Selected Prose

"Navigating Change" - published in the literary journal Redux

"Cookery and Willa Cather" - excerpted from an essay originally published in Teaching Cather

"Across the Street and a World Apart" - originally published in Brevity

"Air" - excerpted from an essay originally published in Rockhurst Review



          “Is cooking important?  Few things in life are more so!”  Willa Cather was not someone who shied away from expressing her opinions.  She and Walter Tittle were having tea at her apartment on Bank Street in Greenwich Village in 1925.  Tittle, a portrait artist whose subjects included George Bernard Shaw and Joseph Conrad as well as movie stars and presidents, had come to interview and sketch her for an article he was writing and illustrating for Century Magazine.  As it turned out, much of their conversation focused on food.  That is not to say their talk had nothing to do with writing.  “My mind and stomach are one,” she told him.  “I think and work with whatever it is that digests”

          That may seem an odd statement at first, but writers deliberately hone their senses, which tend to be keen in the first place.  Where would the novel be without the vivid description of sight and sound and smell and touch?  All four of those senses come together in taste.  Think of the dried mushrooms Mrs. Shimerda presents to Jim Burden’s grandmother in My Ántonia.  When the Bohemian woman dips her hand into the homemade cloth bag and stirs the contents, it makes a rustling sound that is heard as readily as the approving smack of Marek’s lips.  As she stirs, it gives off a smell that is salty, earthy and very pungent.  Sight, touch and taste come a short time later when the Burdens return home, opening the packet and examining its contents spread out upon the table.  The brown chips look like the shavings of some root, light as feathers, their penetrating aroma as heady as a walk in the woods.  When Jim bites off a piece of one of the chips, the reader can envision the softening that results from the moisture in his mouth as he chews.  He won’t know until years later that those strange looking chips were dried mushrooms.  At that moment all he knows is that it is a taste he will never forget. 

                                                                                        Excerpted from an essay
                                                                                        originally published in
                                                                                        Teaching Cather



She sauntered down the street mid-morning in a navy blue silk bathrobe, her satin mules clicking the sidewalk with two-inch kitten heels. Her right hand clasped a leather leash, her tuxedo-clad Boston terrier named Boots straining at the other end, his nose pushed in, self-confident and spoiled. The same hand that grasped the leash held a cigarette, white as a piece of chalk scribbling out some coded message in a waft of smoke. Her other hand, meanwhile, caressed a bottle of Coca Cola from which she took long languid sips as she and her dog sallied forth. We watched, enthralled. She was everything that we were not, and should not be, or so our mothers told us.

                                                                                        Originally published in



Dreamers build castles in it. Lovers walk on it. The plans of the indecisive are tossed up in it waiting for a course of action to be decided. Braggarts are full of it, hot and vacuous, and social climbers put it on, hoping to appear greater than they are. Of the four elements of ancient and medieval philosophy, air is the most voluminous. It is also the most nebulous.

We stand back to admire a newly plowed field of earth in springtime or a mountain rising majestically on the horizon. We sit mesmerized by fire on a winter evening, watching flames dance between the logs and we are awed, even frightened, when we see fire engulf something as imposing as an old textile mill. We delight in water, whether relishing its wetness when we drink, splashing it over ourselves on a hot summer day or watching it fall from a height, full of sparkle and life. Somehow no one ever rests from a day’s labor to admire the air, though, and they don’t drive for miles to drink in its beauty. Who bothers to notice the air that is feeding the fire? We breathe it in without thinking. And even though we are fully immersed in air all the time, no one thinks to scoop up handfuls of it in celebration. Air is just air, invisible and intangible. We tend to take it for granted.

We’re more apt to notice the things it acts upon—the ripples on a still pond; the rounded curve and bright stripes of a spinnaker sail; the restless leaves of the poplar, now silver, now green; the snap of the flag on a flagpole; a pinwheel’s whirl; the dance of laundry on the line; the play of sun and shadow on a summer lawn; the waves of wheat; a lone hawk riding thermals over a cornfield; the silky down of the milkweed drifting aloft from the open pod; the propeller spin of the maple seed descending.

                                                                                        Excerpted from an essay
                                                                                        originally published in
                                                                                        Rockhurst Review