I moved to the United States from Romania in 2001, and it took a family tragedy for me to understand that I cannot straddle the world and have two homes half a planet apart. Now that I’ve learned the limitations of living in the real world, where the laws of physics apply no matter what we dream of or how hard we pray, there’s this feeling of anticlimax to being uprooted. Maybe my roots are now deeper into this American soil than they were out of the Romanian one sixteen years ago. Or not. Continue reading
The most pressing question since November 8, 2016 (federal election day in the United States). Ever since, I’ve been studying my rights as a US citizen, and donating to various progressive organizations, but still had no idea how to become a part of something larger than myself and my mouse click. Continue reading
“What’s war like?” I asked my grandfather once, when I was in middle school.
He was sitting on the sofa in his living room, rich Persian rug on the floor, dark wood furniture about him—a safe storytelling setting. He had a mellow Transylvanian accent and not a tooth left in his mouth. I don’t remember how he started to tell me about his four years on the battlefields of World War II, but I remember how animated he became when he described how his friend’s head was cut off by shrapnel and how it rolled on the ground with its tongue flicking in an out, collecting dirt. My grandfather mimicked the scene, his tongue flicking in and out of his toothless mouth, and then he stopped and didn’t speak for a long time. He just stared at the red-hued Persian rug at his feet. Continue reading
Years ago, while studying for my US citizenship exam, I paused over the words “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Because I grew up in Europe during the time of popular uprisings against communist regimes, I was used to words such as freedom and justice and equality in revolutionary speech, so the pursuit of happiness sounded like it didn’t belong in a declaration of independence from tyranny and oppression.
It wasn’t the first time I wondered how had those Founding Fathers been so enlightened to consider the mental health of their people at a time of war and disease and superstition. Today we have counselors and self-help and wellness support groups, but they didn’t, back in 1776, yet Jefferson thought it was important to put those fine words in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Continue reading
When my friend Cristina speaks, I listen. Cristina is both a scientist and an artist, and throughout the years she guided me in learning about the world of science and the world of art. Years ago, she explained to me how the Inca irrigated their terraces in Machu Picchu and Tipon, and later she exposed me to the forgotten artisanal Romanian culture. A few months ago she told me about her experience in Greece, where she stood inside the ruins of Mycene (second millennium BCE) and felt the air and the ground vibrate with sound. Cristina knew she was experiencing pressure waves vibrating in the air around her and inside her body, but still, the experience was eerie.
“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” – John 1:1.
There is no story there, things were final from the very beginning, everything else flows from that fixed point in the universe. Unless… there is a story, but it’s not so obvious.
In his book, The Evolution of God, Robert Wright tells that story, which began millennia ago with the primordial faith that many things, not just people, have souls. In 1871, Edward Tylor, founder of social anthropology, called “animism” the “infant philosophy of mankind” created by “ancient savage philosophers” who, like today’s thinkers, were trying to explain why good and bad things happened, and if there was a way to predict and influence those forces for the better. Continue reading
“I made the story complex because that’s how life is. It’s very complex. And in the middle of it, you laugh.” – Mindy Halleck
Mindy Halleck is a Pacific Northwest novelist, short story writer, blogger and writing instructor. After her short story received Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Competition Mainstream Literary Short Story (2007), Mindy developed it into Return to Sender, her debut novel to be released by Booktrope in October 2014. Mindy’s published work includes personal essays, one non-fiction book and hundreds of articles based on her Romance & Money series. Continue reading
I don’t remember when I bought my copy of The Art of War, but whenever I did, that copy must have been the last one in the store because the front cover is scuffed, yet I bought it anyway. It’s a beautiful book, with dark hardcovers sewn together with red, glossy thread. The words—both in traditional Chinese and English—are printed on cream-colored sheets of paper folded in half with the writing on the outside. From the note on the second page I learned that the book is bound in traditional Chinese style. To turn a page, I slip my finger underneath the thick edge where the sheet is folded. This is the kind of detail that matters if I ever wrote a story about China before the 20th century CE. Continue reading
Isla McKetta is a Seattle novelist, book reviewer and blogger at A Geography of Reading, and she also serves on the board of Richard Hugo House. Isla and I met during our Goddard MFA program six years ago and I have been reading her work ever since. I’m thrilled that she has two new books coming out almost at the same time, Clear Out the Static in Your Attic: A Writer’s Guide for Turning Artifacts into Art, co-authored with Rebecca Bridge (in March 2014, from Write Bloody Publishing) and Polska, 1994 (in May 2014, from Editions Checkpointed). Continue reading