June 11th, 2014 | 6:00am

 

Because I had a roomy exit-row seat on a full plane to Berlin, I sent a photo of my gloriously unbent legs to my wife. A petty triumph, the frequent-flyer’s tame version of sexting. My seatmate was a small, physically non-intrusive man, but troublingly prone to coughs and sneezes.

The day after, in November drizzle, I walked from my hotel past the street where my great-uncle used to live. I never saw his home, but was intimate with its address from legal briefs and bank statements. Continuing to the historic KaDeWe department store, I paused before its tinsel-garroted window mannequins. I felt a familiar temporal shiver, a generational shift into events I longed to understand but had not lived in the first place. Jean Améry wrote “no one can become what he cannot find in his memories.”

Photo by Author
June 10th, 2014 | 6:00am

Photo by Author

We lost a hive this winter. We’d set our two hives facing south on the roof of our Brooklyn home for maximum sunlight, knowing that in winter that would translate into maximum exposure to wind and cold as well. My wife, Hali, and our beekeeping consultant, Davin, dutifully taped up the cracks with red duct tape so that the bees would expend less energy over January and February with their self-composed heating system. Generally they cluster around the queen, vibrating their wings and shivering to keep her and themselves warm. It was a harsh winter in Brooklyn, however, and we’d gone up to the roof several times in December to check to see whether the hives were healthy.

Photo by Author
June 9th, 2014 | 6:00am

 

Photo by Author

During the late 18th century and early 19th century, citizens of the newly formed United States were “seeking out the land’s scenic marvels, measuring their sublime effects in language, and even staging an informal competition for which site would claim pre-eminence as a scenic emblem of the young nation” (Sayre 141).

 

One particularly sees this take place in Thomas Jefferson’s descriptions of the Natural Bridge and the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785).  In this work, Jefferson observes and describes all manner of detail about his native state, from landscape, climate, agricultural and mineral resources, to the laws, manners, and religious beliefs of its citizens.  It’s a celebration of all things Virginia in an attempt to show that state’s worth as a leader in the newly formed union.

 

Painting by Ken Buhler
June 6th, 2014 | 8:00am

Painting by Ken Buhler


When I arrived at Woodbourne prison for that first intake procedure I was surprised to find a certain level of relaxation. Maybe what I mean is not relaxation, but a kind of small town banter that was easy to slip into with the guard who checked me through the metal detector as I set it off again and again. He reassured me he was not going to make me take my shirt off, though the fact that it was fastened with snaps instead of buttons was causing the problem. I told him that I was wearing a T-shirt underneath if it was necessary to remove the outer garment. Harmless flirtation, or maybe just everyday humanity. Whatever you call it, I was not expecting to find it at Woodbourne.
 

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Sankar
June 4th, 2014 | 8:00am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Sankar

 

I didn’t tell anyone at work that I was fasting for Ramadan. Unsure how my Muslim friends would react to an amateur appropriation of their religious culture, I found the explanation difficult.

 

“Why?” A friend—American, like me—asked the obvious question.

 

I stumbled through my rudimentary understanding of the Qur’an, the fact that I was trying to focus on more than immediate bodily needs, to purify my mind, et cetera. I explained that I wanted to understand my friends better, those who chose to practice.