Section: Blog

About this Section:

Welcome. Whether you know it or not, you have been one of my readers, one of the people I have imagined when I thought I might have something to say, those whose judgment I most feared and at the same time could best endure. I am experimenting with this venue because I am trying to recover a kind of public voice, perhaps like the one I had when I wrote columns—one that simultaneously reported, narrated and held forth. I propose to formalize the relationship I have always had with you in my head, so as to make it possible for you to actually read what I have imagined you reading. (You need not read, of course; I am conscious of the time constraints that govern your lives and we are all awash with more stories than we can absorb. Plus, I cannot promise always to be interesting.)

My columns ran under three headings: “Letters Home” inThe Express, “Spafford” in The Sun, and “Mediations” in the Santa Cruz Magazine. Blogs are the new columns, I suppose, but so far, my new pieces are not much like either blogs or columns: They are idiosyncratic and personal like blogs but reflective like columns, and they are turned more toward my interior life than to the events of the day, though that may change. In short, they are some kind of odd hybrid—or I may simply have returned to the essay.

I have republished some of the more personal pieces I wrote under the “Letters Home” link and used “Mediations” to repost those reflections that still make sense on politics, books, media, life. Anything new is here.

This process of alternately imagining and then turning away from an audience is critical to writing. One has to turn away in order to write, turn back in order to revise and engage. When I wrote newspaper columns, the joy of it was the sense of community. In our small town, many people had something say about what I wrote: friends, students, waitresses, clerks in the county building once they saw my name. Those dialogues literally changed my mind; I learned from readers what I missed, what I obscured, what I’d gotten right. How does writing—how do minds—change when communities are virtual? I hope to find out.

The Heart of All Resistance

With the passing of Adrienne Rich on March 27, the Central Coast lost an extraordinary poet: among her legacies is a vision of how to live as a public person. I saw this first in 1975, as one of a group of women graduate students at San Francisco State who had begun organizing to change [...]


Mid-Winter: A life without students

February, 2008—written when I was away from teaching:       It is mid-winter, mid-winter quarter, the grey half-way point in the academic year. In this mid-winter of the mind, one casts about for signs of a downhill slope. The surviving cherry trees outside McHenry library will soon explode into unseasonable showers of pink, and [...]


Dancing with Death

To say I am shadowed by death is inaccurate, implying that I am either haunted or endangered. It is perhaps better to say that I am engaged with death, that both purposefully and accidentally I deal with my horror of death, my fundamental objection to death, by dancing with it—a kind of do-si-do. I turn [...]


Me and my Shadows

I keep thinking of those contra dances where you move down a line, circling, stomping and bowing first to one partner, then another. I am never not dancing and never dancing alone, though my changing partners are invisible. As I move in and out of daily life, fraught as it is by complexities and discomforts, [...]