Radius:  A Geometry of Fathers

Radius: A Geometry of Fathers

Occasionally, a caring presence comes to me while I sleep. He seems to be male in spirit. It’s always the same presence, and over the years, I’ve come to think he watches over me, a sort of father. The encounters seem more a vision than a dream. I’m left with a sense of the man, but the narrative details fade. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the word radius—the straight line between the center of a circle and a point along its circumference. Human lives are bounded by circles—family, community, nation, planet. I see the hate and trouble around us, and I chafe at how limited I am in my reach and my ability to lessen it. I think about my immediate sphere—my family and friends—and don’t know if I should feel happy for the closeness of it, or guilty over how small my circle is.

The Church on Fink Hill: A Story of Light

The Church on Fink Hill: A Story of Light

It’s Christmas, season of light. The candles are lit—our tree is up. Its branches glow with pinpoints of light and hold ornaments that were once on my parents’ and even my grandparents’ Christmas trees. If you’re not Christian, or not a person of any faith at all, you might wonder why a story of Christmas would speak to you. Well, think of it this way. Have you stood breathless beneath the Northern Lights? Or noticed the peace and calm to be found in a certain quality of light? Sitting here in our candlelit house on this December evening, I feel a glow that is light and family history entwined. I glance over at the ornaments on our tree and remember a church I never saw, a church that isn’t there anymore—the church on Fink Hill.

Two Weeks in Heaven

Two Weeks in Heaven

This morning, before dawn, our dog woke me. She needed to use the yard. I stepped out with her into strong wind. Even the light from the streetlights seemed to be blowing around. A blustery rain was moving in. Wispy clouds raced light-gray and ragged overhead, below a darker blanket of overcast. Whenever I’m outside, I watch the sky. It’s something I learned from my maternal grandparents, who in the 1920s built a small farm between a big swamp and a big lake. The biggest lake: Lake Superior. My sister and her husband own the farm now—we call it Heaven. It sounds tongue-in-cheek, I know, but we mean it. There’s something spiritual, mystical, about the farm. In September, I quite unexpectedly got to spend two weeks there, two weeks in Heaven. This morning, as I watched the clouds sweep past over my head, my mind quite naturally began to wonder what the weather was like over in Heaven. I’m already longing for my next trip there.

A Little Heat

A Little Heat

My mother picked up a green bell pepper and placed it on the cutting board. We were at the close of the growing season—the table was heaped with peppers, fresh from the earth. In moments, she had gutted and sectioned it. We were making pickled peppers, something Mom did every year. I was fourteen—this was my first time helping. “You do the yellow chilies,” she said. “Cut them in half, then take out the seeds. We’ll put a half pepper into each jar—they’ll add a little heat.” I nodded and set to work. The peppers felt smooth against my skin. They were lovely to look at. A little heat would be good. Looking back now, more than fifty years later, I have to say, yes, a little heat is good—until it’s not.

Corduroy: On Love, and Car Thievery

Corduroy: On Love, and Car Thievery

Corduroy, I thought, early last fall as the leaves turned and daily temps began to fall. I need a pair of cords. Before I go on, I’ll note that what you’re reading here isn’t about buying slacks. What’s on my mind is love, which is what’s usually on my mind, but my musings today are a bit unusual. They’re about love, and car thievery.

Vanity, Thy Name Is . . . Woman?

Vanity, Thy Name Is . . . Woman?

I’ve spent the last month remembering youthful hours in the sun, glorious hours—bikini-clad, canoeing the Wisconsin River, and later wearing hip sunglasses as I backpacked, over a span of years, in the Utah mountains. Those memories now rise up with less luster as I’ve found myself treating wonky spots of skin on my nose, spots with the potential to become cancerous. Every night before bed, I’ve coated them with a “chemo” cream and in the morning washed it off. As the cream began its work, I met with creeping dismay the frightening person who suddenly gazed back from the mirror. Nose harshly red, scabbed, angry—she would scare a child. My mother used to say, when I was still at home and would make some sort of ugly face, “Keep it up and it’ll stay that way.” I’ve now completed the treatment, but at its height, I’d look at my nose in the mirror and think, What if it stays this way? It’s been a time of wrestling with who I am, why I am, and whether to be embarrassed about either. There’s a saying: “Vanity, thy name is woman.” I’ve pondered that idea mightily over the last thirty days. I’ve also been thinking, more importantly, about my grandmother Hilda.

Donna Salli - Seated - Color

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