“The Contemplative, Unnerving Beauty of the Sandy Hook Memorial”

Jesse Dorris writes for The New Yorker on the newly-unveiled permanent memorial for the six teachers and twenty young children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012: The memorial’s spatial poetics—the balance between circular pathways and blocks of granite, its enduring engravings of names in stone and perennials for texture and color … Read more“The Contemplative, Unnerving Beauty of the Sandy Hook Memorial”

Riverside Shrine

Since moving to our new riverside neighborhood, I’ve been in the habit of leaving small memorial tokens – leaves, pieces of bark, twigs, etc. – on this tree stump along the river pathway. Very occasionally, there’s been evidence that others are likewise leaving items on the stump, though their purpose is unknown to me. This … Read moreRiverside Shrine

The “Radical Ritual” Series

In 2017, Burning Man’s theme was “Radical Ritual,” and the Burning Man Philosophical Center project produced a series of essays and interviews exploring the place of ritual in modern society. Here’s a section from Larry Harvey’s introductory essay: Is Burning Man a Religion? “The practical needs and experiences of religion seem to me sufficiently met … Read moreThe “Radical Ritual” Series

A Pictorial Memoir of the Pixie Land Fairy Castle

I recently came across the Pixie Land Fairy Castle on an evening walk along the Ronan Park River Trail. (If he stays still, I might not spot him …) The Castle featured colorful flags, judiciously-placed pinecones, an array of painted stones and several fairies. Sadly, when I visited the spot last night, the Pixie Land … Read moreA Pictorial Memoir of the Pixie Land Fairy Castle

“By the River”: the Death Hotels of Varanasi

For the people of Varanasi – the holiest of India’s seven sacred cities – death is a blessing. Stretching along the banks of the river Ganges, Varanasi is a place where devout Hindus go to die in the hope of achieving moksha: freedom from the endless cycle of death and rebirth (samsara). ‘Death hotels’ provide a … Read more“By the River”: the Death Hotels of Varanasi

Tributes to Robin Williams at the “Good Will Hunting” Bench (Boston Public Garden, 2014)

In the days and weeks following the tragic death of actor/comedian Robin Williams in August of 2014, many Boston-area fans paid tribute at the site of one of Williams’ most iconic scenes. His Academy Award-winning performance as therapist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting (1997) included a moving scene in which Maguire quietly confronts his … Read moreTributes to Robin Williams at the “Good Will Hunting” Bench (Boston Public Garden, 2014)

“The Shrines on Boulevard Voltaire”

In 2015 Ian McEwan wrote for the New Yorker on vernacular shrines commemorating the victims of the terrorist mass shooting at the Bataclan Theatre: In the land of Voltaire, on the boulevard named for him, a general absence of religious belief hardly detracts from the seriousness of the shrines; why bend to a god that … Read more“The Shrines on Boulevard Voltaire”

The Toxteth Day of the Dead

One of several distinctly English responses to the Dia de Muertos ethos – see also the Glastonbury Festival of Death and Dying – the Toxteth Day of the Dead is an initiative by musicians/culture jammers KLF (a.k.a. the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, the JAMs and the Timelords, among others). Here’s a BBC audio documentary … Read moreThe Toxteth Day of the Dead

Alter/Altar (Lower Manhattan, 2019)

Alter/Altar was an experiment in ephemeral public memorial art: It’s said that you’re a New Yorker when that which is gone becomes more real than that which took its place. This event is an homage to hyper-local elements of the city, including but not limited to communication, transportation, personal memory and happenstance. In the wee … Read moreAlter/Altar (Lower Manhattan, 2019)