A Smaller Circle: The Search for Community

I was commissioned by London publisher Random Century to write A Smaller Circle: The search for community in 1991. The commissioning editor, Tessa Strickland, left and cofounded Barefoot Books. I moved to the United States with my two young children and was unable to finish the book on schedule, which led to its being canceled because Tessa was no longer there to shepherd it. She sent me the woodcut she’d commissioned for the cover. When I saw it I was rather glad the whole thing had been canceled because that bucolic vision wasn’t really the story I had to tell. (Not to mention all those cows! Even then I knew about cows producing methane gas that contributed to climate change.) The research led to the creation of the Encyclopedia of Communityto my work on third places, and our search for community continues to be a central interest of mine.

A place to call home

Looking at this photo taken outside the Jane Hotel in New York reminds me of a time when I was at home in a city I haven't been to since the week before the US lockdown in March 2020. I lived around the corner with my then partner, and we had seen the effects of extreme weather the autumn before, when Hurricane Sandy flooded lower Manhattan. We were unable to return to our building for nearly a month. Here's what I wrote at the time: 12 November 2012 The need for "a place to call home" has been on my [...]

Homesick for London

Every morning in Massachusetts, I make a pot of tea. Black and white china decorated with the names of English foods (“Fresh Milk & Jersey Cream” says my milk jug), tea cosy covered in a flowery print, tray I bought at John Lewis. And strong Assam to drink. Some days, I make myself a slice of crisp toast spread with Marmite. I left London over 25 years ago, with two preschool children, to find a better life in a small town, in the country where I was born. But on my trips back in England, that foreign land, I often [...]

Religion for the rest of us?

(First published at berkshirepublishing.com.) “Let us pray.” On Wednesday I heard a prayer – “grace” – said before dinner for the first time in years. “Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful evening and for our fellowship.” “Help us to serve those in need.” I’d been invited to talk about the Train Campaign at the Episcopal church’s men’s dinner group. No one I asked knew about this; everyone said I should go. I had to know, not only out of curiosity but because I would need to report on it to Ray Oldenburg, with whom I’ve talked a lot about the importance [...]

Laojia: A Place to Call Home

The autumn clematis smelled like vanilla and twined across the bare wood table. I’d clipped the white-flowered vines when I was picking the last of the tomatoes. They were perfect in the center of the table. Now the napkins - where were the green napkins? I had taken the train up from New York that afternoon. It was just a kid who was coming, I knew that, but there are certain things that count. We had to have proper napkins, even if that meant digging them out of the basket of unfolded laundry that had lingered since I left the [...]

Speaking out in Great Barrington isn’t so easy

Update 2015-02-20: We did speak at the School Committee meeting (video here:http://wp.me/p5nwq0-2a), but decided to postpone the presentation to the Selectboard, in part because of weather and travel problems, but also because we were not put into the general agenda, as you can see below. The listing in the agenda gave only my name, rather than naming the group GB21, and merely listed "Karen Christensen, School District Issues" under Citizen Speak at the end of the meeting. I can speak at Citizen Speak any time. This was about quite a different matter, as you will read below: arequest or time [...]

karen christensen's corona typewriter on t s eliot's desk

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