Books We Grow Into

There’s a column in the New York Times called “By the Book,” in which successful writers—or famous people who have written a book, which isn’t quite the same thing—answer questions about their reading habits. If my friend Donna reads an example she particularly likes, she cuts it out and shares it with me over coffee.Continue reading “Books We Grow Into”

Telling Swiss Farmers What to Do

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t know who or what to vote for. “Undecided” is not a category I ever find myself in, at least not when it comes to politics. On June 13, however, Switzerland is voting on two initiatives that would force Swiss farmers to give up pesticide, and I don’tContinue reading “Telling Swiss Farmers What to Do”

Newly Discovered: Belinda Bauer

I am a sucker for books with kids as heroes.  Not smartass kids, not stagy kids—just kids. Maybe I never quite outgrew my favorite children’s books, or maybe my affection for Jem, Scout and Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird has had too strong an influence on me.  In any case, if you, too, likeContinue reading “Newly Discovered: Belinda Bauer”

Happy Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day. On June 8th of this year, my mother, Joy Neiter Kramer Hays, will have been dead for ten years.  I wish I were celebrating the holiday by spending the day with her, and to make my happiness complete, I’ll include my sister Natasha in this fantasy as well. My mother loved NewContinue reading “Happy Mother’s Day”

Living with Guilt

In 1976, an American, Judith Guest, published a 263-page debut novel called Ordinary People. Robert Redford made it into a movie with Donald Sutherland in 1980, and it won the Oscar for Best Picture. I read the novel and saw the movie and was moved to tears by both of them. Of course, I stillContinue reading “Living with Guilt”

A Garden for the Dead

At the risk of seeming morbid, I wanted to return to my favorite place for walks, the Schosshalde Cemetery. On March 30th, I wrote about how most Swiss graves last for only twenty years, before they are filled with another generation’s coffins and urns. But I didn’t tell you how beautifully tended those temporary gravesContinue reading “A Garden for the Dead”

Ten Little Piggies Went to Market…or?

Every spring, at least one litter of piglets is born in the large enclosure for wild boars between the Aare river and the Dählhölzli forest.  When I walked along the river path beside the zoo today, I joined the crowd of parents holding up small children to see the antics of ten tiny furred andContinue reading “Ten Little Piggies Went to Market…or?”

A Plate of Eggs

You don’t have to be religious to enjoy Easter.  I’m not just thinking of the pleasures of chocolate eggs and fancy Easter breads or even, in Switzerland, the taste of a shoulder of baby goat roasted with potatoes and an Osterfladen, its buttery crust filled with almond- and lemon-flavored custard.   I enjoy Easter becauseContinue reading “A Plate of Eggs”

Temporary Graves

Bern’s Schosshalde cemetery, a hilly expanse of grass, trees, flowering shrubs and pansies shaded by gravestones, is perfect for a quiet spring walk. A place of peace, with intimations of eternal rest. Right? Wrong! Twenty years. That’s how long these dead get to rest. And then, whoopsie-daisy, their rent runs out and their spot isContinue reading “Temporary Graves”