Plant seduction

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

The sight of my first palm tree when I stepped off the plane in San Diego as a young Navy bride hit something so familiar in my mind that it took me by surprise: I had been romanticizing palms since my preschool encounter with the line drawings of them in Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, a poetry book of my dad’s full of enticing art of faraway places. I nearly wore it out before I could even read. And there I’d landed, a 20-something dropped among the tropical beauties of my favorite childhood book. Continue reading Plant seduction

A form of Zen

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I’ve been stacking rocks for some time . . . since the mid-1990s when I found myself doing it without plan or thought. I was in a slough of despond after my sister-in-law Ellen died of AIDS and there I was in my front yard wandering around like a sad dog. It was a bad time for my husband’s whole family, and I’m not sure how any of them survived it – I was merely an in-law and in a mire myself. Continue reading A form of Zen


~a column by Colleen O’Brien

A note from the columnist – It’s difficult to keep up with the goings-on from on high, especially if one wants to write about it. As soon as I sent this manuscript in, it was out of date. Consider it a historical column. COB

Now that we are in the middle of making America great again, isn’t it a relief that the President knows how to talk to the boys, the Boy Scouts of America, that is: “Who the hell….” he started out, in addressing thousands of them at their annual jamboree. However much the parents and Scout leaders did not approve, the boys had to love it, the word “hell.” Continue reading Ick

Siren Song

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I have long held a romantic view of all things Espanol, perhaps from being a Spanish major long ago. It holds to this day – the people, the language, the music, the terrain of south of the border. For reasons I cannot explain, probably a mere lack of will, I have never been to Spain or South America. But I’ve been to Mexico lots. Continue reading Siren Song

To the editor – Julie Neal

To the editor,

The summer school staff at the Greene County Schools would like to thank the following businesses that donated so our summer school students could have snacks: Hy-Vee, $30 gift card;  Fareway, 200 granola bars; and ShopKo, $30 gift card.

Julie Neal, Greene County Schools reading specialist

Read and live long

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Some serious folks think that reading fiction is beneath them, non-fiction being the stuff of the truly brainy. But recent studies from a fellow at the University of Toronto reveal that reading fiction “influences” one’s “empathetic response in the real world.” So says researcher Keith Oatley of the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at Toronto. He thinks that reading fiction is “…similar to people who improve their flying skills in a flight simulator; those who read fiction might improve their social skills. Fiction might be the mind’s flight simulator.” Continue reading Read and live long

To Cuba or not?

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I’ve been dreaming for three months about my trip to Havana in September. Now I am thinking it was a good idea I’m going to miss out on it through no fault of my own. It seems I may not get there because of a new decision from the current administration. Continue reading To Cuba or not?

Cultural dexterity, a simple solution

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

The word “dexterous” if applied to you would be a compliment, no matter what the reference – sports, writing, driving, climbing trees, organizing children: “She is dexterous with the tennis racket…the pen… the preschoolers….” Dexterous means that you are adroit, skillful, clever, artful, deft, that you have mental skill and quickness, that you work with grace and ease. Continue reading Cultural dexterity, a simple solution

Familiar places

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Cemeteries in the U.S. have a familiar look to them – grassy gravel roads winding casually or plotted in neat grids, rows of rectangular gravestones with the occasional marble angel and limestone tree with a squirrel in it. There are usually two or three house-like mausoleums for the wealthy of old. The lovely fir trees, oaks and the scraggly cedars. Continue reading Familiar places