In June, I helped organize Solutions Summit 2014: Women in Science Writing, a conference on harassment and gender bias held at MIT. Afterwards, one of my editors at The New York Times invited me to write an essay about these issues. My piece discusses our conference, the survey that we did beforehand, a similar survey that several prominent scientists conducted before ours and my personal experience with these issues. Real solutions, I conclude, will require a culture change.
“Whether harassment or discrimination takes place at a field site in Costa Rica or in a conference room, the problem will not be solved with new rules archived on unread websites. The responsibility for pushing back should not rest solely with the victims. Solutions require a change of culture that can happen only from within.”
Read the essay here, and find a link to the Science Times weekly podcast, where I discuss the essay with my editor, David Corcoran.
The latest issue of Sunset Magazine arrived in my mail last week, and the cover story immediately caught my eye — “24 Best Places to Live and Work 2014.”“Looking for the perfect place to launch a career? Start a family? Just relax? We’ve found the ideal city, town, or neighborhood for you.”
For instance, if you’re “ready to put down roots,” the story’s handy flowchart offers you two choices — Issaquah, Washington (if “the burbs are calling”) or Sugar House, Salt Lake City, Utah, if they’re not.
Now Sunset is a fine magazine and they’re hardly alone in propagating these“best places” inventories.I understand the impulse to quantify a place’s attributes and size them up against other localities. But I worry that the proliferation of these lists have transformed place into a commodity rather than a commitment.
What I’ve learned from living in three countries and more than 20 locations is that there is no perfect place. Believing otherwise prevents the letting go of elsewhere necessary to create a home place where you are— a journey that takes effort and devotion.
Turning place into a consumer item diminishes its essential dimensions. As poet Gary Snyder once wrote, the demands of a life committed to a place, “Are so physically and intellectually intense, that it is a moral and spiritual choice as well.”
Communities are most alive when people are engaged and fully present — rather than merely coming home to sleep between commutes to elsewhere. Mine is the kind of place that people dream of escaping to when they’re stuck in rush hour traffic; yet too many of those who come here keep one foot planted somewhere else. Community is what happens when people have a stake in their place and an investment in its future.
Finish reading this post, 24 Reasons to Ignore Best Places Lists, at Last Word On Nothing.
The Molester and Me
My high school coach was like a dad to me, until he abused my teammate and violated us all.
Slate, June 7, 2013
For a moment, I felt paralyzed. This can’t be true, my body said, even as my mind could not deny that it was. My initial grief gave way to rage. I’d trusted Coach, and he’d betrayed me, betrayed all of us. He didn’t care about me at all.
Read the rest at Slate: The Molester and Me
Could You Find Contentment in Your Own Backyard?
Christie Aschwanden spent her youth traipsing around the globe—until she discovered what it meant to find contentment in her own home.
O, the Oprah Magazine; May, 2012
The walk is not negotiable. No matter how full the day’s agenda, we go—my husband, my cow dog, and I, down our rural western Colorado road, past the neighbor’s property to the dead end, up the old dirt track grown over with sagebrush and piñon saplings, to the top of the hill where the path ends under a red sandstone cliff. I’ve watched sunset after sunset from this private perch, and each is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
I have never wanted for spectacular sunsets. As an air force brat, a competitive ski racer, and then a journalist, I’ve watched the sun go down on five continents. I’ve lived in three countries and more than a dozen cities; trekked up and down the Alps, through Central American rainforests, and along Mediterranean coasts, seeking novelty and adventure. But a kind of loneliness lurked in my perpetual motion. I could fit in anywhere, yet I belonged nowhere.
Read the rest here: Could You Find Contentment in Your Own Backyard?