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Friday, February 3, 2023

Messengers From The Past, by Priyanka Kumar, Orion

The crown jewel of our National Wildlife Refuge System, the Bosque del Apache, has been my annual pilgrimage site for a decade. The largest single population of sandhill cranes migrates to the Bosque late in the fall to overwinter along the Rio Grande. I have seen these cranes with crimson crowns in Southern California and at the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in British Columbia but they descend on the Bosque in staggering numbers. In the evenings, you stare at cranes with serpentine necks flying in over skies streaked rosy pink and clementine. New Mexico’s skies can be striations of color approximating infinity but these numberless flocks of cranes and geese outdo the theatrics of the sky. When the cranes begin their fairylike descent onto milky-blue sheets of water, you find yourself in a place where humans are far outnumbered by birds. You let the primal orchestra of cranes and geese remind you of the place your ancestors came from.

The refuge is ninety miles south of Albuquerque, near the quaint town of San Antonio, New Mexico. Cradled between the Chupadera and Little San Pascual mountains, the core of the 57,000-acre refuge, some 13,000 acres, sits beside the Rio Grande, at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. One winter as I explored the arroyos, cornfields, and ponds in the refuge’s North and South Loops, the cranes stood slate gray in the pale, rose-colored dusk. Their curved necks moved insistently against the grass as they foraged. There was ample food that year and they honked contentedly—a rich, rounded, baritone sound.

Battle Of The Botanic Garden: The Horticulture War Roiling The Isle Of Wight, by Mark O’Connell, The Guardian

John Curtis’s enemies – and for a man who runs a mid-sized botanical garden on the Isle of Wight, he has surprisingly many – have a tendency to refer to him as “the American Businessman”, a phrase that, for many islanders, carries overtones of rapaciousness and cultural barbarism. He would rather not have quite so many adversaries, but neither does it seem especially to disturb him to be the object of simmering ill will on the island. He is not in the business of deliberately goading his detractors, but he tends, in his discussion of the increasingly public argument unfolding around his stewardship of the garden, toward a certain easygoing, sprightly provocation. “I’m a lightning rod,” as he put it to me in our first conversation, and on several occasions thereafter.

Walking Off Grief On The Appalachian Trail, by Gunnar Lundberg, Catapult

Every hiker is called to the trail for a different reason: to process grief, to conquer a physical challenge, to curtail corporate burnout, to connect with nature, to mitigate a midlife crisis, etc. Everyone I bumped into had a unique story, and usually they weren’t shy to share it. I met recovering addicts, depressed divorcées, college dropouts, Amish defectors, newlyweds, retired dentists, veterans, and even a day trader who spent dusk at camp hunting for cell signal to check their portfolio’s performance. Thru-hikers comprise a wide array of hopefuls, but we all share a common goal: We all want to finish.

It’s Winter. Let’s Go To The Farmers’ Market!, by Colleen Creamer, New York Times

On a recent Saturday morning at Eastern Market in Detroit, busking musicians filled the air with jazz as vendors finished setting up for the day’s traffic. Shoppers streamed in, sizing up winter produce, relishes and chutneys, fresh cuts of beef and more.

Though farmers’ markets are usually associated with warm months and lush fruits and vegetables, Eastern Market and others like it across the country are becoming cold-weather travel destinations as they add artisanal goods, entertainment and indoor experiences like the cooking classes the Detroit market has sometimes offered during the cold months.

‘Decent People’ Review: De’Shawn Charles Winslow Looks At The Power Of Secrets, by Joseph P. Williams Jr., Seattle Times

In “Decent People,” his second novel, author De’Shawn Charles Winslow has a lot to say about a lot of things. In fewer than 300 pages, Winslow takes on love, racism, Black masculinity, morality, hypocrisy and justice in a small Southern town in the mid-1970s.

But Winslow’s deeper theme is the power of secrets: how they drive behavior, inhibit progress and become more toxic the longer they stay hidden. And while times may have changed, the past isn’t far behind.

The Costs Of Women’s Writing: On Devoney Looser’s “Sister Novelists”, by Thomas McLean, Los Angeles Review of Books

As Looser suggests, the Porters’ greatest contribution to 19th-century letters might be their own correspondence. Looser quotes extensively from these letters, and their effect builds as the biography proceeds to a poignant conclusion and a rather surreal epilogue. Sister Novelists shows not only how difficult it was for Romantic-era women to make a living in the arts but also the remarkable privilege and entitlement of the men around those women. It’s one thing for someone living today to argue that this was the case; it’s another to have the sexist realities of 19th-century literary culture recorded by women whose reputations have been obscured for so long because of it.

The Eroticism Of An IKEA Bed, by Kamran Javadizadeh, New Yorker

If the tendency of rhyme, like that of desire, is to pull distant things together and force their boundaries to blur, then the countervailing force in this book, the one that makes it go, is the impulse toward narrative, toward making sense of the passage of time.