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UR Here: Keys to the City

Kudos to Mark Ginsberg and Marc Moen for putting pianos out in our public downtown walkways a la the “Play Me, I’m Yours” initiative in New York City and elsewhere. Now, anyone can share their musical talents, big or small, with everyone else. This is the truest definition of “public art,” and I hope we […]

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UR Here: Challenging Change

In the raging underage/binge drinking debate in Iowa City, a couple of familiar refrains keep singing: “You can’t change the drinking culture,” and “Downtown Iowa City’s economy will collapse,” the latter with various subpoints (the downtown economy is heavily bar-dependent, so there will be mass vacant storefronts, many jobs will be lost, tax revenue will plummet, etc., etc.). These talking points are repeated ad infinitum by many, but especially the student population. Underlying both of these arguments is a fundamental belief that things cannot change from their current state. The universe always tells us that nothing is further from the truth.

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UR Here: That Black Iowa Dirt

It’s a beautiful early spring Saturday, the day before Easter, in fact. The temperature will probably see 70 today, an early gift of the summer to come. The sunshine on my neck is warm, a feeling I’ve missed for many months. As Christians prepare to celebrate the breath of a resurrected spirit promising new life, and as Jews celebrate their people’s new breath of freedom, I work at my personal offices of spring, trying to breathe new air–and re-borning life–into the ground of my home. […]

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UR Here: Boundary Waters

UR Here: March 2010 – Eastern Iowans nervously watched the snow pile up in their yards and fields this winter. While we did not threaten any records, the memory of 2008 lingers like the shadow pain of a broken bone recently healed. Indeed, the news outlets are running stories that tell us forecasters are worried […]

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UR Here: Small Towns, Big Loss

In my last column, I presented some statistics demonstrating that the majority of Iowans are “urban” by U.S. Census standards and have been since 1950. With fewer farmers, the raison d’être of most small communities in Iowa—servicing the region’s agricultural economy—has disappeared. If the economic foundation of a town disappears, what’s the big deal? Close […]

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UR Here: Place in Time

For the past few years, July has been a special month for me. Since 2005, I have taught a one-week workshop in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival focused on writing about place and writing about nature. Since 2007, I have followed that up with a several-week course at the Iowa City Senior Center focused on […]

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UR Here: Nature's Economy

As the global economy crumbles around us, I have been writing about relocalization as a way toward sustainability, last month expanding on the concept of abundance as the foundation upon which it could work. One more important fundamental concept for a sustainable economy is looking to the natural world as a model, so I’d like […]

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UR Here: Hope Localized

January 20 is approaching. The “hope-mongers,” as Barack Obama jokingly called himself at a Northwest Junior High campaign rally in December 2007, cling to visions of revolutionary social transformation. The hardcore liberals are shaking their heads at the President-Elect’s centrist and hawkish Cabinet appointments. To tell you the truth, I’m a little bit of both: […]

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UR Here: Visiting Ober

I visited the grave of Ernest Oberholtzer today last month. I was invited to read from my new book of essays Under a Midland Sky (ok, that’s a plug) at the Unitarian Church in Davenport. This was a wonderful occasion to find the resting place of one of my heroes, especially given that Davenport’s Unitarian […]

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UR Here: Inscrutable Iowa

This is the month of masks. As the calendar veers toward the month’s end, more and more false faces and outré makeup will replace our regular countenances. Who is that? Who are you really? In Iowa, I sometimes wonder if every day is Halloween. People from our state, as well as most Midwesterners, are stereotyped […]

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