Month: May 2017

Circle of Concern/Circle of Influence

Every Saturday morning we’re in town, my wife and I do two things without fail:  we buy our weekly groceries at the local farmers market, and then we spend an hour at the French pastry shop Tout de Sweet drinking coffee, eating scones, and talking.  I call it my Candice time, and it is the one extended period during the week we have to focus on the week ahead and—more importantly—on bigger issues that are on our minds.  When it comes to Saturday mornings, empty nesting has its privileges.* This past Saturday as we discussed the impact of stress on our lives, Candice asked me what was on mind.  I realized (with her help) that I had begun to focus on things I couldn’t control.  Reflecting later on that conversation took me back to a book I first read in the early 1990s, Stephen R. Covey’s classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  “Be Proactive” is the very first habit, and early in the book Covey notes that we each have a wide range …

Places Teach Us, If We Let Them

I have just finished reading two books about the American West that were written in 1987 and 1994. As I finished the second one on a rainy Sunday afternoon I thought, “I hope I age as well.”  The older of the two—which I actually read second—was the first book cited by the author of the 1994 work in her “Sources” chapter.  Both are written by women I greatly admire as writers and thinkers. So enough of the cat and mouse games. Rebecca Solnit‘s Savage Dreams:  A Journey Into the Hidden Wars of the American West, was republished in a 20th anniversary edition in 2014, with a new preface by the author. I’ve been on something of a Solnit kick lately, as she is one of the most thoughtful of writers exploring a wide variety of issues across the American landscape. This early work is often hailed as a foundational work of environmental thinking.  However, I saw this more as a book about place and unacknowledged history, and the title of the post comes from her …

The Importance of Mornings…and Evenings…to Increased Productivity

Improved productivity has been on my mind recently. Thankfully, there are tips, articles, and entire books on the topic.  A quick Google search will uncover…well, 97.9 million options.  (I just checked it for you.) In looking through several recent articles as well as notes I’ve made in the past, I was struck by the importance so many writers put on mornings…and evenings.  This rings true, and let me tell you why. An article in Forbes noted that highly productive people practice a consistent morning routine.  “My single greatest surprise while interviewing over 200 highly successful people was how many of them wanted to share their morning ritual with me,” said writer Kevin Kruse.  “While I heard about a wide variety of habits, most people I interviewed nurtured their body in the morning with water, a healthy breakfast and light exercise. They nurtured their mind with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading, and journaling.” And when they started to work in the morning… “Ultra productive people know their Most Important Task (MIT) and work on it for …

The World Has Need of You

I was reading several essays by the Quaker educator, activist, and author Parker Palmer recently when I came across one that included a poem with the title, “The World Has Need of You.”  He was drawn to this work by poet Ellen Bass in part because of her line “It’s a hard time to be human.” Any time can be a hard time to be human, but we do find ourselves living in what can charitably be called interesting—perhaps historic—times.  Palmer makes the point that each of our lives, words, and actions makes a difference, especially in times of stress and widespread anger.  The world needs us to think and then act broadly and deeply, with integrity and charity, as part of a community. Palmer links to another essay by the writer Courtney Martin that deals with first questions.  First questions that stay with us for a lifetime, such as an eight-year-old Dorothy Day, witnessing the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and shaping the rest of her life around the question of why we wait until …

A Family Celebration

After three family funerals in the past eighteen months—two of which came much too early in the lives of those we lost—the Brown family was able to come together this weekend for a family celebration. We gathered at my brother Joe’s beautiful Cripple Creek farm on a sunny and cloudless spring day to celebrate the wedding of our niece, Erin, and Jonathan Belcher. The bride looked beautiful in the wedding gown she had made by hand (over 53 1/2 hours!). The bluegrass music for the reception covered the countryside. The children of our other nieces played games and ran through the fields and around the pond. A good time was had by all. It is nice to remember the cycle of life continues in a year when we’ve said goodbye too many times.  So on this Mother’s Day, which falls on the one-year anniversary of my father’s passing, here’s to Erin and Jonathan and to the resiliency of family and love.       More to come… DJB  

Chowing Down at the Red Rooster

I had two meetings yesterday in Harlem.  Fortunately, the second one was over lunch at the Red Rooster. Oh my! Deviled eggs to die for.  Homemade lemonade.  Cornbread that “came from heaven” according to our wonderful waitress (and her sense of direction was pretty good).  My main dish (an appetizer) was described on the menu as: Yep, Chicken & Waffles circa 1930 Smoked maple syrup, salsa poblana, b&b pickles I pretty much licked the plate clean.  And I had a side of Spring succotash to boot:  asparagus, favas, peas, corn, crispy shallots.  Man, nobody does lima beans like people whose culinary traditions come from the South. Not familiar with the Red Rooster?  Don’t worry.  Neither was I.  But my assistant (who gets bonus points for this find), knew of it and also knew it was steps away from where the first meeting took place.  So that’s how Howard Zar—the director at Lyndhurst—and I ended up chowing down at the Red Rooster.  Just your typical Jewish New Yorker and transplanted southerner hanging out together over great …

Living at the Intersection of Past, Present, and Future

(Note:  I made the following remarks at the funeral of Dr. James K. Huhta on Monday, May 8, 2017, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Jim was the founder of the Historic Preservation Program at Middle Tennessee State University, an early mentor in the field, and—along with his wife Mary who died 11 months earlier—a dear friend.) I thought I would start my remarks with a history joke…but they’re all too old. Feel free to groan, because I will keep on with the bad puns and jokes if you don’t.  Just as Jim would have done. In recent days, I have talked with people who knew Jim from all walks of life. We all acknowledge the deep pain of the past year to the family, friends, and this community. But like these friends and colleagues, I want to reflect today on his many accomplishments and his impact on others, before the inexplicable challenges of recent years became too much for him to bear. Several people recounted how Jim’s optimism for the future set them on a path which …