Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Ten Things I learned About Mr. Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was an enigmatic and somewhat controversial historical figure. While driving around Virginia last fall I learned a few things about him. He was a horticulturist and ate mostly vegetables. He abhorred the institution of slavery yet he could never abolish it. In his lifetime he owned 600 slaves. The only people he set…

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Meli

Meli was a force. I remember on my first trip to Turkey in 2006 when she took us to the Ataturk Memorial in Ankara. We stood, 20 American tourists, next to the massive, neo-classical building resembling a modern Acropolis. She began to tell us about Ataturk and how he founded modern Turkey. Before she could…

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Lisboa Redux

The first time I went to Lisbon I fell in love so hard I stole a paving stone to I would always have a piece of the city with me. I was enamored of every little thing, from the pasteis de nata, little sweet custard pies that I ate for breakfast every day, to the…

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Fear

I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. I mean really, no fear!  Nina Simone Last Wednesday I woke to a nightmare I wished I had dreamt. Donald Trump had won the election. The day before I was sure, many of us were, that Clinton had it. That we would elect our first woman…

Harper's Ferry. Where the Shenandoah and the Potomac meet

Fifty by Fifty

When I told people that I was traveling to Delaware and West Virginia so that I could see all fifty states by the time I’m fifty, a pact I had made with a friend a few years ago, I got varied responses. Some thought it was a great idea. Others, including some of my well-traveled…

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The Okanogan

Almost 25 years ago, just after I moved to Seattle, I went to a slideshow at REI (remember slideshows?) about interesting hikes in Washington. Someone showed slides of North Cascades National Park—rugged mountain territory with jagged peaks and year-round snow-covered peaks, and the Okanogan beyond it–Lodge Pole pine country with sparse undergrowth and dusty earth.…

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The River

A river takes you where it will. You have little control. You swirl and twist. You go slow and fast. You raise your face to the sun and let the river take you. The earth spins, you spin, and you let go over every concern, worry, fear. You trust the river to get you safely…

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Till

Writing residencies, I learned very recently, are the holy grail of writers. You’re given the gift of time and an escape for everyday obligations—jobs, families, pets—to work on writing projects. Some are legendary, like the fellowship at the American Academy in Rome where highly select writers are invited to spend a year writing in the…

Oklahoma City National Memorial

States I Might Have Flown Over

“What are you going to do in Oklahoma?” people asked. “Why are you going to Arkansas?” To go someplace just to see it seems like a luxury, frivolous. But to go to places in the middle of the country, in the south, a place usually flown over to get elsewhere, a place that liberal Northerners pooh-pooh–that…

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Penguins

“I want to see some penguins,” my sister Kathi insisted, “Patagonia is as close as I’ll probably get Antarctica.” We were planning a trip with our mother. The three of us hadn’t traveled overseas together since Kathi and I were kids—in the summer of 1970 we drove across Western Europe in a candy-apple-red Volkswagen Square…