Category Archives: writing

Swiftly

Everything feels like an elegy. I’ve heard, and felt, this sentiment often these past few weeks. When I think of the bears, sleeping in their dens, dreaming of spring lilies. When I walk down our road, and glimpse pheasants in the bare hedges, watch flickers puff out their spotted feathers between birch branches, pass the remains of a fallen buck, sharp ribs poking through his tattered hide. Even the river, winding along its icy banks, brings easy tears.

To be sure, recent events have rendered these feelings acute, aided too by the fact that winter is dying before spring’s first breath… but if I’m honest, I’ve always sort of felt this way about the world. Not to say I don’t feel equal measures of wonder and celebration, because I surely do, just not so prominently on this day.

Anyway, I haven’t written much poetry lately, but I just came across an old poem of mine about swift foxes that ran in High Desert Journal a decade ago, and it fit my mood. But see, there is even hope here. After years of endangerment, and considerable conservation efforts, their populations are now more stable, at least in portions of their historic range less threatened by habitat loss.
At least for now.

Swift Fox
Vulpes velox 

From knoll’s crest she watches
The prairie again, with those long
Egyptian eyes that slant just a little,
Just enough to fix nobility
In their unblinking grace.

Small as a cat and quiet too,
We call her swift, call her rare.
Vulpes velox,
A title with too many edges,
That matches only
Her forty-two pointed teeth,
And none of the softness
In her buff yellow fur, sweet
Between the bluestem,
Capped in an inky tail spot. 

On the ocean of the plains
She speeds beneath the shrieking
Night, tossing mice through the air
Like dull falling comets, breaking
Against pups’ mouths stretched wide. 

From the edge of a smooth-hole den
She is always listening
For the next howl, hungry coyote cousin,
Whose pups have bigger stomachs.
She can’t hear her prairie falling away
Beneath roads and cattle hooves,
But I think she knows
She isn’t fast enough.

— Kathleen Yale
* Published in High Desert Journal, Issue Number Three, Spring 2006

Photo by Gerald Romanchuck

 

Science is Taking Over the World!

Well, okay, science has been running the world, or at least a good bit of it, since the beginning, but for the next two weeks SciShow, one of the programs I write for, is taking over the country.

We’ve got ads running on actual television, billboards plastered on buses and in subways, and we’re running a special episode-a-day series for the next two weeks, answering the world’s most asked questions.

I wrote today’s installment: What is Love? (Baby don’t hurt me.)

Yeah, kinda like the meaning of life . . . not the easiest topic to attempt to explain in three minutes. Shoot, I didn’t even get to quote Shakespeare or Marvin Gaye. I did successfully get Haddaway stuck in my head for a few days though.

Anyway, it’s nice to see SciShow getting some more national attention and love from Google and YouTube. We work hard to produce a wealth of original, fun, and educational content, all available for free. I mean, I work in a bubble — from home in the woods, usually in slippers and sweatpants. But knowing curious people all over the world are watching our episodes, learning something, hopefully chuckling, occasionally correcting us, and in general getting psyched about science . . . well, that means everything.

Not Fade Away

I’ve got a new book review out in the latest issue of High Country News.

Check it out if you like reading book reviews, and check out Quimby’s book, too, if you’re interested in issues in the changing West, grumpy old codgers, bored teens, accidental pyros, religious zealots, and wandering horses.

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http://www.hcn.org/issues/46.8/not-fade-away

Attack of the Super Bugs!

I’m not talking about Shelob and her eight-legged cronies, or Capitol-engineered tracker jackers, or killer bees… I’m talking about something much more terrifying — antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Credit: Mariana Ruiz / Public Domain

Credit: Mariana Ruiz / Public Domain

I’ve recently been reading a lot about how we humans are kinda wired to fear the wrong things. I’ll save the psychology behind this for a different day, but suffice to say, we tend to worry more about being bitten in half by sharks, mauled by bears, shot by snipers, or dying in a fiery plane crash than the things that will in reality most likely kill us — car accidents (in the US, at least), poor health, cancer, and to my mind, the various and inevitable manifestations of climate change.

Super bugs are easy to put out of your fear-mongering mind because they won’t knock on your door at night or snatch you out of the woods… which is interesting, because they do have the potential to just, you know, wipe out half the humans in the world if they get a solid run, Plague-style.

Anyway, check out my latest long-form SciShow episode to add another horror to your fear bank, and hear all about how crafty bacteria can be, how we fight it, how it fights back, and how it could ultimately rock our world again and again.