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The Pentacrest larch, embracing grief and taking action

I saw the fallen larch early on the morning of Sept. 10 as I walked from the bus to my office in Jessup Hall. My eyes widened and my spirits dropped as, from a distance, I saw the tree lying flat on the ground. I audibly said, “Oh no.” Before I went to work, and before the remains of the tree would be gathered and taken away by university personnel […]

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Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada: The nostalgia-inducing song of the white-throated sparrow

The wonders of any month lie in the cycle of nature, in the continuum of life. I take special joy in October, thanks in large part to its specificities: beautifully colored leaves; crisp, cool air; lengthening shadows at early twilight. But I also embrace October’s place in the round of the year: the slowing of life after the rush of summer, the gathering bounty, preparing for winter’s rest. In recent years, I have paid greater attention to the sonic as well as visual landscape and its part in nature’s cycle. This autumn, I’m paying special attention to the white-throated sparrow. […]

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‘Unfamiliar eyes’ and the wonders of home

Since his days as an urban and regional planning professor at the University of Iowa, Iowa City mayor Jim Throgmorton has encouraged us to see our community through “unfamiliar eyes” in order to understand it better. I am fortunate that I do so every summer. For a good number of years, I have been privileged […]

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Falling in love with Iowa prairie

Over the past year and a half, I have grown to know and love the Iowa prairie as never before. I am in the final stages of a project with my co-author, Cindy Crosby, that involves writing about and photographing the tallgrass prairie. While I have always relished visits to a prairie, this project has […]

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UR Here: How fear divides us

The United States’ stark political divide has many of us shaking our heads in bewilderment and frustration. What is at the root of our seemingly insurmountable differences? Perhaps the wedge that divides us is as fundamental — and viscerally powerful — as fear. […]

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UR Here: Finding the nativity in your own community

Whether one believes in the literal or religious truth of the Christmas story or not, it remains a powerful and influential tale, obviously for Christians, but even for many non-Christians. Over the years, as the Yuletide celebration commences, I have often discovered new ideas in this simple yet profound tale. This year, the story of the nativity has helped me understand something about what is important for community. […]

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UR Here: Living by the seasons, not the school calendar

Downtown iowa city

Something happened recently that hasn’t happened to me in 33 years. I began the fall semester without a class to teach. For nearly all of us, at some point in our lives, fall carries an academic connotation. When summer ends, school begins. But due to a chain of circumstances, this semester I did not walk into a classroom full of bright, eager faces of college students, at last some of them ready to learn. […]

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