Wrestling with the Texts

There are certain things that have been very constant, but prayers have changed and often changed with the times. So, I believe any ritual or practice needs to—make sense isn’t the right word. But, even if it’s an ancient practice, for me, it needs to be in harmony with the physical plane in 2016.

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A 105-year Run: Helen Henderson

There was a mystical quality about Helen and the things she witnessed during her tenure on this planet. I noted in the introduction to my Interviews From 2015 book that, “when Helen Henderson was born, World War I was still three years away. The world population, at roughly 1.8 billion, was less than a third of today. Automobiles were a novelty for the cutting-edge wealthy. Electricity and indoor plumbing were still a decade or two away for most rural homes in the Hudson Valley. And many veterans of America’s Civil War were still walking around and telling their tales.”

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A Sunday in Appalachia

On the far side of the cemetery on this 90-plus degree day, a man stood with a shovel, digging a grave by hand, a pick-axe on the ground beside him. 

A woman sat on the ground a few feet away, facing him. I walked toward them. They were both probably in their fifties. The man stood knee-deep in the ground, sweating, and he paused as I approached. We said hello and I asked if they knew how to get to Putney, the long-abandoned coal town.

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Windows Through Time: Along the Side of a Road

Lake Kiskatom formed toward the end of the Ice Age. It was a body of water that spread out across the lowlands at the base of Kaaterskill Clove. Long ago, its waters drained and now all that is left is a flat landscape that you can see from the intersection of Routes 23A and 32. We thought it would be fun to drive around its old shores and see what could be seen. 

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To Dream of Mountains

If you had a family or something like that and you needed to work, you didn’t have to go on public assistance or welfare. You could go out and get a job. 

Pumping gas. You could go out to a factory—almost any factory—and get a job. But then, they closed the door on all of that and made it way harder. So that a lot of people would have to stay on public assistance. 

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Thomas Wolfe's Rhinebeck

Thomas Wolfe, a titan of American letters in the late 1920s and ’30s, was well known for the lyrical quality, autobiographical nature, and sheer length of his novels. The recent limited-release film Genius committed to cinema the story of Charles Scribner's Sons editor Maxwell Perkins and his efforts to shepherd Wolfe's debut novel, Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life, to publication.  An obscure fact about this half-forgotten author is that a substantial portion of Look Homeward, Angel, perhaps as many as seven chapters, was produced in Rhinebeck, N.Y., on the Fox Hollow estate in the summer of 1927.  

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