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    2021’s Top Ten

    The Most Popular Plough Articles Published in 2021

    By Dori Moody

    December 27, 2021
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    Here, in ascending order, are the ten most popular articles Plough published in 2021, based on the number of readers online.


    man in white bee suit tending a hive of bees on a New York rooftop

    Tim Maendel tending beehives on a New York City rooftop

    10. City of Bees by Tim Maendel

    I am looking for eggs. Not the hard-shelled ones you cook for breakfast; these are very small, half the size of a grain of rice. It would be great to meet the queen, but I am satisfied that she’s close – I see evidence of her in her subjects’ focus, the calm her presence brings. I look for baby food – not Gerber purées, but pollen packed into storage cells. And of course, I’m checking for honey.


    painting of a man looking at a candle in the dark

    Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, Truth, 1905 Artwork by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (public domain)

    9. Ernest Becker and Our Fear of Death by Kelsey Osgood

    I was twenty-six years old when my grad-school mentor suggested I read The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. I no longer remember exactly what the impetus was – I think it had something to do with a manuscript I was writing, part of which dealt with the urge to pre-memorialize our lives in writing, but it’s just as likely she thought it might be helpful to me in my personal life. At the time, I was the sole employee of a true-crime writer who was dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.


    abstract colorful art of open hands

    Public domain

    8. Signs and Wonders by Howard Saylor

    I had just pulled into the driveway below my house and, as I started up the walk toward the door, I was overwhelmed by some of the things I’d been dealing with. We had a metal two-seat swing that hung from a large tree in our front yard. I stepped over to it, flopped down, looked skyward and exclaimed, “I really need to know that you are hearing my prayers, God!” At the time, my life seemed to be spiraling through a series of catastrophes.


    watercolor painting of leaves against the sun

    Peer Christensen, Crabapple Study, oil on canvas, 2020 Artwork by Peer Christensen. Used by permission.

    7. The Abyss of Beauty by Ian Marcus Corbin

    Albert Camus writes that if you’re truly paying attention, beauty, for all its sweetness, is “unbearable.” Beauty, he says, “drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.” For most of us, Camus’s pronouncement sounds dubious; it has the ring of tragic poetic fancy. We may feel revulsion or despair at the sight of misery and death, but beauty? What sort of pain could attend the apprehension of a sunset or a flower?


    painting of two hands holding a baby in abstract bright colors

    Shai Yossef, Newborn, oil on canvas Used by permission

    6. Let the Body Testify by Leah Libresco Sargeant

    The vulnerability of our bodies is part of what binds us together into a community. In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the story begins with the traveler’s suffering when he is beaten and robbed. His need is what calls neighborliness out of the Good Samaritan, who binds the traveler’s wounds, takes him to a refuge, and ensures his continued care. This story is Christ’s answer to an expert in the law, who asks Jesus to clarify the limits of the Great Commandment. God calls me to love my neighbor as myself, but who, exactly, counts as my neighbor? And, left as the subtext, who doesn’t count? Whom am I allowed to not love?


    photo of Russell Maroon Shoatz in prison clothes against a cinderblock wall

    Russell Maroon Shoatz

    5. The End of Rage by Ashley Lucas

    In 2014 in Pennsylvania, Russell Maroon Shoatz was released from twenty-two consecutive years of solitary confinement into the general prison population. This is twenty-one years and fifty weeks longer than the length of time in solitary the United Nations has deemed to be torture. Having spent so much time in a small space, he had trouble walking and could not climb the stairs to the cafeteria. He felt overwhelmed by other people, whose presence he had so desperately missed for all those years. Known to his supporters inside and outside the prison as a Black liberation leader, he now found it physically difficult to stand up tall. That he was even alive was more than many who considered him a cop killer wanted: they believed that his punishment should have been death.


    watercolor painting of Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring

    Anke Eissmann, Tom Bombadil

    4. Households Are Back by C. R. Wiley

    I’m sure New York will bounce back eventually. Too many people have too much invested for it to languish indefinitely. It will take time, and as far as I can tell, new political leadership. But I think that those of us who believed that Manhattan was too big to fail have felt a considerable shock. Manhattan, in fact, is remarkably fragile. And a lot of people who’ve loved New York have divorced themselves from it. Partly it has to do with the things we all know about – Covid-19, social unrest, and so forth – but without the internet people would still be there, holed up in their tiny apartments. The ability to work online, remotely, offered an option that many people like better. They went home.


    painting in orange and red of a mother and baby

    J. Kirk Richards, Mother and Child Artwork used by permission.

    3. The Risk of Gentleness by Gracy Olmstead

    A limb skimmed the inside of my belly, the slick slide of it like a marble rolling underneath my skin. A tiny baby boy jostled my insides, engaging in his regular evening ritual of chaotic movement. I sat feeling his unknown shape bump up against my own, considering all this child’s unknowns: the thickness of his hair, the hue of his eyes, the shape of his nose. Closer than a brother, yet more mysterious than a stranger. This is the child I did not expect. He is the child I would have told you, a year ago, I did not want.


    stained glass artwork of a dove surrounded by light

    Holy Spirit, stained glass in the Church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, Paris, France. Photograph by Guilhem Vellut (public domain)

    2. Integrity and the Future of the Church by Russell Moore

    I remember seeing a woman I knew to be a serious Roman Catholic post on her social media an old music video, with no commentary. The video, R.E.M.’s 1991 song “Losing My Religion,” prompted friends to ask if she had lost her faith. She responded that she hadn’t, but was afraid that she was losing her church. No wonder her friends were concerned … What happens when people reject the church because they think we reject Jesus and the gospel?


    red fox in the night on a sidewalk

    Photograph by Ben Aviston on Flickr

    1. The Elemental Strangeness of Foxes by Zito Madu

    I had always thought of foxes as creatures of the wild. In stories and nature shows about foxes, humans are rarely seen. It never occurred to me that to meet a fox, all I had to do was go to one of the most populous cities in the world and simply walk down the street. A conversation with a cat felt more possible. But there are reportedly over 10,000 red foxes in London, because urban expansion has destroyed their habitat over the years.

    Contributed By Dori Moody with a stack of books Dori Moody

    Dori Moody is a Bruderhof member and an editor at Plough. She and her husband and children live at Fox Hill, a Bruderhof community in New York.

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