Emily Siner

A sense of adventure

I mean, check out those Cliffs of Moher, right? The western coast of Ireland is beautiful.

“What are you most excited about for Ireland?” multiple friends have asked me in recent days. We leave in less than 24 hours now, so the trip has been part of every recent conversation.

I’ve struggled to answer that question. How can I pinpoint one thing? Sure, there are individual things I’m looking forward to. Hiking along the western coast of Ireland. Hanging out in Neolithic monuments. Buying an epic raincoat.

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The dizzying back-and-forth of abortion law

After the U.S. Supreme Court decided that abortion was no longer protected by the federal constitution, I couldn’t help but feel like we were all hanging on to a pendulum for dear life.

I started covering abortion law in 2014, as a public radio reporter in Nashville. At that time, abortion was not only legal in Tennessee (as it was — past tense — in every state), it also enjoyed additional protections under our state constitution. It was, you could say, more legal in Tennessee than in other states. Now, a near-total ban is going into effect later this month.

Halfway through this eight-year turnaround, I visited Ireland for the first time. It was early 2018, and abortion was still constitutionally prohibited. But a few months after my visit, the country legalized it for the first time. It’s now easier to get an abortion in Ireland than in Tennessee.

I find it both dizzying and fascinating to be living through these times of change. And by zooming out a bit, geographically and chronologically, the arc of the pendulum is even easier to see. Or maybe the better word is pendula, plural: Each place carves its own path back and forth, and sometimes it knocks into the other along the way.

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Fields of green

Smiling at the rolling green hills somewhere between Counties Cork and Kerry, April 2018.

In 2018, my then-boyfriend and I decided to go to Ireland. We’d been dating only a few months when we started planning it, and booking an international trip seemed like a gesture of massive commitment. Three years later, we would make an actual gesture of massive commitment and get married.

The reason we chose Ireland as our destination was, to my recollection, because I had learned to play a smattering of Irish tunes on my fiddle. We shared an intense aesthetic attraction to the sound: a mix of joy and sorrow, tunes you could dance to and cry to. My mother has shared with me that she used to be similarly enamored with Irish music and chalks that up to its similarities to Eastern European Jewish music, which is our actual cultural heritage. Perhaps that’s why Irish fiddle tunes resonate so deeply in my soul. Perhaps it’s because it was the soundtrack to my falling in love. Or perhaps it’s because, as a spiritually inclined friend once informed me, I used to be an Irish nun in a past life.

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Little Moments of Inexplicable Joy

There’s a magic in seeing the cherry blossoms in Tennessee: not there one day, there the next.

For three years, my residency in the Nashville neighborhood of Germantown overlapped with the celebration of Oktoberfest. On one glorious October weekend, with the leaves in full autumnal bloom and the weather still cooling off from summer, the otherwise mundane streets of my neighborhood would transform overnight into a festival.

Some years, it was literally outside my doorstep. Festival-goers sat on my stoop, drinking steins of lager and eating bratwursts. Cheesy tracks of polka music wafted in through my window (except when the karaoke booth was set up, when the waft brought in out-of-tune country standards). If I wanted dinner or social interaction, I just walked outside.

I loved it.

But what I loved even more were the moments of relative solitude. Late into the evening, a handful of stragglers would be finishing their beers and ambling back to their cars, or wherever they were going. Vendors would be zipping covers over their booths, slowly, as if they were still waiting for one last customer to come by. I’d wander back home, taking care to walk in the very middle of the car-less streets, and I’d pretend this was a party of one: a festival thrown just for me.Read More »Little Moments of Inexplicable Joy

Dreams of a Podcast Party

The show, sans Taylor Swift

My mom tells me that one’s ability to have vivid dreams is genetic. I’m not sure if that’s been scientifically proven, but at the very least it seems to be true in our case. My dreams have crisp details; I read in them; I often formulate interview questions if I’m dreaming about work.

This weekend, I dreamed about something that my mind (conscious and subconscious) has been obsessing over lately: Nashville Public Radio’s Podcast Party. It’s a big variety show that the station is putting on, in which we’re adapting our four podcasts to the stage. It will be really cool, and I’m not just saying that because I’m planning it.Read More »Dreams of a Podcast Party

Worth Saving

Dec. 1, 2006, may mark the first article of my journalism career.

Dec. 1, 2006, may mark the first article of my journalism career.

Inside the top drawer of a wooden filing cabinet in my parents’ house, there is a stack of old newspapers that contain nearly every word I’ve ever written in print. It is an archaeological dig into my career — a history of Emily Siner, journalist, in reverse-chronological order.

At the top, carelessly strewn, are articles written for the Champaign News-Gazette in college. Below that are stories I wrote during my internship at a paper in my hometown, then copies of the alt-weekly magazine I worked for in college, and finally, editions of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School Voyager.

At the very bottom, preserved by the weight of the papers above it, is the oldest surviving evidence of my writing in print: an issue of The Voyager from Dec. 1, 2006. I was a new features writer, and I wrote about how Smart cars were being produced in America for the first time. Why this story was feature-worthy for the student body of H-F High School was not made clear in the article. I did, however, interview a new classmate of mine who later became a good friend. Our friendship outlasted the purpose of that article.

But what will likely outlast both is the physical piece of paper on which the purposeless article is written.Read More »Worth Saving

The Rules Of Wandering

Seriously, this is the dead end of a random street in Venice.

Seriously, this is the dead end of a random street in Venice.

When I think back to my time studying abroad four years ago, there are two things that stick out in my mind.

First, I remember being cold the whole time. Southern France was unseasonably chilly that spring, so I had brought the wrong clothes, and I was too money-conscious to buy the right ones. Instead, I layered three pairs of tights and double-wrapped my scarves and bought a cheap winter hat from a street vendor.

Second, I had no obligations outside of classes, which meant I would spend hours getting lost in the web of tiny medieval-era streets. (When my toes got numb, I would warm up inside one of Aix’s endless supply of French boutiques, fingering the price tags of clothes I wished I could buy.) My extensive wandering was such a profound experience that I blogged about it at the time.

Then, a couple of years later, I learned about the word flâneur. It’s French — fittingly — and it has no direct translation in English, but it means something like “one who wanders alone.” A New York Times reporter described it like this: “Flânerie is, in its purest form, a goal-less pursuit, though for some it evolved into a purposeful art: Walking and observing became a method of understanding a city, an age.” This word resonated with me so deeply that I wrote another blog post about it.

So this is my third time blogging about the profundity of wandering. I can’t promise it will be my last.Read More »The Rules Of Wandering

Weighing My Words

Moleskines

How many pens had to be sacrificed for this notebook?

It was the color that got me, a light purple with a tinge of pink: the color of the Dannon raspberry yogurt I used to eat as a kid, before I realized any color that vivid should not be eaten in one’s yogurt.

I plucked the raspberry yogurt-colored notebook off the shelf and examined it. It was a Moleskine with a soft, leathery cover, and it was more expensive than any notebook I’d ever bought before. But I had just read a blog post by a writer — some writer, I can’t remember whom — professing the joys of using a Moleskine. Maybe, I thought, owning this notebook would inspire me to write more.

I know that logic is flawed. Proof: I bought a bike two years ago, hoping it would inspire me to ride more, and instead it’s been sitting on my porch and wasting away in the elements. But it came recommended by a real writer somewhere on the internet, and besides I liked the color. What the hell, I thought.Read More »Weighing My Words