The DMZ between North and South Korea is a powder keg that is also a haven for thousands of endangered birds

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Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash

The DMZ (demilitarized zone) is a 155 mile stretch of land between North and South Korea across which opposing armies have all manor of weapons pointed at each other. This narrow strip of land is only 2.5 miles wide. It follows the 38th parallel because some American who had never even been to Korea picked this number on a map.

Fenced off with barbed wire and riddled with land mines, it is free of humans and other large mammals, who can’t enter, or perish if they do.

In the absence of such predators, about 5000 species of birds and plants…


Adding Meaning To Wedding Vows Decades Later

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Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

When you promise “in sickness and in health” and you are only twenty-four, you imagine a head cold. Maybe a bad case of the flu. And you think rather nobly to yourself: “I will stand by him and I will not leave him, even when he is hacking up a lung and sneezing storm clouds of snot all over my side of the bed.” Meanwhile, back outside your head, you underscore your promise with, “This is my solemn vow.”

You can’t possibly see the virtual grand canyon that separates “in sickness” and “in health” when you are standing “in health.”…


A thought exercise that started with a mushroom growing out of a bathtub

A single mushroom with a brown cap outside in a field. The grass in the background is blurry.
A single mushroom with a brown cap outside in a field. The grass in the background is blurry.
Photo: derek braithwaite via Unsplash

At least once a day, every day, for over two decades, I’ve pictured a mushroom sprouting out of the grout in the corner of a bathtub in the Florida Keys. It sits right between the bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

“Not just mold, but an actual mushroom,” was how my friend described this flora that flourished in the bathroom of her childhood home. “There was a real cap!”

My friend’s mother is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books. (She will remain nameless, as I did not ask her for permission to discuss her bathtub…


‘Limoncello, why not?’

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Photo: Rickson Liebano/Getty Images

If you have never tried limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, you may not know that it tastes like a concentrated, alcoholic version of Theraflu.

I was introduced to it years ago after a lovely al fresco meal with my husband in a movie-set-like patio restaurant in Sorrento, Italy. When our waiter came by to clear away our dinner plates and suggested this post-dinner treat, we were skeptical. My husband predicted it would turn out to be the Italian version of Kahlúa, a beverage that requires a picturesque holiday locale to be at all palatable.

We asked our waiter what it…


The joy of watching my kids make the world their own

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Photo by William Milliot on Unsplash

I’ve never felt as full up with wonder as when I was watching my toddlers learn how to name everything in front of them.

I can still feel my daughter’s squirmy body shifting around on my lap as she tap-tap-tapped on the puffy green cloud perched on top of a popsicle stick in her ABC book and exclaimed, “Tree!”

“That’s right!” I said, for the millionth time. (I don’t have as much occasion to say these words these days, now that they are teenagers…).

“Yumi, look — that’s a tree too! Look, TREE,” I said, pointing to the serene Japanese…


To paraphrase Winston Churchill

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Photo by Oliver Cox on Unsplash

I have a confession to make. I don’t want to forget 2020. In fact, I want to tug on the shirt sleeve of anyone who posts about wiping this year from our collective cloud storage and say, “but then it won’t have meant anything, all of our loss, isolation, and dread.”

I don’t want to let this crisis go to waste.

I wonder why it is that we pledged to “never forget” 9–11 but we are so eager to erase the memory of 2020? …


The story of power is in the tally, but the story of beauty is in the details

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Author’s photo from Aloft hotel, Detroit, Michigan 11/4/2020

Good morning from Wayne County Michigan. This is the view of the Detroit Tigers stadium from my hotel room.

My first thought this morning is that the true beauty of elections lies in the details. We fixate on the big amalgamated number, but all that tells you is a story about power, and the history of power reaching forward into our lives. As Lawrence O’Donnell put it, “the Electoral College is slavery’s revenge on the 21st century.”

On the other hand, grace is in the details. The young people showing up to vote. Wearing a mask, and working outside the…


The scanxiety is real, and here’s how I’ve learned to cope

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Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

My anxiety used to grow in the days leading up to the next scan as we’ve navigated my husband’s Stage IV cancer. What version of the future would we get to live? He had done all the treatments, I had fed him all the kale. Was it enough to make a difference?

My cancer lens showed me our future cut into a split screen. On one side, we were celebrating our son’s graduation together as a family. On the other, I was lost.

So I recognize this anxiety we’re collectively going through as we get closer to November 3rd. …


It hit me over watching him eat too many fries

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Author’s photo of the first dance to Ray Charles’ “Don’t Change on Me” — during which the groom enumerated all the changes that he would actually welcome, “Except you can be more on-time!” “Except you could tidy your dishes!” etc. etc.

I was watching my boyfriend munch on fries on a picnic table in New Haven one fall afternoon when it suddenly hit me. I didn’t want him to finish those fries — because I didn’t want him to die — because I didn’t want to be without him. So I gobbled down the remaining fries two and three at a time.

Maybe it started with trying to justify downing more than my fair share of greasy goodness. Regardless, I couldn’t shake the realization that started to weave its way around me.

So I began to untangle the near-term implications, which…


Wrestling with mortality is the opposite of depressing; it may be the truest path to freedom.

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Photo by Alan Mersom on Unsplash

I met mortality last year when my husband was diagnosed with thirteen malignant tumors in his brain. Until then, I was living with “health privilege” (a close cousin of the White privilege many of us are grappling with as a country right now), and I busily brushed past mortality with minimal curiosity or acknowledgment.

But now I’m all in. In even my busiest of days, working at building my fledgling company, parenting teens, and trying to spouse the best I can, a part of me is still dying to get back to my love affair with mortality when the house…

Jane Park

CEO of sustainable gifting company: https://tokki.com/. Speaker, writer: https://www.seejanewonder.com. Addicted to making meaning.

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