I’m a lifelong Midwesterner and a devotee to and student of the region. But I’m usually left stammering when it comes to defining the human culture of these middle lands. The U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of the Midwest includes over 65 million people. Can there really be a set of common characteristics among such a […]
Those pesky clouds of airborne annoyance come around every spring, but they’ve been especially bad this year. Chalk it up to this year’s cool spring and heavy rains, says Patrick O’Malley from the Iowa State University Extension. Mother Nature’s vichyssoise stewed up an extra-heaping helping of the buggers, and then the sudden heat of late May shot them out of our backyard swamps, all at once, faster than you can say “Anton Arcane” (an arcane reference for the Swamp Thing fans out there).
Summer is here, and those distinctive smells of the hot season abound: trees and flowers in bloom, humidity in the air, the ozone before a late-afternoon thunderstorm, your fired-up backyard grill, the chlorine in a refreshing pool. Many of these smells no doubt spark pleasant memories of childhood—those lazy summer days when time felt endless […]
When astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke to a capacity crowd at The University of Iowa in April, he said that through his teaching of the marvels of the universe he tries “to reignite some sense of wonder.” He went on to say that if you’re not wondering “you’re not fully embracing all that it is […]
Hygge (roughly pronounced hö-geh, though with a little more “oo” on that umlauted o) is a Danish word that defies English translation. Its closest Anglo analogue is probably cozy, but that doesn’t fully capture what hygge is all about. Hygge is a feeling, a condition, but Danes tend to define it more by action and situation than abstractions. […]
Last week at Eble Music, I picked up the next piece my daughter, Sylvia, will be working on for her saxophone lessons, Alfred Desenclos’s “Prélude, cadence, et finale.” As I walked down Linn Street after my purchase, I said to myself, “You know, I think Eble Music may just be the best local business in town.” I don’t mean to diminish any of our other marvelous local retailers in any way, but, in my experience, there’s something a little bit extra about Eble Music.
I like to think of this time of year as “in deep.” As I write in late January, no snow is on the ground, and we have had our share of warmth this year. Yet, even though the winter of 2013 has so far been relatively mild, spring and summer still seem far away. I […]
I went to Wisconsin, and all I brought back were a bunch of bark shavings from a red pine tree. This fall, I attended a “Land Ethic Leader” workshop at the Aldo Leopold Center near Baraboo, Wisconsin. If you don’t know, Aldo Leopold—born and raised in Burlington, Iowa—is arguably the twentieth century’s greatest conservationist. He authored […]
In the days when prairies stretched from river to river across the expanse of what we now call Iowa, bison disturbance was essential to the health of the ecosystem. As the herds thundered across the grasslands and created wallows—depressions in the ground in which the animals rolled to cover themselves in mud and dirt—like a […]
I’m kind of an almanac-y guy. I like a day’s statistics—what the high and low temperatures were, the average temperatures, the precipitation. I like to note where a day is in the annual round—solstices, equinoxes, cross-quarter days and everything in between. I like weird holidays (as I finish writing this on August 20, it’s National […]
Fire came early this year. Before the summer solstice brought its long light to North America, Colorado was ablaze. This spring, I wrote about multiple 90-degree days in Iowa in March. And in May, Johnson County played host to a weeks-long curtain of flame and plume of black, acrid smoke rising from its landfill, reminiscent […]