the value of a good essay

Still in crisis mode, here, but I made an effort this morning to get my head out of things I can’t fix (at least not immediately; she hedged), and I went to read Garrison Keillor’s column on Salon.

Are you familiar with the way little kids were soothed and comforted by Mr. Rogers? I watched it happen more than once with the hoppity rabbit that was the Girlchild at age three. Often when she3 was siitting on my lap I had a mental image of a tornado waiting to let loose. Desperate for a few quiet minutes, I sometimes turned on Mr. Rogers. Her whole body would immediately begin to relax, but her attention stayed focused.

Garrison Keillor is my Mr. Rogers. His voice on the radio is better than any chemical devised for the quieting of an overbusy mind. His essays often move me to tears for reasons I can’t quite explain. His tone is never harsh, though what he has to say is often thorny and unrelentingly honest. On Bush:

It’s a hard fall for George W. Bush. His career was based on creating low expectations and then meeting them, but Katrina was a blast of reality. The famous headline said, “Bush: One of the Worst Disasters to Hit the U.S.” and many people took that literally.

Today he had an especially good essay on spring and politics called Love will Outlast Bush. I cringed a little at the title, which sounds like an entry in a bad lyric contest, but the essay itself? It keeps going through my mind. Here’s part of it:

Politics is a slough, and maybe we should let the weasels have it for now. Even if two more Republicans follow the Current Occupant into office, this country will still be around in some form or other. Cities may crumble and we may be forced to reside in walled compounds and hire security men to escort us to Wal-Mart and back, but much will remain, such as love, for example, and the quickening one feels in the spring. Flowers will bloom in whatever wreckage we make. Somewhere, someone will sing the old songs about love walking in and driving the shadows away.

People have been falling in love through every dismal era of history and through every war ever fought. Enormous black headlines in the newspapers and agitated talk in the cafes and yet she waited for him on the corner by the hotel where they had agreed to meet, and as traffic streamed past she watched the buses pulling up to the curb, looking for his familiar shape, his beautiful face, his slight smile. Under her arm, a newspaper, and inside it a columnist shaking his tiny fist at corruption, but it isn’t worth two cents compared to what’s in her heart. When her lover steps down, the air will be filled with bright purple blossoms and they will embrace and turn and go into the hotel, and on this, the future of the world depends.

Keillor can be melancholy, but it never lasts for long. Sooner or later he has to give into the urge to tell the better story. The hopeful story. Especially on those days when it’s hard to keep my own melancholy at bay, it’s nice to have him around.

2 Replies to “the value of a good essay”

  1. My dad loves the Prairie Home Companion, Charles Kuralt, CBS Sunday Morning–all that sort of stuff. He’d be right along with you.

  2. We, in Davenport, Iowa, are privileged to have a columnist named Bill Windrum who has worked for our newspaper for 60+ years. (No Joke!) He captures the area and small town life in daily columns that always bring a chuckle and a sigh. I am just in awe of how a skillfully crafted column or essay can introduce you to place and make you feel at home. We moved here 4 years ago and Bill Wundrum’s columns calmed my fears of a new place so far from everything I’d known.

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