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Ways to Connect

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.

In the woods.
Pxhere / Creative Commons

Each Sunday, The New York Times Book Review asks an author what three writers she would like to invite for dinner. And each Sunday I wonder: Does it have to be dinner? Can’t it be a walk instead?

Emily Dickinson's conservatory in Amherst, Massachusetts.
James Gehrt / Courtesy Martha Ackmann


Sometimes it’s the smallest details that reveal the most. Emily Dickinson knew that. More than many other poets, she distilled, zeroed in and elevated the minute. 

A view inside a bookstore in New Haven, Connecticut.
Aaron Gustafson / Creative Commons /

This coming Christmas will be my third without my father, and I still miss him terribly. But it was during the first Christmas season without him, while I was shopping in one of my favorite bookshops — fantasizing about which book to give to which person — that I found myself feeling surprisingly giddy. I thought, “Oh good! Dad's gone!”

Robert Chipkin / NEPR

When I get the urge to watch the PBS home renovation series, “This Old House,” I don't bother to turn on the TV. I just look out my window.

storebukkebruse / Creative Commons /

I’m sure I’m not the only home baker to have fallen in love with Truman Capote’s reminiscence, “A Christmas Memory.” 

DNA testing material from 23andMe.
nosha / Creative Commons /

My adult daughter learned the identity of her father before I did, myself.

A birthday cake with candles.
Andy Eick / Creative Commons /

Tears flooded my pillow on the eve of my fifth birthday.

The 1919 Chicago White Sox, with all eight "Black Sox" players.
Imaged by Heritage Auctions / Public domain

This fall marks the 100th anniversary of the infamous Black Sox scandal, where eight players from the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to deliberately lose the World Series.  

Challenging Bhutan's Boast About Itself

Sep 20, 2019
Bhutan, a small nation in South Asia, claims to have achieved universal happiness among its citizens.
Adam Singer / Creative Commons /

The truth is that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Bhutanese regime, in its quest to become the happiest kingdom on the earth, adopted a "One Nation, One People" policy

For most people, 9/11 brings indelible memories. Commentator Martha Ackmann remembers moving into a new house, her mother's birthday, and a train she wanted desperately to hear.
Martha Ackmann / Courtesy of Martha Ackmann

September 11 was my late mother's birthday. When I called her that morning, I worried about whether to wish her a happy birthday or tell her about the towers. 

A view of Northampton, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Office Of Travel and Tourism

A couple weeks ago, I had a plumbing issue. My garbage disposal came to a grinding halt, and none of the usual tricks to get it going again were working. 

A black bear cub.
Ken McMillan / Creative Commons /

Two years ago, I saw 10 bears, but after breaking my leg last year, I didn’t get out much, and saw only two. 

Each time, it brought my legs and breathing to an abrupt halt. 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was regarded by many as a truly nonpartisan judge.
Steve Petteway / U.S. Supreme Court

When I heard the news of Justice John Paul Stevens’s death, I'd just finished teaching a summer course on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

When Time Is Limited To Make A Point

Jul 23, 2019
Commentator Ilan Stavans sees the value in having a limit on how much we can say.
Ansgar Koreng / Creative Commons /

This commentary will last a total of two and a half minutes. That is, I have 425 words to make my point. It isn’t much.

Walking A Mile In A Client's Shoes

Jul 15, 2019
People walking down a street.
Christopher Holland / Creative Commons /

There's a woman I've worked with who never stops moving. She might visit the program office in the morning for a few minutes. Then she’s out the door, two or three shopping bags full of belongings on her arm.

Cara McDonough wonders how to add something as monumental as solving climate change to her otherwise pretty mundane to-do list.
StockSnap/27574images /

We need to sign up for summer camp! I forgot to send that permission slip! Increasing drought means global unrest and potential war! We're out of laundry detergent!

Nurse logs like this one in a red wood forest near Mendocino, California, provide nutrients for life on the forest floor.
Tema Kaiser Silk / NEPR

Walking in a forest on a gusty day, I see lots of dead wood — branches snapping off trees, trees snapping in two — and I think of how productive these trees are. 

Pickled herring, among other food.
Blondinrikard Fröberg / Creative Commons /

Improbably, one of the triggers that brings my father to mind is herring. 

Some words in Latin.
Kevin Wong / Creative Commons /

I was called one morning to substitute for a Latin teacher. I never studied Latin, so I was grateful she left me thorough lesson plans for the day. 

When Climate Change Denial Can Cost Us Everything

May 15, 2019
Glacial melt is contributing to rising sea levels around the world. This image shows Greenland's southwestern coastline during a 2015 survey as part of the Oceans Melting Greenland, or OMG, mission.
JPL Caltech / NASA

Most of us know it’s good to talk about our feelings. 

Pilot Jerrie Cobb tested to become the first woman in space. She died in March. Here she flies the Gimbal Rig in the Altitude Wind Tunnel in April 1960.

I first met Jerrie Cobb two decades ago at a space shuttle launch. Tall, lanky, unassuming, a person of few words — Jerrie was all but invisible to people intent on watching the countdown clock.

When Some American Heroes Looked Like The Enemy

Apr 30, 2019
Members of the Japanese-American 442nd Combat Team at attention on November 12, 1944. On May 1, 1944, the regiment left the U.S. for battlefields in Italy. It would become the most decorated unit in U.S. military history.
US Army Signal Corps / Public Domain

Seventy-five years ago, on May 1, 1944, a unique group of American soldiers boarded transports at Hampton Roads, Virginia.  

A French press and oranges on a picnic table.
madame.furie / Creative Commons /

When I first began camping, it seemed like so much work. 

We Have A Language Problem

Mar 29, 2019
The Tower of Babel, depicted by Renaissance painter Pieter Breugel, figures in a Genesis story that seeks to explain why there are different languages spoken throughout the world.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder circa 1563-1565 / Public domain

Every night, I cuddle with my preschooler and I tell him he’s my prince. Not just my prince — “Mera shehaazda.”

The Smith College campus in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Patrick Giblin / Creative Commons /


A recent survey conducted by Smith College found that only a meager 3 percent of students identify as “conservative.” From over 1,000 respondents, only two identified as “very conservative.”

An Ode To Wooden Boats, Even Building Them

Mar 12, 2019
A group representing Renbrook School in West Hartford, Connecticut, races a St. Ayles skiff built at the school.
Mercedes Maskalik / Courtesy Toby Goodrich

Floating in a wooden boat soothes the soul.