Mrs. Garringer’s Field
10 July 2024 | 7:02 pm

Mrs. Garringer’s Field

I woke from a nightmare at 3 a.m. recently, and to calm myself, I went to Mrs. Garringer’s field.

When I’m tired or depressed or anxious, I sometimes go to Mrs. Garringer‘s field and sit in the shade of tall sweet gum trees with five-pointed leaves that turn bright purple in the fall. 

I’ve played ball with my friends in Mrs. Garringer’s field, built forts, and scoured the tall grass with a butterfly net. The Plybons lived on one side of the field. Mr. Plybon gave me a quart of Texaco red enamel once to paint my race car. Mr. Wilson lived on the other side. He repaired lawnmowers and shared his arrowhead collection with me. 

Mrs. Garringer’s field was plowed under 50 years ago and replaced by a red brick house, so now I go there in my imagination. But as Elizabeth Barks Cox wrote in Reading Van Gogh, “The place where we grew up works on us even if we never see it again.” 

Eudora Welty called such a place “the heart’s field.” 


Leaving the Porch Light On
10 July 2024 | 11:42 am

Leaving the Porch Light On

A neighbor across the street sometimes leaves the light on in his second story window. I saw its glow one morning at 4 a.m. as I left for the airport. Why did I find a light in his window so moving? Am I as a moth who sees hope in the dark? 

Other people in my neighborhood leave their porch lights on at night. Each house is a different style and color, and no two families are the same. But almost everyone keeps a porch light glowing in the dark. At a time when the mosaic of the country may be shattering, is it possible to imagine that porch lights suggest E Pluribus Unum

No matter how grand a building is, a small light may be more memorable. At Chartres Cathedral, sunlight passes through stained glass windows and splashes color on bare stone walls. What I remember most vividly, though, are the votive candles flickering in the alcoves. 

Eudora Welty wrote, “The difficulty that accompanies you is less like the dark than a trusted lantern to see your way by.”

I’ll remember that tonight. 


Sailing Alone Around the World 
10 July 2024 | 11:42 am

Sailing Alone Around the World 

Captain Joshua Slocum (1844 - 1909) was the first person to sail single-handedly around the globe. In August 1895 he left Boston harbor in the gaff rigged wooden sailboat Spray and returned three years later. 

Slocum navigated without a chronometer and used dead reckoning – also known as guessing – to sail the high seas. Spray was 36 feet 9 inches long and carried him 46,000 miles. He devised a self-steering apparatus that allowed him to rest. He never learned to swim. 

In Sailing Alone Around the World, Slocum described his voyage:

“The sea was confused and treacherous. In such a time as this the old fisherman prayed, ‘Remember Lord, my ship is small and thy sea is so wide.’"

During Slocum’s three-year voyage, the Spanish American War began, America was gripped by an economic depression, famines and disease stalked the world, Jim Crow laws were passed, and the first Olympic Games were held. 

One hundred and thirty years later, we’ve got our hands full with war, climate change, famine, racism, and threats to democracy. As they sometimes do in these anxious times, my thoughts revert to Captain Slocum sailing alone at night in the middle of an ocean, his boat on auto-tiller, reading by the light of an oil lamp.



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