This is what it sounds (looks) like

I’m a recent convert to Instagram as my main form of social media. After spending a lot of the day reading and writing, listening and talking, sometimes I just can’t take any more words. Facebook sometimes seems too complicated, Twitter too fast—but looking at images feels restful. I’ll follow most anything—photos of kids, vacation scenery, […]

Damage Patterns

The other night I was in the midst of writing about the Ice Age when I strayed to the internet. Up came the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography that went this year to New York Times photographers Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev, Tyler Hicks and Daniel Etter for their coverage of the European refugee crises. Fresh from writing a […]

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 […]

Gratuitous Cherry Blossom Pictures

You can’t miss the cherry blossoms at this time of year in Washington, D.C. Clouds of white and pink proclaim the end of winter, on the streets and by the parking lots. Most famously, and unbeatably, they bloom around the edge of the Tidal Basin.

Coming of Age

  A few years ago, I joined a group of families on a backcountry kayaking trip in Alaska’s Prince William sound. A kid named Will was just about to turn 13, and I was there to watch him come of age. I’d known him as a strong little wild-haired monkey, but on this trip he […]

The Oregon Trail Game

The first time I played the Oregon Trail computer game – a parody of American westward expansion inflicted on countless school kids – was this winter. I was snug in bed, as befits a prospective pioneer facing one of history’s largest human migrations. Up to 500,000 settlers set out along the Oregon and California Trails […]

Live from the Bering Land Bridge

My desk is a mess, skulls, books and papers strewn. The cast of a saber-tooth cat skull sits on the corner, resting on its two double-edged daggers, reminding me of the book I am writing about the first people in North America, and what they encountered. As I crab myself over the keyboard, the Smilodon skull […]

The day I tried to love ticks

There’s a certain category of mundane but distinctly unpleasant discovery: The blueberries you just mixed in your oatmeal explode mold into your mouth at 6 a.m. You read that Donald Trump won the Nevada Republican caucuses. You roll over in bed to find a tick lodged midriff-deep in your shoulder, wiggling about with a tenacity […]