Wordworks

A Big Place

Everybody knows the universe is a big place. What’s hard to grasp is how big. A few years ago I bought my wife a telescope for Christmas, figuring she could check out the moon and a few planets and get a fix on a star or two and help fill in some of the gaping holes...

A Lovely Land

A Lovely Land On a recent road trip out to Washington State and British Columbia, I found myself astonished by the beauty and variety of our continent. Not that this insight is anything new. My wife grew up near Seattle, and through the years we’ve driven or flown out...

Being There

In Chad Harbach’s superb novel The Art of Fielding, in a burial scene near the end of the book, one of the characters says of her dead father, “You told me once that a soul isn’t something a person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error,...

Feeding the birds

Like millions of other Americans, my wife and I enjoy feeding birds. Given the fact that we live in the woods and have accidentally also found ourselves feeding bears, we long ago ceased stocking our feeders once spring has arrived and our furry neighbors have...

Chipmunk Dreams

  Many years ago a family of chipmunks moved into our house. Not the house proper, of course; nothing like that. Instead they took residency under the stone-and-concrete walkway leading from the front door out to the attached screened porch.  When we built the house,...

Play Your Own Tune

Recently I had the honor of addressing a roomful of people interested in writing. As part of the address, I talked about the novelist Frederick Manfred, an excerpt of which follows. It's been several years since Frederick Manfred died, and I for one still mourn his...

Don’t They Know?

Some months ago grandson Jack, then 7, asked me to tell him something about “the old days.” When I asked him what he meant by that, he said, “You know. Something old-fashioned. When things were different than they are now.” Casting about for a recollection that might...

Character and Fate

When I was a callow young fellow and knew a lot more than I know now, someone told me that character and fate were pretty much the same thing. Instead of fate crashing down on you from the outside, it supposedly grew from within the seeds of your own character....

Night Thoughts

The other day a friend called to tell us of the death of a mutual acquaintance, and that night I had difficulty sleeping. Over the past year a number of close friends have passed away, and each time my mind rebels at accepting the fact of their disappearance. This...

A Pretty Good Life

At a recent family get-together, talk turned to memories of Dad. As usual, the memories proved refreshing, and made us measure our own lives against the long arc of his. Pops made it to the age of 91 and died in the spring of 2002. Had he lived until August of that...

Unbroken Circle

For the past couple of months my wife and I were in Florida, soaking up sunshine and orange juice and good cheer. We walked a mile or two each day, swam around in the pool every afternoon, and worked at trying to learn the names of various trees and flowers and birds....

Ernie’s Place

One of the joys of being a writer is to visit places that link you to the work of other scribblers. Over the years I've met and conversed with several well-known Midwestern writers, and toured the homes of a few who are no longer with us. But for me the twin high...

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