Teacher, Time To Go
From Writing on the Edge (16.1,
I was nineteen years old and a college dropout
when I first picked up chalk and taught. I remember standing nervously
in front of a packed clasroom, worried that my twenty-five skydiving
students, many of them in their thirties and forties, might notice
a slight tremble in my hand as I drew a stick-figure parachutist
on the blackboard. When it finally dawned on me that their fear
of dying was greater than my fear of teaching, I began to relax.
There they sat, gazing helplessly in my direction, as if I held
the keys to their future, which, in a way, I did.
One Draft at a Time: The Rewards of Process
From Writing on the Edge (17.2,
Kathy Dougherty arrived at my fourth-floor college
office exactly on time and panting like a sprinter. A painful grimace
replaced her typically open and sweet expression. Those damn
stairs! she gasped. How do you do it? They get
easier with practice, I said, especially when you lug
a ton of books up here four times a day. Kathy, nearly forty-five
years my junior, and burdened only by a five-page essay, shot me
a look of disdain. I laughed. Take a load off, I told
her, indicating a stiff-backed armchair in the corner of the room.
I sat down in a matching chair, from which I would be able to monitor
the arrival of other students during the drop-in office hour.
The Blair Witch Project Revisited
From The Gettysburg Review (17.1, Spring 2004)
In the summer of 1999, a student film called
The Blair Witch Projectproduced for thirty-five thousand
dollarsgrossed fifty million dollars in its first week of
wide release. Naturally critics focused on its phenomenal box office
success. Janet Maslin, then writing for the New York Times,
found the film remarkable for the way its makers had revolutionized
movie marketing by linking it to the Internet. In the New
Yorker David Denby suggested that the film might be a
watershed moment in which the young audience . . . begins to turn
its back on routine Hollywood product.
From The Sun (Issue 377, May 2007)
“So I will disappear,” said Thomas Merton, concluding his address to the International Monastic Conference in Bangkok on December 10, 1968. Merton, a Trappist monk and
writer, planned to take an afternoon nap before a panel discussion that evening. He
walked back to his guest cottage in the sweltering midday heat, took a shower, and, while
standing in his bare feet on a tile floor, reached to turn on an improperly wired electric
fan. The end came for him with a sustained jolt of direct current, at about 2 p.m. local
time. He was fifty-three years old.
Listen to interview (Part 1)
Listen to interview (Part 2)
The Invisible Dead
From River Teeth (Spring 2008)
And when the last Red Man shall have perished . . . these shores will
with the invisible dead of my tribe. . . . The White Man will never be
—Attributed to Chief Seattle in 1854
At the time of my birth, in April 1940, my grandfather sent my
mother—his youngest daughter—a letter in which he expressed the hope that I
would inherit the spirit of my famous ancestors. One of the ancestors he
had in mind was my great great-great-great-great-great-grandmother,
Hannah Emerson Dustin, born Hannah Webster Emerson on December 23, 1657, in
the frontier village of Haverhill, Massachusetts. Hannah spent the
first thirty-nine years of her life in relative anonymity. At age twenty,
she married Thomas Dustin, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and over the
next nineteen years, gave birth to eleven children, three of whom died
of natural causes.
With a woodpecker, Second Chance,
on the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (2005).
Photo by Kim