A bird in the hand

The marmoset looked unlikely on the filing cabinet. It reclined on a piece of poster board, its skinny arms folded across its chest. Its cotton-stuffed eyes stared at the low, tiled ceiling. The specimen room smelled strongly of tea and cornmeal. Carina pulled the handle of a taller cabinet, and Mo and I leaned in. […] …

A bird in the hand

Parks without people? A response to Jason Mark

A few days ago, environmental writer Jason Mark published an essay in Sierra, the national magazine of the Sierra Club, in which he advocates for “a provocative idea”: establishing nature reserves that would be “off-limits to most people” except “working scientists.” These preserves would be managed exclusively “for wild nature alone.” Mark invokes conservationist icon […] …

Parks without people? A response to Jason Mark

The Calendar Made of Earth

This post originally published May 12, 2015 With a calendar and Google Earth on my computer, you’d think I wouldn’t need the horizon any more, but I find I need it more than ever. After 15 years living in the same house tucked into the West Elk Mountains of western Colorado, I moved this winter […] …

The Calendar Made of Earth

Strawberries in the blast zone

“When one is alone and lonely, the body gladly lingers in the wind or the rain, or splashes into the cold river, or pushes through the ice-crusted snow. Anything that touches.” –Mary Oliver, “Leaves and blossoms along the way: A poem” It was 95 degrees out on the day I drove towards the wildfire. I […] …

Strawberries in the blast zone

Redux: Water in Yomibato

In 2016, I went to the Peruvian Amazon on assignment for National Geographic. I focused on a group of indigenous people, the Matsiguenka, living inside Manu National Park. One of my sources was Alejo Machipango, a hunter, farmer, and member of the water committee for the village of Yomibato. Alejo is about 34, but I […] …

Redux: Water in Yomibato

Science Metaphors (cont.): Isostatic Rebound

Science, every now and then, interrupts its usual flow of thick, painful jargon to speak in metaphors that reveal the poetry at its soul and lay out a clear path to meaning in life.  I’m serious here. I twitter-follow an author named Robert Macfarlane, whom our Michelle also likes, and who posted his phrase of […] …

Science Metaphors (cont.): Isostatic Rebound

Small Quakes

At 10:20 last Monday morning I sat at a table outside of Tucson, Arizona, writing these words: The land does not move, frozen to our eyes. Within a minute or two, a small but notable earthquake struck outside of the almost-ghost town of Bedrock, Colorado, 600 miles away. It was 4.5 on the Richter scale. […] …

Small Quakes

Redux: The Xenotopian Impulse

Until last week, I’d never heard of the Broomway. Now I long to walk it. The Broomway is a paradox: a path through the ocean, a six-century-old walkway that disappears each day. It begins on the southeastern coast of England and heads straight out to sea, crossing about three miles of sand and mudflats until […] …

Redux: The Xenotopian Impulse

Second synesthesia

if you are thirsty for water but not water remember all the places that say its shape. * the river confluence of your palmlines * the tributaries of cracked leaf held to light * the braiding-in streams of antler, dropped at autumn’s bend into winter: water, shed. * and if you are cold, in that […] …

Second synesthesia

Oh, To Follow the Road That Leads Away From Everything

Driving in a foreign country is a good way to turn your head inside out. It shakes the cobwebs and forces you to rearrange the heavy furniture of your mind. You need to make room for thoughts such as 10 mil is how many pesos is how many dollars? And what is the phrase for […] …

Oh, To Follow the Road That Leads Away From Everything

Guest Post: The Power of Water and Its Absence

As I put today’s fifth pot of water on the stove to boil, I think about how this has become part of my daily routine. Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil, set the timer for 3 minutes, pour some in the French press to brew coffee, use some to wash out the dog […] …

Guest Post: The Power of Water and Its Absence

Destruction Can Be An Act of Creation

This is a picture of a rift in our world. It was taken June 21 at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, in a rip called Fissure 8. What a remarkably utilitarian name for a tear in the planet. I was captivated by images like these all summer, and I forgot about them when my attention turned to […] …

Destruction Can Be An Act of Creation

No empty earth

I don’t know when I first saw Cisco, Utah. My early memory of it is imprecise, gathered from a series of impressions over years into one blurry composite. A crumbling edifice of corner store, covered in a mural of eagle and mountains that is in turn covered in black scrawls of graffiti. Dead cars. Piles […] …

No empty earth