essays

Where Nothing Says Everything
The New York Times, April 21, 2002

ON a cold, damp March morning, I visited Manhattan’s financial district, a place I’d never been, to pay my respects at what used to be the World Trade Center. Many other people had chosen to do the same that day, despite the raw wind and spits of rain, and so the first thing I noticed when I arrived on the corner of Vesey and Church Streets was a crowd. Read More »

Mount Motherhood Is Steep Enough for Her
The New York Times, August 2, 1998
EVER since I finished reading “Into Thin Air,” Jon Krakauer’s book about the disastrous Mount Everest expeditions of 1996, I have been thinking about adventure. Or more specifically, about being adventurous and why I apparently am not. Read More »

A Literary Pilgrimage With Diaper Bag
The New York Times, May 4, 1997
ON a recent Saturday morning, in an uncharacteristic impulse to complicate my life by venturing somewhere rather than simplify it by staying at home, I decided to coax my family into our station wagon for a visit to Walden Pond. It’s not far from where we live, and lately I have been rereading Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” which is what gave me the idea of escaping my quiet desperation at facing laundry and the dishes to reflect instead on Nature, self-reliance and the beauty of solitude. Or at least go for a drive. Read More »

Strangers in a Familiar Land
The New York Times,  July 21, 1996

For every single summer of my childhood, my family packed a stack of suitcases in late June and traveled up the East Coast to a foggy little seaside town on Cape Cod, and there we remained until Labor Day. In that same town my uncle and cousins and grandfather were also “summer people,” and had been for years. My great-grandfather had summered on Cape Cod as far back as the turn of the century. But the year I turned 8, my father — who loved the Cape and hated the end of summer — made the radical decision not to migrate in September with everyone else we knew. Read More »

Embracing Cape Ann’s Contrasts
The New York Times, May 08, 1994

My first visit to Massachusetts’ Cape Ann was on a cold, gray afternoon when surf detonated against the rocks, my scarf kept flying into my face and fishingboats pitched in such a forlorn way out in the harbors that it seemed impossible that anyone with a clear mind would want to live in this wind-struck, salt-struck place. Enormous granite boulders shouldered up against the beaches. The ocean was the color of rain, and the wind smelled fishy. Ducking in and out of my car that day, I wasn’t surprised that witches had thrown hexes on this spot, or that sea monsters had been sighted here by reliable witnesses, or that pirates had divvied up blood money on the rocks. Or, especially when I glanced up at the widow’s walks crowning a few old houses near the shore, that thousands of mariners had drowned off this coast. Cape Ann, as far as I could see, had that grim obduracy that fosters both legends and bad dreams. Read More »

Artists Who Brought Taos Home
The New York Times,  June 05, 1994

TAOS, N.M., sprawls on a desert shelf 7,000 feet above sea level, embraced by three jagged mountain ranges — the Sangre de Cristo, the Picuris Range and the Jemez and Nacimiento Mountains — all overlooking the Rio Grande, which has carved a gaping gorge across the Taos valley. Read More »

Traveling Close, Very Close, to Home
The New York Times, July 04, 1993
The first time I realized that it was possible to travel at home, I was 6 years old and standing in the linen closet of a rented house on Cape Cod. It was an old drafty house by a bay, full of camphor-smelling eaves and corners and unexpected doorways, and one foggy afternoon I slunk about the shadowy upstairs picturing myself in the Black Forest. My grandfather had been to the Black Forest, and from his description I envisioned a mossy, Grimm’s-fairy-tale sort of place, not so different from the dark upper hall with its peeling fern-colored wallpaper. Read More »