To the First Lady, With Love


Set your politics aside.

This was a stunningly beautiful tribute to Michelle Obama by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of the novel Americanah, who writes a “Thank-you Note”  To the First Lady, With Love.  Here’s a few excerpts:

She had rhythm, a flow and swerve, hands slicing air, body weight moving from foot to foot, a beautiful rhythm. In anything else but a black American body, it would have been contrived. The three-quarter sleeves of her teal dress announced its appropriateness, as did her matching brooch. But the cut of the dress scorned any “future first lady” stuffiness; it hung easy on her, as effortless as her animation. […]

She first appeared in the public consciousness, all common sense and mordant humor, at ease in her skin. She had the air of a woman who could balance a checkbook, and who knew a good deal when she saw it, and who would tell off whomever needed telling off. She was tall and sure and stylish. She was reluctant to be first lady, and did not hide her reluctance beneath platitudes. She seemed not so much unique as true. She sharpened her husband’s then-hazy form, made him solid, more than just a dream. […]

The story of her life as she told it was wholesomely American, drenched in nostalgia: a father who worked shifts and a mother who stayed home, an almost mythic account of self-reliance, of moderation, of working-class contentment. But she is also a descendant of slaves, those full human beings considered human fractions by the American state. […]

[Read more…]



About an hour before every concert, Bruce Springsteen draws up a set list of 31 songs, written in big, scrawly letters in marker ink and soon thereafter distributed to his musicians and crew in typed-up, printed-out form. But this list is really just a loose framework. Over the course of an evening, Springsteen might shake up the order, drop a song, call a few audibles to his seasoned, ready-for-anything E Street Band, or take a request or two from fans holding handwritten signs in the pit near the front of the stage. Or he might do all of the above and then some—as he did on the first of the two nights that I saw him perform in Gothenburg, Sweden, this summer.

That night, at the last minute, Springsteen jettisoned his plan to open with a full-band version of “Prove It All Night,” from his 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and instead began the show solo at the piano with “The Promise,” a fan-beloved Darkness outtake. Eight songs in, he again went off-list, playing a stretched-out, gospelized version of “Spirit in the Night,” from his first album, 1973’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., which he followed with “Save My Love,” a sign request. Onward he went with tweaks and spontaneous additions, to the point where, by the time the show was over, it was past midnight and Springsteen, a man approaching his 67th birthday, had played for nearly four hours—his second-longest concert ever.

“Yikes!” said Springsteen with mock alarm when I relayed this fact to him the next day, at his hotel in the Swedish port city. “I’m always in search of something, in search of losing myself to the music. I think we hit a spot last night where I was trying some songs we hadn’t played in a while, where maybe you’re struggling more. And then suddenly”—he snapped his fingers—“you catch it, and then, once you do, you may not want to stop.”

“You have to create the show anew, and find it anew, on a nightly basis,” Springsteen said. “And sometimes,” he concluded, laughing, “it takes me longer than I thought it would.”

~ David Camp, The Book of Bruce Springsteen


  • Don’t miss full cover story at Vanity Fair.
  • Pre-Order Springsteen’s new book (delivered 9/27/16) at Amazon.

the air finding every leaf and feather over forest and water


Next time what I’d do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I’d stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.

When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I’d watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.

And for all, I’d know more – the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.

– Mary Oliver, Next Time

Notes: Poem  – Thank you Whiskey River. Photo – Apal’kin (Ukraine) at Paul Apal’kin Photography.

Start Me Up


Notes: Mick Jagger Portrait by David Bailey (via Precious Things). Post title from The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” – music video here. “If you start me up, if you start me up, I’ll never stop. You can start me up, You can start me up, I’ll never stop, I’ve been running hot…”

Sunday Morning


It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out – no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

~ William Stafford, “Yes,” The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems


Orlando. Pulse. I’m not seeing it either.


I’ll say God seems to have a kind of laid-back management style I’m not crazy about. I’m pretty much anti-death. God looks by all accounts to be pro-death. I’m not seeing how we can get together on this issue, he and I.

― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest


Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The important things are learned in faces,
in gestures,
not in our locked tongues.
The true things are too big or too small,
or in any case always the wrong size
to fit in the template called language.

~ Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping (Harvest Books, 2006)


Privileged? Check


Lou Weiss, is a carpet salesman in Pittsburgh. These are excerpts from Privileged? Check Let me count the ways—without embarrassment:

Somewhere along the way, privilege went from something to be grateful for to something to be embarrassed about. As I approach 60, I have been doing the stocktaking prompted by such round-number birthdays and have decided to “give back,” as the saying goes, by performing a public service. I hereby declare myself the World’s Most Privileged Person…

What makes me so privileged? Let’s get the easy ones out of the way, those that are accidents of birth: male, white, straight. I have continued to self-identify as such…

Next come those privileges that reflect the hard work of others: Middle-class-moving-to-upper-middle-class upbringing by two wonderful parents who are still vital. I live in a country where my God-given freedom was articulated by the Founders and is maintained by the selflessness of U.S. soldiers…

Now come my own choices that make me so privileged. I have always been a pretty hard worker, have few vices and am fairly frugal. This allowed me to pay for the schooling of four daughters and make substantial charitable contributions. I don’t know what a single malt scotch is, let alone ever tasted one. Much of my wardrobe is from Costco. And to this day I can’t bring myself to purchase blueberries out of season. [Read more…]

The virtue of hard things

Most people would think of John Irving as a gifted wordsmith. He is the author of best-selling novels celebrated for their Dickensian plots, including “The Cider House Rules” and “The World According to Garp.” But Mr. Irving has severe dyslexia, was a C-minus English student in high school and scored 475 out of 800 on the SAT verbal test. How, then, did he have such a remarkably successful career as a writer?

Angela Duckworth argues that the answer is “grit,” which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal. The author, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent the past decade studying why some people have extraordinary success and others do not. “Grit” is a fascinating tour of the psychological research on success and also tells the stories of many gritty exemplars, from New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, who submitted some 2,000 drawings to the magazine before one was accepted, to actor Will Smith, who explains his success as follows: “The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. . . . If we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die.”

As for Mr. Irving, though verbal fluency did not come easily to him as a young man, what he lacked in aptitude he made up for in effort. In school, if his peers allotted one hour to an assignment, he devoted two or three. As a writer, he works very slowly, constantly revising drafts of his novels. “In doing something over and over again,” he has said, “something that was never natural becomes almost second nature.”

~ Emily Esfahani Smith, in an excerpt from The Virtue of Hard Things, a book review of Angela Duckworth’s new book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Portrait of John Irving: CBC

Lightly child, lightly.


Perhaps we are here in order to say: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window . . .
To say them more intensely
than the Things themselves
ever dreamed of existing.


  • Quotes: Thank you Whiskey River
  • Photo: Mennyfox55
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
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