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Living and Writing in the Natural World

The Joys of Summer

The poet Wang Wei's summer float trip in China

Last weekend saw both the Summer Solstice and a full moon. I try to appreciate all the seasons (winter is the hardest), but I gotta admit that summer is my favorite by a country mile. Consider my activities this past weekend: bicycling in the heat wearing swimsuit and Tevas, a swim in Chico Creek mid-route, then the glorious feel of warm air on wet skin as I whirl down the lane afterwards; hearing my kids talk of midnight (well, later than midnight, actually) swims; sitting in the backyard watching the full moon rise through banks of clouds,  Read More 

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Really Big Cats and Evening Strolls

I was in Montreat, North Carolina last week, for a 46th-year-reunion of college roommates. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains at 2600 feet, with Mount Mitchell towering at 6,684 feet to the north, Montreat abounds with summer conferences and, hence, youth enjoying the balmy evenings along with us not-so-young folks. My roommate Ashton cautioned us to be aware of black bears on our evening walks. I knew that black bears (Ursus americanus) can put a dent in your night’s slumbers if you’re camping, but they aren’t a credible threat to your life. For that, you’d have to go back a century in the Blue Ridge mountains, to the days when cougars still prowled the ridges. Read More 
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Pick Your Poison

the mu Conotoxin

If you’re a writer of murder mysteries, you’ve got to love poisons. And if, in your day job, you’re a biologist, then you’re doubly blessed, because nothing tells us more about life than the many bizarre ways creatures have devised to end it. In my (current) two mysteries and a thriller, my villains employ maculotoxin from the blue-ringed octopus, the plant alkaloid aconitine (from monkshood), conotoxin (from cone shells), and tetrodotoxin (from puffer fish). Read More 

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Squid Ink Pasta Adventures

bigfin reef squid (Sepioteuthis)

My son Louie recently described to me a dish at a “very Italian” San Francisco restaurant in which the pasta is dyed black and tastes briny, by application of the contents of the ink sac of a squid. It reminded me of a startling incident when I suddenly had the ink sac of a squid all over my face.

It was at the end of a nice snorkel off Honolulu'sSans Souci beach,  Read More 

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