Asking for Good News

Every few days or so, a friend and I email back and forth, asking for good news. Occasionally, it’s utterly knock-it-out-of-the-park news — I finished this revision of my book — but more often the meaningful mundaneness of everyday life. A sunny afternoon, plans for a walk, a funny exchange at work.

After one long day, I recently dug down and wrote: we’re all still employed.

But I also forwarded my father’s email about Arkhipov Day.

Although Henry Ford might have once proclaimed that history is bunk, we live in the narrative of history, and continue to create history every day. And that might be a variation of good news, too.

Hello Everyone—

Today, October 27, is Arkhipov Day. We should raise a glass, salute Vasili Arkhipov, and celebrate his obedience to humankind, not to the Nation-State. On this day, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, World War III was averted by his refusal to accede to his two fellow Soviet submarine officers’ decision to fire a nuclear-tipped torpedo at the USS Randolph. 

Peace and love,


P.S.: If anyone wishes to read or reread about Vasili Arkhipov, see The New Barbarians.

Vermont, late October 2020

Starting Stick Season

At the end of our dead-end road, my neighbor and I call to each other, checking in, seeking news.

Their 5-year-old loves kindergarten, cut his own hair, lost his first tooth, and is learning to read.

My neighbor laughs at all this, holding a giant box of diapers. When they came down with a cold, he and his wife had to get a Covid test — negative! hurray! — and daycare has been screwed up as their provider had to get her own Covid test.

The old lilac bushes surrounding our houses turned a particularly pretty shade of gold this year, but those little leaves have fallen now. Across the cemetery from our two houses, one sugar maple determinedly holds its leaves, a shimmering reflective pool for sunlight in the afternoon.

And so life goes on.

The kindergartner jumps down the front porch steps, sees me, and points into his mouth. See!

From my distance, I nod and cheer. And so Saturday goes.

Teenagers Recite Poems

Reluctantly, my daughter drags herself to a required high school poetry recitation.

While I chat with parents I haven’t seen in ages, I see her laughing with a boy she’s known since third grade.

Adolescents and poetry — how fun! One boy gives a comedic performance of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” beginning by asking the prompter, Where am I stopping now?

Another boy’s fingers tremble as he reads a particularly beautiful poem. A shy girl comes alive.

Afterwards, talking in the dark on the short drive home from the theater, my daughter tells me about each student, how they chose their two poems, and what their voice was like. My daughter’s second poem was Frost’s Two roads diverged in a narrow road, so familiar, such a beloved poem. Nervous for her first poem, Emily Dickinson, she gained her voice with the second, her eyes on the upper balcony, her voice clear, melodious, utterly her.

Tonight the bear
comes to the orchard and, balancing
on her hind legs, dances under the apple trees,
hanging onto their boughs,
dragging their branches down to earth.
From ‘The Bear” by Susan Mitchell