The illogic of Rudolph

It’s that time of year again, so I’m reposting my seasonal rant against Rudolph. In the age of Trump, this originally lighthearted piece triggers a bit more of an ominous response. After all, we thought we had left some of this behind, didn’t we? Here goes: No, this isn’t an environmental screed. Rudolph and Santa actually seem to live a pretty low impact life in … Continue reading The illogic of Rudolph

Reporting locally, thinking globally

I love it when my local reporting for The Observer here in Jefferson County, West Virginia links to larger national (or international) issues. That’s what happened when I dug deeply into animal cruelty charges against a local farmer last year. Danny Rohrer had been a cornerstone of our weekly farmers’ market for more than a decade, and our community was stunned when sensational headlines about … Continue reading Reporting locally, thinking globally

The Observer moves forward

The Observer’s new editor and publisher Michael Chalmers revamped the magazine’s look this month, both online and in print.  And I’m thrilled to be a part of it.  I’ve been contributing to The Observer as a feature writer regularly for more than two years (and intermittently before that), focusing on land use, historic preservation and related issues in and around Jefferson County, West Virginia.  Mike’s … Continue reading The Observer moves forward

It’s not about you. But…

A nonfiction writer always faces a fundamental question when beginning a piece of work, namely: Do I insert myself in the narrative? If the piece is about oneself, then the answer is obvious. But most of us are writing about other topics, and inserting oneself often simply gets in the way. Still, there are times when a writer’s role in the story is impossible to … Continue reading It’s not about you. But…

The weather outside is frightful

Back in the day they used to call it global warming – or even the greenhouse effect, a handy metaphor to explain how the earth’s atmosphere could be warming up. “They” back then meant Sen. Al Gore. In the 1980s I had the opportunity to hear Gore speak at environmental conferences and congressional hearings while I worked for the Ecological Society of America in Washington … Continue reading The weather outside is frightful

Bird sex and bar stools

Long ago and far away I was a field assistant studying bobolinks for one of my Cornell professors, Tom Gavin, as an undergraduate intern. I went out each morning into dew-drenched meadows at Cornell’s Biological Field Station at Shackelton Point on Oneida Lake, and watched tiny birds that had migrated thousands of miles from their winter home in South America to nest in upstate New … Continue reading Bird sex and bar stools