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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….)

The Last Hummingbird
The New York Times, 7 October 2019

From inside my air-conditioned house, the light through my windows looks the way October light is supposed to look — mild, quiet, entirely unlike the thin light of winter or the sparkling light of spring or the unrelenting light of summer. In normal years, October is a month for open windows in Middle Tennessee. For cool, damp mornings. For colored leaves that quake in the wind before letting go and lifting away. For afternoon shadows so lovely they fill me with a longing I can’t even name. (more….)

Tennessee Makes Way for Monarchs
The New York Times, 16 September 2019

A few years ago I started noticing wildflowers blooming beside the highway: ironweed and goldenrod and snakeroot and black-eyed Susan. The first time it happened the sun was in my eyes as I drove west toward Memphis, and a late summer drought was filling the air with dust motes. For a moment I thought I was imagining flowers where flowers had never been before. A daydream on a lonesome stretch of highway as twilight came on. (more….)

Country Music as Melting Pot
The New York Times, 9 September 2019

Last spring at the Ryman Auditorium, sitting in the audience for a concert filmed to celebrate the new documentary series by Ken Burns, I couldn’t help but notice that the folks around me didn’t look much like the usual bro-country fans swarming Nashville these days. Just who exactly was this documentary aiming to reach? All of us, it turns out. People of every age, every political persuasion, every socio-economic class, every race. The goal of “Country Music” is nothing less than to remind us of who we really are. (more….)

ICE Came to Take Their Neighbor. They Said No.
The New York Times, 5 August 2019

Residents of a quiet working-class neighborhood in the Hermitage section of Nashville woke up very early on July 22 to find officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement trying to arrest one of their own. An unmarked pickup truck with flashing red and blue lights had pulled into the man’s driveway, blocking his van. Two ICE agents armed with an administrative warrant ordered the man and his 12-year-old son to step out of their vehicle. (more….)

The Trees Might Save Us Yet
The New York Times, 23 July 2019

My whole family was watching the HBO series “Chernobyl” when a big sugar maple tree in our front yard split in half, falling a few feet short of the corner of the house. We didn’t hear the actual crash, perhaps because the storm that took out the tree was already so loud, perhaps because the dramatized cataclysm on the television in our family room was louder still, or at least more absorbing. (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….)

The Flower That Came Back From the Dead
The New York Times, 24 June 2019

Certain old-fashioned words from fairy tales and storybooks still cling to me from childhood. MoorValeBogGlade. For a child, such words conjure magical places — untouched, holy lands where fairies might live and animals might speak in ways I understand. Not long after I moved to Tennessee, I heard the term “limestone cedar glade” for the first time and immediately thought again of magic. (more….)