Ode: Ally Karsyn Travels Alone

Jul 29, 2016
Ally Karsyn
Jordan Edens Photography

Going out to the airport, a man with a tennis racket sticking out of his suitcase takes a seat across from me on the train. Before long, he becomes one of the many people who asked me before, during and after my trip – do you know someone in Portland? Friends? Family?

I tell him what I told everyone else, “No, I went because I wanted to go.”

He calls me brave and admits he’s jealous because he could never travel alone like me and go somewhere without knowing a soul. I think nothing of it, and in that moment on the train, I forget to ask him, “What’s stopping you?”

Ode: Sara Culley Survives

Jul 20, 2016

My first experience with travel was from Florence Crittenton to a foster home in November of 1959. Within a few months, I moved to a cattle ranch in western Kansas with my new family, a mom and a dad and a big brother, two years older than me. My brother was adopted as well – from outer space. I loved my life on the ranch. I had cats and dogs and my pony Sugar Lump. My animals were my closest friends.


Ode: Leslie Erickson's Fear of Heights

May 11, 2016

Fear of Heights

I looked at Jesse and then back at the 12-foot wall in front of me. I bent double, holding my stomach, and felt as if a hand were wringing the life out of my intestines to the beat of my pounding heart. Waves of nausea waxed and waned as I contemplated the inevitability of climbing up and out of the small crevice within which we found ourselves.

“I can’t do it,” I said, straightening and shaking my head. I walked a few steps back from where we’d come.

Ode: Ally Karsyn

Apr 27, 2016
Ally Karsyn

Less stuff, more life

Whenever I start to feel stuck, I change the one thing I can, and I begin redecorating with all the fervor of Martha Stewart on the day she discovered Pinterest. My arbitrary impulse serves as a welcome distraction.

But while I’m flitting from room to room, I’m faced with things that were purchased under the assumption that they’d be placed in a lovely downtown loft apartment, not a lonely suburban home that has a lawn to mow and bushes to trim and porches to paint.

Ode: Kirby Kaufman

Mar 30, 2016
Ally Karsyn


Three years ago, as a newspaper reporter in Council Bluffs, Iowa, I met a dying a man named Larry Spalti, who at age 97, was probably happier than most people who were counting down the days to death. Happier than some of us could ever hope to be.

  It was August, not too warm, and not too cool. This man, who lived in a white house next to a Dairy Queen, called my work and wanted someone to tell his story.

Ode: Ally Karsyn

Mar 23, 2016
Ally Karsyn

In the middle of the night, I was on my knees, staring into a scummy toilet, wishing I could purge the poison from my body and wondering when was the last time I cleaned the bathroom floor.

This all started a week earlier. I went to go see my doctor for a routine visit while I had some time off of work. On this day, I was running late, a truck on I-29 threw a big rock at my windshield, and once again, I was tired. So when the doctor asked me how I was feeling, I answered by bursting into tears.