Taking the Waters

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In 1960, after a climbing accident in North Wales, Al Alvarez’s broken leg was set so badly that over the next thirty years all the cartilage in his ankle gradually wore away. By 1993, aged 63, this hard man of letters could barely hobble to the foot of a rock face, so he reluctantly gave […]

Herbaceous Boarders

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The applicant sounded hopeful in his letter to the noble lord: If your honour pleases to build a small hut as a hermitage near your honour’s house in a wood with a high wall round it your honour might hear of a man to live in it for seven years without seeing any human creature […]

Beyond the Garden Wall

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The diary is a difficult form. If it is truly a diary, a great deal of it will be boring even to the diarist, which is why so few people manage to keep one going. The genuine diary of a remarkable person can, of course, make good reading if intelligently edited, but a diary written […]

What Larks

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It’s tough being a nature writer. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, you’re openly ridiculed or else lavished with the tenderness reserved for the soft-headed, your crabby handwriting filling journal after journal with minute observations concerning the machinations of every critter within range. You’re stuck in the middle of the intellectual world, too. Not quite […]

Beautiful Monster

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It’s a pretty good story. Sometime around 1837 a wandering German émigré named Robert Schomburgk, who had managed to convince the Royal Geographical Society to hire him as an explorer, reported finding an enormous and spectacular species of water lily deep in the Guiana jungle. Of course Schomburgk was not the first European to spot […]

Fly Like a Bananaquit

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A Manx Shearwater was ringed as a three-month-old chick in its Welsh nest burrow. Fourteen days later the same bird arrived, unaccompanied by any of its kin, in its species’ usual winter quarters off the coast of Argentina, some 8,000 kilometres away. ‘An individual bird may repeat that same oceanic journey, back and forth, 100 times’ […]


Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.’ Thus wrote Henry David Thoreau, in Walden; Or, Life in the Woods, […]

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