Redux: Below the Snow

Right now, the meteorological event that some are calling Winter Storm Kayla is on its way across the U.S. While people may be curled up inside with a quilt by the fire, another group of creatures is finding shelter outside, under a cold, white blanket. This post about that unique below-the-snow spot, called the subnivium, originally ran in […]

Blinded by the light

At the end of the year, the New York Times Book Review featured the Year in Poetry, covering 2015 collections by poets here and abroad, and other poetry features, including well-known people who talked about their favorite poems. The section’s Letters department always brings a range of opinions; the comments on the poetry issue followed […]

Redux: The Mystery of the Ill-Timed Tides

Two years ago this winter, I was trying to figure out why the high tide seems to usually fall on winter mornings where I live, and the low tide on winter evenings. I promised that if I solved this mystery, I’d post an animation about how it worked. But while reader Stephan Zielinski provided plenty […]


  We had been driving across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco when I noticed the flags. They were everywhere, on top of the silvery tall buildings, on top of the squat red-brown ones, even on some places that seemed too precarious to fly a flag. They all unfurled themselves halfway down the flagpole, making the […]

A Piece of My Mind

I didn’t know how much I cared about pie until I realized I wouldn’t be having one this week. We’re going snow camping and although I know that it’s possible to make a pumpkin pie with a campfire, a little creativity and the right ingredients, at this point I just want to focus on making […]

Clamming Up

I find myself thinking about the word ‘clam’ more often than is decent, at least without some thought. I call certain pairs of pants ‘clamdiggers’, even though I’ve never worn them to do such a thing. When I scrounge around to find dollar bills in pockets and drawers—and then these clams disappear quickly into other […]

Water Year

It’s October, the start of a new water year. A water year is one of several ways to measure rainfall. This way, water year 2016 starts now–when we hope the rain will begin–and will end in September. A rainfall year runs from July to June, a buffer of dry season on either side of when […]

March On

The first time I ever saw a marching band I ran away and cried. The band wasn’t even really marching–it was cooped up inside a small music hall. Maybe that was the problem. The timpani and the tubas, trapped in a single room, were far too loud for a little kid’s ears. When I finally saw […]