All posts tagged: Rebecca Solnit

Journeys that move us toward justice never end

Yesterday we took a walk through Brookside Gardens. It was a beautiful fall day, the colors were vibrant, and the air was clean. Along the path were small signs of “Garden Mindfulness” with reminders to “feel the air moving across your skin” and to “bring awareness to those parts of the body where you could feel the wind.” After a while we came upon a labyrinth placed in a tranquil meadow setting. As I slowly walked the curving stone path, I recalled the rules and morals of the practice from my reading of Rebecca Solnit’s delightful book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. “…sometimes you have to turn your back on your goal to get there, sometimes you’re farthest away when you’re closest, sometimes the only way is the long one.  After the careful walking and looking down, the stillness of arrival was deeply moving.” In these troubled times, we are all on a difficult journey. It is important to recall that sometimes the only way is the long one. Work that is meaningful takes time …

The Browns, December 2019

Farewell 2019, Hello 2020

It is time, once again, when I first look back over the past twelve months and then think ahead to where I want to go in the year to come. This annual review is one small part of a larger practice to have an honest conversation with myself in the hopes that I’ll then be able to have real conversations with the larger world. During 2019, I’ve thought a great deal about place, privilege, and—given the tenor of the times—paths forward individually as well as collectively. Why place? My career has been focused on older and historic places, what those places can tell us, and how they can nurture us (or not) into the future. Although I took a gap year from full-time work in 2019, I didn’t stop thinking about my life’s work. Knowing that emotions flow through place, in my writing over this year I’ve focused more on the buildings and landscapes in our cities and towns that, while coming from my professional life, also have deep personal meaning for me. Why privilege? …

Hearing feedback

Stop talking and listen

Old habits can be very hard to break. Case in point: my difficulty in breaking out of the mold of being a stereotypical male. I’m reminded of this far too often and in many different ways. However, one of the more consistent occurrences involves listening. Or, to be more accurate, not listening. The stereotype is that men are encouraged, and even trained, to be the center of attention. It is a stereotype, in this case, because it is usually true. Studies show that boys are called on more in school, that boys grow up to become men who talk more in meetings, and that we interrupt women more than we interrupt men. Most of the time I fall into this pattern of interruption because I’m not thinking. But a few times I do it knowingly and with the best of intentions. That was the case earlier this year when I found myself talking over a friend to “help her” explain something that I thought might be difficult to articulate. Not because she isn’t a smart, …

Lincoln Memorial

All men are created equal, except . . .

Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter in 1855 to Joshua F. Speed that became famous for the future president’s stand against the anti-immigration Know-Nothing Party. Lincoln and Speed met during the 1830s and remained friends even though their views differed on slavery. Speed grew up on a plantation and owned slaves. A turning point in Lincoln’s life that rekindled his interest in politics was the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and opening the territories to slavery. It was in this context that the 1855 letter was written. In referring to the nativist Know-Nothing Party—which came out of a secret society in the 1850s and was primarily anti-Catholic, xenophobic, and hostile to immigration—Lincoln used his letter to make his point of view very clear: “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. . . .Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except …

Nats Rainbow

Cynicism vs. hope

Cynics.  We’ve all encountered them.  They make pronouncements with great certainty and take pride in not appearing foolish. Those who disagree with them are instantly branded, in the eyes of the cynic, as naïve. Thankfully, there are ways to combat cynicism. Over the holidays I finished reading author Rebecca Solnit’s most recent book, Call Them by Their True Names:  American Crises (and Essays).  Solnit includes an essay—Naive Cynicism—that flips the idea of cynicism and naivete on its head. “Naïve cynics shoot down possibilities, including the possibility of exploring the full complexity of any situation. They take aim at the less cynical, so that cynicism becomes a defensive posture and an avoidance of dissent. They recruit through brutality. If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. . . . Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards.  They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised.” Change and progress require hard work, and cynics …