that charmed his Hobbits’ Shire.

Read More

Macondo and Leota

Howard Schaap

pjimage (4) Reading One Hundred Years of Solitude as an undergrad was the joy of the deep end of the pool. Ghosts, mysterious ascensions into heaven, ageless gypsies selling wonders to drive one mad, generations of family traits and vices that vine and tangle about us until we’re all firmly in the grasp of immanence. Into these strange and profound waters we were thrown and told to swim, and nobody was an expert, all of us floundered, tried to touch the bottom and failed, got worn out and doggy-paddled to the side for a break. It felt dangerous and new; it felt fun.  

Not long ago, I needed to write about my hometown, the same hometown I’ve written about a million times, the same hometown that we have oft dismissed with a wave of the hand around the table at family reunions. The writing was flavored by this humdrum shortsightedness. It was that small town with those same old gossip and false gods.  

Not only was this description of the place false in its genericity, it was against a personal philosophy of mine:  no small town, no landscape is exactly the same; each needs to be recognized for its nuance and character apart from our stereotypes of places like it. Simply put, I needed to see the place with new eyes.   

So I thought, what would Gabriel Garcia Marquez do?  What about this small town, Leota, Minnesota, is Macondo-like?

The short answer might be nothing. Setting does matter; Minnesota prairie is not Colombia rain forest. Then, too, the belief system is different; a certain calculating realism of North America may simply iron the magic out of life with the tall grass. Remove 99% of the local ecosystem and see what happens to the magic in your neighborhood.  

However, every place has its leveling forces, its conspirators against belief and wonder and hope. The artist has to have the power to follow the roots of these things deeper than simple pettiness of persons or pervasiveness of ideology. This is what makes Garcia Marquez’s vision so stunning. It’s so rooted in history that it’s mythic. And magic.

So, okay. Take a central image of village life for me. For his birthday, we would give my frugal grandfather a bottle of Mogen David wine. A sort of mischievous smile would spread across his face momentarily before being replaced by a more solemn one. Rising on shaky feet, he would close the window shades, lest the neighbors pass by and see him drinking a glass of wine on his birthday.  

But what else was a-loose in the streets that Grampa was keeping out?  Had the ghost of the man said to have been killed in a bar fight by my great-great grandfather trailed the family here, to the backstreets of Leota, from the Netherlands?  Had the Huguenot martyrs, from even deeper in the family line, two languages removed from the English in the room?  When you invite in the great cloud of witnesses—and when you make those witnesses, for the sake of story, the undead—suddenly the place takes on a whole new tone.

When I thought of the place this way, something sparked.  

Then I texted my sisters. “Sibs,” I said, “I need colorful characters from Leota. I know you remember some, so . . . go!”

The exchange went on for hours. There was the wandering prophet selling Jerusalem artichokes whose magic crop withered in the fields as soon as he dissolved on the horizon. The substantial piano teacher who lived in the hardware store, big enough to divide herself in two and teach lessons in the back while serving customers in the front. The lone organist who played at her own funeral like everybody knew she would.  There were divining rods and town festivals with angels and gypsies and dead men that wouldn’t lay down and families with fifteen children all with different colored teeth.  

Not so un-Macondo-like after all.

And not so made up.  

All of the magic was in the stories already, I just had to listen.  

Dancing a Tango with Chance

Callie Feyen

IMG_3331 (1)The evening I pulled into Ann Arbor, Michigan, a rainbow appeared as I put the car in park. No kidding, it was pouring down rain and then it wasn’t and six different rays of color soared above my Mazda 5 and sailed to the Pittsfield Township water tower a few yards away. “A rainbow!” I proclaimed as I stepped out of the car, a beautiful welcome on my move to a new town.

An hour and a half later, in a fit of confusion that comes when everything seems turned upside down in a new home, I accidentally drank water meant for Hadley and Harper’s fish tank. I squinted as I read the bottle of Betta Plus Water Conditioner, looking for how much time I had left to live. A quick Google search (you wouldn’t believe how many people have done the same thing), and a call to Poison Control, and I learned that I would suffer nothing save for the possibility of a stomachache. The lady on the phone told me I should drink something to settle my stomach. I chose a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.

Missy Higgins sings a song called, “Going North,” and since I have known we would move to Ann Arbor, I’ve been listening to it and memorizing it like a Psalm. In one part of the song, she explains she wants to go North because she wants to “dance a tango with chance.” Every time I hear that phrase, I get the shivers. Dancing a tango with chance sounds so much more fun than saying, “I hear God calling me to Ann Arbor.” Why can’t God be in the dance of chance? I don’t want to believe in signs: in rainbows or drinking fish water. I want to believe that it makes no difference to the Lord where I go and where I live; that He is with me no matter what decisions I make. I want to believe no matter how spontaneous I can be when I make big life decisions, how very little I pray and ask for guidance, that He works through all of it. Still, when things go wrong, when they get sad or uncomfortable, it’s hard not to lift my eyes up towards the sky and think maybe I should’ve prayed more.

The day we pulled away from our home in Germantown, Hadley stood outside with a piece of chalk and walked slowly up and down the alley, where she and her friends rode bikes, sledded, had water balloon fights, and climbed trees. She dropped to her knees, and in her careful cursive wrote, “Farewell, everyone,” stood up and threw the chalk into the sandpit beyond our house. She walked into the garage where I was putting boxes into a UHaul and looked at me. “I don’t want to move. I want to stay here.”

“I know,” I said and put my hand on her shoulder, but she shook it off and stomped away.

As we drove, she leaned against the car window and I watched her. I kept trying to put my hand on her knee but she would move so I couldn’t reach her. I finally gave up. I turned forward, put my ear buds in, and turned on my playlist of Meghan Trainor songs.

About an hour into our trip, it started to rain. Soon it was raining so hard Jesse punched the hazard lights button because we were going so slow. A semi truck was jackknifed on the side of the road. I checked the weather forecast for flash floods and tornadoes. I didn’t say it out loud but I believed we should’ve waited another day to drive. Once that thought left my mind I was railroaded by the next three hundred: Why are you moving anyway? You can’t drive in this rain, what makes you think you’ll be able to drive in the snow? How are you going to find a job in Ann Arbor? Why’d you walk away from the one you had? Why’d you walk away from all your friends that took you so long to find? Look at your kids! They’re so sad. Why would you move them when they’re this old?

“Too bad we don’t have Harry Potter on CD,” Jesse said, one hand on his knee and the other nowhere near the 10 and 2 position. I was jealous of how assured he was. “We could listen while we drive home.”

“I could read the book,” Hadley said. Her offer to read was the first sentence our extroverted daughter said in the car.

“We don’t have the fifth one,” I said, turning to her and meeting her blue eyes. “I’m sorry. It’s packed in the UHaul.”

“I have the fourth one,” Hadley said and reached to unzip her backpack. She lifted Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with both hands.

“We could read from our favorite parts,” Harper offered.

“Yeah,” Hadley said, “I’ll start. I’m going to read the part when Voldemort comes back.” I was surprised to learn this was her favorite part. The first time I read it, the scene terrified her, but in the car, she not only read it, but she used different inflection, tone, and voices for each character. I folded my legs, rested my chin on my knees, and as we slowly trudged through the rain, Jesse, Harper, and I listened to Hadley read about how Harry, Cedric, Bertha Jorkins, Frank Brice, and Harry’s parents defied Voldemort. I started to cry when Bertha yells, “Don’t let him get you, Harry! Don’t let go!”

Hadley read the rest of the story, taking us out of the storm, through Maryland and Pennsylvania. I asked a couple of times if she was OK because she is notorious for getting carsick, but she said she was fine.

“No good sittin’ worryin’ abou’ it,” Hagrid tells Harry, “What’s comin’ will come, an we’ll meet it when it does.”

Indeed. Put your dancing shoes on Hadley. It’s time to tango.

Kicking off the Tarp

Callie Feyen

FullSizeRender (1)

The year I was going to be a senior in high school, my youth group went on a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico to build houses for people who didn’t have them.

The homes we built were simple: four walls, a foundation, and a ceiling. I remember my youth group director, Bill, showed me how to fold thick, black paper into fourths, then prick the nail through it before hammering it into the wood. He told me to tap the nail to stabilize it, then with two or three whacks the nail would slide into the wood, securing the wall. It was repetitive, satisfying work.

One of the houses we built sat on an edge of a cliff. The man we built it for was currently living underneath a blue tarp held up by sticks. On breaks, we climbed down from the cliff, sat around for a few minutes, drinking pop. Somebody figured out that you could jump from the road, fly through the air and land on the dirt without getting hurt. It was like a sand dune.

We jumped from the road and into the bright blue sky for a few minutes every afternoon. I practiced my toe touches, having ample time to fly in the air, lift my legs and reach my arms towards my toes. I sailed in the air for about three seconds, gracefully let myself out of the pose, then tumbled down the mountain, laughing and spinning. I remember my brother, Geoff, did cannon balls with the same skill. Sometimes, we jumped together and even then there was plenty of time to jump and fly and fall.

I remember on our last workday in Tijuana, Bill handed the hammer to the man who would live in the house to pound in the last nail. The man sobbed while he hammered and I worried he’d hurt his fingers. I remember wanting to kick the blue tarp off those sticks, and hoping the wind that rarely blows in Tijuana would pick it up and sail it off the cliff.

*                *                *

We went to San Diego at the end of our work trips because I think that was Bill’s hometown, and he had a connection to a church so we could stay there for a few days and unwind. I remember we went to a Dodgers game, Bill’s favorite team. I remember walking up what felt like a mountain to the ballpark. “This isn’t Wrigley Field,” I complained.

The night before we left, I called my parents from a pay phone across the street from the church to say hello and check on my flight. My mom and I chatted for a few minutes, confirmed what time I’d land in O’Hare, and then her voice changed when she told me that several days ago there was an accident. She told me that Tim Lutz, a boy I had known since I was six and who lived down the street from me, got hit in the head, lost consciousness, and died.

“He was playing basketball with his friends,” she told me. Tim got hit in the side of the head with a basketball. He was knocked unconscious and never woke up.

All of this, including the funeral, happened while I was in Tijuana, twenty-three years ago this June.

Tim had brown eyes with long, thick eyelashes. He had freckles on his nose and cheeks that I swear danced when he laughed, and he laughed a lot. To say he was a baseball fan is an understatement. He and my brother were on several baseball teams together, and growing up, summer meant watching them run the bases and slide into home plate whether they needed to or not.

I think a lot about the details of Tim’s death, especially when June arrives, and what I was doing while it happened. It seems morbid, maybe even perverse to admit that. Was I hammering nails into wood when he got hit in the head? Was I jumping off that cliff when he was rushed to the hospital? At night, while Bill led devotions, and we sang songs under stars so bright I believed if I stood on my tiptoes I would at the least feel their heat on my fingertips, was Tim taking his last breath?

I could ask my friends. Decades later, I know at least twenty people who would tell me the details, go over dates and times and days. It would take three texts, twenty-five minutes on Facebook, a google search with key words: Tim Lutz, June 1993. But I don’t do any of this. Every June I think about it, and every year I do nothing.

*                *                *

I once saw Tim catch a baseball in the middle of Gunderson, the street he and I lived on. He was in mid-air when he caught it, and I was driving away in my car towards who knows where. His friend John, who lived across the street, threw the ball at him and Tim ran into the street, caught it, then threw it back to John. I saw it all in my rearview mirror.

I consider asking about the details of Tim’s last week on earth, and end up here, on Gunderson, with Tim playing catch with his buddy as the streetlights flickered on and the fireflies showed up. I’m not even sure how accurate my memory is, but I don’t care. Maybe it is like the blue tarp I didn’t kick off in Tijuana years ago. Maybe I thought I was protecting something for this man. Maybe I was afraid I was being disrespectful. Maybe it is easier to think about a memory I cannot create.

Words Sufficient to the Moment

Jean Hoefling

"Colorado Cloud Scape" by Heath Alseike is licensed under CC BY 2.0 He wanted to think of words that would make some difference but there were none in any language he knew that were sufficient to the moment or that would change a single thing. —Kent Haruf, Eventide

Since award-winning Colorado novelist Kent Haruf died late in 2014, plenty of people have eulogized his memory and the stories he wrote about ordinary people in a nondescript fictional town in eastern Colorado. I didn’t discover Haruf’s books until a few years ago, but worked through most of them in a few weeks, thanks to an e-reader that let me raise the font size as my eyes disintegrated from ridiculous overuse. Day and night I was at it, like a ten year-old with a flashlight devouring just one more chapter of Little Women under the covers.

What kept me reading was Haruf’s unpretentious style. His uncomplicated, laconic narrative passages are well suited to story arcs that are as subtle as the rise and fall of the American prairie where those stories take place, where artless pragmatism rules and stillness is at a surplus. A Denver native, I love that “other Colorado” out east, where the sky dominates and the horizon is uncluttered and people sit in small-town cafes on Main Street. There’s “not much to see” out there, nothing fancy happening, and that’s what makes it lovely, like the simple satisfaction of having everything crossed off your to-do list. Haruf’s writing is like that land:

Often in the morning they rode out along the tracks . . .where there was a stand of cottonwood trees with their leaves washing and turning in the wind, and they ate lunch there in the freckled shade of the trees and came back in the late afternoon with the sun sliding down behind them, making a single shadow of them and the horse together, the shadow out in front like a thin dark antic precursor of what they were about to become. [Plainsong]

Someone has described Haruf’s novels as pleasantly underwhelming. To write about underwhelming places and people is the author’s genius. He’s created a world as prosaic as our own, yet in his stories Everyman is as interesting as any Jason Bourne type could be. And the words he drapes his stories over are utterly sufficient to the moment, reminding us life doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be satisfying.