The Search for Community

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.

Just don’t mention the War!

Imagine Washington DC, a few days after the election in 2014. The Democratic Party has lost control of both houses of Congress. Harry Reid, the most senior Democratic congressman, can't be reached. He has left town for a yoga retreat, no cellphones allowed at the ashram. President Obama won

Local pricing, or How much will a New Yorker pay?

Cornstalks by front porch I went to Taft Farms yesterday because I love to decorate the porch with cornstalks, hokey as it is, and with those jewel-like bundles of red and gold Indian corn. I spotted a bunch of cornstalks leaning against the wall around the side of the building. No price, but I grabbed two bundles and carried them to the register. How much? I asked. Fifty dollars. Each one, said the young man in an emerald tshirt. Gimme a break. Where do you think Im from? How much are they? He looked at the other man [...]

Another day on the AT

The first photo shows what I imagined the entire Appalachian Trail to look like. Not quite the manicured “Hiking Course” I saw in Japan, but something you might see in a park, at the far margins. There are bits of the AT like that but the second photo shows what is more typical around here, in the Berkshires: narrow, rocky, and usually going steeply up or steeply down. I’ve grown to like the really rocky sections, even if precipitous, because they are solid. Walking on loose rocks is harder. This post is a test of our new slideshow [...]


I make lists and I make resolutions. And I make them all the time, not just on December 31st.This summer I resolved to become a hiker

Speak Out, or Watch Out?

Some say small-town politics are more vicious than the big-city variety because the stakes are so small. They can be vicious, that