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But the words themselves, and the media silence, show such robust disinterest in Thai deaths that they make me wonder: deep down, do we care only for the lives of countrymen? Does the noise I make about empathy as a writer and mom only conceal a core of implacable self-interest? Of national interest?
I have three amazing kids who are smart and funny and most of all exuberant. I know it’s a cliché, but they really do fill our home with love and laughter. But they also fill it with crap. I am swimming in art projects, cracker crumbs, and Legos. I try to keep ahead of it, but I’m not exactly organized myself, and I hate housecleaning. Frankly I’d rather take them to the playground than spend quality time with the vacuum cleaner.
I am very okay with that until my friends come over and I see my house through their eyes.
Maybe Aesop had it wrong. Or maybe he’s just 2,600 years out of date. That’s how long ago he first told his moralistic tales, and they’ve been repeated ever since. “The Hare and the Tortoise” is the one that comes to mind, that tale of the triumph of plodding persistence over smug speed. Does anyone even believe that anymore?
You stop going to church because you blame God. You develop a surreptitious mean for perky mothers who brag about child development, milestones, and how easy things come.
I’m a lot better now; mostly it’s okay. We adjust. But when I drink I remember the cold pool of anger under my ribs.
Stella stands on our porch, tear-streaked, swatting back her mess of tangly blonde hair, wailing “No! No! No! Wilder come back! I love you! I love you! I am going to marry you!”
She told us not to act embarrassed or overreact. Get some books. No need to make a big speech.
Twilight. The echo of coyotes off the mountains beyond the lake drifts through the cold August air. The sound makes the mile and a half from here to the other side of the water seem like a stone’s throw. I sleep comfortably now, but years ago when John first brought me here, the baying made me shiver. I tried to put it out of my mind, tossing and turning in my sleeping bag, feeling vulnerable with the yelps and howls and moonlight streaming in.
When I chose the topic for this month’s Essential Reading list, I felt vaguely certain that “Sacrifice” must be one of the most common ideas in all of literature. Even so, I’ve struggled to come up with a suitable contribution to the list.
After my first miscarriage in 2001, I searched in vain for books on the subject. In this lonely and barren place, a book such as How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting, edited by Jessica Hiemstra and Lisa Martin-Demoor, would have been most welcome.
I specifically got Devin-at-four more than one kind of stickers. I specifically
brought out all the non-sticker stuff—buttons, crayons, little round reinforcements. I
specifically didn’t hand him paper.
The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley has brought together poets, prose writers and screenwriters for over 40 years. An alumni listing reads like a Who’s Who of American literature: Richard Ford, Michael Chabon, Mark Childress, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, and Jennifer Egan. The conference is a family affair. Novelist Oakley Hall was one of the founders, and his family continues to manage the conference with three generations coming together every year. Hall’s daughter, Brett Hall Jones, is the Executive Director and Brett’s sister, Sands Hall, author of Catching Heaven and Tools of the Writer's Craft, leads workshops at the conference. Writer Marianne Lonsdale spoke with Brett and Sands about their work, their lives, and the legacy of their family.