Category Archives: Stories – From Life & Elsewhere

Yes, There Is A Santa Claus Archetype: I’ve Seen Him, Been Him

I’m long since used to being a stereotype: straight white male, heterosexual; middle class. Of course, I can put an asterisk and a “Yes, but –” after each of these; yet, at the same time, they’re useful: they ease the quick categorizations I think most of us make many times every day.

Sure, they are also hooks for prejudices, mine and others; but while broad-brush, none of these is actually inaccurate: I AM all those things, more or less. So mostly I don’t sweat it.

The author, late 1980s

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A Quaker Christmas Story: Candles In The Window

A Quaker Christmas Story: Candles in the Window

– Part I

A winter view of Pendle Hill from the Yorkshire Dales, England[
This Quaker Christmas story takes place in the  village of Settle, Yorkshire, England – 12th Month, 1814. In those days, candles in the window were not a peaceful sight . . . .

Abram Woodhouse was late, and he knew it. But even so, as the daylight faded he climbed the path up Castleberg hill on the north edge of Settle.

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My Quaker 50th Anniversary (Already?)

My Quaker 50th Anniversary

My, how time flies, when you’re having fun. (And even when you’re not.)
This month, December 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of my coming among Friends. And much of that whole ongoing adventure can, for this purpose, be boiled down to four things: 

A knock on the door; 
Getting “The Letter”; 
Riding the bus; and
Getting on with it.


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Memorial Minute for Katharine “Kat” Royal

Memorial Minute for Katharine “Kat” Royal:
January 28, 1982 – October 23, 2015

[Read at her memorial service in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, October31, 2015.]


I’m a Quaker, and at our memorial meetings, Quakers have a custom of preparing and reading what’s called a Memorial Minute. These sound in one way like biographical sketches, and so they are.

But there is a deeper dimension to them for us than simple chronology or the succession of dates and facts. That’s because of an advice that has come down to us from our founders; that advice is to “let your life preach.” 


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The Day I Didn’t Help Bury Bobby Kennedy

A Facebook Friend said he was writing something about the death of RFK (Bobby Kennedy), and did I have any thoughts or memories? Here’s what came up:

 When RFK was killed, June 6, 1968, I was in suburban DC with my first wife & 3 buddies, working on a book about the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC). It was planned to be a pictures-and-text thing; everyone else was a photographer; I was the writer.

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Arguing With God: My 9-11 Story

Arguing With God: My 9-11 Story


“No,” I said. “No thank you.”

That’s how it started.

I said no to Chris Olson-Vickers. Chris was a mild-mannered social worker in Richmond, Virginia. She was also a Quaker, who in August of 2001 had agreed, perhaps rashly, to host an impecunious co-religionist  in need of shelter during the mid-Atlantic Quakers’ regional assembly, called Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

That impecunious co-religionist was me. Laid off and low on cash, I was too strapped to stay on-campus nearby, where our sessions were underway. I was packing lunches and avoiding the cafeteria. 



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Wood Thrush: The Return of the Magic Flute

A Wood Thrush & The Magic Flute

(Nope, not talking about the Mozart Opera.)

Sketch of a wood thrush, singing.

Heard a wood thrush yesterday, or maybe several. Haven’t heard one in at least two years.

Wasn’t expecting or looking for it; which is the best way to encounter them.  In fact, such a visitation was the last thing on my mind.

It happened at a trailer park in rural Robeson County, NC.  Among Carolina’s one hundred counties, Robeson is the poorest and the most crime-ridden. I don’t go there for fun, or for nature’s wonders, but to see people who are important to me.

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Garrison Keillor & Me: A Startling Revelation

Revelation & Memory: Garrison Keillor

Saw Garrison Keillor last night. Not his show; just him, solo except for a short set with a local guitarist.

He was very much himself: baggy suit, long red tie, long red socks, red tennis shoes.


He told stories and sang songs for two hours straight. The Durham Performing Arts Center was pretty well filled, mostly with those of or near his age.

He and I are in the same generation, born only months apart.  That relates to my big revelation about him, which will be disclosed here presently, along with a big recollection . . .

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