On the Discovery of Liquid Water on Mars

The first memory I know for sure is the smell of rain. I remember a screen door with holes in it big enough to let in a hummingbird, and outside I could see blue bellies of clouds over a dirt road. I can only figure it was somewhere in Arizona where I was born. I’ve always […]

Aristotle’s Raven

East Sand Island, a slim strip of sand, sludge, and beachgrass near the mouth of the Columbia River, is home to an estimated 28,000 cormorants. Make that 26,800 cormorants: Since Memorial Day, crews from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services have shot more than 1,200 adult birds and doused more than 5,000 nests with vegetable oil, suffocating developing cormorant […]

Guest Post: The Lords of Yesterday

As my husband and I drove into Ouray, Colorado recently, we both gasped. The red-grey cliffs of 14,000-foot mountains cradle the old mining town, with waterfall lacework tracing down the mountainsides — one of the most gorgeous spots on Earth. But it was the stream tumbling through the valley we were gasping at: It was […]

Hummingbirds Are Such Jerks

The two of us, my husband and I, took our breakfast toast, melon, and coffee out to the porch last Sunday morning, with late summer hanging on by its teeth.  It was early, so the neighbors’ ACs were still off, and nobody was out yet.  “It’s so quiet,” my husband said. Traffic out on Charles […]

Animals in their Seasons

Bowhunting season in Western Colorado opened yesterday, which means the rut is underway, the next season coming into view. By the time you see this, I will be sitting in the quiet of the woods with my 12 year old boy listening for bugling elk, their haunting, whale-like calls rising through dusk aspens and sea-green […]

The Lady and Le Guin

Late last month, I got to camp with a group of ecologists at the base of Mt. St. Helens, in southwestern Washington state. Some of the scientists had been studying the mountain since shortly after it erupted on May 18, 1980, and they were full of stories about the changes they’d seen over the past thirty-five […]

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 […]

Painting Fire With Fire

The Carlton Complex, the largest wildfire in the history of Washington state, started on July 14, 2014 in the foothills of the North Cascades. When it was finally extinguished, almost 40 days later, it had burned more than 250 homes and disrupted thousands of lives in Okanogan County, a rural county on the northern edge of the […]