Isle of Charms, Isle of Despair

I have a fascination for islands.  It surfaced when this eight-year-old roamed Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’, castaway on the ‘Isle of Despair’. These penchants rise somehow from the depths of psyche, roused in me by childhood stops where island names ring like rhapsody: Hawaii, Formosa (now Taiwan), Honshu, Cebu, Penang, Java, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).  Then, … More Isle of Charms, Isle of Despair

Beneath Holiday Chandeliers: What Westphalia Offers Magnolia, Mississippi

Picture a holiday charity fundraiser under chandeliers, the well-heeled rubbing elbows midst chatter about Christmas markets in Bavaria and the beaches of Bali.  My wife and I found ourselves there by some social accident last year, and, drinks in hand, worked our way to a quiet corner table where a 60-ish couple sat alee of … More Beneath Holiday Chandeliers: What Westphalia Offers Magnolia, Mississippi

Tiger-Widows of the Sundarbans: Who Is Eating Whom?

The river steamers of yesterday, with a blast of their whistles, would cast off hawsers from the Hooghly River docks opposite Kolkata, and drift gently with the current past the grime and smoke of an Asian city into a gloaming of the world’s largest river delta, the Sundarbans.  There the waters of the sacred Ganga, … More Tiger-Widows of the Sundarbans: Who Is Eating Whom?

Contagion: Resilience of the Backcountry Elders

A saintly friend who ‘squandered’ much of her life caring for the disabled in the Kalahari once described to me what the HIV/AIDS pandemic had done to her settlement. ‘We are punch-drunk with sorrow and loss,’ she said, ‘as though pummeled by a heavy-weight fighter round after punishing round.’  This nun had no interest in … More Contagion: Resilience of the Backcountry Elders