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Contagion In This Family's Past And Present

Jan 26, 2021
Michael Carolan's great-great-grandfather and namesake, Michael Carolan, came to New York from Liverpool, England, on the three-masted packet ship Patrick Henry with his parents, two sisters and a cousin, arriving July 27, 1847.
Ann Marie Carolan Moerk / Courtesy Michael Carolan

In 1845, a pathogen infected the first potato in Ireland. The monocrop, upon which so many depended, failed. And an Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger, began.

Henry Aaron speaking at the LBJ Library in 2015.
LBJ Library / Creative Commons /

Baseball legend Henry Aaron died last week at age 86. He broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, and became the target of white supremacists, threatened by his accomplishment. But long before the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves, Aaron played in the Negro League.

If God's Not In Charge, It's Up To Us

Jan 12, 2021
Vice President Mike Pence received a COVID-19 vaccine shot on December 18, 2020.
Screen shot / C-SPAN

Last June, Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, "There Isn’t A Coronavirus Second Wave." The day it was published, 779 people died from the virus in America.

White-tailed deer tracks in snow.
Connecticutbirder /

When the five deer first appeared — pausing at a neighbor’s, then coming into our yard — it was like a visitation from beyond. They seemed otherworldly with their stature and poise, warm brown against the awfully white snow.

The Santa Guarantee

Dec 22, 2020
The red felt stocking Elizabeth Vozzola has been hanging by the chimney with care since she was five, over 60 years ago.
Elizabeth Vozzola / Submitted

One deep and dark Christmas Eve in the mid 1950s, the door to my bedroom opened slightly and Santa himself peeked in, said not a word, "and went straight to his work." But, unfortunately, there couldn't be any "laying a finger aside of his nose and giving a nod" before rising up the chimney.

A warmly-lit Frosty the Snowman decoration.
Martha Ackmann / NEPM

I’m not much for holiday decorating, but I do have a soft spot for a three-foot tall Frosty the Snowman.

An Ode To A Landmark Copper Beech, Recently Felled

Nov 26, 2020
St. John's Episcopal Church, which is located on the Hartford and West Hartford border, recently cut down a huge copper beech tree the church had been advised could no longer be saved.
Dwight Latif / Courtesy of St John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford, CT.

The town I call home, West Hartford, has lost a dear old friend.

The turkey hat Martha Ackmann wore to the Nantucket Cold Turkey Plunge both she and Vice President Joe Biden participated in on Thanksgiving a decade ago.
Martha Ackmann

For some reason, I enjoy diving into frigid water in winter.

A file photo of the town office in Hawley, Massachusetts.
Paul Franz / Greenfield Recorder /

On Tuesday I worked the afternoon and evening shift — from 2 p.m. until 10:45, when all of the votes had been counted and recounted and checked once more.

A historical marker in Philadelphia commemorating the Free African Society, founded by Absalom Jones and Richard Allen.
N-gio / Creative commons /

I should have learned in elementary school what I only learned decades later — what I learned about racism, that is.

We've Got Mail: Thanks, U.S. Postal Service

Sep 9, 2020
Mules from Supai, Arizona, carrying containers for the U.S. Postal Service.
Elf / Creative Commons

Deep in the Grand Canyon, six days a week, the U.S. mail arrives. Letters, junk mail, milk, vegetables, and packages from Amazon — all are delivered — to Supai Village, Arizona — by mule. Now that’s service.

 Chadwick Boseman died of colorectal cancer in late August at the age of 43.
Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons /

I was exhausted and could not figure out why. Plans for a socially distanced meet-up were canceled, blamed on the passing storms. The following day, even with the sun shining, I couldn’t manage to motivate myself.

A crowd of people on V-J Day, August 14, 1945, in New York City's Times Square as Japan formally surrendered to the Allies in World War II.
Dick DeMarsico / World-Telegram / U.S. Library of Congress

Two million revelers gathered in downtown Manhattan on the evening of V-J Day, 75 years ago this week. They filled Times Square — waving flags, dancing, and shrieking with joy.

Rep. John Lewis And The Sisters Who Nursed Him In Selma

Aug 7, 2020
On March 7, 1965, 600 civil rights protesters attempted a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, the state capital, to draw attention to the voting rights issue. Led by Hosea Williams and John Lewis (at right in light raincoat).
Spider Martin, National Archives photo / Creative Commons /

As I watched the cart carrying the body of John Lewis across the Pettus Bridge, I was reminded that in 1965, brutally beaten, Lewis was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Sisters of St. Joseph — the only one in nine counties that received Black patients.

Alan Pearsall's mural in Ipswich, Massachusetts, depicts aspects of the town's history. At lower left, Masconomet is depicted with John Winthrop.
Bill Nelson / State of Massachusetts

I still remember Friday night football games when we, the Masconomet Regional High School Chieftains, ran onto the field as the band and spectators cheered along to the “tomahawk chop.”

A statue of Christopher Columbus in New Haven's Wooster Square, which was recently removed.
Carmen Baskauf / Connecticut Public Radio

On Father’s Day, my family took my dad somewhere I'd never been: the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Its highlight is an outdoor landscape populated by dozens of sculpted works.

Searching For Grace While Black And Blue

Jul 5, 2020
Andréa Comer, with her husband Bradford Comer, a lieutenant at Virginia Union University who has served in law enforcement for more than a decade.
Devon Fagan / Courtesy of the author

Twenty-two. That’s how old I was when Yusef Hawkins was killed by a bat-wielding, gun-toting mob of white men in New York. Eleven years later, it would be Amadou Diallo, who reached for his wallet and was met with 41 bullets.

New Haven author Tochi Onyebuchi.
Christina Orlando / Courtesy of the author

June 1: Penguin Random House tweeted from their verified account, “We stand against racism and violence toward the black community. And we commit to listening—to our readers, to our authors, and to our teams—as we work toward becoming part of the change.”

A protester in Boston Common throws back a tear gas canister tossed by police.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

I've been a good little Negro, working on a painting in silence. 

Tinky Weisblat, at right, with her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Weisblat wrote a memoir about the final months caring for her mother.
David Weisblat / Courtesy Tinky Weisblat

Most of the response to a recently-published memoir of mine was enthusiastic. 

Dispelling Dangerous Myths About COVID-19

May 21, 2020
Some Bhutanese immigrants believe drinking liquor can protect them from COVID-19.
Little Visuals / Creative Commons

I can read and write English. But many of my fellow Bhutanese refugees can’t. 

A Homily On The Green We're Seeing Again

Apr 23, 2020
A squirrel in a budding maple tree.
Hubert Figuière / Creative Commons /

One thing we celebrate at this time of year is that winter’s grays and browns are being gloriously replaced by the signature of new growth: the color green.  

A pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces.
pxfuel / Creative Commons

I hadn’t done a puzzle since I was a kid — but it was vacation week, there was plenty of winter ahead, and they were free, so why not take one?

An Epidemic Far Worse Than Coronavirus

Apr 7, 2020
A sign in Cambridge, Massachusetts, urges residents to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

It feels the world I was born into has been taken from me without prior notice, without warning. 

Grace Lin's daughter has been showing her creations from modeling clay to her classmates online.
Grace Lin / NEPR

When the seriousness of this pandemic hit, I felt that terrible anxiety as fears of the unknown began to flood every thought and feeling.

Letter From The Start Of A Pandemic

Mar 16, 2020
Nearly empty bread shelves at Walmart in Avon, Connecticut, on March 13, as shoppers deal with what Shoshana Marchand calls "pandemic panic."
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

Excuse me while I turn into an old person. 

A student taking an exam along with a calculator and a pencil pouch.
Chris Harbeck / Creative Commons /

In August, the nightmares start. It's not that I don't love my job. I do. But still, like every teacher I know, I experience excitement, worry and even a little dread as the first day of school approaches. 

Mary Jane candies at the Vermont Country Store.
Cathy Stanley-Erickson / Creative Commons /


Looking back at the iconic photos of Woodstock, people seem amazed how skinny everyone was. 

Why is that? Is it today’s fast food? Portion size? Big Sugar?

A winter storm hit Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in a file photo.
Adam Frenier / NEPR

Among the casualties of modern era — which at present include the rotary dial telephone, black and white television and good grammar — another cherished part of my childhood stands poised on the edge of extinction: the snow day.

The Maine Senator Who Said 'No' To Joe McCarthy

Feb 5, 2020
Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith.
U.S. Senate Historical Office

A bully was stalking the nation’s capital. Insulting people, intimidating Congress. Someone should stand up for American values, congressmen said behind the scenes. Someone from the bully’s own party.