The Cheapskate Intellectual

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

Gardening in reality.

“A garden, you know, is a very usual refuge of a disappointed politician.” — Alexander Hamilton, 1802 (qtd. in NY Times, 9/15/11) As a society, we’ve got a reality problem.  A know-nothing right-wing anarchism designed to starve government to death while enriching the anarchists’ own careers is being accorded a respectability and freedom of movement […]

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September 11, in my own backyard.

I can’t remember when this country has ever been so afraid, even more than it was in the days and months following 9/11.  Except that what is clouding our hearts and our minds and our lives right now is not immediately recognizable as fear. Even as their average constituent swallows hard and keeps looking for […]

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Early fall, in fragrance and light.

Last night it became impossible to ignore.  Clipping a stem from my backdoor rosemary pot and stripping its leaves into a pork, tomato, onion, and garlic stuffing for peppers (thank you, dear Nigel Slater), I smelled the green cedary tang as it hit the hot oil, and knew, in my senses before my brain, that […]

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Is it late summer or early fall?

Late summer. It’s LATE SUMMER. Because just like my students, I am fighting to push back the Start of School — specifically the entrance and settling-in of School-Year Mentality into my head, there at its worst to hollow out and colonize my mind — as late as possible. What do I mean by that? College-professoring […]

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La bella Iowa?

So this afternoon, following a morning of errands, I tackled the yard again: grass-cutting, edging, cleaning off the sidewalk, and then weeding, till my clothes were completely soaked with sweat. I mean, even my socks.  And my old yard sneakers.  Tomatoes have rocketed up and out, putting on green fruit like crazy, necessitating some tucking-in […]

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A dozen lessons from a bike.

Inspired by today’s ride through a perfect Northeast Iowa summer evening, things I learn and relearn from my simple old machine: 1) If I just get started, it will get easier from there.  This applies to everything. 2) From a bike, the world wakes up my senses: flowering vetch, wild lilies, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed […]

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Expanding the plot.

This is the whole manuscript of my novel-under-revision, printed out in 8-point type and hung up on my guest-bedroom wall.  (Suitably redneck for my Alabama origins, the duct tape sticks to plaster where Scotch tape won’t.)  “So that’s how novelists work,” said a friend on seeing this picture.  Well, I don’t know about other novelists […]

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