It had been years since I last visited the home of my heart, the only place where I can breathe freely. Conicville is in Shenandoah County in the Valley of Virginia, bordered by the Allegheny Mountains. It consists of a church, a cemetery, and a scattering of houses and farms. In 2012, I traveled to meet my 98-year-old cousin. His farm had recently been designated a Virginia Century Farm, land that has been in the same family for a hundred years.
Books swept me away, one after the other, this way and that; I made endless vows according to their lights, for I believed them. (Annie Dillard, An American Childhood) It’s hard to say which came first: did I adopt traits of the main character in certain books I read, or did I gravitate towards those books because I already had those traits?… more
To celebrate our fortieth anniversary this year, we decided to take a Big Trip. My husband suggested Paris. “Cornwall,” I said. “Someplace old.” Not that Paris isn’t old. Instead of a crowded city, I wanted winkles and pasties, lost gardens and standing stones, piskies and Tintagel castle. He agreed and I began putting together a trip that would send us back in time.… more
This week, my mother and I heard Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures, speak at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series. Shetterly’s book tells the true story of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan — three of dozens of African-American women who worked in the 1950s and ‘60s for NASA in math, science and computing.… more