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Showing posts from June, 2010

On Golden Pond

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Everything Matters

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Recently I went to a reading and discussion at Magers and Quinn. The guest writer was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Hailed as the "literary granddaughter" of Chinua Achebe, she is by most accounts pretty hot stuff in the writing community. You can read more about her here: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2010/06/14/100614fi_fiction_20under40_qa_chimamanda-ngozi-adichie


I'd read her short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck before attending the event, so I already knew her subject was—among other things—Nigeria. This was what interested me most: how a place rooted her writing, how everything came back to her original home. During the discussion time, she talked about being haunted, yes, by the effects of colonialism and by Nigeria's violent past, but her strongest display of emotion came when she described her frustration with outsiders who felt that—because they'd visited or studied some corner of Africa—they already knew her story.  


"Oh, yeah—F…

Bioluminescence

You want to see magic? Forget Chris Angel, forget Houdini, forget even Josef Kavalier's amazing adventures in Kavalier and Clay. 
Instead, come to my neighborhood on a sultry June evening—thunder brewing and bubbling in the distance—and walk with me along trails through the heady scents of honeysuckle and lavender and clover, through the dark woods rustling with rabbits and sleepy toads, down to where the air cools, a stream emerges, and a long thick marsh is lit up, friends, LIT UP by not only the moon, not only the stars, but by thousands and thousands and thousands of fireflies.

It was the night sky reversed. The sky tipped over. The stars become these small bits of illuminated bodies that I could follow with the palm of my hand, scoop up with my other, bring to my eyes, and ever-so-gently hold, marvel at. Release. They flew away with so much nonchalance. What is it to be so at ease with what touches us, with what our movements reveal? 
I cannot stop seeing this scene. As the thun…

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

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84,068

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Numbers have never been my passion, but I'm about to throw some at you like slick boomerangs with the hope that they'll fling back and sting me between the eyes, seep into my skull, and do that one thing I'm doing all this for: inspire.
In Minnesota... -- there are over 15,000 lakes and ponds-- there exist three of North America's major drainage systems (meaning, lots of rivers and streams)-- there are four ecological biomes: prairie parklands, eastern broadleaf forests (sugar maple, basswood, and elm), and Laurentian mixed forest (white pine, red pine, spruce, fir, aspen, and birch), and tallgrass aspen parklands-- the area of greatest relief is the Arrowhead region, with the lowest elevation at 602 feet above sea level (Lake Superior's shore) and the highest at 2,301 feet (Eagle Mountain)-- the greatest twenty-four-hour rainstorm of record was 10.8 inches on July 21-22, 1972, in Morrison Country-- the lowest annual precipitation was 7.8 inches in Polk County in 193…

My Flyover Country

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Between my junior and senior years of college, I packed up a suitcase and worked as a camp counselor along the Maryland shores of the Chesapeake Bay. It was one of the best summers of my life, surrounded as I was with newness and adventure—two things I’ve always valued. So it's interesting to me that, when I look back on all the conversations I had that summer with the other counselors who came from mostly eastern seaboard states or European countries, one of the comments I remember most was from a native Marylander.
“Where’s Minnesota, again? I just know it’s really cold.”
I laughed genially—of course I did—immediately excusing her ignorance. It wasn’t like my homeplace held New York City, the weekend destination we were then exploring; it wasn’t like it held Paris or Tokyo or Acapulco, places people actually vacationed. It was the Midwest, for goodness’ sake. There were so many states between the coasts; I couldn’t fault her for forgetting mine.
Or could I? I spent other moments th…