Waiting for Peak Bloom

It was a long winter in North America.  The kind of winter where you think, well, that must have been the last snow storm, and then it snows three more times. It seemed like this might be the year when, Narnia-style, winter never ends. Here in Washington, we gauge spring by the cherry trees. The […]

Strange Times in Washington

The first I knew of it was about 11:00 Monday night. The Capital Weather Gang, a brilliant blog that was snapped up by the Washington Post a few years ago, posted on Facebook: “Have seen some reports of a fireball (large meteor) in DC area around 8:25 pm. Anyone see it?” Comments came in. A […]

Down the chimney

Tomorrow, I’m driving to Oregon for a friend’s wedding. While I’m there, I may get a chance to witness what has been described as an “avian tornado”: thousands of Vaux’s swifts dive-bombing a chimney at a Portland elementary school. A Vaux’s swift is a petite, grayish bird with sharp swooping wings and a stubby tail. […]

How to conjure a forest out of thin air

This summer, I became slightly obsessed with the Ring. Not the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, not the Japanese horror movie (which I have vowed never to see), but the epic four-opera series by Richard Wagner. Der Ring des Nibelungen spans about 17 hours and features a cast of gods, dwarves, giants, mermaids, and a dragon, all […]

The Brothel, the Madam and the Doctor

In the summer of 1993, just weeks before bulldozers began rolling in for the largest transportation project in Boston’s history–the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel–archaeologists discovered what appeared to be two 19th century privies and a cistern along the old waterfront. Unable to come up with funding to dig them, Boston archaeologist Martin Dudek and his […]