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 A former fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she is writing a collection of stories for a yet-unpublished book on her West End neighborhood.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.
One of the joys of living in Rhode Island is that we're surrounded by remarkably creative artists and their often provocative words, images, and sounds. We hear their music during Water Fire, listen to their oratory during a Shakespeare-in-the-park performance, and see their extraordinary art lining some of our most prominent roadways. As Lynnie Gobeille tells us, sometimes we can find the fruits of artists' labor in some very unlikely spots in the Ocean State.
The nineteenth century novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote, “My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see.” And that is exactly what this NPR series aims to do. Featured essayists stitch together words that let you peek inside their core beliefs, their struggles to understand their world, their insights about what matters most in life. Sometimes these words are expressed in prose, sometimes in poetry. And as with Rhode Island's state poet Rick Benjamin, sometimes we enjoy both poetry and prose.
Rick Benjamin is the state poet of Rhode Island. He works in a variety of educational and community settings, and especially enjoys working with people aged six to, at this moment, 99. Benjamin lives with his family in Pawtuxet Village.
Listen to your radio, very closely. Did you hear a few moments of silence? No, we didn't have a power failure and your radio batteries aren't on empty. That was the sound of silence, perhaps the last thing you want coming out of your radio. But haven't all of us discovered there are moments in our lives when we need to tune out the noise, those times when we need to close our eyes and drink in nothing but . . . silence. With just a bit of irony, that's what Emma Dickson tells us about.
Bouncing back. Under the best of circumstances that's what we humans do when we stumble in life. If we're fortunate, we get up, dust ourselves off, and move on. And hasn't nature taught us this lesson many times over, as when forests destroyed by fire manage miraculously to rejuvenate? The poet W. H. Auden put it well: “Healing is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.” And that's also what we hear from Scott Turner.
In addition to his duties as the director of web communications at Brown University, Scott Turner writes a weekly nature commentary for the Providence Journal. Turner is a former land manager, park ranger and science writer. He lives in Providence with his wife and two children.
Living in a world of plenty, many of us struggle to temper our wish for an ever increasing supply of material possessions, our tendency to acquire more, and bigger, and better. In our more thoughtful moments, we try hard to figure out what we really need in this life, what's truly enough. In this encore essay, Jerry Landay reflects on the lessons he learned about keeping our acquisitive instincts in check.
Jerry Landay was a news correspondent for ABC and CBS, and a journalism instructor at the University of Illinois. Landay moved to Bristol, Rhode Island in 2001, where he resided until he died on August 1st.
Have you noticed how nature manages to teach us remarkable things, sometimes about our own lives and sometimes about life itself? In his play As You Like It, Shakespeare wrote, "And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything." And these words echo the sentiments of Mike Fink.
Who among us hasn't wanted -- indeed, needed -- to hear words of encouragement when we've stumbled as we stroll along life's complicated path? No one manages to escape moments of disappointment and some form of failure. In those tough times, don't all of us want to be lifted by words that are truly inspirational? The renowned 19th century essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said it well: “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” And those are the very sentiments we hear from Caleb Woodhouse.