Personal Essay

Seeing My Future Through a Rotting Squash


Photograph by Connor Osgood
A fascination with plants began by growing a flawlessly round and colossal pumpkin. (Photograph courtesy of Connor D. Osgood)

As a kid I had loved Halloween for as long as I could remember. It was less of a single day and more of a season that began just weeks after August ended. I enjoyed all the typical dark imagery of bats, skeletons and haunted houses, but what excited me the most were pumpkins. Continue reading “Seeing My Future Through a Rotting Squash”


A Fascination with Moths


John Palting - Automeris patagoniensis
The Patagonia eyed silkmoth is known to live in only one area in Southern Arizona and two in Mexico. (Photograph by Kirby Wolfe)

I am a biodiversity addict. I find the variety of forms, colors and patterns exhibited by nature to be endlessly fascinating. I am especially fond of arthropods, those joint-legged, exoskeleton-bearing aliens that make up some 80 percent of the species on planet Earth (other than microbes). These include the crustaceans, spiders, centipedes, millipedes and insects.

Continue reading “A Fascination with Moths”

Mind Mapping


Map by Rachel Wehr
(Map by Rachel Wehr)

My hand grasped a blunt, fluorescent pink crayon as I colored in Guyana and Brazil with vigor. My palms were sweaty and my fingers weak. I had just spent over an hour constructing a plate-sized map of the Western Hemisphere. The map was completely inaccurate, but what can you expect from a 7-year-old constructing South America from memory? I drew disproportionately large versions of places that my curious young mind had heard stories of, then oohed and aahed over.

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Surface Tension


michaela webb 1
When food runs low, father-daughter backpacking treks in the mountains turn into adventures. (Photograph by Michaela Webb)

Wind-bent trees stood rooted in the thin alpine soil like grizzled old men leaning into their canes. Behind them, the ancient quartzite peaks of Utah’s Uinta Mountains glowed pink and orange with the last of the sun’s rays. I felt a gentle summer wind tugging strands of hair out from under my fleece hat, carrying the crisp, minty scent of alpine meadows and trodden pennyroyal.

Continue reading “Surface Tension”

The Stars Guide Us Home


Sirius and Orion

The hotel was as sleek and efficient as a space station. The furniture was simplistic, shiny and black. The dark blue carpet was rough on my feet as I moved across the room. The bed was comfortable but stiff with crisp, white sheets. Continue reading “The Stars Guide Us Home”

Ancient Lives and Modern Land: Experiencing the Southwest through archaeology


Students excavate a trench in a great kiva as part of the San Juan College archaeological field school in summer 2010. (Photograph by Abby Dockter)

I learned about living in the Southwest from people who had been gone for 800 years. Continue reading “Ancient Lives and Modern Land: Experiencing the Southwest through archaeology”

Surviving Pessimism


Growing up next to a Superfund site gives one a fairly good shot at catching the Big C, a pessimistic view of destructive industries or perhaps both. My mother’s best friend, Tia Sharon, caught the former. I caught the latter. Continue reading “Surviving Pessimism”

Hidden Desire


Matt Buster, a sustainable plant systems major at the University of Arizona, relaxes between dives in Biosphere 2’s Ocean biome. Buster became a certified diver to help overcome his fear of sharks. (Photograph by John de Dios)

No matter what your parents used to tell you, sharks really do burst forth from swimming pool drains and eat children. At least, that’s what I told myself when I was 7 years old. That fear kept me from something as simple as diving down into the deep end to retrieve a pool toy. I was sure a shark was always peering through the drain, looking up at my dangling legs. Jaws and Shark Week did not help my situation.

Continue reading “Hidden Desire”

The Hands of Change


Hanna Hard—Essay
As a youngster, Hannah Hard learned from her mother how hard it can be to inspire environmental change. (Photograph courtesy of Hannah Hard)

I held my mom’s soft hand as she spoke to my teacher. The three of us stood in my fourth grade classroom by the cubbies. Everyone had gone home, and the school was quiet except for the buzzing fluorescent lights, the janitor’s cart clanking in the hallway and my teacher’s strong voice: “I just can’t see people actually going along with it. It’s a good idea, but it takes too much work.” Continue reading “The Hands of Change”

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