Nonfiction Essays


Silt and melt-water, Baird Glacier, Alaska

I have written nonfiction stories since childhood and I majored in journalism, but it wasn’t until I came to Utah that I devoted serious effort to narrative nonfiction about human relationships with the natural world, including my own. My writing is spurred by my academic research, the region’s rich natural environment, and by my unflagging desire to understand how we see ourselves in relation to the beyond-human world.

My writing blends my experiences and insights about the natural world with what I’ve learned from research of all kinds. Academic scholarship is inaccessible to many people, but it holds much wisdom and relevance and deserves to be communicated to a wide audience. I endeavor to stitch together these “ways of knowing” and present readers with compelling stories of how we communicate about the environment through word and practice and thus make sense of ourselves and our world.

My identity as a “public scholar” also informs my nonfiction. As a professor at a public institution, I have a responsibility not just to advance traditional academic scholarship, but also to communicate a large body of knowledge in a way that critically engages a broader citizen audience in the discussion of the real-world environmental crises we face.

In my newest book Out of the Woods: Seeing Nature in the Everyday, I explore the “nature” that culture has disguised and distanced in our everyday lives. The infrastructure of civilized life has so corralled and seemingly controlled nature – energy, water, food, insects, weather, wildlife – that it’s fairly easy never to think of or consider the natural world. Thus, I want to view everyday nature through the ideological lens of ecocentrism; this elevates the position and value of the non-human and shifts consideration from one (humans) to many (all species and systems). I’m also questioning boundaries between “urban” and “wild” (what some call the nature-culture divide) in our daily interactions with the beyond-human world.

Here are some essays I’ve published.

Between Bondurant and Pinedale, Wyoming (Orion)

Twisted Music (Camas)

Robotic Iguanas  (Orion magazine)

Teaching Whitney to Cook (High Country News)

A Finger of Owls (Camas)

DirtyLittleWords (OnEarth magazine)

Fashion Stories

Talking With A Cougar

Mucking Around in Mammoth Proportions