Annie Hawkins

A journey to stress-free joy in the holiday season

If we’re aware of our bad habits, can we avoid family dust-ups? Only if we’re wearing halos and wings.

It must be an epidemic.

Google “coping with holiday stress,” and you'll find enough advice from psychologists, life coaches, health clinics, etiquette mavens, and other “experts” to keep you in reading material for all the holidays of your life.

My cursory research has revealed that the experts have boarded the same bus headed toward the elusive destination called sanity.

Get organized. Don't overindulge in food, alcohol, or spending. Avoid shopping malls. Make time to exercise and rest. Learn to say no. Lower your expectations. Put aside differences. Remember the reason for the season.

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How bad could a two-hour book group be?

The women held on to their fixed notions like barnacles clinging to a slippery rock

The written word and all luminous art will take us to places we never dreamed we'd go. But what is art? “Ay, there's the rub,” as Hamlet said. Debates about what qualifies as art are eternal, often contentious, and dreadfully boring. In her book Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy...

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Walking in our paws: A parable

‘It is true that we are a companionable species, but we demand the right to retain our canine nature.’ So says the Canine Liberation Front.

On a blustery November afternoon, the Canine Liberation Front (CLF) held a press conference at Dog Hill in Central Park. A winsome, bright-eyed border collie spoke through her interpreter, a young woman employed as the dog's walker. She spoke in a calm, earthy voice reminiscent of Lauren Bacall. “I'm...

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Uninvited guests

E.B. and I walked out into the darkness armed with two shovels, three flashlights, nine bombs, nine fuses, and a Bic lighter. This summer, groundhogs staged an occupy movement on our three acres of pasture. It was an occupation I couldn't tolerate. A few years ago, we were visited by an infestation of coyotes. They yipped and howled through four seasons and dispersed their scat over wide swatches of our driveway. They kept me awake on summer nights, and sometimes...

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How I stopped hating housework and discovered domestic bliss

Winter wasn't giving up. Several inches of snow fell during the night and was still falling in the morning, 24 hours before the vernal equinox. The flakes were wet and fine, glinting in the silver light of dawn. The fire in the woodstove had banished the early-morning chill. Light enveloped the east windows like a cocoon. It was a perfect day to begin spring cleaning, which, truth be told, was fall cleaning, too. Two cups of coffee had revved me...

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Meditations on the cold in Vermont

Early this morning, I shined my flashlight on the thermometer that hangs on the woodshed: 15 below. When I first moved here, the sight of that needle anywhere below zero made me quake. I wondered what had possessed me - an essentially tropical soul - to move north. Somewhere between then and now, I miraculously acclimated and accepted my fate. When I was young, I dreaded winter. Six days a week, I exercised racehorses on a farm in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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My mother goes avant-garde

The Saturday before Christmas is sunny and cold - the kind of cold that makes me feel like I'm breathing icicles. My parents and I are getting ready to make our annual pilgrimage to Aunt Sophie and Uncle Kirk's farm near the Bohemia River on Maryland's eastern shore. It's an hour's drive and I can't wait to get there. Uncle Kirk tends a grove of evergreens on the 30-acre field behind their house. This is the most wonderful day of...

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Dry commentary

Last night, my friend Bayo called to tell me about her shopping triumph. For several weeks, she'd been searching in stores and online for good-quality wooden clothespins made in America. Her resolve to locate the perfect clothespins had reached epic proportions, similar to a quest for the Holy Grail. I'd suggested that she search online for the Penley Corporation in West Paris, Maine. A couple of nights later, Bayo called to report that Penley had laid off its manufacturing employees...

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