Touching Base

August 5, 2018 § 1 Comment

If I have a lodestone – a spiritual magnetic north – it is here, in this little country church a mile or so away from my grandparents’ home where I would come to spend most summers growing up. I love this place, this beautiful land in the Appalachian foothills, rolling pasture lands, wandering Black Angus cattle, green in the way Ireland is green. My memories are deep and woven into me in the complicated ways of love.

I went away, but always came back, even after the people I was related to, one by one took their places beneath the headstones. I read off the carved names and hear my grandmother’s voice saying them. They lived “down the road a piece,” or “over town.” It was a place where around a bend in the road meant a different world, but it was all linked by a party line that was the quickest means of knowing who might need a cake to be brought, or the rest of Sunday’s ham. I learned community here, the simple caring of showing up and then showing up again. « Read the rest of this entry »

Food Diplomacy

July 31, 2018 § 1 Comment

Ten years ago it wasn’t a possibility. Five years ago the sheer passage of time, the children of Vietnamese immigrants having grown up, made it likely and now, here we are, Vietnamese food is finding a comfortable niche in American culinary choices, right alongside Thai and Korean. Many Americans now know what phở is – and even how approximately to pronounce it – bánh mì is on the menu of my local sub shop, and to American taste, nuoc cham is addictive. « Read the rest of this entry »

Grief

January 12, 2018 § 6 Comments

Dede Hatch, January 12, 2018.

The morning after the president of the United States spat out his contempt for people from “shithole countries,” photographer Dede Hatch posted this image, taken at Stewart Park on Cayuga Lake. Our weather, our morning, our land. She said, “I think I bury rage and despair in the same place. I need a good cry, but it doesn’t come out.” « Read the rest of this entry »

The Ken Burns Effect

September 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

Marines marching in Da Nang, 1965. Associated Press, via PBS

Even after the passage of 50 years time, it is hard to imagine anyone except Ken Burns who would have dared to take on a documentary about the Vietnam War. Love him or hate him, he has stature and respect and a resumé that means that, if nothing else, he cannot be ignored. Already, before it has aired, partisans of the extremes of opinion the culture has carried for all this time, are condemning it for not doing what it has expressly set out not to do – bring the issue to resolution. « Read the rest of this entry »

Memorial Stories

May 29, 2017 § 1 Comment

Like the great majority of the American population, I have no one in my family who died in military service. Generations of my ancestors served in conflicts from the Civil War to World War II, but no one died in combat. Five years ago I knew only one man who had been killed in Vietnam. The grief of war was an abstract thing to me. I understood Memorial Day, meaning I knew the difference between it and Veterans Day and the Fourth of July, but it still felt like a day of observance that belonged to other people. « Read the rest of this entry »

Sick of Rambo

April 11, 2017 § 3 Comments

Fred, my writing mentor for The One-String Violin, was afraid of this. “You’ll get a young editor who will reject it because it doesn’t fit the stereotypes,” he said. I dismissed it. It is so time for a new look at everything to do with the war in Vietnam, I thought, and that will be self-evident and editors and agents will pick it up in relief. Isn’t everyone exhausted from the effort it takes to buy into that Rambo thing – man against the jungle and the bad guys (who are never us), blood and sweat, violence, snarls … ? « Read the rest of this entry »

Vietnam (War or Country) and Reiki

March 17, 2017 § Leave a comment

In honor of the recent opening of my new energy healing studio, I spent several hours trying to find a way to reorganize this blog site to keep Vietnam and Reiki separate. At first it was a technical problem. How could I describe, in google-terms, that I wanted to sub-divide my site so that if I posted something about Vietnam it would stay in the Vietnam box while a post about Reiki would stay in the Reiki box, neither visible to the other? No one else seemed to want to do that, though, which made me wonder why I did. « Read the rest of this entry »