Awe and Oaks

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New From Me This Month

For this month’s newsletter, I started writing about how not knowing when to plant inspired delight (and awe). Then I checked the word count and decided 547 words might be more at home on Medium than in your inbox. If you have three minutes and would like an invitation to connect with the awe embedded in your intellectual limits, click to read How What You Don’t Know Can Help You.

The spring edition of the Macalester today has a sweet story called Ten Years of MacReads, which highlights the bookclub I founded and run for Twin Cities Macalester alumni. The piece is packed with great quotes from MacReaders, including this one from Kate Baxter-Kauf ’02, who said “MacReads is absolutely the best of why I went to Macalester and why I love Macalester people. It’s smart people in a room discussing something in-depth and with feeling, knowledgeable about the subject, and excited to dig in together.” If you’re reading this and you went to Macalester, I think you might love MacReads too. Hit me up for details!

Your Curated Reading List

Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, The Sentence, takes place in Minneapolis between November 2019 and November 2020. Having lived there then myself, I was reluctant to revisit that period while reading for pleasure. But I’m glad I did. there’s something beautiful and useful about metabolizing difficult times through art and Erdrich’s famous mish-mash of styles (Is this book fantasy? Creative non-fiction? Paranormal fiction?) is particularly suited to making meaning of such a complex, chaotic time.

Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory by Deb Dana

In my former life as a PTSD researcher and psychology student, I understood that on the line between science and pseudoscience, polyvagal theory is just north of quackery. But in my writing life, like when I interviewed Mona Delahooke for this article for Romper, the theory keeps bubbling up. So I decided to read Deb Dana’s book Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory. While polyvagal theory is still shaky science, it’s also (at least for me) a serviceable story to make sense of sensations and feelings and navigate them more skillfully. Sometimes that’s a better bar.

Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age by Bruce Feiler

My adult life has been filled with transitions — marriage, kids, jobs, houses, the whole shebang. For a while, I kept wondering when these changes would slow down, so I could get back to the business of living. But lately I’ve started to understand that rolling with these changes IS the business of living. What I’m saying is Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age by Bruce Feiler grabbed me from the title. I found a lot to like inside too, particularly the way it normalizes change and introduces the concept of an oscillating life story.

Emily P.G. Erickson's bookshop.
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Something Delightful

Baby oak leaves along the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, Minnesota

I love oak trees. They’re so big and beautiful and the way their branches reach to the heavens has long had my heart. But I only recently learned that oaks are remarkable from a scientific perspective, too.

I was paging through a book at a neighborhood shop and came upon some fantastic facts that inspired me to go digging deeper once I got home. What I found delighted me, and I thought it might delight you, too. For instance, James Godfrey-Faussett writes for One Earth about the remarkable biodiversity of oaks:

Up to 2300 species are known to be associated with oak, and that doesn’t include all of the fungi, or any of the bacteria and other microorganisms which create a symbiotic home with the oak. 

The 2300 species consist of some 38 bird species, 229 bryophytes, 108 fungi, 1178 invertebrates, 716 lichens, and 31 mammals. Of these species, 320 are found only on oak trees, and a further 229 species are rarely found on species other than oak. 

Let’s Connect!

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Published by Emily P.G. Erickson

Emily P.G. Erickson is a freelance writer specializing in mental health and parenting. She has written for popular digital publications, including Everyday Health, Health, The New York Times, Parents, Romper, Verywell Mind, WIRED, and more. Emily is a professional member of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). Previously, Emily researched PTSD for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and earned a master's in psychology. You can find the latest from Emily at

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