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The Pain of Loving Old Dogs
The New York Times, 25 February 2018

It’s 2 in the morning, and it has just started to rain. It’s a gentle rain, with no threat of high winds or lightning. I know this without having to get up to peer into the dark night or put on my glasses to check the weather app on my phone. I know the facts of this meteorological reality without even opening my eyes because there is a large dog with halitosis now standing beside my bed, panting. (more….)

A Monument the Old South Would Like to Ignore
The New York Times, 29 January 2018

In 1978, the city of Nashville leased 18 acres of a Civil War monument to a local businessman who wanted to start a new baseball franchise — the Nashville Sounds, then a Double A expansion team for the Southern League — and needed a place for his team to play. It was a ludicrous arrangement from the start: a privately owned ball field built on public land. And not just any public land. Greer Stadium was built at the base of St. Cloud Hill, where the Union Army erected a stronghold after taking control of the city in 1862. (more….)

Christians Need a New Right-to-Life Movement
The New York Times, 24 December 2017

At least since Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door in 1517, Christians have disagreed on what Jesus calls them to do in the name of faith. There are nearly 34,000 Christian denominations worldwide, a number that doesn’t account for American Christians — nearly one in six, according to a Gallup poll last summer — who belong to no denomination at all. (more….)

The Raw Power of #MeToo
The New York Times, 19 October 2017

A few years back, when there were still three teenagers in this house, I got a little wound up at supper one night and kept going on and on about the brilliance of a novel I was reading by an Irish-born writer. “I can’t believe you’ve never been there,” one of my sons said. “As much as you love this stuff, I can’t believe you’ve never been to Ireland or England.” (more….)

In Nashville’s Sky, A Ring of Fire
The New York Times, 21 August 2017

My sister and nephew drove up from Birmingham on Sunday, the day before the eclipse, and out of pure curiosity we went downtown. The place was crawling with tourists. The Great American Eclipse website had estimated that as many as 7.4 million Americans would be traveling somewhere to witness the event, and this is the largest city in the path of totality. It seemed like a lot of them were already here. (more...)

What Is America to Me?
The New York Times, 23 July 2017

In 2015, just as refugees were pouring out of Syria and pictures of terrified children filled every newscast and front page in the world, a small notice appeared in my church bulletin: “Are you looking for a way to help our city’s newest refugees?” It was a call for volunteers to assist in an English-language classroom at a local public school. (more….)

Holy, Holy, Holy
River Teeth, 17 July 2017

On the morning after my mother’s sudden death, before I was up, someone brought a basket of muffins, good coffee beans, and a bottle of cream—real cream, unwhipped—left them at the back door, and tiptoed away. I couldn’t eat. The smell of coffee turned my stomach, but my head was pounding from all the what ifs playing across it all night long, and I thought perhaps the cream would make a cup of coffee count as breakfast if I could keep it down. (more…)

Springtime’s Not-So-Peaceable Kingdom
The New York Times, 4 June 2017

In spring, I search for nests. I part the branches of shrubs and low-limbed trees, peering into their depths for a clump of sticks and string and shredded plastic — the messy structure of a mockingbird’s nest. I squat and look upward for a cardinal’s tidy brown bowl. I stand even with the end of my house and look from the side into the ivy climbing the bricks, searching for a tiny avian hammock tucked into the leaves by house finches. I check the fern hanging under the eaves for the vortex tunnel built by a Carolina wren. (more…)