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Content Categorized ‘Nonfiction’

Some Architectures: A Prelude

My mom tells me that I leaped in her belly every time the organ lurched into song. Her habitat was the pulpit in front of the tiny organist and the looming pipe organ, which was gummed into the very architecture of the Carolina church where her earnest voice filled the room as she preached each Sunday.

Buying a Vuarnet T-Shirt

I circled the Vuarnet store in SoHo twice before entering, self-conscious for a variety of reasons: on one level, for instance, I knew I was too old to be shopping there. It wasn’t a holdover of the brand since its general disappearance after its peak in the nineties, as I had imagined it—a lone flag of consumerism planted for thirty fractious years among the boutiques and bistros of Spring Street. It was new since last summer, July 2018.

Life in the Tar Seeps

In the rearview mirror, the Wasatch Mountains of Utah rise from the Great Basin. Low hills shoulder limestone caves, tucked into parched slopes of tall grass that roll toward Great Salt Lake like ancient waves. Long-gone shorelines band the hills like rings in a bathtub. A two-lane paved road cuts between dips in the knolls, edged by marshlands that spread through the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. On this February day, the chill has fogged into crystalline snow, blurring the marshlands, hills, and mountains until we lose sight of all distances, just the road around us. Almost imperceptibly, the air smells like rotten eggs.  

Most of My Dream Fathers Are Women

My obsession with my father is so pronounced that when I sit down to write about the women I’ve loved, I begin with a line about him. My memory of others is never lit up and illuminated like my memory of him. This is an old thought, the way a dream is an old thought, born in the mind and prone to illusions. Although his skeleton is underground, our relationship is ongoing.

On Self-Rescue

This past summer, I didn’t run the Upper Green, the Chattooga, or any of my favorite whitewater rivers, because my kayak skirt no longer fits around my pregnant belly. That’s what I say to my boating friends when they invite me on trips. But the truth is I haven’t been on rivers since before my body showed its tenant. I’ve been scared.

Summoning the Ghost Bear

Reports of a large, gray grizzly gathered thick as mist in the North Cascades of Washington State in the 1940s. A hunter after deer near White Chuck Cinder Cone glimpsed a silvery mother and cub. Near Fire Mountain, not far from the town of Darrington, a grizzly with long gray fur and two cubs ran at a man on the trail. She chased him up a tree, raking through his boot to his foot with roughly three-inch claws. After an hour and a half in the branches, he was rescued, carried out on a horse. Roughly a year later, the bear—or a similar one with gray fur that fluttered “like a flying squirrel,” an observer reported—charged at a family of six who were admiring the view from Fire Mountain. The husband shot the bear, who stopped, veered off toward Fire Creek, and then disappeared. At the time, grizzlies like these were common enough that no one was surprised, but rare enough to make the newspapers. Their longtime presence in this sodden landscape along the Canadian border—characterized by sharp peaks, silver fir forests, and riotous rivers draining them—was memorialized in hunting accounts of the Salish peoples and, later, fur trading records…

Delights

The Jenky Yesterday I was working in the yard, getting it into some kind of order (order a very loose usage in this case), and I noticed the goumi bush, with its thousands of unripe speckled berries, crowding the blueberry…

Legs

Indeed he seemed to approach the grave as a hyperbolic curve approaches a straight line—less directly as he got nearer, till it was doubtful he would ever reach it at all. —Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd   My father had been dead about ten months when, in fall 2012, I called his prosthetics company and explained that I wanted to donate his legs to an organization that could reuse them. The lady on the phone was flummoxed. Maybe I could try a church, or the Veteran’s Administration? The VA receptionist put me on hold. The song: “Another One Bites the Dust.” I was hoping the next one would be “She’s Got Legs” when the receptionist came back on and gave me a number for the donations department. I hung up and called the new number, but they couldn’t help either. Had I not inherited from my mother a strain of doggedness that regards frustration as fuel and obstacles as things to be smashed, I might have chucked the legs in the trash. Instead, I searched online and found Physicians for Peace, a group that accepts donated prostheses—which cannot be reused in the litigious United States—and sends them to…