Monday, March 19, 2018


Yesterday we toured a port outside Bangkok where migrant workers can find information and help. Some members of my group climbed aboard this ship to look inside. They found ... very many fishermen in a very small space. But all of them were legal (we think).

People who work to end human trafficking are a passionate, patient lot. They know the odds are against them, but foresee a future without modern slavery. And because they are patient they are making progress.

The fisherman's center we saw today is one sign of that progress. Even something as simple as wireless access can make a difference to someone far from home, someone earning in a week what we spent on lunch.

So for now, though problems may mire us in the present, some of us are looking to the future.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Briefly from Bangkok

I have five minutes before starting the official part of my work day here ... just time to say I'm on the other side of the world. And though I've yet to experience any Bangkok street life, I do have the delightfully different experience of signing in to post the blog this morning on this screen. (See Thai script on the right and left navigation bars.)

Luckily, muscle memory tells me which link to check. My Thai is definitely not up to the task.

Though I can say Sawasdee Ka! Which means something like hello!


Friday, March 16, 2018

Asia Bound

Tomorrow I leave for Asia: three days in Bangkok and nine in Nepal. My mission: to cover my organization's board of directors' trip and do additional reporting on women electric vehicle drivers in Kathmandu. It's a plum assignment and I've been preparing for weeks: getting a visa and antimalarial meds, filling out forms, conducting interviews, writing and editing stories that can be published while I'm gone.

This morning I'm fielding emails from Nepal and making a last-minute schedule change. I'm figuring out how to cram two suitcases worth of clothing and electronics (I'm a human pack animal, ferrying swag and equipment from one continent to another) into one suitcase.

And finally, finally, I'm imagining what these places will be like on the other side of the world, the mountains, the temples, the Buddhist prayer flags waving.

It's time for another adventure ... 


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Toys Aren't Us

I was sad to learn that Toys R Us will be closing its stores. Not that I liked them much in their heyday. Then I was sad about the smaller closings, the independents and the Zany Brainys. But still, this marks the end of an era. Not just of toy stores but of the sort of children who frequented them.

My kids grew up with real, tangible playthings — blocks and puzzles and Legos — and of course the boxes they came in. Electronic toys were beginning to enter the market, but barely. Now they dominate the market, and, I'm afraid, childhood itself.

What becomes of children who touch screens instead of play dough, who swipe instead of stack? I guess they become the people suited for a digital universe. All I know is, I'm glad I raised my kids when there were Barbies and Bratz and My Pretty Ponies — and the big warehouse store that sold them.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Year of the Bird

National Geographic is one of those magazines that comes into the house, lands on the coffee table and stays there. When the pile of glossy magazines is tall enough, I take it to the basement. Every so often, I read one of them. This time, it's "Why Birds Matter" from the January issue. I unearthed it this morning after hearing its author, the novelist Jonathan Franzen, talking about it on the radio yesterday.

Turns out, National Geographic and the Audubon Society have proclaimed 2018 the "Year of the Bird." It's the centennial of the 1918 Migratory Bird Act, the nation's oldest conservation law, and in its honor the magazine has given us a rapturous piece about raptors, hornbills, parrots, owls, doves, crows, you name it.

"When someone asks me why birds are so important to me, all I can do is sigh and shake my head, as if I've been asked to explain whey I love my brothers," Franzen writes. Birds are diverse as the world is diverse, they are also a link to our evolutionary past. They are smart and beautiful and playful (you can apparently watch a Youtube video of crows sledding). They sing, nest and raise their young and, most of all, they fly.

"The radical otherness of birds is integral to their beauty and their value," Franzen writes. "They are always among us but never of us."

In the words of Henry Beston, who I've quoted several times in this blog: "They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of time and life."


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Leaving in the Dark

Once again it's dark when I leave for work and light when I return. This happens every year when we "spring forward," and every year I note the change.

It's not that I don't enjoy the long evenings — though long, frigid evenings are not exactly what I had in mind.

It's more the shift of expectations. Can I still come home, pull on comfy sweat pants and veg out? Not so easy when it's light till 7:30.

On the other hand, leaving in darkness has always signified seriousness of purpose. It's the departure hour for early-morning flights and important interviews.

I feel so virtuous pulling out of the driveway with only moonlight and porch light to guide me. It's like I'm getting a jump on the day — even though it's no earlier than I left last week!

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Signs of Spring

Signs of spring on walks this weekend:
A patch of crocus in the yard next door. 
The first plump buds on the dogwood tree.
A clump of snowdrops in the common land.
Soon there will be lilacs and azalea, the whole show. But for now, I look for the first faint stirrings. 

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Aftermath

They came yesterday to see about the wood, the two straight trunks bisecting the back yard. Did they pass muster as lumber, or must we bring in the tree guys with their whirring chainsaws and chipper?

Don't know the answer yet, but I wonder if they saw the potential, the long straight boards locked into those twin trunks, the 80-foot expanse of prime oak.

What I see is the chaos, the splintered branch, like bone through skin, the errant stick impaled in earth. I see the volunteer cherry uncentered and the earth ball like the underside of a mushroom.

I can barely stand to look at the trampoline. Of course, I can barely see the trampoline, so lost is it beneath the branches.

I see the heft, the waste, the terror. I see everything you don't expect and some of what you do.

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Friday, March 9, 2018


I almost missed this one, noticed out of the corner of my eye that yesterday's post was 2,399. Which makes today's one of those round numbers that I write about from time to time.

It's the ultimate in solipsism, right? A blog about the things I think about while walking ... then a post about how many other posts I've written!

Posts on running and dancing and bouncing, about mothering and working and traveling. Posts on grieving and gratitude.

What can I say? We live in a confessional age, and this is about as confessional as I can get.  Which is to say, not as much as some, but more than others — and more than I ever thought I'd be.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Woman, Writing

This morning I passed a woman in the lobby. She was sitting in a chair, writing in her journal.

Not tapping on her phone, not scrolling down the tiny screen. But engaged with the paper and the pen.

I noticed this not only because I believe in it and practice it, but because it is so rare.

When you address the page, the page does not talk back to you. It absorbs your words, the wise and the silly. It gives you space, a blank expanse without spell-check or word complete. For that reason, it is serene, even empowering.

Today is International Woman's Day. I just wrote and posted a story to celebrate it. But when I think of Woman's Day 2018, what I'll keep in mind is not a year of marches and #metoo. It's the quiet communion of writer and page. It's the image of a woman writing.

(Pensive, a painting by Edmund Blair Leighton)

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Yesterday I read about a new trend that started in Sweden. It's called plogging, which comes from "jogging" combined with "plocka-uppa" (Swedish for pick up). The idea is simple. You take a trash bag along on a run and collect the odd plastic bottles and cigarette butts you encounter. Disposable gloves are recommended.

Translate this to walking and you have "plalking" — or do you?

I care about the environment and have even been known to pick up a bit of errant trash. But I can't see turning my fast walks into scavenger sessions. It's about the rhythm, you see.

The cadence of the stroll is a large part of its magic. Take that away and you have ... beach combing.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Warp Speed

At some point in my young life I decided that busyness was a key to happiness. I don't remember making a conscious decision about this, but I do recall getting involved in one club or class after another. Why not join the choir, take modern dance, continue with piano lessons? Why not become a resident assistant in a dorm the same year I'm learning to be a high school English teacher?

Most of the time I could pull this off. Sometimes I made myself crazy. But life is seldom boring.

I write about this today because it's one of those busy stretches when the amount of tasks to be completed make me dizzy. Most of these are work-related but there are a few personal ones thrown into the mix.

In fact, I shouldn't even take the time to write this post. Too late now, though, it's al... most ... done!

(Seascapes can be relaxing when living at warp speed.)


Monday, March 5, 2018

Hooray For ...

I enjoyed the movies nominated for Best Picture this year more than I have any crop in years. Either I'm getting inured to the Zeitgeist, or there were more throwbacks. The latter, I think.

What was not a throwback was the ceremony itself. I realized at the end of it that what I look for in the Oscars is some kind of old-time glamour that hasn't been there in years. Last year's ceremony had such a shocking conclusion that it didn't matter. The year before that I was probably too rattled to care.

But this year, I did notice, I did care and I did wonder. When things seem Not the Same, how much of it is because things are actually changing, how much is the raging of age ("nothing is as good as it used to be, dearie") ... and how much is a combination of the two?

(Danielle Darrieux from In Memoriam,


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Toppled and Crushed

I knew it was a dumb title ... Kingdom of the Wind. Well, that kingdom just took down not only the Sword of Damocles, but the 110-foot-tall split-trunk oak that had snagged it. And with an awe-inspiring precision, the huge tree fell right on top of my trampoline.

Smashed it, split it right down the middle.

I'm grateful no one was hurt, that Copper wasn't in the yard ... and of course that I wasn't bouncing at the time (not that I would have been in 60-mile-an-hour gusts).

But the trampoline meant so much to me, as did the tree — and now they're both gone.

Soon there will be chainsaws, re-fencing, carting the trampoline away. There will be estimates, expenditures, recalculations.

But there won't be that portal to the sky.

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