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 […]

Getting Out of the Jail of Time

Time is a jail that we’ve built for ourselves, I think as I look at the clock and realize this post is due by some daunting hour of the morning. How could this day have been contained by a big hand and little hand on the face of a clock? Sometimes, or some places, the clock […]

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 […]

Urban Lichens, Part 2 of 2: A Visit With a Lichenologist

Yesterday: Urban Lichens, Part 1: OMG! Urban Lichens!, in which we learned that there are lichens in the city. So I’d established that lichens can, sometimes, live in cities. The next step: round up a lichenologist. On a sunny December afternoon, I met up with Manuela Dal Forno, a lichenologist. To be precise, she’s a […]

Urban Lichens, Part 1 of 2: OMG! Urban Lichens!

It was the big new concrete transit center that brought the lichens to town. In September, a huge new structure opened next to the metro station closest to my office. It has three levels, for buses, more buses, and taxis. It was held up by construction delays and disputes. The county and the transit authority […]

The Mark We Leave

Rounding a corner in Manhattan last week, I saw a handprint spray-painted on a wall. It was my hand. I had put it there last summer, my first and only piece of graffiti. It was nothing special, no artistic flair other than my five fingers. I had gloved my hand in plastic wrap and waved […]

Searching for the First Americans in the Smithsonian

In the quarter light of a few remaining bulbs in a decommissioned hall of the Smithsonian, Kirk Johnson, the museum director, pushed back drapes of clear plastic. The National Fossil Halls was being undressed for demolition, dioramas and murals half torn down, everything had to go. In his business outfit, a coat and tie and […]