Category: Nature

A Modest Proposal for Saving the Planet

Unless you’re from Oklahoma, a state whose citizens managed to elect (and re-elect) Senator James Inhofe, protector of oil concerns and denier of global warming — which, in a statement that brought relief to the world’s great religions, he deemed the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated upon the American people” — you probably understand that we’re...

Nature Hike

When I was a boy growing up in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my schoolteacher mother would periodically and without warning announce to me and my brother that she was taking us on a “nature hike.” This typically meant that we would be conscripted into a platoon of wildlife observers and botanists prepared to witness the wonders...

Poem: On Being a Bolivian Monkey

Rain that slickens the sturdy palm,  fruits that aren’t yet ripe,  Harpy eagles intent on digging talons and razor beak into  simian livers — these are the concerns of a brown capucin, dancing in the canopy, high above the mud of Pachamama, who bequeathed the trees and  everything else  to those who dare to climb ...

Anthropomorphism

Being a dog owner, I understand completely the impulse to anthropomorphize our pets, imbuing them with human traits that canines and felines — and goldfish and hamsters and salamanders — don’t really have. Our furry (or scaly) friends seem so much more than mere animals. They’re companions and confessors, students and teachers, and they magically...

Poem: The Tomato

Evidence of an unwanted visitor: hunks of green flesh missing; pockmarks and scrapes, like the residuals from a Bad case of acne; Ants crawling inside the formerly impenetrable husk. The tomato has been breached, Probably by a rat Or maybe a bird, an enterprising finch, who pecked and poked and discovered that the emerald fruit...

Poem: Marine Layer

To the residents of far away precincts, in states where a vote for staunch defenders of the Holy Cross means one extra ticket to the carnival of Heaven, the shroud of velvet mist represents a shroud, like the one in Turin. Fog equals ennui. The sun-baked, though, see the cloud on the ground as a welcome...

Poem: Flowering Trees

Standing sentry beside the unblemished avenues of the upper-class fortresses which line Beverly Hills and Bel-Air and all the other places where winners live and those who Have not Discovered the magic formula May not reside, The lilacs and myrtles and jacarandi Burst forth Insistently. Proudly. Defiantly. Like hundreds of gravity-defying breasts, announcing to the...

South American Travel Notes, Part Four

To those who haven’t experienced the beast outside of its natural habitat of strip malls and gated communities, the Ugly American seems an outlandish caricature, a literary device employed to make a point about modern capitalism. Unlike Nessie or Sasquatch, however, this monster really exists. You can see him every summer in Europe, and at...

South American Travel Notes, Part Three

After more than a week in the deep wilderness, in the Amazonian basin, where Boliva meets Peru and there are more waterways than roads, three native people asked me where I am from, since it was clear to them from my visage and my language that I’m not indigenous. Not a soul asked, “What do...

South American Travel Notes, Part Two

The butterfly lives on average for three weeks. Although it enjoys many months as a larva and caterpillar, its winged existence is intensely beautiful and unimaginably brief. In the few days it has before it expires, the butterfly must find a mate and leave behind the next generation. Its brilliantly gaudy wings help attract a...