Essays

Essay: White privilege

Aug 16, 2019

When I was growing up in Grand Rapids in the 1950s, my mother had a “cleaning lady” named Gladys, a soft-spoken colored woman who helped with housework.  I liked Gladys, especially when she made my lunch and cut the sandwiches diagonally.

I hadn’t learned about slavery in America yet and might not have connected that knowledge to Gladys.  But I noticed that when my mother drove her home at the end of the day, Gladys sat in the back seat.  And somehow I knew that was wrong, without knowing how I knew.

Essay: Summer Fun

Aug 9, 2019

Walking outdoors on a summer morning, I uncoil the hose and turn on the faucet.  Then I bend to inhale the wet, metallic smell of water pouring out of the nozzle—grateful for things that do not change.


Essay: Rest Areas

Aug 2, 2019

When I was a kid, our family vacations were often road trips to scenic destinations.  And since this was the 1950s, there were no clean, friendly “rest areas.” provided by the highway department.  Instead, when we needed a bathroom, we had to depend on random gas stations along our route.


Essay: Post Office Cure

Jul 19, 2019

A cloud is following me around today, casting a shadow on my life.  I feel lonely and discouraged—but when I try to figure out why, nothing comes to mind.  In an effort to get out of the house and out of my self, I take up my list of errands. 


The Traverse City Pit Spitters are trying all sorts of ways to get fans to the ballpark, including letting them bring their dogs on ‘Bark in the Park’ night.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, Traverse City’s new baseball team dominates on the field, but getting fans in the seats has been another matter. Plus, a review of Kathleen Stocking’s collection of essays “From the Place of the Gathering Light.”


Essay: Meadow

Jul 12, 2019

I stay in the tent until my husband tells me the coffee is perking. It’s one of the few luxuries available out here in the woods. Slowly, I roll out of my sleeping bag and pull on cold blue jeans. Dick has built a small fire and I drag my canvas chair close to the warmth. 


Essay: Lost Scarf

Jul 5, 2019

It wasn’t a fancy scarf, just a strip of red and blue plaid that I wrapped around my neck in the winter.  On really cold days, I pulled the edge up over my nose, enjoying the smell and warmth of wool.


Essay: Holy Places

Jun 28, 2019

It’s almost too warm to jog but I lace up my shoes anyway. There’s no traffic this morning because it’s Sunday and the streets are quiet. The only cars are on their way to church or to the convenience store for coffee and a paper.


Essay: Don't Contradict

Jun 21, 2019

Freedom of speech, while guaranteed in the Constitution, was not encouraged in my home when I was growing up. I could speak my mind only if I agreed with my parents. Otherwise, I was told, “Don’t contradict.” 


Essay: Disappointed Life

Jun 14, 2019

When I was in college, I read a novel by Saul Bellow called “The Adventures of Augie March,” the story of a young man growing up in Chicago.  Augie had a kind of bold optimism, inspired by a woman who’d survived the London bombings during World War II.  


Essay: Cucumbers Don’t Like Me

Jun 7, 2019

“I like cucumbers,” my grandmother used to say, “but cucumbers don’t like me.”

I wondered what she meant by this but I was too embarrassed to ask.  At our house, cucumbers were part of every meal during the summer.  I loved them and, as far as I could tell, they loved me back.

My grandmother said other things I didn’t understand.  Sometimes she announced that she had slept well as if it were a special occasion.  I always slept well and couldn’t figure out why she didn’t do the same. 

Essay: Another Pair of Eyes

May 31, 2019

As we slide the canoe into the Betsie River, I tie a bandana around my hair and pick up a paddle.  The water looks high but before I comment, my husband says, “Water is low; I wonder if they’ve lowered the dam.”


Essay: Turtles in the Sun

May 24, 2019

Before the snow melts from the woods, before the buds swell on the branches, my husband and I drag our canoe into the river. Bundled in layers, we paddle hard to warm up, lifting our faces to the sun.


Essay: What Kind

May 17, 2019

As a little girl, I often went to play at friends’ houses and my mother sent me out the door with firm rules about being polite—which began with please and thank you.  Next, she insisted we call all adults by their Mr. and Mrs. names.

Essay: Scattered Clouds

May 10, 2019

I sit at the kitchen table with my husband before dinner. We’re drinking a beer and eating pretzels and talking about the day. And while we’re talking, I look over his shoulder out the window where gray-bellied clouds are moving across a blue sky. 


Essay: Looking Back

May 3, 2019

“The first time I saw your mother,” my father liked to say, “I knew I was going to marry her.’” He was sitting in church choir at the time and my mother was coming in late to practice. Late on purpose so that she would be noticed. It was a fairytale beginning, my parents’ marriage. 


Essay: Leaving Home

Apr 26, 2019

It began with me sleeping overnight at my grandparents’ house. They lived close by, so it didn’t feel like being away, or not very far away. The next step was sleeping overnight at my best friend’s. Everything about Bonnie’s house was different:  late bedtime, unlimited candy, noisy furnace. 


Essay: Horse Love

Apr 19, 2019

When I was about eight years old, I fell in love with horses.  It began with “Black Beauty,” the classic novel about a carriage horse who narrates his life story.  Then I begged my father for riding lessons and found myself climbing into an English saddle on a bay mare named “Miss Muffet.” Horses were a lot higher off the ground than they looked!


Essay: Hitchhiking to Stonehenge

Apr 12, 2019

Homer asked if I wanted to go to Stonehenge. “We’ll have to hitch-hike,” he said, so we took the London tube as far west as we could and stood in the rain with our thumbs out. A lorry driver waved and shifted his enormous semi down, down until it finally stopped and we climbed into the cab. 


Essay: Giving Your Gifts

Apr 5, 2019

When people ask me how I became a writer, I tell them about Mrs. Goudzwaard, my tenth grade English teacher.  She gave me an A+ on a paper once and read it to the class.  I was embarrassed, of course, but also amazed.  I didn’t know I could write!


Essay: Forgiving My Father

Mar 29, 2019

“On the way to the hospital, we didn’t have a name picked out for a girl,” my father liked say. “We were so sure it was going to be a boy.”


Essay: Geographic Fix

Mar 22, 2019

When my first marriage was seven years old and my daughter four, I started feeling restless and discontent.  Looking around for something to blame, I decided that our house was too small and the neighborhood too noisy.


Essay: Doing Your Duty

Mar 15, 2019

Every Sunday afternoon when I was a kid, my father went to visit his father—a widower who lived alone.  Sometimes our whole family went to see Grandpa Anderson, but often it was just my dad.  The two men weren’t close and I don’t know what they found to talk about.


Essay: Ask for What You Want

Mar 8, 2019

When my daughter was young, I used to embarrass her when we went to restaurants because I asked for the table I wanted.  Someone was going to get that nice table by the window; why not us?  Anyway, it couldn’t hurt to ask, politely.  And, most of the time, we sat by the window—no objections made.


Essay: Ice Floes

Mar 1, 2019

Ours is the only car in the parking lot on this Sunday afternoon. My husband and I walk north along the Lake Michigan shore, pulling on gloves and putting up hoods. It might be twenty degrees on the thermometer but it feels like zero.  


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