In House

"In House" is a weekly column featuring trawlings and reflections from our editors.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Heather Katsoulis

Monday, December 8, 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.

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Monday, December 1, 2014 - 10:10am

 

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To exist humanly, is to name the world, to change it. ~Paulo Freire

When I was 19 my full-time job was bartending a pub called Filthy McNasty’s. McNasty’s sat on Rose Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the roughest streets in the city center at the time. Fights punctuated each hour of the night and later, after I’d moved on up from McNasty’s, a friend was stabbed near there in a skinhead-like attack. Indoors, customers called me 
Garth” because of my wild, unkempt hair, like Garth in Wayne’s World. I didn’t wear makeup and favored baggy jeans and t-shirts; I guess this made me infuriatingly gender ambiguous.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 3:03pm

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I read Peter MatthiessenThe Snow Leopard in Ohio anticipating a trip to Kathmandu, via Abu Dhabi, where I arrived one bright day at the end of October. In the book, Matthiessen descends to grey Kathmandu after two months climbing the pristine crags of the Himalayas. In the city, the planar snows can appear only as an afterimage, a ghostly trick of the eyes. Matthiessen has not seen the elusive snow leopard he hoped to find, which represented Zen transcendence. He wanted to reach that state, but discovers that, being human, he can only approximate it. That, he decides, is enough. Returned to his worldly self, nature has explained itself and him. Where the snow lives, the Sanskrit himalaya, is eternal. He, by comparison, is nothing.

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Friday, November 7, 2014 - 6:00am

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We drive on a gray day in October, a scenic four-hour drive from my new home in Baltimore to my old home in Leechburg, a small steel town in the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania, where I lived from ages 8 through 15—the longest stretch of childhood I spent in one location. Though it’s a place I’ve often gone back to in my fiction, I haven’t returned in person in over 15 years. The trip is reconnaissance and romance: scene gathering for a novel and a chance to explore my memory with M.

Monday, October 20, 2014 - 5:00am

When the planes hit on September 11, 2001, I was in the F train. The conductor made a bland announcement regretting delays following “an incident.” “What incident?” I asked my neighbor. He shrugged. I arrived at my office at BusinessWeek, then at 6th Avenue and 48th Street, and watched the towers collapse on TV. My baby son was home with the sitter, my daughter at kindergarten. My husband was safe. No one I knew was hurt, miraculously. For months, I cried. I was terrified of a subway bombing. I tried to plan how we would evacuate in the event of a nuclear attack.

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Monday, October 6, 2014 - 10:59am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user jcsullivan24

In Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Walking” he writes, “Give me a wildness whose glance no civilization can endure.” It is this longing for wildness that drove Thoreau to live and continue to return to Walden pond; to seek out nature whether along rivers, or the seashore, in the Maine woods, or his home town.

But at times Nature complicates Thoreau’s idealism by presenting raw, untamed forcestrue wilderness, rather than just wildnessthat stand in stark contrast to the pastoral that he often evokes in his writing.  

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Monday, September 22, 2014 - 8:34am

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The ending place is empty—nearly. I am writing this in the beginning place because it seems not quite right to start in a place that is ending.

On the phone, completing the last of the cleaning, he describes to me the ending place. He is there and I am here. He describes the span of those walls (now spackled) in which we made our lives these past eight years. Walls from which we hung postcards and pictures, pieces of metal and lace, the mirrored shadowbox, the plaster cherub, all the instruments. There, where the doors were painted a sloppy garish teal long before our arrival, where the ‘beautiful hardwood floors’ finally gave up, splintered into thick spears.

Monday, September 8, 2014 - 5:00am


I believe New Yorkers. Whether they’ve ever questioned the dream in which they live, I wouldn’t know, because I wont ever dare ask that question.

– Dylan Thomas
 

In my first months in New York City I rode in the back of taxicabs through Central Park thinking, When will this sink in? When will it feel like I know where I am. I didn’t think I was dreaming – rather, I felt the whole city was dreaming with me inside of it, a poppy-field illusion, a drug trip induced by hidden valves releasing an experimental hallucinogen. The city needed to pinch itself awake, collectively, and climb out of the hollow to find out what was really going on.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user mjaneroy

Monday, August 4, 2014 - 5:00am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user mjaneroy

I’ve just begun my second week in Baltimore, and already I’ve caught myself with long-term intentions. I’ve hurried through the usual rituals of relocation: I’ve registered my car, and I’ve picked up a driver’s license and library card, an application for a voter registration card, and a collection of guidebooks and maps of the city. But more than that, there’s the way I feel, walking around most nights, slipping into the rhythm of my neighborhood as if I am taking in the details of a stranger who will soon be family, as if it will some day be important for me to know the angles of the fire escapes climbing against red brick buildings or the shape of coiled electrical wires strung along the side of a bridge. It’s an embarrassing feeling—denser and less urgent than infatuation, but shyer and more fragile than love. I’m overeager, ready to attach myself with the guileless certainty of a teenager.

Monday, June 23, 2014 - 7:46am

 

In February, 2014, eighteen seniors at Harbor School, a New York City public high school devoted to maritime careers on Governors Island, a historic military base turned national park, embarked on their first fiction writing efforts. For the next three months, their composition class, which Harbor School veteran teacher, Anna Lurie, and I taught was devoted to little else. On June 3, they read their work, first in the library, then after school in the Mess Hall to classmates, teachers, and family and distributed copies of The Ship Log, the magazine containing their stories. It was a big day for all of us.

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