Posts tagged "nature"

Writing the Animal Other: Beyond Anthropomorphism

Some of my earliest writing advice was to beware anthropomorphism. Whenever an animal flew, stalked, or swam into an essay, I’d receive that warning at least once in any critique. Having come to writing in middle age after experiences as a naturalist, park ranger, field biologist, and graduate student of ecology, this happened often. Early...
Me vs. Slugs: Pandemic Edition

Me vs. Slugs: Pandemic Edition

When the terrible virus was unleashed and our lives screeched to a halt, I planted a garden. My first. I tended it zealously, with the darting eyes of a suicide bomber. This was March, April, May, the world hijacked by hysteria. I could have watered my garden with tears after returning from the store rumored...
Children Hunting Bear in the Afternoon

Children Hunting Bear in the Afternoon

A sow bear and a cub were hit by a truck on the road outside my neighborhood. The cub’s torn black fur and cracked claws lay crumpled beside the blown tires. The sow bear, something soft ruptured behind her bones, scrambled up the incline into the green of Pennsylvania June and died in such a...
The Snow Line

The Snow Line

Mary points to the mountains and tells me her favorite thing about Montana is watching the snow line. We are driving to a biological research station, on a lake, where I will stay for some weeks, working on a book. Mary has been assigned as my travel guide. I have known her for one hour....
Entrance Privilege

Entrance Privilege

It doesn’t matter that months have passed since my brother’s gray Tercel was hauled away from here with bits of him inside. Or that I’ve searched this patch of grassy ground where it sat many times by now. I step from my car and comb over it again, for cigarette butts, scraps of paper, convenience...
The Wild Horses of Tybee Island

The Wild Horses of Tybee Island

We strike out in search of wild horses along the shores of Tybee Island. It’s early February—too cold for shores—but my wife and I have traveled 1300 miles from Wisconsin to Georgia, and we won’t be turned away. We slip on sweatshirts, remove shoes and socks, and walk past the pigeons toward the boardwalk. Aside...
Slumgullion Pass

Slumgullion Pass

I struggle to keep up with my husband Jack as we whack our way through smothering brush somewhere along Slumgullion Pass between Lake City and Creede. My lungs are working hard in the thin mountain air. Alferd Packer, the man this area is best known for, weighs heavy on my mind as he has for...
This is How a Robin Drinks

This is How a Robin Drinks

The birdbath that gets the most action is accidental. It’s just a big plastic saucer forgotten on the driveway, but found and filled by summer storms. The dog loves it, the red wasps love it, as do robins, doves, and cardinals: birds comfortable on the ground. Between it and me are an old lawn chair...
Steering into Winter

Steering into Winter

The last day of the year is barren. Trees long stripped, branches stark against the grey sky. The New England forest reveals the cages of its body, limbs tangling together, weighed down by ice and debris. From a distance the forest looks like a hundred men stooped from age and the harshness of living through...
The Wordless Woods

The Wordless Woods

Foraging along the woods’ edge, the doe looks up from the hydrangea she is nibbling and twitches an ear—a salute, I think, stopping the car, though it isn’t a salute. She may be afraid for herself and the fawn with its muzzle in the mast, but shows no fear standing serene at the border of...

How to Untangle Environmental Stories: Five Contradictory Lessons

When we talk about environmental writing, one irony has always fascinated and sometimes frustrated me. Alongside chronicling the wonders of the non-human world, we’re writing about people trying to fulfill very basic needs—food, air, water, clothing, shelter—in sustainable ways, but doing so leads us into a dense tangle of politics, race, gender, and class. Too...
Two Septembers

Two Septembers

1. Blink We forgot to drop off the gas bill until 4 am, but that was just an excuse. Really, we drove out because we wanted to be in the storm. The usual thunderstorm things happened: rain blowing in on us, which was a refreshment at first, then a call to close the car windows;...
What I Do on My Terrace Is None of Your Business

What I Do on My Terrace Is None of Your Business

The woman in the apartment on my left has her head drooped low and an arm weighed down by a yellow watering can spouting all over the clay pots that line the metal bars of her terrace.  If she had fuchsia pink hair, she would look exactly like the hibiscus flowers she’s been growing in...
If You Find a Mouse on a Glue Trap

If You Find a Mouse on a Glue Trap

If you find a mouse on a glue trap, he’ll eyeball you with one black shiny eye while breathing in and out faster than you have ever seen anything breathe. You will panic, though you know the mouse is panicking harder. When your husband points out that the mouse is not alone in the furnace...
A Murder of Crows

A Murder of Crows

Once upon a time in a summer camp as far north and left as you might go from here, there was not just one crow, but many. There always had been crows in that place. There was also a hired groundskeeper who watched after the summer camp cabins, repaired sheds and steps, cleared trails in...

A Review of Will Dowd’s Areas of Fog

Here in New England, we had four nor’easters in March: Riley, Quinn, Skylar, and most recently Toby. My friend’s business trip to Boston coincided with Quinn. While I’d classify her as a   conscientious, cautious, and well-planned traveler, she decided this time not to pack snow boots. They didn’t match her outfits. They were too big...
Survival

Survival

Imperceptibly, the white pine has grown so tall no one can see what’s happening up there. Dirt has mounded at its base, the underside asserting itself: a bulge of the invisible. You can see the tree from far down the lake. It was planted ninety years ago by my father and his brother. They put...
Consciousness

Consciousness

Quick as a cut, darkness came to the afternoon, to the nursery where I sat cross-legged on the floor, a white raft of a blanket under us. My newborn sucked her fingers while clumped in the crooks of my arms. We both squinted toward the window, trying to make sense of it all: the sudden...