Skip to content

A Seed in Darkest Winter
The New York Times, 27 January 2020

For most of my adult life, I wore a red coat when the weather got cold. It started when I was 22 and searching for new outerwear during my first winter in Philadelphia. I kept being drawn to a bright red peacoat in a mail-order catalog. Perhaps it reminded me of home in Alabama, the color of the ubiquitous cardinals perched among green pine needles. (more….)

Ode to a Dark Season
The New York Times, 11 November 2019

This is the month of blank, lowering skies, when the last of the leaves lift and drift away into a drizzly wind. The hardwood trees would normally be bare by mid-November, even in the South, but seasonal cues can be hard to read in this changing climate. It was 98 degrees in Nashville on October 1, and before that the usual September rains never came. I feared there would be no color at all this fall. (more….)

The Last Hummingbird
The New York Times, 7 October 2019

From inside my air-conditioned house, the light through my windows looks the way October light is supposed to look — mild, quiet, entirely unlike the thin light of winter or the sparkling light of spring or the unrelenting light of summer. In normal years, October is a month for open windows in Middle Tennessee. For cool, damp mornings. For colored leaves that quake in the wind before letting go and lifting away. For afternoon shadows so lovely they fill me with a longing I can’t even name. (more….)

Tennessee Makes Way for Monarchs
The New York Times, 16 September 2019

A few years ago I started noticing wildflowers blooming beside the highway: ironweed and goldenrod and snakeroot and black-eyed Susan. The first time it happened the sun was in my eyes as I drove west toward Memphis, and a late summer drought was filling the air with dust motes. For a moment I thought I was imagining flowers where flowers had never been before. A daydream on a lonesome stretch of highway as twilight came on. (more….)

The Trees Might Save Us Yet
The New York Times, 23 July 2019

My whole family was watching the HBO series “Chernobyl” when a big sugar maple tree in our front yard split in half, falling a few feet short of the corner of the house. We didn’t hear the actual crash, perhaps because the storm that took out the tree was already so loud, perhaps because the dramatized cataclysm on the television in our family room was louder still, or at least more absorbing. (more….)

The Flower That Came Back From the Dead
The New York Times, 24 June 2019

Certain old-fashioned words from fairy tales and storybooks still cling to me from childhood. MoorValeBogGlade. For a child, such words conjure magical places — untouched, holy lands where fairies might live and animals might speak in ways I understand. Not long after I moved to Tennessee, I heard the term “limestone cedar glade” for the first time and immediately thought again of magic. (more….)

The Eagles of Reelfoot Lake
The New York Times, 28 February 2019

In the far northwest corner of Tennessee, just this side of the Mississippi River, lies a landscape like no other. Reelfoot Lake is less a lake than a system of bayous, creeks and swampland connected by areas of shallow open water. It was created in the winter of 1811-1812 when a series of powerful earthquakes and aftershocks caused 15,000 acres of cypress forest to sink. The waters of the Mississippi River rushed into the depression. (more….)