TreeHouseLetter

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Essays that changed me: Rachel Cusk and “Making Home”

5 min read The Music in Prose Rachel Cusk St. Augustine, Montaigne Why an essay breathes AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts The essay can make the best of people cringe, with its connection to the dreaded common application or the college assignment....

On Becoming Sheepdogs, a Modern Fable

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes In the wake of recent events regarding the tragic death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, this letter seems more relevant than ever. It has been updated to relate my own experience and the role of the brave men and...

Are We Killing the Fat Man? The Corona Trolley Dilemma

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY ITUNES ANCHOR.FM THE TROLLEY PROBLEM The Trolley thought experiment, first put forth by the philosopher Philippa Foot, pits two schools of moral thought against each other: deontological ethics and utilitarianism. In simple words, the...

More Than a Vietnamese Folktale – the Goddess of Compassion

“To my mind, Kuan Yin’s gentle form is a worthier symbol than the figure of a tortured being hanging from a cross or of an awesome father god.” John Blofeld I’ve known Kuan Yin for some years now as Quan Am, her Vietnamese name.  My Vietnamese mother is Buddhist and...

Number One Deterrent for Burglars or Anyone Else Visiting Your House

  Ten years ago our lives changed.  A lot.  We don’t do things by halves in our family, so we moved into a new home, I gave birth to my third child, and if that was not enough, we bought the biggest, baddest dog we could find.  A third pet.  I’ll share more about...

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On Life

A Fool is Full and a Pool Not a Pull

2 min read Word play Nonsense and numbers AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast For you can spring into march like a soldier or a lion, since you leave it like a lamb. Soldiers march and lions roar, but today is the 32nd or the 60th if you prefer, because...

Adult Child and a Zen Koan

2 Min Read 1 Book Rec 2.5 Zen Koan** Em Dash* AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes My adult child--an oxymoron when you consider that there is no single word for grown offspring in a language with 171,476 words of which 47,156 are obsolete, but please...

A Valentine Canine and the Circle of Life

3 Min read 2 Book Recs AVAILABLE  ON PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes   Herz is a good name for a dog adopted on Valentine's Day, especially for a shepherd mix because Herz is the German word for heart. The dark face and fawn body resembles the Belgian...

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Stories

What Makes a Speech Great? An Admiral Tells 3 Stories

6 min read Writer’s Toolbox Public speaking AVAILABLE ON PODCAST HERE Admiral McRaven commemorates the 11th Anniversary of Operation Neptune's Spear What makes a speech great? There are a lot of good speeches and good speakers. But a great speech is one you remember....

1000 Push-ups? Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

6 min read Memoir rec Work-outs, push-ups and running AVAILABLE ON PODCAST CLICK HERE Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s the short take on Living with a SEAL*, 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planet. Jesse Itzler, the author, is fit by most...

What I Learned Walking With a Friend

8 min read True Story Military service Road walking, trail notes AVAILABLE IN PODCAST - CLICK HERE Not 30 miles as the crow flies, that’s how far I was from my childhood home. It was gray and threatening rain, the time in spring that’s cool, tree buds just coming in,...

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On Education

Graveside Gratitude, Giving Thanks in November

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm         I learned more from two friends in death than I had learned from them in life. I had not known them well and perhaps that is why, but they were men I met whose lives touched mine, in a fashion,...

Poetry Dinner Night – A Quarantine Scene

Does she or doesn’t she? Do you recognize this from the 1956 ad campaign? Does it elicit unsavory thoughts? This Hall-of-Fame advertising slogan was used for Clairol’s Hair Color and within six years seventy percent of women were dying their hair. Maybe you remember...

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On Literature

Exercises in Style: a Writing Tribute

3 min read Book rec Writing Toolbox Wordplay Ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST HERE Titles begin with letters as human forms Narrative One day at about midday in the food line, behind the checkout of a more or less busy Costco, I observed a person with a very big...

Bedside Counselor on Parenting in Anger, in Two Translations

6 min read Book rec Prose for emergencies Writing feature AVAILABLE IN PODCAST, CLICK HERE For solace and for counsel, I have several books I find myself returning to again and again, and to this one, most recently, as my third child prepares to leave home.* For...

A Poet Warrior Learns Kindness

4 min read Book Rec, Tokaido Road Poetry for Emergencies AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast It made me feel flawed as a human, this passage from Lucia St.Clair Robson's book, Tokaido Road. The protagonist Cat is disguised as a young man when she meets...

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Bookshelf

Most Underused Punctuation Mark in American Writing*

Short take Writer's Toolbox Em-dash Book recs So says the lexicographer and usage genius Bryan Garner. My desk copy of the 4th edition of Garner's Modern English Usage states on page 750, "The em-dash is perhaps the most underused punctuation mark in American...

Books for Mothers and Daughters

Short Take, 2 min read Mother's Day Book recs, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST CLICK HERE It's a gray day full of drizzle in Connecticut though it's not as cold as it has been. The yellow lilies in the porch planters are in full bloom and they remind me of my...

Exercises in Style: a Writing Tribute

3 min read Book rec Writing Toolbox Wordplay Ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST HERE Titles begin with letters as human forms Narrative One day at about midday in the food line, behind the checkout of a more or less busy Costco, I observed a person with a very big...

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On the Military

What Makes a Speech Great? An Admiral Tells 3 Stories

6 min read Writer’s Toolbox Public speaking AVAILABLE ON PODCAST HERE Admiral McRaven commemorates the 11th Anniversary of Operation Neptune's Spear What makes a speech great? There are a lot of good speeches and good speakers. But a great speech is one you remember....

What I Learned Walking With a Friend

8 min read True Story Military service Road walking, trail notes AVAILABLE IN PODCAST - CLICK HERE Not 30 miles as the crow flies, that’s how far I was from my childhood home. It was gray and threatening rain, the time in spring that’s cool, tree buds just coming in,...

A Poet Warrior Learns Kindness

4 min read Book Rec, Tokaido Road Poetry for Emergencies AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast It made me feel flawed as a human, this passage from Lucia St.Clair Robson's book, Tokaido Road. The protagonist Cat is disguised as a young man when she meets...

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Writing Features

The Music in Prose

Essays that changed me: Rachel Cusk and “Making Home”

5 min read The Music in Prose Rachel Cusk St. Augustine, Montaigne Why an essay breathes AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts The essay can make the best of people cringe, with its connection to the dreaded common application or the college assignment....

Sex Over 70 Years and the Synecdoche

7 min read, explicit content 2 Books 2 Rhetorical devices The Music in Prose - THL feature focused on writing that 'sings' and why   AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify ITunes Google Podcasts   It's a double entendre, this letter's headline, but it's fitting. I'm...

Love in a Sad Cafe

5 Min Read 1 Book Rec The Music in Prose   AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes The Music in Prose is a regular feature of the TreeHouseLetter. The idea for this came from my work on music and language, considering just what it is about the...

Poetry for Emergencies

A Poet Warrior Learns Kindness

4 min read Book Rec, Tokaido Road Poetry for Emergencies AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast It made me feel flawed as a human, this passage from Lucia St.Clair Robson's book, Tokaido Road. The protagonist Cat is disguised as a young man when she meets...

Poetry for Emergencies: Ukraine, Howard Nemerov, and the War Dead

6 Min read Howard Nemerov 2 Poems TreeHouseLetter feature:  Poetry for Emergencies   AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify.com anchor.fm/emelle Poetry is a way of getting something right in language. Nemerov It's a batshit crazy world, especially for our friends of...

Poetry for Emergencies: Lain S. Thomas at Daybreak

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and I’m scared. It’s not often and I usually can get back to sleep. I’m lucky that way because people do suffer from insomnia and my waking is not like that. An overactive...

Toolbox

Most Underused Punctuation Mark in American Writing*

Short take Writer's Toolbox Em-dash Book recs So says the lexicographer and usage genius Bryan Garner. My desk copy of the 4th edition of Garner's Modern English Usage states on page 750, "The em-dash is perhaps the most underused punctuation mark in American...

What Makes a Speech Great? An Admiral Tells 3 Stories

6 min read Writer’s Toolbox Public speaking AVAILABLE ON PODCAST HERE Admiral McRaven commemorates the 11th Anniversary of Operation Neptune's Spear What makes a speech great? There are a lot of good speeches and good speakers. But a great speech is one you remember....

Exercises in Style: a Writing Tribute

3 min read Book rec Writing Toolbox Wordplay Ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST HERE Titles begin with letters as human forms Narrative One day at about midday in the food line, behind the checkout of a more or less busy Costco, I observed a person with a very big...