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What Happened When My Son Asked Santa for a Golden Trumpet
The New York Times, 23 December 2019

It was 1994, a week before Christmas, when my not-quite-3-year-old spied a shopping mall Santa and insisted on paying him another visit. I tried to demur. I tried to deflect. His official Santa visit had taken place weeks earlier. This trip to the mall was just a chance to escape the gloom that is Nashville in December, to wear out those busy toddler legs in a place where it wasn’t raining and cold. (more….)

Why I Wear Five Wedding Rings
The New York Times, 25 November 2019

Whenever I’m nervous, I find some sort of amulet to drop into my pocket. A buckeye. A feather molted from a blue jay’s tail. The river rock my middle son always called a “worry stone.” The spent egg sac from a praying mantis. A seashell from my mother-in-law’s grave. I hold onto what’s in my pocket the way an anxious baby clings to a beloved blanket at bedtime. (more….)

What if the Real Act of Holiness Is Rest?
The New York Times, 21 October 2019

My great-grandmother was a lifelong Baptist who spent the last four decades of her life worshiping with the Methodists because by then there was only one church left in that tiny farming community in Lower Alabama. Mother Ollie gladly attended Mass at my family’s Catholic church in Birmingham, too, but she never drifted from her quiet adherence to the King James ways of her Baptist youth. (more….)

Writing Through Extreme Grief Helped Me Become Myself Again
The Literary Hub, 19 July 2019

The cover of my first book, Late Migrations, features a leaf-filled silhouette of a little girl’s face. My face. The original silhouette was made by an Alabama street artist in 1970. I was eight years old, and already I knew I wanted to be a writer. A nature writer. In an apparently preternatural understanding of the economy of nature writing, I also planned to be a large-animal veterinarian; I would deliver calves by day and write books by night. (more….)

I Turned My Back for a Second, Half a Second, and He Was Grown
The New York Times, 10 June 2019

Driving due south in spring is like speeding up time. My mother, who grew up on a peanut farm in Lower Alabama, believed that the growing season expands northward at the rate of a hundred miles per week. I thought about her theory as I was driving south last month, watching the new-green leaves near home fast forward into a denser, darker verdure. I had set off from Nashville in springtime, but when I arrived at my sister’s house near Birmingham, it was already full summer. (more….)

Waking Up to History
The New York Times, 1 April 2019

Like many girls of my generation in the rural South, I learned every form of handwork my grandmother or great-grandmother could teach me: sewing, knitting, crocheting, quilting. I even learned to tat, a kind of handwork done with a tiny shuttle that turns thread into lace. Some of my happiest memories are of sitting on the edge of my great-grandmother’s bed, our heads bent together as she pulled out my mangled stitches. (more….)

The Blessing of a Rescue Dog
The New York Times, 27 January 2019

The scruffy little dog of indeterminate origin — she’s either a beagle mix or a terrier mix, depending on which veterinarian is guessing — reaches the end of the driveway and sits down. A gentle tug on the leash merely inspires the dog to lower herself completely, her face on her front paws. A treat offered in exchange for progress on this “walk” yields no better results. (more….)