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Letters from an American's top posts of the year

By hacker news affinity
day week month year all
Letters from an American 113 HN points 12 Sep 22
I was playing around in yesterday’s post, because my “crazy rare find at Buddy’s wharf” was, of course, Buddy himself. Took yesterday off and am going to take tonight, too. First time since September 15, 2019, I’ve taken more than a single day off, but our wedding seems like a worthy occasion, no?
Letters from an American 46 HN points 04 Sep 22
It was a beautiful afternoon and evening on the water... and a long enough kayaking trip that I have been sound asleep with my head on my writing table for a couple of hours. Going to take that as a sign that I should go to bed and finish the history of our intelligence system another day.
Letters from an American 40 HN points 02 Jul 22
It has been a very long seven days, a week that will certainly show up in the history books. What may not make such a splash in the books, though, is how freaking exhausting it is to be living through this moment. I, anyway, am ready for a good night's sleep.
Letters from an American 38 HN points 08 May 22
I told this story here two years ago, but I want to repeat it tonight, as the reality of women’s lives is being erased in favor of an image of women as mothers…. If you google the history of Mother’s Day, the internet will tell you that Mother’s Day began in 1908 when Anna Jarvis decided to honor her mother. But “Mothers’ Day”—with the apostrophe not in the singular spot, but in the plural—actually started in the 1870s, when the sheer enormity of the death caused by the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War convinced American women that women must take control of politics from the men who had permitted such carnage. Mothers’ Day was not designed to encourage people to be nice to their mothers. It was part of women’s effort to gain power to change modern society.
Letters from an American 31 HN points 04 Jul 22
And on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Letters from an American 28 HN points 10 Jul 22
I started this clear but somewhat chilly summer day reading a young adult novel on a sunny corner of the porch with my coffee, pitted about a gazillion cherries for pies, worked for a few hours on the new book, and then my sister and I kayaked up the Sound until we almost got eaten by a giant blue whale... or--depending on your version of events, and mine most definitely involves the mythic blue whale-- we saw from a distance quite a large fish rising as it chased a school of mackerel. And then we paddled home for pizza as the sun set.
Letters from an American 27 HN points 15 May 22
An unusually warm May day had me out in the kayak today, early this year, in time to see the jellyfish bloom. I spent a while just floating and watching the moon jellies, and thinking about time and the persistence of the Earth and its creatures, and of what matters.
Letters from an American 25 HN points 28 Mar 22
People write to me to ask why I have hope in our future despite all the trouble in the world, and the answer is always: I have faith because of you. The biggest miracle about these Letters from an American is the community that has gathered around them. It is made up of decent, principled, smart, creative, and thoughtful people from all around the world, and it is a never ending source of wonder to me that I have the extraordinary opportunity to meet many of you and to eavesdrop on your conversations as you work together to move our country, and our world, forward.
Letters from an American 23 HN points 10 Oct 22
Turning it over to Buddy on this gorgeous October weekend, with an image he took Friday morning on his way to work. It’s perfect sleeping weather here tonight, and I intend to make good use of it. I'll see you tomorrow. [Photo by Buddy Poland.]
Letters from an American 23 HN points 30 May 22
While there is a lot going on in the country and the world today, it seems as important as ever to honor Memorial Day, the day we have honored since 1868, when we mourn those military personnel who have died in the service of the country—that is, for the rest of us.
Letters from an American 22 HN points 26 Sep 22
End of summer. No matter how much I love what I do, I never doubt that he has the better office. I'll see you tomorrow. [Photo by Buddy Poland.]
Letters from an American 22 HN points 29 May 22
It’s been a long, hard week. Going to call an early night. Before I do, though.... Thank you all for being here. I have heard people this week despair of this country, but I look around at you all and I have faith. And so... I’ll be back at it tomorrow.
Letters from an American 21 HN points 10 Sep 22
Crazy rare find at Buddy’s wharf this week. Lots going on in the world, but I’ve got family and friends in town, and am putting everything on hold until tomorrow. [Photo by Buddy Poland.]
Letters from an American 21 HN points 23 Jun 22
There’s a lot going on, but I did not take a night off over the weekend and it’s catching up to me. Going to take the night off and get a good night’s sleep so I can be back at it tomorrow with a clear head for the next public hearing of the January 6 committee.
Letters from an American 20 HN points 10 Apr 22
On April 9, 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant got out of bed with a migraine. The pain had hit the day before as he rode through the Virginia countryside, where the United States Army had been harrying the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, for days.
Letters from an American 19 HN points 12 Jun 22
Not sure when I’ve ever been so tired, and that’s saying something. This has been quite a week. Buddy, too, is back at work, but his office is on the water and is way more beautiful than mine. This is his picture of Sunken Ledge Buoy, one morning when he was getting up as I was going to bed.
Letters from an American 19 HN points 23 Jul 22
Too much posting after 3 a.m. this week, and I’m going to go to bed and see if I can catch up. I love that this bridge exists in the twenty-first century. It always makes me imagine I'm paddling about 150 years back in time, and that just on the other side of this bridge there will be piles of sawdust, teams of horses pulling wagons stacked with logs, and the old mill, still sawing wood.
Letters from an American 18 HN points 01 Jan 23
And so, the sun sets on 2022. It has been an astonishing year across the board, and I thank you all for, well, everything. May 2023 treat us all kindly.
Letters from an American 18 HN points 15 Aug 22
A calm sunrise seems like a good omen these days... or at least a welcome respite. Let’s take the night off and get back to work tomorrow. [Photo by Buddy Poland.]
Letters from an American 17 HN points 01 Aug 22
Here in the midst of high summertime, I am finishing a book and burning the candle at both ends. Going to take an early night and be back at it tomorrow.
Letters from an American 17 HN points 11 Apr 22
Buddy and I are visiting the Pacific Northwest for the first time, and he’s been busy with his camera while I’ve been working. Here is his view of Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s quite different than our own rocky coast, although the tufted puffins-- which are related to our Atlantic puffins-- had arrived for the season just before we got there.
Letters from an American 16 HN points 15 Mar 23
Two years ago, in the midst of the pandemic, I whipped off a quick and somewhat flippant letter about why March 15 is a crucially important day in American history. It became one of the most popular things I’ve ever written, so popular that when I was asked to write a book based on these letters, I centered the book around it.
Letters from an American 16 HN points 25 Apr 22
The first spring-like weekend here has meant picking up trash from the shore and scraping the farmhouse for painting and carrying rowboats and walking with friends and seeing family and writing on my laptop outside on the sunny porch in the wind. After a winter spent quietly holed up by the woodstove, two days outside working has me so tired I’m falling over.
Letters from an American 15 HN points 16 Jan 23
You hear sometimes that, now that we know the sordid details of the lives of some of our leading figures, America has no heroes left. When I was writing a book about the Wounded Knee Massacre, where heroism was pretty thin on the ground, I gave that a lot of thought. And I came to believe that heroism is neither being perfect, nor doing something spectacular. In fact, it’s just the opposite: it’s regular, flawed human beings, choosing to put others before themselves, even at great cost, even if no one will ever know, even as they realize the walls might be closing in around them.
Letters from an American 14 HN points 29 Aug 22
As we turn to the autumn, a picture that captures the passing summer. I’m sending my very best wishes to everyone starting the school year. Guessing– heck, pretty sure we know– that it’s going to be a busy week, so let’s take a deep breath and take the night off.
Letters from an American 14 HN points 18 Jul 22
On July 18, 1863, at dusk, the Black soldiers of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry of the U.S. Army charged the walls of Fort Wagner, a fortification on Morris Island off Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. Because Fort Wagner covered the southern entrance to the harbor, it was key to enabling the U.S. government to take the city.
Letters from an American 13 HN points 10 Jan 23
The crisis in Brazil knocked my weekend into the week, but I’m going to post a picture tonight and get some rest to face the week. I’ll see you tomorrow. [Photo of the sunrise after this week’s snowstorm, by Buddy Poland.]
Letters from an American 13 HN points 17 Jul 22
Guessing I’m not the only one who needs a good night’s sleep after the last week. Let's regroup tomorrow, ready to pick it all up again. H.
Letters from an American 13 HN points 25 Dec 22
Happy holidays to you all, however you celebrate... or don’t. We are some of the lucky ones this year, with a roof over our heads, food on the table, and family and friends close to hand. We are blessed. But it has not always been this way. For those struggling this holiday season, a reminder, if it helps, that Christmas marks the time when the light starts to come back.
Letters from an American 13 HN points 31 Oct 22
Spent the morning editing the new book manuscript (editing is way more fun than writing the thing in the first place, but I can’t put a comma where it belongs for love or money). By noon it was in the high 50s and sunny, and it seemed virtually a requirement to head out in the kayak.
Letters from an American 12 HN points 17 Apr 22
And just like that, it’s spring again, and the world in this part of the globe, once again, is waking up. There’s a lot of work ahead of us in the next several months, but for now, let’s take a deep breath and take the night off. My very best wishes to those observing Passover, Ramadan, and Easter.
Letters from an American 12 HN points 05 Jul 22
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....”
Letters from an American 11 HN points 18 Feb 23
Was happily writing away, and hoo, boy, just hit the wall. Will be back at it tomorrow. Until then, a fun photo from my favorite beach last weekend. Just like history: layers upon layers...
Letters from an American 11 HN points 30 Oct 22
This week, news broke that as a guest on the right-wing Real America’s Voice media network in 2020, Republican candidate for Michigan governor Tudor Dixon said that the Democrats have planned for decades to topple the United States because they have not gotten over losing the Civil War. According to Dixon, Democrats don’t want anyone to know that white Republicans freed the slaves, and are deliberately strangling “true history.”
Letters from an American 11 HN points 04 Apr 22
After a long week, here’s a little piece of peace: an old mill dam now deep in the woods. It’s one of my favorite places. I’m calling it quits early tonight. I'll see you tomorrow. [Photo by Buddy Poland.]
Letters from an American 11 HN points 02 Jun 22
Today, with the radical right the most loyal voting bloc in the party, Republican leaders refuse to call out even the most extreme statements from their followers. But once upon a time, Republican politicians were the champions of reason and compromise. Famously, on June 1, 1950, Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican from Maine, stood up against Republican Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin and his supporters, who were running roughshod over American democracy.
Letters from an American 11 HN points 29 Dec 22
On the clear, cold morning of December 29, 1890, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, three U.S. soldiers tried to wrench a valuable Winchester away from a young Lakota man. He refused to give up his hunting weapon. It was the only thing standing between his family and starvation and he had no faith it would be returned to him as the officer promised: he had watched as soldiers had marked other confiscated valuable weapons for themselves.
Letters from an American 11 HN points 19 Sep 22
Today’s photo is a meditation on love and faith found early one morning in “a collection of stuff in the yard of a man who lives on the outermost inhabited island on the coast of Maine,” as my photographer friend Peter Ralston put it. I'll see you tomorrow.
Letters from an American 10 HN points 11 Dec 22
After traveling all week, I am just now home in my rocking chair by the woodstove... but not for long. I’m going to call it quits early tonight. I’ll leave you with this, an image inspired by all the photos you all share from all over the country, and all over the world, every time I post a picture. I look at them throughout the rest of the week and marvel.
Letters from an American 10 HN points 14 Nov 22
My photographer friend Peter took this image of the full moon on Tuesday, November 8, Election Day. He calls it “Welcome Home.” It’s been quite a week. I’ll see you tomorrow. [Photo “Welcome Home” by Peter Ralston.] — Notes: Peter and his wife Terri can be found at the gallery in Rockport, Maine, or here: https://www.ralstongallery.com/