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Good Letters

When It Comes to Love, We’re Beginners

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During a lecture last March [2011], I spoke fondly of a friend whom I had recently lost to cancer. Halfway through the anecdote, I suddenly recognized his wife, the mother of his two young children, in the audience, listening in rapt attention. She was far from home, a surprise visitor. I almost choked. And I suddenly began weighing my words with much greater care. Had I represented her husband well?

Checked Baggage

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It’s evening and I’m about to meet my older sister in baggage claim. Trained by years of overseas travel in my twenties—and having lost enough luggage along the way—I have taken very little with me on the trip: my carry-on, my diaper bag, and my nine-month-old baby.

A Requiem for Rejects

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Six or seven years ago, a coworker of mine played a drunken game of chicken with a semi-truck on his bike at ten o’clock at night. His funeral doubled as a memorial service and an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

How To Begin a Book

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…when I flew to Image’s Glen Workshop earlier this month, opting to spend most of the week on retreat, I had no such plan. I knew it was time to start a new collection of poems focusing on the violin, one of my lifelong loves. But I had no idea how to approach it, how to even figure out how to approach it, or how long any of these undefined tasks would take. I just knew I was about to spend a week in Santa Fe with artists, writers, mountains, chocolate, and wine. At least a couple of those are daily necessities.

Where’s the Guilt?

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I’ve had the experience of dealing with renters from time to time, though more in the capacity of property manager than as landlord. It has been one of the ugliest, most unpleasant things a person can go through in business.

Gethsemane Companions

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If I had a garden to kneel in to call out to God, it would be my mother’s yard. Lined on three sides by pasture, the ground is ribbed with roots from an oak tree that towers by the fence, and is patched with dirt from where the grass never properly went to seed.

Exile Among Exiles

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My children attend public middle and high school; hence the school year always begins with the ritual of the sports physical. There’s a clinic at the orthopedic surgeon’s office: five doctors, three hundred students, all in a line waiting to have their nuts grabbed and their eyes checked.

Downturned Face, Upturned Eyes

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There is no writing more precious and self-indulgent than the essay about the difficulty of writing, so I will not write an essay about that. The truth is that writing is easy if you have a little talent. A little talent affords some writers a fine living, in fact. The only real pain comes not from the act of writing, but from a voice hovering in your ear, which may be your conscience or your mother but most likely is the devil, whispering: They’re not going to like it.

In Defense of Air Conditioning

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The summer after my freshman year in college, I made the mistake of signing a lease without noticing that the place had no air conditioning. The lease was for a bedroom in an informal boardinghouse set up by the widowed owner of a large, falling-apart, turn-of-the-century house in Uptown New Orleans. (But of course!, you ’re thinking, she is making this up for literary effect!)

The Boy Who Lived Large

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If you were to ask me how to live a satisfying life, I would honestly say something like this: Live in the moment, give love generously, laugh often, and absorb yourself in music. And don’t forget: life is short; eat real butter.

Image’s Daily Blog

For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every weekday, one of the gifted writers on our blogging team will offer a personal essay that makes a fresh connection between the world of faith and the world of daily life, spanning the gap between theology and experience and giving language a human shape.

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