The Cheapskate Intellectual

A journey through matters of spirit, sustainability, and self-reliance

Black Friday.

Black as in Iowa soil, that is — its first couple inches just touched with frost, covering golden potatoes underneath. The cold came at last, the day after Thanksgiving in this unusually warm fall.  Time to harvest everything that was left in the garden — carrots, potatoes, collards, beets — before the ground freezes for […]

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After the election, the way forward.

Today a friend of mine, an African-American woman and PhD candidate, writes: “I tested a subject today whose very existence is the opposite of mine. He is an older (near octogenarian), White Republican, and I am…not. But during the session, we spoke respectfully of our political differences. Though there were the inevitable moments of awkward […]

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The pleasure of collards.

As the days shorten and daylight “savings” time – what a name! – is about to make oncoming winter even more official, I come in from canvassing for my chosen presidential candidate and turn to the stalwarts still waiting patiently out in the garden, which a little cold only improves: two kinds of kale, two […]

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Bittersweet.

You pull up to the little grocery store in a distinguished area of a small west-Georgia river city, near the country club and a ladies dress shop named after a Confederate novel.  There are beautiful old homes here, and old white people of the genteel and eccentric kind that live on mostly in Southern caricature […]

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Common ground: politics, water, and life.

Checking my email on what is going to be my last full morning in Alabama for a while, I found some very troubling news: fracking may be coming to our beautiful little corner of northeast Iowa. You might say it’s technically not fracking, since the proposed mine in Allamakee County would be for what’s called […]

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Moving home: (re)thinking the organic South.

Sometimes I think “home” in my mobile life has become less a specific place than a kind of place where certain conditions obtain — the sense of comfort, practicality, and freedom that comes from being able to move around on foot and bike as well as car; the ability to eat healthy food that didn’t […]

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Pigs among the windfalls.

September, with the smell of fall caught and blowing around in the trees as Keats inevitably rustles inside my head: season of mists and mellow fruitfulness….  One afternoon I take a break from my massive sabbatical writing project — which features among other things Keats (of course), John Cage, Marina Abramovic, yoga, gardening, pottery, snails, […]

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The humility wheel.

Pottery class, day three. Clay in hair.  Clay in eyelashes.  Clay on neck.  Clay on shirt and jeans.  Clay on sandals, tracked inadvertently across studio floor.  Clay deep in cuticles.  Hands and arms trembling when held out to examine clay deep in cuticles; I’m still trying for less muscular effort and better touch, but kneading, […]

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Friendship, community, and sensory delight: now on sale.

Just back from an excursion to our local farmers market – amazing that because of travel and what-have-you, this was my first visit to the market this summer. As ever, I had a wonderful time greeting and talking with friends, exchanging local news (when will they replace the bridge on Happy Hollow Road? hope it’s […]

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