Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Matthew Herndon
December 10th, 2014 | 9:30am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Matthew Herndon

We are standing in front of Mark Rothko’s Black, Red Over Black on Red at the Centre Pompidou.

“I love Rothko,” says my companion. “I am not crazy about modern American art, but Rothko is different.” A painter himself, my companion is a talkative man behind whose frail body and white hair is an energetic, sometimes erratic mind. “Look,” he says, as he moves closer to the painting, the guard keeping a polite watch over us. “The way he has layered the painting—as if he were breathing it.” 

December 9th, 2014 | 6:00am

Sarah Smarsh has reported on social justice, the environment, culture, and class for Harper’s, The Huffington Post, Guernica, The Pitch, Aeon, and others. She holds an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia University, as well as degrees in journalism and English from the University of Kansas, and has taught at Washburn University, Columbia, and elsewhere. A fellow of the Center for Kansas Studies, earlier in her career she wrote about her home state for everything from airline magazines to pop-history paperback series. Her essay “Death of the Farm Family” appears in Issue 08 of The Common. Marni Berger and Smarsh discussed the privilege of rootedness in America and what it means to be “often from” a place.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Heather Katsoulis
December 8th, 2014 | 6:00am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Heather Katsoulis

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Even in the raw of winter, the succulent house will be hot and dry. The air in the palm house will be thick. These alternating glass houses of desert, forest, floral exotica—carnivorous pitcher plants and living stones—will be a refuge when New England is in February; one way to survive the cold.

Photo by Wikipedia: File:Douglas C-47 Skytrain.jpg
December 5th, 2014 | 6:00am

Photo by Wikipedia: File:Douglas C-47 Skytrain.jpg

In Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where I grew up, Rex Humbard was the first Pentecostal evangelist to have his own television program. Next to the Cathedral of Tomorrow, where he hosted his weekly broadcast, he also built an enormous tower—locally known as Rex’s Erection—with the intent of making one of those revolving restaurants like at Niagara Falls. But despite eventually officiating at Elvis’s funeral, Humbard ran out of money and, ever since, the tower has just stood there, tall and useless. Though my grandfather, who was a flight instructor at Kent State, once told me that pilots used the tower as a landmark when giving their coordinates over the radio.

Photo by Jessica O
December 4th, 2014 | 6:00am

Photo by Jessica O'Connor

Your name: Christine Byl

Current town: Healy, AK, just north of Denali National Park

How long have you lived here? 10+ years

Three words to describe the climate: boreal winter desert