blog

  • Dear Stranger...

    Oregon Humanities is sponsoring a program to support connection among us, an opportunity to share our experience with someone we don't yet know--a dear stranger. This is how they describe the program:

    Oregon is a big place, home to a great diversity of geography and experience. It’s hard to say anything about the state that holds as true in Nyssa as it does in Neskowin. How can we hope to understand the experiences of people living in such different places? How can we work together for the good of all?

    Dear Stranger, a letter-exchange project that connects Oregonians from different parts of the state through the mail, strives to create a little understanding across the vastness of this place. For this year's edition of Dear Stranger, we're asking people from all over the state to consider some of the questions at the heart of Bridging Oregon, our ongoing cross-community conversation series.

    Here’s how it works: 

    1. Write a letter. Address it “Dear Stranger.” Write about the place where you live or a community where you feel at home. What makes it unique or unusual? Is there anything about your place or your community that you feel is misunderstood by people outside of it? What might help people understand it better? Fill a page or two, or more if you feel inspired. If you’d like, feel free to include a photo or a drawing or a recipe—anything that will fit in an envelope.
    2. Print and sign the Dear Stranger release form. We cannot exchange letters without a signed release.
    3. Mail your letter and signed release form to Dear Stranger c/o Oregon Humanities, 921 SW Washington St., #150, Portland, Oregon 97205

    When you write to Dear Stranger, your letter will be swapped with that of another writer from elsewhere in the state. They will get your letter; you will get theirs. The exchange is anonymous, and you can share as little or as much information about yourself as you like. Please keep in mind that photos, even ones without people in them, may contain information that could be used to identify you.

    Dear Stranger is open to everyone, though writers under the age of 18 must have parental consent to participate. (Click here to download the consent form.) Letters are paired at random, though we do our best to match participants with someone outside of their ZIP code. Oregon Humanities staff read all letters before they are exchanged.

    Letters will be mailed to participants on a rolling basis beginning in August 2018. We will continue exchanging letters received through October 26, 2018. Instructions for replying to your stranger will be included in your letter. If you have questions about Dear Stranger, contact Ben Waterhouse at b.waterhouse@oregonhumanities.org or (503) 241-0543, ext. 122.

    I think I'll be participating this year. I encourage you to notice whether or not this feels like a meaningful opportunity to you as well.

  • listening to fathers

    As parental roles shift, more men are sharing their experiences as fathers. Podcasts devoted to fathering are part of this exploration. The Modern Dads Podcast and Brand New Father Podcast both offer interviews with experts as a means of figuring out what's happening for fathers. At the same time, there's something about the expert focus of these podcasts that tends to diminish the rawness of the experience, and leaves me wanting something more.

    So I mentioned Elisha Cooper recently. He's a children's book author, and wrote a second memoir--better than the first, I think--called Falling: A Daughter, A Father, and A Journey Back (New York: Anchor, 2016)--about the time when, holding his daughter on his lap at a baseball game, he felt a lump under her ribs, and everything changed. His meditation on his own emotional development through the family crisis that ensued is deeply moving. And it's a rare look at the powerlessness that fathers can feel. 

    Either way, it's not all Oedipus and Laius or Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader or any of a number of similarly charged pairings anymore, thank goodness. 

  • supporting the emotional development of boys

    When men do not know their their own inner lives, and so cannot register when they might need to make changes to support their mental health, they are more vulnerable to mental illness. Is there something distinctive about the ways in which men don't know themselves--something in the way that they are raised--that we might be able to change? 

    One of the things that we can do is to start begin early, by supporting little boys in remaining alive to their emotions. To do so it to move against the current of the culture, which in myriad ways, discourages boys and those who care for them to risk the change. This piece, "Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls," published in The New York Times last summer explores this conundrum.

  • a poem for the summer solstice

    If children's literature is typically ignored--though this is less true than it once was--children's poetry is virtually unimagined by those not obessively devoted to the genre as a whole. Karla Kuskin is one of my favorite poets for her brief and vivid pieces, so evocative for me. 

    Bugs

    I am very fond of bugs.

    I kiss them.

    And I give them hugs. 

  • becoming a father

    There's a head sticking out of my best friend. This is insane. Anybody who says this moment is the most precious wonderful thing in the world is delusional. This isn't a miracle, it's assault. I'd call 911 but we're already in a hospital. 

    So begins Elisha Cooper's Crawling: A Father's First Year (New York: Anchor Books, 2006). Until recently, there have been few memoirs of fatherhood. If you've been hungry to hear someone else's take on the entry into fatherhood, of the struggle to get it right and still to get it wrong, to make space for a new person in your heart and in your home, Cooper's is a voice worth listening to.

    Too many man enter fatherhood without undertanding how vulnerable parenthood may make them feel. And so, when they have scary thoughts, they may think that there's something wrong with them--that they're somehow not equipped for or entitled to fatherhood. 

    It's so important that we share these stories, so fathers can get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91XI2ImLBJg

    worry about yourself

    While I'm not a huge fan of children's private moments being posted for the world to see, I do love this video of a little girl asserting her desire--and her ability--to do things for herself. And of her father making room for her to do just that. 

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93aA6rAlUAo

    convos with my 2 year old

    "Actual conversations with my 2 year old daughter, as re-enacted by me and another full-grown man."

    You may have seen this already--it gets at the existential weirdness of talking with young children--especially when you forget that they're people, and they're working hard to remind you. 

  • a poem for the spring equinox

    Just as there are poems beloved by people in certain places, so it seems that there are poems beloved by people in certain professions. Therapists and teachers love this one by Leonard Cohen, the chorus of the song Anthem, with its lovely dedication to wabi-sabi and the broken beauty of each of us:

    Anthem

    ring the bells that still can ring

    forget your perfect offering

    there is a crack in everything

    that's how the light gets in 

  • the museum of childhood

    The name of this place is so evocative for me. I think we must all have our own museum of childhood, where broken and beloved toys abide, in rooms full of shadows and beams of might.