Commentaries

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Breakfast at a Parisian cafe
Lian Chang / Flikr https://www.flickr.com/photos/diametrik/2628099742

What better way to escape winter in New England than to experience winter in Paris? Last month, I spent a week in the city of light -- well in January, make that "twilight."

Samuel Bowles was a dynamo, known for his wit, intelligence, and dashing good looks.
unknown / Bowles-Hoar Family Papers, Archives and Special Collections,Amherst College

Samuel Bowles was the editor of The Springfield Republican. As a young man in the 1850s, he transformed the Republican into one of New England’s most admired newspapers.

In the woods.
Pxhere / Creative Commons

"You should have a cell phone," my mother-in-law says.

In 2003, Greenfield, Massachusetts, adopted a mayoral form of government, technically changing from town to city, according to state regulations. But Greenfield kept calling itself a town for 14 more years.
Andrew Varnon / NEPR

In official state documents, we used to be referred to as “The City known as the Town of Greenfield.” Kind of embarrassing.

This Cat Lover's Claws Are Out

Jan 17, 2018
A cat.
Krysten Merriman / Creative Commons

An open letter to Robert Chipkin, researchers at Vanderbilt University, and all dog triumphalists, ever, for the end of time: Your dog may be smarter than my cat. This is not a great feat. My cat’s brain is about the size of a walnut.  

Coming In From The Cold In Springfield

Jan 16, 2018
Springfield's Paramount Theater.
Ray Kelly / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

If you've ever experienced the transition from a frigid wind beating on your face to the embrace of a warm indoor space, you'll know how wonderful coming inside can be. 

A golden retriever.
Jonathan Meyer / Creative Commons

Lately, I’ve noticed a growing cottage industry. Human scientists are making a pretty good living spending years doing experiments the results of which any dog could have predicted if only someone had asked.

I often talk about how books are windows and mirrors. They show readers things they’ve never seen before, as well as reflections of themselves.

An Inherited, And Now Embraced, Christmas Tradition

Dec 19, 2017
Julia Cafritz's mother had strong feelings about where Glitter Santa needed to be placed on their Christmas tree.
Julia Cafritz / Courtesy of Julia Cafritz

At my house, Christmas trees didn't exist to be decorated; they existed to be conquered.

Cosmic Visitors Whose Paths Just Missed Each Other

Dec 14, 2017
At left, Martin Baron Tisdale George in a selfie. At right, Julia Pistell with Vega, three weeks old, at an NEPR studio.
Martin Baron Tisdale George / Greg Ludovici / Courtesy Julia Pistell / NEPR

I'd already taken dictation from my grandmother on the facts of Grandpa Baron's life. For a person I'd spent so much time with, there was so much I didn't know. 

 Susan Campbell was a victim of sexual abuse from age 7 to 13.
Chion Wolf / WNPR

I was 7 when the sexual abuse started, 13 when it stopped.  My perpetrator was my stepfather, a man unfit to raise chickens, much less children.

An ultrasound image of a 20-week-old fetus.
Michael Fürstenberg flickr.com/photos/biophon / Creative Commons

Many years ago, when I was pregnant and gender identity was not in the news, I struggled with ideas about my baby’s biological sex. 

Erin Valentino.
Joyce Skowyra / NEPR

I was having lunch with friends when one of them asked me if I was healthy. I didn’t know how to answer.

Jamil Ragland lives in Hartford's north end.
Chion Wolf / WNPR


My 10-year-old son Gabriel loves baseball. When I received free tickets to a game at Dunkin' Donuts stadium this May, I pushed aside my feelings of hypocrisy and took him out to the old ball game.

Connie Borodenko with a recently found stash of Hen in the Woods.
Tema Silk / NEPR

Foraging was a survival skill for my grandmother in war-torn Suwalki, Poland, and again after she emigrated to America in 1911.  

When The Shorter Days Get Us Down

Oct 24, 2017
As days grow shorter, many of us feel a sense of inner darkness.
Tony Webster / Creative Commons

Here in October, as the days shorten, we all begin to hunker down for winter.

Over his long life, Richard Wilbur was a writer of immense achievement.

Author and illustrator Grace Lin.
Alan Bradley / Courtesy Grace Lin

All children's book creators worth their salt know the history of Dr. Seuss. We know that his early career was filled with racist propaganda. 

Homes lay in ruin as seen from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, Black Hawk during a flyover of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria September 23, 2017.
Kris Grogan / U.S. Customs and Border Protection

As we learn more about the devastations of the last three hurricanes, some of us are talking about the relationship of climate change and extreme weather events.

Bruce Watson drove a support vehicle for seven cyclists this past summer, starting at Puget Sound, over the Rockies, across Montana and the Great Plains to Boston. He was also searching for some reassurance about our country. He says he found it.
Bruce Watson / NEPR

Since the last presidential election, with all its ugliness, I’ve wanted to see a kinder America. An America where people work to improve their communities.

Corn meal mush.
David Orban / CREATIVE COMMONS

A number of years ago, a friend invited me to judge a cooking contest in Hawley, Mass. My friend is nothing if not enterprising, and had organized the Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival, an event commemorating a 1780 contest to determine who could cook Hawley’s largest pudding. 

Back of a Fairfield Beach Postcard from 1932
CardCow / CREATIVE COMMONS

According to commentator Rober Chipkin, every once in a while the wheels of progress turn so swiftly you don’t realize you’ve come full circle. This happened to him recently, while watching a TV commercial that came on during the news.

Life And Death On The Farm

Aug 15, 2017
A heifer named Bernie.
Courtesy / Aurora Rainette

Commentator Aurora Rainette says one of the things she loves about working on farms is watching life take hold and transform. But sometimes crops fail or animals are lost before their time. And for Rainette, that can really sting.

When an animal dies, farmers are left with a body. Sometimes, that body can become food. Often, it's full of medicine or too weathered.

Mount Greylock from Herman Melville's study.
Courtesy of Martha Ackmann

Friends tell commentator Martha Ackmann that she has odd pastimes. One of them is participating in literary marathons. That's when great literary works are read out-loud communally all the way through --from first line to last -- and sometimes around-the-clock.

The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst hosts a marathon reading of her 1,789 poems. I especially like taking the night shift. There’s something deliciously eerie about being in the poet’s house after-hours, sitting with a clutch of other enthusiasts, and reciting poems written over 150 years ago. 

Grace Lin

A few years ago, commentator Grace Lin joined the Diversity Committee of her child's preschool in western Massachusetts . When one of the members asked dubiously whether race really needed to be addressed with young children, Lin knew the answer instantly.

When I was a child, the way adults dealt with race in my community was by not talking about it.

I remember in fifth grade, after I'd answered a question correctly, a boy burst in saying, “She just knows that because she’s Chin—,” only to be cut off by our teacher.

Settling In -- Not For -- Downtown Springfield

Jul 17, 2017
Steve Shultis, in downtown Springfield.
Joyce Skowyra / NEPR

After living both in the Mountain West and Europe, commentator Steve Shultis, came back home to settle in his native Springfield. Out West, Shultis says, he observed a sprawling, suburbanizing, car-dependent way of life. He far preferred what he experienced in Europe -- walk-able, bike-able cities. So he and his then-wife put down stakes in the Springfield's downtown. He's had no regrets.

Training wheels.
Emma Craig / Creative Commons

A three-year old doesn't realize it, of course, but at that age every day is a rite of passage, says commentator Robert Chipkin. And surely few can compare with the day that child leaves the tricycle behind and heads down the driveway on his very first bicycle.

"Kite Fying" is a 2002 release from Grace Lin.
Courtesy / Grace Lin

Commentator and author Grace Lin recently heard her 4 year old daughter announce matter-of-factly, “I know a lot of things. I’m very smart.”

Lin agreed. But immediately added a word about the value hard work and compassion. Her daughter's response was not what Lin was expecting. 

A Six-Year-Old Encounters Greatness

Jun 13, 2017
Robert Floyd, holding the ball signed by Jimmy Piersall.
Joyce Skowyra / NEPR

Legendary Red Sox center fielder Jim Piersall died earlier this month at the age of 87. Commentator Robert Floyd had an encounter with the heralded player he'll never forget. 

Booth and Dimock Memorial Library, in Coventry, Conn.
Courtesy / Neal Hughlett

In President Donald Trump's proposed budget, he eliminates federal support for public libraries throughout the country. The White House has said these cuts -- and others -- are about fiscal responsibility, and an effort to "redefine the proper role of the federal government." But the move has commentator Erin Valentino thinking about what she sees as the crucially important places that libraries take us.

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