Life and Living

There’s a Circle Around You

I want to tell you a little story that I hope will give you hope and comfort.

At a time when everything in my life was falling apart—my body, my finances, my family—I got onto a plane and sat down in a window seat. The shades were down to keep the Arizona heat out of the plane.

Sitting there with nothing to do, overwhelmed by panic and sorrow, I rummaged in my travel backpack for gum and found a little meditation book someone had given me on a previous trip.

I opened the book to a random page and found instructions for [...]

Adventures in Boundaryland!

You know how sometimes you look around your house and realize that your house is full of homeless orphaned drug addicts and you’ve gone broke paying for your brother-in-law’s best friend’s new car and you’re still feeling sore from donating your kidney to someone you saw on the news? Don’t you hate it when that happens?

DON’T WORRY, I’M JOKING!!! The paragraph above is a huge exaggeration of something that really does happen to compassionate people. Sometimes, we want so much to help everyone that we drop our personal boundaries very low—so low that our efforts to care for others [...]

Why It’s Okay to Change Up Family Traditions

This article was first published in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper

Holiday traditions have always made my heart beat a little faster—not with excitement, but with stress. Growing up as the seventh of eight children, I spent every December struggling to find gifts and make treats for everyone in the family. Things got easier when I started my own small, nuclear family. But our numbers are growing, and in recent years I’d begun to feel a touch of the old anxiety. Still, I was a bit shocked when someone suggested that we switch up our traditions by assigning each [...]

Like Violets in Early Spring

So in spite of everything, violets are blooming in the forest around my house. One day there were none, the next day, they’re everywhere.

I’ve been chatting about this with Elizabeth Gilbert. In her book BIG MAGIC, Liz cites a mathematician whose father told him to publish his ideas quickly, because “When the time is right for certain things, they appear at different places, in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.”

In science this is called “multiple discovery.” It happens a lot: calculus, oxygen, and evolution were discovered at the same time by different scientists.

Well, last week, [...]

Early Spring with the Notorious Badger (or, Why I’ve Made a Podcast)

A bit of searching online will tell you that “Spring in the Northern Hemisphere will begin on Thursday, March 19.” You can repeat this to others in a confident voice, and everyone will believe you. 

Meanwhile, the trees and flowers in the woods around my house are calmly celebrating Spring on their own damn schedule. Bright-green crocus and daffodil shoots are pushing leaf litter aside. The exposed spot on a dogwood tree, where woodpeckers have revealed the cambium, has also turned green, flooding chlorophyll upward to every little leaf bud on every little twig.

I love the stubbornness of nature. I [...]

Little Hints of Magic

So last Christmas I bought a jigsaw puzzle for my family. It was fun—a nice center point where we could gather and chat.

I do that almost every year, but after this holiday was over, I bought another puzzle. Then a couple more. Then half a dozen. I spent about a month tucking puzzles into our closets and shelves like some kind of manic, jigsaw-obsessed squirrel.

Then, of course, it happened. You know what I mean. THE APOCALYPSE.

About a week into the national lockdown, I got a random email from someone in a nearby neighborhood association. The writer was looking for [...]

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