On Being Alone

Something about the way a river trip starts. Gear gets thrown in, arranged, tied down, and when the current picks up and carries you downstream, your sense of time and distance immediately changes. Connection to the other 7 billion or so people on the planet loosens, and connection to something bigger, and in ways smaller, […]

Bug On My Airplane Window

I love seeing bugs on windows, for reasons I’ve never fully worked out. I’ve even written about it before on this blog. Normally those bugs are on the outside of the window and I’m on the inside. That’s how I prefer it. I think the bugs prefer it that way, too. They are out in the world, taking […]

Redux: The Long Legacy of a Good Deed

Sombath Somphone, a respected civil-society leader in Laos, was abducted in Vientiane in December 2012 and has not been seen since. As President Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit Laos, we revisit this post about Somphone, his disappearance, and a long-ago turning point in his life. Two years ago this week, a […]

Redux: On My Way to Burning Man

In the summer of 2014 I backpacked across the Black Rock Desert to Burning Man with a small group of friends, after which this piece was originally published. It has been only slightly altered. Since the lake bed is from late Pleistocene origin, and the loud and luminous eruption of this annual event will be […]

It’s Pretty, but It’s Bad News

It’s August, and that means the porcelainberries are out. The first time I noticed this plant, somewhere on the walk between home and work, I had no idea what I was seeing. Grapes? The leaves looked like grapes, but the fruits looked like so much more. Some kind of fabulous Easter confection. Chocolate covered in […]

Guest Post: Swimming in the Charles

The hot, thick summer air in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can make you feel like you’re sitting in a sauna, wrapped in a soaking-wet wool blanket. As a recent, temporary transplant, staying in a house without air conditioning, I needed a place to cool off. I’ve gotten to know all my favorite places by immersing myself in their water—the lakes […]

A Brush with the Bear

In the part of your mind that is still animal, still wild, you remember fight or flight; the possibility of paws holding you down, and the hinge of jaws upon you. The thought no longer goes through our minds the way it must have long ago. Sometimes, though, the memory returns. I was considering such a scenario years […]

Redux: Go Occupy Those Forlorn Chairs

This post first ran on July 16, 2015, but it’s good advice for any summer day. 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 […]