Guest Post: Postcard from El Salvador

Agricultural engineer Irene Varela is a compelling presence. Six farmers are gathered on the patio of a church library in Santiago Texacuangos in El Salvador, about an hour outside the country’s capital for a workshop she’s leading. “What’s the soil like when you have worms?” Varela asks in Spanish. “Moist,” says one famer. “Rich,” says […]

Guest Post: How to Stop a Tsunami in Three Easy Steps

Right now, parents newly versed in the vocabulary of doom are discussing the Cascadia subduction in Seattle backyards, in Portland parks. They’ve read the recent New Yorker article about the devastating earthquake overdue in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe they’ve also read the stories in Outside and Discover. They know that three thousand schools around the […]

Go Occupy Those Forlorn Chairs

It’s summer, and I’ve been thinking of what poet Billy Collins called those, “forlorn chairs/though at one time it must have seemed/a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.” Even situated, as they usually are, to take in the view, it’s hard for those chairs to compete with the attention-grabbing distractions found […]

Where the Wind Has No Name

Of all the evocative place words humans have come up with, the words for local winds may be the most varied and most charming. There’s the Albrohos of Portugal, the Gilavar and the Khazri of Azerbaijan, and the Shamal of Iraq. There’s the Cape Doctor of South Africa, the Hawk of Chicago, and the Wreckhouse winds of Newfoundland. […]

The Calendar Made of Earth

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 a few hours southwest into mesas and […]

My Mom on the Bering Land Bridge

All this week Last Word on Nothing is geared toward Mother’s Day, which is next Sunday. Tell your mother you love her and share some of our posts, things are about to get maternal. Pictured above: my mother. I held her cold hands in mine, rubbing warmth into them as she crouched behind a rock […]

A Sense of Many Places

In the past half year, I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve always traveled a lot. Until recently there’s been a heavy emphasis on longer trips: going to live in a foreign country or hang out on a ship for a few weeks or months. In the five and a half years I was freelancing, time was […]

Remnant of Eden

A summer not long ago I went for a grueling 3-day backpack through GMO cornfields in Iowa, camping among walls of waxy green leaves that sawed against each other in the breeze. I wanted to see what besides corn and soybeans lived out here. Not much, I found. Spiders and ants were few and only […]