In “Do I Make Myself Clear?: Why Writing Well Matters,” author Harold Evans recalls George Orwell, who argued that if we wrote better, we’d learn to think better, too, which would make us better citizens, voters and human beings.
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Saturday, November 18, 2017
As thousands of travelers fly home this week for Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about my own recent flight and what it told me about American life these days at 30,000 feet.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Last weekend, I tucked away the trimmings of Halloween, a holiday that heralds three others crowding the horizon. Like a trio of Magi, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve plod toward us, the final characters of a calendar rapidly depleting …
Saturday, November 04, 2017
Saturday, October 28, 2017
As another Halloween arrives, I’ve been thinking about an earlier All Hallow’s Eve I spent in Houston and what it taught me about the fragility of life’s gifts. It’s a lesson that’s returned to my thoughts this autumn, as Americans enter the final…
Saturday, October 21, 2017
As a forensic scientist at LSU, Mary Manhein spent her 30-year career honoring the dead. As head of LSU’s FACES Lab, she helped identify victims of murder and disaster so their families could have closure.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Our house painter came a few weeks ago to give the bricks and siding a fresh coat of color, and putty and paint the windows to give them courage against the coming cold.
Saturday, October 07, 2017
In a recent newspaper essay, George Ball, of the Burpee Seed Co., writes to remind his fellow Americans that in this country, autumn isn’t often autumn at all, but merely summer by another name.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
I like to take a break from the news when I’m on vacation, which is how I missed learning that Don D. Moore had died in July at 83. The only comfort in his passing is the chance now to get a word in. Don was one of life’s great talkers?— a man who…
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Family business has kept me on the road this month, shuttling between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, west to Acadiana, north to Natchitoches. Long drives through Louisiana in September mean hours behind a windshield flecked with white —?the leavings…
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Parting the bedroom curtains last weekend on the first cool Saturday of September, I noticed that the patio was alive with birds. Two robins bathed in the backyard fountain, and a couple of mourning doves, solemn as Pilgrims, sat on a low-lying li…
Saturday, September 09, 2017
On the night before Labor Day, as our family gathered in the backyard to catch a few more moments of a dying summer, we finally glimpsed The Croaker, an outdoor visitor that, for the length of the season, had routinely been heard, yet never seen.
Saturday, September 02, 2017
Last month, standing in a park outside Chattanooga as the afternoon sun went dark, I could easily think that nature was mine to shape. I’d traveled to Tennessee with my brother and his friend to watch the solar eclipse, which obliged us by perform…
Saturday, August 26, 2017
With the kids back in school and the suitcases of summer travels emptied and shelved in the closet once again, I’ve been quietly haunted by the words of Henry Southworth Allen, a gifted cultural commentator who worked for many years at The Washing…
Saturday, August 19, 2017
In the early days of fatherhood, I began the school year with a five-minute drive to the carpool line down the street. Now, the trip takes three hours. My teenage son attends a boarding school for gifted kids nearly 300 miles from us. The long dri…
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Saturday, August 05, 2017
Since travel is supposed to bring a change of pace, we thought about going someplace new this summer —?maybe the Texas prairie, the caves of New Mexico, the California Coast.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Saturday, July 22, 2017
As a grade schooler in the 1970s, I stayed at LSU a few days one summer for a 4-H program, my first chance to see the campus of Louisiana’s flagship public university up close.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Some summer reading has reminded me that I might belong to the last generation with any direct memory of party lines, a form of phone service that required customers to share the same line with their neighbors, depending on an honor system to limi…
Saturday, July 08, 2017
My wife and I were watching TV in the den a few Fridays ago when a thump at the front door told us we had a visitor. I could see no face through the top door pane, which meant the presence was low to the ground, and possibly of the four-legged kind.
Saturday, July 01, 2017
We’re keeping a terrarium on the kitchen counter, something our son brought from his dormitory when he came back home to live with us for the summer. In a lidded glass globe that looks like a cookie jar, a bed of chocolate-dark potting soil nouris…
Saturday, June 24, 2017
For Father’s Day, I got a new hammock, a present that stormy weather prevented me from trying out. Even so, the idea of the hammock has been good enough. It promises what we all want from summer —?a chance to rest within the folds of some private …
Saturday, June 17, 2017
We decided to visit our friend David in the country last weekend —?to putter around the barn, to look at the cows, to watch the birds, to see what else there was to see. The only problem was picking a day when it wouldn’t rain.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
A hundred things tell me that summer is here —?the empty schools, the rising heat, the blooming of beach balls and flip-flops from the shelves of the drugstore down the street.
Saturday, June 03, 2017
Last month, thousands of commencement speakers told this year’s graduates how to succeed in life and work. Now, a few weeks later, does anyone remember what they said?
Saturday, May 27, 2017
For Mother’s Day, we gave my wife a patio table, a beach bag, a suspense novel, a travel magazine, and a gift certificate for something new and bright to wear in the sun.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Saturday, May 13, 2017
For several years, my morning walk took me past a house where two young girls stood at the corner of their yard, backpacks at their feet, waiting for the bus to school.
Saturday, May 06, 2017
I was sitting at my desk a couple of Mondays ago, quietly grumbling about the workweek ahead, when word came that my friend Curt Eysink was in trouble. He’d fallen gravely ill on a drive to New Orleans and was in the hospital fighting for his life.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
As a journalism student three and a half decades ago, I thought of newspapering as a kind of transcription, the making of stories with quotes from other people.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Even if the IRS didn’t cast its long shadow over the middle of April, other duties of spring would remind me that the march of the calendar brings plenty to do.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
In 1943, Betty Smith published a novel, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” that mentions a little tree thriving against the odds in its urban landscape. I think about Smith every time I see some wild thing trying to make a go of it in a city setting.
Saturday, April 08, 2017
Saturday, April 01, 2017
A few weeks ago, as part of a newspaper assignment, I read Florence Williams’ “The Nature Fix” —?a task I first undertook because I had to, then quickly came to enjoy.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Into the first days of spring, I’ve carried a slender volume, called “Grumbling At Large,” that had landed under last year’s Christmas tree. It’s a small collection of writings by Englishman J.B. Priestley, who was nearly 90 when he died in 1984.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
I recently exchanged emails with a friend suffering from incurable cancer, which prompted his suggestion that we meet for lunch. Though seriously ill, he continued to work and socialize. It seemed that he’d continue to be with us a while.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Saturday, March 04, 2017
It happened the other morning, as I was standing at the mirror shaving, not quite ready to start the day. Some work the night before had kept me up late, so I was still feeling physically tired.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
In my college days in the 1980s, as I’d head to the latest movie about the Vietnam War, death camps or organized crime, my late mother would shake her head.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
A few weeks ago, while returning some pliers to the backyard shed, I saw on the shelf a small figure perfectly made in the image of an owl. It looked like one of those plastic predators some gardeners place on poles as a scarecrow to keep pest bir…
Saturday, February 11, 2017
In a world so full of problems, I’m reluctant to add another one to the list. But the challenge I’m about to mention is really more a blessing than a burden, so here it is:
Saturday, February 04, 2017
Even before last month’s news that Mary Tyler Moore had died, she was already the talk of our household. By coincidence, my wife and I were in the middle of one of our “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” marathons when Moore passed away.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
For several years, a writer I know has written and mailed a Christmas poem to her friends and loved ones, although there have been winters when her yuletide verse doesn’t arrive until February. She’s sometimes too busy during the holidays to compo…
Saturday, January 21, 2017
When I go to my favorite feed and seed store these past few years, I’m always wearing a suit and tie. The store sits across the street from the house where I grew up, in a town I now rarely visit except for funerals of friends and relatives.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
In the Sunday afternoons of my adolescence, when there was no football to watch or much else to see on TV, our household viewing typically turned to “Firing Line,” the public television talk show hosted by conservative commentator William F. Buckley.
Saturday, January 07, 2017
Every Dec. 31st, we mark the minutes until midnight, measuring time by the teaspoon in a rapidly departing year. But on the last day of 2016, I was struck not by the passing of time but the illusion, however brief, of the clock standing still.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Last month, under the weather with a winter bug, I was feeling bad —?and feeling bad about feeling bad. There was too much to do, at both home and office, to take the time to be sick.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
I’m told that in the room where I greeted every Christmas of my childhood, people now sit each day until the doctor calls them back.