Shakespeare Was a Journalist

This past Saturday, the world celebrated the birthday of a guy named William Shakespeare. He was born in Stratford-on-Avon in England on April 23, 1564, and died on or about the same date in 1616. Pretty much every reputable Shakespeare scholar and literary historian argues—based on historical evidence—that this William Shakespeare was the author, alone […]

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 […]

Simplify, Simplify

I’ve owned only one copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and I’ve owned it since high school. It’s a 1980 Signet Classic paperback, original price $1.75. Inside the creased front cover, in ballpoint pen, a long-ago student has scrawled, “I want to go to sleep. I’ll never last 1 hr + 20 min reading!” I wasn’t that student—I […]

Antevernals in the Anthropocene

Over the past twenty years, naturalist David Lukas has hiked thousands of miles of trails in the Sierra Nevada, most of them accompanied by a slim, sturdy little book called Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. Lukas likes nature and he likes words, and he especially likes to know the history and meaning of our words about […]

No, Mr. Penn, That Is Not Why We Hate You

Like every foreign journalist living in Mexico, I’ve been watching the Sean-Penn-interviews-notorious-drug-lord with a mix of humor and mild disgust. It’s like some kind of adolescent game of Mad Libs. El Chapo meets Sean Penn in the mountains to talk about farts and penises. I tried to read the article but could only force myself […]

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. […]

Birds and Songs and Bird Songs

I walked along the edge of a cliff. Under my feet, grass. To my right, a hundred-foot drop to the waters of the English Channel. A strong wind blew off the water and over the cliff, blowing the loose ends of hair in my face, obnoxiously. To my left was a field, planted with something […]