You know those middle-of-the-night or early-morning awakenings when your senses are unusually sharp? The slightest sounds take on new meaning, or perhaps otherwise fleeting thoughts become intrusive. Solitude and silence, although sometimes disquieting, seem to invite deep reflection and unusually intense awareness. As Henry David Thoreau says in Walden, “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” And we hear echoes of these sentiments from Erik Wilker.
No one wants to be scared to death, at least not literally. No one yearns for those dreaded moments when the telephone rings in the middle of the night with bad news, we barely escape a near-fatal car accident, or a loved one survives horrifyingly high-risk surgery. Yet, for all sorts of mysterious reasons, some of us are drawn toward more benign forms of fright. Some of us even seek opportunities to put a bit of scare in our lives. And that’s just what we hear from Tracey Minkin.
Seasoned Rhode Islanders know that Roger Williams' legacy runs deep. His remarkably insightful seventeenth-century sentiments about religious freedom, oppression, and tolerance seem especially relevant today, several centuries later. There’s no doubt that Williams’ place in the Ocean State's history is woven inextricably into our fabric. And, as Mike Fink notes, Roger Williams lives in our hearts as well.
Mike Fink is an English professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. He has produced columns in a wide range of local and national magazines and earned the Providence Journal's Metcalf Award and the National Conference for Community Justice Award, as well as the Never Again Award for journalism.
Family crises. Everyone faces them at one time or another. Death. Serious illness. Emotional meltdowns. No one wants them, of course, but all of us know that occasional crises are part of life’s complicated package. And how we respond in these dreaded moments says a lot about who we are. In a speech he delivered in Indianapolis, former President John F. Kennedy said, “When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” And these are the very sentiments we hear from a very wise 13-year-old, Maddi Murphy.
Maddi Murphy is a student at The Gordon School in East Providence. She lives in Barrington with her parents and older brother and sister, along with two very special Bassett Hounds, Elvis and Priscilla.
Listeners of a certain age will recall a popular war-on-drugs campaign that featured the tag line, Just Say No. It began several decades ago when former First Lady Nancy Reagan uttered the phrase while visiting an Oakland, California elementary school, when Mrs. Reagan advised a schoolgirl how to respond if offered drugs. But beneath what may seem like a throwaway cliche is a powerful message about how all of us respond to life's temptations, whether they're constructive and appealing or downright sinister. As we hear from Nancy Kirsch, saying no is one thing; taking the time to explore the alternative -- just say yes -- is quite another.
Nancy Kirsch has worked as a lobbyist, corporate lawyer and, most recently, as editor of The Jewish Voice, the newspaper of record for Rhode Island’s Jewish community. An award-winning writer, she is engaged in freelance work. Kirsch lives in Providence.
Life is full of final moments: annoying due dates, tragic deaths, and those ever-so-nagging deadlines. So often we assume that when that pesky clock stops ticking it's time to move on to whatever other challenges await us. Yet every once in awhile we're caught quite off guard, when what we thought was in our rearview mirror has a return engagement. Dissolved relationships sometimes reignite. Long-forgotten memories reemerge. Long lost and cherished mementos resurface. And when they do, these renewed discoveries often bring with them fresh insights, intense emotions, and newfound meaning. And that's what happened to Bill Miles.
Bill Miles is the former Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies at Northeastern University, where he teaches in the political science department. Miles came upon his not-so-expired telephone card thanks to the Schusterman Center Summer Institute of Israel Studies at Brandeis University, with which he was preparing to travel to Israel with other colleagues from around North America and the world.
One of the joys of living in Rhode Island and in New England is that we get to experience the poignant changes in the seasons, the shift from summer's sweetness to the bucolic fall, and from winter's chill to spring's bountiful beauty. Of course, seasonal changes aren’t always so pleasant or welcome. As Henri Flikier notes, shifting seasons - in New England and in our own lives - are filled with complexity and challenge.
Henri Flikier is a clinical social worker practicing in Providence and North Kingstown. He grew up in Paris, France and moved to New York City as a teenager. Flikier resides with his family in East Bay.
What is it that draws so many of us to the Ocean State and keeps us here, even when opportunities elsewhere beckon? In a word, community. Somehow Rhode Island’s intimate and quirky scale, its mix of neighborhood and neighborhood characters – even with their sometimes rough edges – manage to pull us in and get ahold of us, a bit like flypaper. For so many of us, Rhode Island’s complex richness seeps into our bones and, even with all its challenges, becomes part of who we are. And that’s just what we hear from Karen Lee Ziner.
Karen Lee Ziner has lived in Providence since 1980. A former fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she is writing a collection of stories for a yet-unpublished book on her West End neighborhood. Ziner is a staff writer for The Providence Journal. A version of this essay previously appeared in the Providence Sunday Journal.
Have you ever encountered moments in life when you weren't sure you had the wherewithal to climb out of bed and face another day? Moments when you saw no light whatsoever at the end of your tunnel, when you wanted to, well, just give up and end it all? Sadly, many people have just such moments. The most fortunate are able to climb out of the dark abyss. And, as we know, some are not. We hear from David Blistein, who has written a powerful memoir about his own struggles with mental illness.
David Blistein grew up in Providence, Rhode Island and, he reports, learned to write from his father, who was on the Brown University faculty for many years. Blistein is a graduate of Amherst College and now lives in southern Vermont. He has worked in the publishing and advertising industries. Blistein's books explore history, spirituality, nature, and psychology. His most recent work is David's Inferno: My Journey through the Dark Woods of Depression.
Within the span of minutes this month we received essays on the meaning and power of silence in our lives. Is this pure coincidence, or does this say something about a more widespread yearning for many of us, a wish to turn down the persistent volume in our lives, screen out the noisy amplification that manages to pervade our days and nights? As the 19th-century Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle said, sometimes "silence is more eloquent than words." And these words reflect the quiet sentiments of Doreen Engel.