James Mercer Langston Hughes – (Feb 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967)

 

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.
Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.

Regina quondam, regina futura – Family Vol. 3

beach-shells-edit“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails.”

Thus wrote Terence Hanbury White in The Once and Future King, first published in its entirety in 1958 – the year I turned 2. It will be just as true at the end of 2017, when I turn 61. Continue reading

Spinning Our Plates

david-burlet-plate-spinning-act-plate-spinner-juggling-comedy-juggler-platos-chinos-malabares-giocoliere-piatti-cinesi-chinesische-platte-jongleur-zirkuskunstler-115

David Burlet in his plate-spinning act. Plate spinners were among my favorite act on the old Ed Sullivan show. They defy the laws of nature, much as people do who battle mental illness.

Some people have such difficulty expressing their periodic chasms of vengeful depression, they take to the Internet looking for narratives they might adopt for their own. Now and then, reading through these portrayals of sub-flat-line despair, they shout, “That’s fantastic!”

This does not suggest any enthusiasm – not even for recovery. Part of depression is being willing to take on anything – even the misery of others – in an effort to fill the void with something other than deep, dull pain. Continue reading

My World’s Fair

riddles

What I really wanted to be when I was growing up was a famous novelist – at least as famous as Jules Verne, and maybe even as good. Now I’m resigned to having once visited an event, probably as a seven- or eight-year-old, that was also visited by Kurt Vonnegut, who was then within a few years of becoming what I really wanted to become. Continue reading

Walking in the World

hike-4973

Around the turn of the century (or the millennium, if you prefer), I began hiking in a semi-serious way, including overnights, on a part of the Appalachian Trail that rambles from eastern New York through Connecticut to southern Massachusetts. The walking itself was calming and invigorating and reminded me of all the walking I had done over many years in my hometown of New York City – because I often paid less attention to where I was going, and more to where I was stepping. Continue reading

Doing Dishes, While Living Life

Summer_Tanager_s52-11-415_l_1

A Summer Tanager – one possibility for the glorious streak of red I saw in my backyard, while I was supposed to be preparing for autumn classes.

It would be nice if life brought to us challenges in neat packages: “Deal with this, and when you’re done I’ll bring you something new to test out.” Our school days are organized along these lines.

But the events and issues on our timelines overlap and circle around and sometimes travel against time and double up and triple up and overwhelm us and trip us up when they can. We do what we can, as we are able, using our skills for parsing catastrophe, and calling on the resources we recognize in the midst of all the chaos. Continue reading

“Then you knew where you were”

 

herr

I have scoured the Internet for a caption. This image is everywhere, and nowhere is a photographer credited. If you know who shot this image, please message me. 

It’s easy to become so wrapped up in our daily lives that we entirely miss major events that are central to parts of our lives that are, in that moment, inactive.

On June 23, 2016, I was busy charging my camera batteries, cleaning my lenses, sorting out my memory cards and road-testing a new one, and packing my gear and clothes to be ready for the Cape Cod wedding of a cousin of mine. I entirely missed the passing of Michael Herr, whose 1977 book Dispatches put some of what people love to call “closure” on my terrible fear of the Vietnam War. Continue reading

“I Shall Imagine Life”

IMG_3390 (2)

By E.E. Cummings

Presented in honor of the 34th birthday of Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau

I shall imagine life
is not worth dying, if
(and when) roses complain
their beauties are in vain

but though mankind persuades
itself that every weed’s
a rose, roses (you feel
certain) will only smile

~

Lauren’s story is so much more than the story of her passing – and yet a Google search will find mostly the story of her passing. We can overcome that. Today is June 8, 2016 – the day Lauren Rousseau would turn 34. Spend some time with her story and with her family. Learn something about Lauren’s life. Your understanding of her will become a part of her legacy.

Continue reading

“Lift off.”

An address from, to, for the Class of 2016 in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, by Donovan Livingston, Ed.M. ’16 – which phrasing sells way short what you will experience if you play this brief and inspiring video.

[Some very brief biographical information: Mr. Livingston is a 2009 graduate of UNC Chapel Hill (BA History), earned an MA from Teachers College in 2011, and became a member of Phi Beta Sigma in 2008.]

And here, for posterity, is the transcript of Mr. Livingston’s address, as provided by the Harvard website:

Continue reading