A Sermon for the Funeral of Susan Illges Lanier Maxwell

It may be the most beautiful word in the English language. It signifies something new but not unheard-of, the restoration of things forsaken, the turning of dark night to bright morning, the interruption of self-imposed restraint, the moment of ordinary grace in which a different order seems to break in: the order of gratuitous generosity, the order of unmerited gifts, the order of extravagant joy. It is a word we use all the time, maybe unthinkingly, but like those many other simple things which Our Lord hallowed by his use of them—bread, wine, water—the word has been dignified and elevated by Christ.

I mean, of course, the word “breakfast.”

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Letter to an Artist

After the election, you lost your ability to write. You told me you felt frozen. You were just trying to see clearly. What was the point of it all—the crippling doubt, the wrestling with words that will not bend, the tinkering with syllables, meter, form.

Should it be a villanelle or a rondeau, you asked yourself the night before. What a silly question now, you think.

What, you thought, when you woke up that morning, rubbing the gunk from your eyes. How.

You felt no commitment, no movement of soul, only a desire for retreat, for escape, for Netflix.

I know. I watched all of NARCOS Season 2 over two days in mid-November.

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​SnowJam ’82 Saved My Life

Lining up in the fourth-grade carpool line every afternoon, we all prayed that it wouldn’t be Mrs. Dickson’s turn to ferry us home. She was a terrible driver—god-awful, and mean as a cottonmouth. But she did drive a 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon in Nordic Blue, which was much easier than other station wagons to imagine as a spaceship; and with a vengeful 455 Rocket V-8 and squinty taillights, growled and looked just as mean as Mrs. Dickson. The Vista Cruiser had windows everywhere: a skylight above the middle row and huge, arching side windows in the back like a poor-man’s sunroof. Clearly designed to allow passengers to simulate the sensation of riding a scenic railway, blissfully taking in the passing vistas and contemplating the beauty of the American Road, The Vista Cruiser gave you a lot of options of places to look—up, to the side, out the back—anywhere but the road ahead, which Mrs. Dickson held to with great difficulty. Like every aspiring station wagon passenger-kid, you hoped that you were lucky enough to call the fold-up Death Seat in the way back, so you could look out behind you and pretend you were a tailgunner on a B-17, or not look ahead to see the road slipping out from underneath Mrs. Dickson.

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