Another Outing for “Guilt Trip Into the Woods”


Martha @ Athena's Head

spring2010_nicholsMy 2010 cover story in Brain, Child magazine, “Guilt Trip Into the Woods,” has just been reprinted on Brain, Child’s online site. Check it out—it’s a provocative read. I intentionally meant to upend the conventional wisdom about nature being good for kids in some timeless and Platonic sense.

When this piece first published, it sparked hundreds of outraged comments, as if I’d somehow dissed the equivalent of Momhood by noting that my son loves anime far more than hikes and precious nature activities like pressing flowers.

My guy is twelve now and has moved on to an obsession with Magic: The Gathering, but he remains a skinny bundle of energy with a big imagination and great passion for his own ideas. He’s doing fine, and my argument remains the same:

I’d always assumed that nature was better for my child than anything else. Oceans: beautiful, good. Giant M&M’s leaping on flat-panel displays: ugly, evil. But after witnessing Nick’s delight in Times Square, I began to feel not so much wrong as barraged by a dire message at every turn: Your child is being damaged by a lack of contact with nature. If you don’t fix it now, he will turn fat and fearful; he’ll be rudderless, adrift in a sea of enervating boredom.

My son is not a glassy-eyed blob tethered to a screen. He’s an enthusiastic dynamo, and his love of manga and anime and digital cameras and computer games and PowerPoint to create his own stories has made me question if nature has become his generation’s version of castor oil. Is it really true that Nick and all other children are in a state of natural crisis? Or is this just another round of Oldsters versus Youngsters, with boomer oldsters re-claiming a familiar refrain? These kids today are going to hell in a hand basket.

To read the complete article at Brain, Child, click here.

A Tribute to My Father


Martha @ Athena's Head
James L. Nichols (1995) @ Nichols Estate

James L. Nichols (1995)
@ Nichols Estate

My father passed away the morning of January 22, 2014. By that point, he had moved several times, until he arrived at his last board-and-care home, a kindly place where he lived his final two-and-a-half years. He died peacefully, in hospice care, several days after a stroke took him down. My brother Mark and I were with him, as were the caregivers Dad had grown fond of.

In Talking Writing, I’ve republished a piece I originally wrote for him in 2010: “I Know What Poetry Can Do.” This TW publication also includes a memorial tribute to my dad, one that emphasizes the great solace he derived from writing poetry in his last years, even as his body succumbed to Parkinson’s disease. Here’s an excerpt from my memorial “Afterword”:

My father’s strong moral compass and deep love of literature, especially poetry, have made me who I am. Because of him, I’m a skeptic, a critic, a journalist, an editor. Most of all, I’m a writer. It never has been easy to make a living as an author, let alone to start a literary magazine like Talking Writing, yet my belief that creative work can make a real difference goes straight back to my childhood: to my mother the artist and my father the academic. It’s as ingrained in me as religious faith.

He truly was a remarkable man. To read the complete memorial tribute to my father, including one of his poems, please click on “I Know What Poetry Can Do.”