Someday, they tell me, the midwest will begin summer. For now, we’re in what I imagine mid-spring Seattle is like, with buckets of rain and temperatures in the hoodie-and-jeans range. However, I’ve lived in the midwest for decades now, and I know that we’ll go right from this to scorching summer. As soon as the cottonwood fluff clears from the air and my lungs calm down, I’ll be back outside, running along the lakefront, the same routes that have taken me out of my worries and onto another spiritual plane for the last eight years.
Moving my body in the early mornings past gardens and parks and not-yet-open cafes has always been a salve for me. I often say that I don’t like running but I like having run, but that’s not entirely true; I also like seeing and feeling the world on my own feet and at my own pace, alone, in the quiet.
But sometimes it’s too quiet. And sometimes it’s too early to listen to Salt-n-Pepa. That’s when I find podcasts to be just the thing.
It was just one such morning recently when I listened to the first episode in this season of An Arm and a Leg, a newish podcast by journalist Dan Weissmann all about the cost of health care in America. It reminded me of a crazy health insurance battle I had in 2006, when I was charged $900 for a doctor’s visit my daughter had in the hospital. I wrote about how I fought the bill on The Mighty, an online publication for those coping with chronic illness or disability. I’d love it if you read it and let me know what you think — and definitely check out the podcast, too!
At one point, the host of this podcast, Dan Weissmann, muses on something I’ve wondered too, and considered often as I fought my daughter’s $900 medical bill. He says, “Those systems – especially all the long hold times, all those people who don’t really do anything? Maybe they’re just inefficient. But maybe they’re really really efficient. Maybe they’re like a toll the health insurance companies and everybody else are charging you. Like, you wanna talk to somebody who can maybe help you? Let’s see if you’re willing to pay this toll. Otherwise, maybe you just pay whatever we tell you to pay.”
My other new favorite podcast — good for my running mornings and also for when I’m outside endlessly weeding my high-maintenance garden — is called Proof, by America’s Test Kitchen. It’s almost like an anthropological study of food. It’s not a recipe podcast but more of a deep dive into different kinds of edible substances. There have been episodes on celery, food flavors, ketchup, carnival food, and even general episodes on concepts like cravings or non-newtonian fluids. All my years in the kitchen learning the science behind food in order to cook for my daughter’s special dietary needs made me appreciate food in a whole new way. This podcast is lighthearted but full of interesting background and stories. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Finally, my newfound love of live storytelling probably came in part from the podcast I’ve listened to the longest: The Moth Story Hour. Though I’ve listened to it for years, I recently started trying my hand at telling stories in their local story slams. Telling stories on stage is a great education in writing concisely and building tension in a short amount of time. (I’m even telling a story at a local non-Moth storytelling event in July!) The Moth podcast highlights their best-told stories from around the world. Every episode has a theme, and it’s fascinating to hear all the different takes people can have on the same topic. Even my daughter loves to listen to The Moth.
The interesting thing about podcasts in general — and these specifically — is that they seem like the best possible combination of the old-time radio show and a great collection of essays. They allow me to take in stories and content without looking at a screen. I find summer to be the time when I listen the most. As The Moth host says at the end of every episode: “We hope you have a story-worthy week.”
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of FindingNinee.com. This week, we were asked to link up a new or old post about 4th of July or summertime in general.