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At Random: Technology builds bridges on travels

As I’ve been reminded this summer while rereading “Mornings on Horseback,” President Theodore Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for travel was a family tradition. David McCullough’s book about Roosevelt’s youth mentions that Roosevelt’s uncle, Robert Roosevelt, had some passionate opinions about travel, too. Don’t focus on the scenery when you leave home, Robert suggested in 1851. Going somewhere else,… Continue reading →

At Random: Time, not miles, splits family

My in-laws recently held a family reunion — a gathering that, like all traditions, was meant to celebrate what endures in a world of change. But even the rituals of reunions, so seemingly unaltered from year to year, slowly evolve to meet new challenges, new possibilities. This summer, for example, there weren’t quite as many… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s At Random: Summer guided by luck, not design

On Memorial Day weekend, informally known as the first weekend of summer, I rose early and heard crows outside the bedroom window. Although crows live here year-round, I’ve always thought of them as winter birds, their sad caw-caw-caw a kind of soundtrack for cold gray afternoons when the trees are empty of leaves and the hours are empty… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Father gives daughter to the world

It’s time to fetch from the shelf my childhood copy of “Robinson Crusoe,” a book I’ve read each summer for many years now. My favorite chapter includes a scene in which the castaway Crusoe comes across some footprints, then wonders if they’re his own. I like the scene because I’ve lived in the same place for a long… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random” : Catching up on funny bird names

Nearly a decade ago, when our son was still too young to easily read for himself, he declared an early interest in mechanical science, leaving behind the shelves of “Curious George” and “Mother Goose” at the local library, and turning instead to books about electronics and engineering. On his nightstand, ready for each evening’s bedtime story, were… Continue reading →

At Random: Plant leads to thoughts of spring

Last month, as morning marched toward noon, I could feel the day simmering into a slow boil of hurry and worry. I had answered some early deadlines, and was heading to a lunchtime medical appointment, my son’s science fair, then a return trip to the office to finish my work. I quietly wondered how everything would get done.… Continue reading →

At Random: Oscar season helps fight winter gloom

In that gray time between Christmas and spring, Oscar season helps brighten the days. Busy with work and family, my wife and I rarely get to the local cineplex, but we try to see at least four movies a year at our neighborhood theater — enough to have a passing acquaintance with the Academy contenders. With the Oscars… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Slip puts life in focus

For my birthday, along with shirts, ties and a cake glazed with almond frosting, I found several bags of birdseed on the dining room table. The birdseed, though not expensive, ranks as my favorite present of all. The sacks of safflower, sunflower and thistle seed are an invitation to fill my backyard feeders, then sit by the… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman, At Random: I’m still crazy for “Downton”

I come here today to praise “Downton Abbey,” not to bury it, though I’ll try not to praise the popular public TV drama too much. After all, there’s not any superlative I can offer that would be grander than the show’s placement on the PBS series “Masterpiece Classic.” Season 4 of “Downton Abbey” begins tonight and runs… Continue reading →

At Random: An old library closes its doors

On the day before it closed for good, my teenage son and I visited Baton Rouge’s old Main Library to tell it goodbye. The old library will be torn down, and a gorgeous new building will open soon a few yards away. We were surprised to feel so sentimental about the old Main’s demise.… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman, At Random: A pilgrim walks toward Bethlehem

Walking just before dawn in late December, I get to survey the neighborhood Christmas lights before they wink off for the day. All around me, households are slowly stirring to life as homeowners lurch toward their kitchens for the first coffee of the morning. Once awake, my neighbors unplug the strands of bulbs that line… Continue reading →

At Random: Tree lots have brave moonlighters

I’m sure that there are still shepherds tending their flocks in some parts of the world, but those of us who want to know what it’s like to work outdoors this holiday season might do better to visit the neighborhood Christmas tree lot. It’s seasonal work that, being temporary, usually means moonlighting from some steadier… Continue reading →

At Random: Winter leads to thoughts of trees

I’ve been trying to clear unfinished business from my desk as another year draws to a close, and among the mail awaiting a response is a form letter from the Arbor Day Foundation asking me what I think about trees. I’ve yet to answer the survey, already overdue by a couple of months, but it’s not because trees… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman: Book tips for your gift list

A good newspaper tries to surprise its readers at least once a day, and The New York Times helped advance that ideal in 1997, when its editorial page began publishing small columns on rural life by Verlyn Klinkenborg. Klinkenborg’s observations from his modest farm in upstate New York seemed an unlikely fit for a publication that is,… Continue reading →

At Random: A poet talks about gratitude

Danny Heitman

Among newspaper people, Walt Whitman stands out as a cautionary example of how not to pursue a journalism career. But Whitman had some wise things to say about the nature of gratitude, so I’ve been thinking about him as another Thanksgiving Day approaches. Whitman is known to the world as a great American poet, but to support… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman: TR knew the value of nature

Last month, when my 12-year-old son and I joined some other fathers and sons for a weekend of camping near Abbeville, I packed as I usually do, stashing binoculars and a bird guide in my overnight bag in case I wanted to scout the woods for wildlife. The birding gear remained untouched for the rest of the… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman: Aunt liked the joy of solitude

At my Aunt Eunice’s funeral last year, each mourner received a prayer card bearing Eunice’s picture, her birth and death dates, and a bit of Scripture honoring her long and fruitful life. The back side of the card featured a fall nature scene by Thomas Kinkade. I’m not sure what Aunt Eunice would have thought about… Continue reading →

At Random: Not ready to leave writer yet

With the passing of Halloween last week, our national season of fright has officially come to a close. But even though we’re supposed to be shifting our attention from things that go bump in the night, I’m not quite ready to put away horror writer Shirley Jackson, whose books have been on my nightstand since they… Continue reading →