From "Still Life":
"Last Saturday at noon I stretched out in the dell in my side yard. The daffodils which I planted last fall had begun to bloom, and I wanted to see what they looked like from the ground. Standing above them I was tempted to count blossoms. I wondered how many of the bulbs I had planted came up and if I had gotten 'good value.' On the ground concerns about money and bets disappeared. . . .Instead of passing unnoticed at my feet, colors were in my face, and the world seemed a patchwork of light."
Characters from Carthage, from "Magic":
"The trip to Nashville changed Hink, however. Nobody knew what happened. Perhaps he drank too much or 'bit off more than he could chaw,' as Googoo put it. Whatever the case, on returning Hink pronounced himself a Christian and started attending Slubey Garts's Tabernacle of Love. When Pharoah Parkus came over from Memphis to hold a baptizing, Hink was waiting on the riverbank Hink knew almost no doctrine, and when Pharoah asked him if he believed in Original Sin, he answered, 'yes, if it's lived up to.'"
From "Composing A Life":
"Like a good essay, the composed life has a beginning, middle, and definite ending. Youth can dream about the future and imagine a multitude of endings, and as a result usually can't write well. After forty, dreams stop and one buys life insurance. Instead of evoking visions of idyllic pleasure, the ellipsis that looms ahead leads only to an erasure and an empty notebook. For the writer beyond forty the end is clear and nothing can change it."
Sam Pickering is Professor of English at University of Connecticut in Storrs. He's the author of more than a dozen books of essays, including Trespassing, The Blue Caterpillar and Other Essays, and The Last Book. He is married and has three children.