Barbara Dean is executive editor at Island Press, a nonprofit environmental book publisher.

Monday, 20 Oct 2003

COVELO, Calif.

It’s another gorgeous autumn day on this remote square mile of Northern California. The morning sky over the hills across the river is turning from the gray of early dawn to clear brilliant blue. The oaks framing the meadow are just beginning to lose their leaves, and the hills are dotted with the red of poison oak. This season is muted in California, more subtle than the color-streaked autumn I grew up with in Michigan, but after 30 years here, I have come to love this western version.

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Not bad for an office view.

This is the scene from my desk, where I settle with my cup of All-Day Breakfast Tea each morning. I boot up the computer first thing, so that I can click on a static-free version of NPR’s “Morning Edition” via my Internet satellite connection. Technology has changed my work life dramatically in the 25 years that I’ve worked for Island Press from this home office that is off the grid (to put it mildly — the nearest power line is 12 miles away). Over the years, I’ve traded in my car-battery-powered IBM Selectric typewriter for a solar- and mini-hydro-powered laptop computer, printer, and fax. The radio-phone has a more-or-less line-of-sight hook-up to a land line about 45 minutes away by road. Its service is clear enough that most people I talk with during the business day have no clue that I’m not calling from a high-rise office building.

No clue, that is, until I mention the wild turkeys that have suddenly appeared on the hill outside my window, or the bobcat that cruises the same hillside less frequently. This home office is perhaps the most tangible expression of the many connections between my professional and personal lives.

Island Press, as many of you probably know, is a nonprofit publisher of environmental books. Through cutting-edge publishing projects and innovative programs, we try to stimulate, shape, and communicate the ideas that can help to solve environmental problems at home and around the world. Within IP, my responsibility is the acquisition, shaping, and development of books in the “Ecosystems Studies” subject area. Three other editors are responsible for other subject areas, which I’ll describe later this week.

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Thirty years of living on this wild and beautiful land — learning about the interactions of myriad life forms, watching the changes caused by human and natural forces — have fueled my personal fascination with all the workings of natural life, as well as my deep concern about the serious threats to biodiversity worldwide. I feel fortunate, then, that my professional life focuses on these same issues; my Ecosystems Studies list is driven by concerns for biodiversity — its importance, complexities, fragility, protection, restoration. I often describe my job as eternal graduate school, taking courses that teach me what I really want to know.

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is how I ended up working in Covelo (actually, my home office is an hour’s drive over a winding dirt road outside of the tiny town of Covelo). The answer is easy: This is where Island Press started. Although our central office has been in Washington, D.C., since 1984, our distribution and customer service center is still in Covelo, and the other two members of my editorial group, Barbara Youngblood and Laura Carrithers, are also here. Overall, Island Press has 48 employees, the majority of whom are in the D.C. office, and a 16-member board of directors.

As you might guess, with a relatively small staff spread from coast to coast, we have become expert at doing business long distance. One of the first emails I check each day is the list of who’s where; since I can’t walk down the hall to check the schedule of, say, the production manager, that message is a critical piece of information. Later today, I have a meeting to review a cover design for a forthcoming book. I’ll call in to a conference number and my colleagues in D.C. will talk with me via the little black box on the table. All of us will be looking at the cover mock-up that has been posted on a website.

I have decidedly mixed feelings about the effect of technology on modern life (no surprise, given my life choices), but there’s no question that it helps me work from this place that I love. And it also defines the pace of the world within which everyone who is working on environmental issues these days operates. When we look for new staff, our advertisements describe Island Press as a “fast-paced environment.” In truth, my work life is so intense that I am often breathless by 10 a.m. (which I mention just in case you think that home offices in remote locations are idyllic).

But then I look to the hill outside my window, where the morning shadows are pulling back to the edge of the forest, and I glance to the side of my desk, where a proposal for a book about Pacific salmon waits for my attention. Truly, I can’t imagine a better place to be or a more fulfilling job.

And there is just time to review this proposal before the cover meeting, so I’d better get to it …

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2003

COVELO, Calif.

On these autumn, pre-daylight-saving-change days, I’m at my desk before the sun comes over the hills across the river, so while I check my email, I can watch the morning spread over the meadow, and the colors change from gray to brilliant blue (sky), green (conifers), and gold (meadow grass). The transition from night to day seems to happen quickly this close to the equinox; as I wrote these sentences, suddenly the sun is over the hills and right in my eyes. A pileated woodpecker (who looks exactly like the cartoon) has taken to hanging out in the small oak behind my house, to my great amusement, and is already up and commenting on the day.

Yesterday I mentioned that we were having a cover meeting in the afternoon. “Cover meetings” are twice yearly publishing rituals, aimed at producing covers for our new books in time for our seasonal catalogs. This is the third round of cover meetings for our spring ’04 publications (the publishing year has only two seasons — spring and fall). The cover process for this group of 20-some new books started two months ago, when we editors tried to make realistic assessments of which manuscripts would really come in by the deadline and really be ready to transmit to production. An exercise in experience-based optimism.

The cover process is an iterative discussion spread over three meetings and eight weeks among many people: authors, editors, publisher, art director, designer, and staff from the marketing, publicity, and production departments. Some of us, like me, are present for the group meetings via the black box on the D.C. conference room table. Our common purpose is to arrive at a cover design that will represent each book’s message faithfully and powerfully, so that it will inspire the hoped-for audience to reach for the volume on the bookstore shelf or in the pages of our catalog.

My Ecosystems Studies program will have six new books next spring; these books have already gone through the third round of cover meetings. So I only had one book on Monday’s agenda: the paperback edition of Paul Shepard’s Coming Home to the Pleistocene. Island Press published the hardcover of Coming Home in 1998; we are looking forward to reaching a new audience through the paperback.

For those of you who don’t know, Paul Shepard, who died in the summer of 1996, was one of the most brilliant and original thinkers in the field of human evolution and ecology. He wrote nine seminal books and many more pathbreaking essays during his full and creative life as a writer and teacher (he taught at Knox, Smith, Dartmouth, and Pitzer colleges). I (and many others) count Paul as one of a handful of important influences in my understanding of myself in the natural world. Before I was Paul’s editor, his words had already changed my life.

When I moved to the country in 1971, after a lifetime of living in cities and suburbs, I had what I realized in retrospect was a quite romantic view of nature; my idea of moving to the country as trying to “become one with” the natural world. I quickly discovered that real life in wild nature is much more complex and challenging (and also more deeply fulfilling) than that image. I stumbled across Paul Shepard’s Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game while I was struggling to make sense of my experience here. Paul described a different dynamic — not a losing oneself in nature, but rather a rich and endlessly stimulating exchange of life and growth. He gave me words for my experience; his writing was a genuine lifeline.

I first met Paul and his wife, Florence Krall, at a gathering at Woods Hole, Mass., in August 1992 convened by E.O. Wilson and Stephen R. Kellert to investigate the biophilia hypothesis (a term coined by Wilson to describe the innate affinity between humans and the natural world). Island Press published The Biophilia Hypothesis, an outgrowth of that meeting, in 1993. Paul was one of the chapter authors.

The first complete manuscript I worked on with Paul was The Others: How Animals Made Us Human (1996), his most comprehensive statement about the importance of animals in human evolution. The opportunity to work with him was, on the one hand, what every editor hopes for: a chance to work closely with an author whom one respects on material that is personally meaningful. But serving as Paul’s editor was also a daunting prospect. I found some of his thinking challenging to comprehend, much less edit.

As it turned out, working with Paul was the kind of author-editor interaction that I like best. He was well aware that his work could be difficult, and could be wryly funny about some of the published reviews of his early (pre-Island Press) books. Driven primarily by the passion of his ideas, Paul listened thoughtfully to editorial comments, but would often come up with his own way of solving problems rather than agreeing with me. He was unfailingly courteous and conscientious, even after his cancer had been diagnosed and he was undergoing chemotherapy.

Coming Home to the Pleistocene was put together by Paul before he died, and edited, polished, and finished by Flo in the months after his death. Coming Home is in many ways the essential message of Paul’s work: that we are the product of our genetic heritage, formed through thousands of years of evolution during the Pleistocene epoch, and that the current subversion of that Pleistocene heritage lies at the heart of today’s ecological and social ills. Coming Home is, overall, an optimistic work, and I hope the paperback edition will reach a new generation of readers.

Most Island Press books offer scientific analysis, policy, or hands-on tools, or the latest information on specific environmental issues or problems. But we also publish books like The Biophilia Hypothesis and Coming Home because we know that deep and lasting solutions to our environmental crises require fundamental changes of understanding, of consciousness; a true evolution in the way we all view ourselves in relation to the natural world, of which we are a part.

It is easy, on days and weeks when my time seems to be swallowed up by administrative deadlines, meetings, details like whether or not a middle initial should be on a book’s cover, to feel that publishing books is too far removed from the nitty-gritty work of protecting and restoring a healthy and diverse natural world. But my life was changed by Paul Shepard’s words … and by words of others, too. I remind myself that it’s impossible to know how words will fall into a reader’s consciousness, and how those words may influence decisions and behavior years later. I still believe in the power of a single important book to change the course of a person’s life — and the opportunity to play a role in that mysterious process is part of what brings me to this desk each day.

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2003

COVELO, Calif.

Today, the season seems to be turning. Instead of brilliant sunshine, the hills are capped by light clouds, and for the first morning in a long time, I wasn’t awakened by the hummingbirds buzzing around the feeder outside my window. Instead of the hummers’ buzz, today the air is full of the sound of scurrying in the underbrush, as quail and ground squirrels go about their change-of-season activities.

Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time is our weekly editorial roundtable meeting, the anchor of Island Press’s editorial calendar. RT (as we call it) happens each week of the year unless too many of us are traveling or on vacation, and brings together the entire Island Press editorial staff — ten of us in four locations (Boulder, Tarrytown, D.C., and Covelo) — representing the full range of Island Press subject areas: Human Habitat; Economics, Policy, and Law; Shearwater Books; and Ecosystems Studies. (Click on the links to find out more about the books that we publish in each of these areas.)

The RT agenda opens with a discussion of program and administrative issues. The centerpiece of the second half of the meeting is the presentation by individual editors of book proposals that are ready for serious consideration for publication. RT is the first of two in-house meetings on the way to a contract offer (the second is the Publications Committee). As I always explain to authors, RT doesn’t make a final decision, but it is an excellent barometer of in-house sentiment.

It’s up to each of us editors to decide when a project on our desk is ready for Roundtable. Usually that happens after we have been working with an author for several weeks, after a well-crafted proposal and sample chapters have been reviewed by outside experts in the topic and the author has responded in writing to points raised by the reviewers. By 9:00 a.m. eastern time Monday morning of the week a project will be on the RT agenda, the sponsoring editor circulates to all attendees the material from author and reviewers, along with a cover memo.

In order to accommodate this continental editorial staff, we have a state-of-the-art black microphone/speaker box for conference calls in D.C., a good conference service provider, and an evolved standard of etiquette: since eye contact and hand-waving are ineffective, participants must wait for a break in the conversation to speak; jokes must be loud enough to be heard via the black box (no under-the-breath below-black-box-detection-level humor allowed); if there’s a dead silence after you’ve made a strong statement, the proper response is “Is anyone there?” because the service provider may have dropped your phone line.

Today I am presenting a proposal for a revised edition of Legal Aspects of Owning and Managing Woodlands, by Thom McEvoy, who is an associate professor and extension forester at the University of Vermont. We published the first edition of Legal Aspects in 1998; the book is a unique reference and guide for private forest owners about managing their land, and several topics need to be updated or expanded in order to ensure that the book continues to meet the needs of its readers. The first edition of this book reached a sizable audience and won an award from the National Woodland Owners Association, and the published reviews complimented McEvoy on a useful and comprehensive presentation. Since we are publishing a new book from Thom next spring (on managing woodlands for forest health as well as income), a revised edition of Legal Aspects would be an excellent companion to the new book.

For all these reasons, I expect this to be a non-controversial RT discussion — which would mean I’d get the blessings of my colleagues to take the project to the next Publications Committee meeting for a formal decision. But I’ve been wrong before. As a relatively small publisher, we simply don’t have the time or resources to publish every worthy proposal that we see; making (and communicating) painful choices is perhaps my least favorite part of the job. Roundtable is the arena where the criteria for these hard choices are debated, among colleagues who share a commitment to IP’s mission but also an understanding of, and different perspectives on, the publishing risks. Unpredictability is part of RT’s charm and challenge (though I have been known to use different nouns in that phrase when the meeting comes to a conclusion that I had not expected).

One of the things I will mention today in my presentation is the importance of reaching private landowners with our books. In the last several years, we have published a number of books for private owners of forests, ranch lands, and farms, in part because we know that if global biodiversity is to be protected, private landowners will have to play a big role. Forests, for example, cover almost 33 percent of the U.S. Fifty-eight percent of that expanse, or 430 million acres, is owned by almost 10 million private citizens, corporations, or other entities (those statistics come from America’s Private Forests: Status and Stewardship, by Constance A. Best and Laurie Wayburn, which we published in 2001). These private forests are tremendously important for clean water, a variety of other ecosystem services, sustainable supplies of timber, and habitat for many different species of plants and animals.

This is a topic that directly connects my personal and professional lives. This part of Northern California is logging country. The hillside from which my drinking water comes (by gravity flow) was virgin forest when I moved here in 1971, but was logged three times — each time more trees, from steeper slopes, were removed — between 1975 and 1998. The difference between reading about the effects of logging on erosion, roads, and water and experiencing those effects firsthand is dramatic. I have watched the creeks fill with silt after each cut, and last year I finally installed a filter on my drinking water tap.

The forestry manuscripts that I have worked on for IP have gone straight into my memory bank of information that makes a difference in my understanding of my daily life. This will be part of the unspoken subtext as I present Thom McEvoy’s proposal to my colleagues in moments. Time to dial up the conference call …

The morning sun cuts through the fog.

Thursday, 23 Oct 2003

COVELO, Calif.

The sky was streaked with red at dusk last evening and true to the sailors’ advice (“red sky at night … “), the sun is piercing the morning fog right now, promising another day of clear blue brilliance. I know that by mid-October I should be hoping for the beginning of the rains, but it’s impossible not to welcome each gorgeous new day.

Today I am hoping to catch up on some of the tasks I didn’t finish yesterday, as I ran (virtually speaking) from one meeting to the next. Today only one meeting is scheduled — on Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time we alternate between a meeting of the Publications Committee (last week and next week) and a production/editorial meeting, which is today.

Publication schedules are critically important to everyone involved in making or publishing a book: marketing has promises to distributors, bookstores, and sales reps, and must coordinate direct mail schedules, course adoption cycles, overseas and domestic conferences; publicity may have scheduled events around a publication date or be planning to hook press releases to a news cycle; administration is concerned with cash flow (will sales start to come in when projected?); production needs to keep a whole list of books moving forward, troubleshooting and problem-solving along the way; editors need to coordinate the process of getting endorsements for the back cover with the production deadlines; and, of course, authors are keen to see their work between covers, and eager to have books in time for course use, key conferences, and Aunt Mary’s birthday.

The production/editorial meeting helps to keep all of this planning on track and brings together the people who can solve the problems that invariably arise during the complex seven-to-nine-month process of transforming a manuscript into a book. The all-important pre-meeting material is two schedules — production and pre-production — which are probably the most regularly consulted pieces of paper (yes, most of us print them out) at Island Press. The production schedule is updated each week; pre-production every two weeks.

The 10:30 meeting is organized by editorial subject area; one editorial team after another comes (in person or via the black box) to go over the publication list. First, the production editors explain the status of each book that’s in some stage of production and review any difficulties, which some of the rest of us can sometimes help to solve; then, we editors give an update on the status of manuscripts on our desks (or about to be) that we will be transmitting to production within the next three or four months (and for which production needs to be prepared with copy editors, designers, and in-house attention).

I sometimes wish that authors could sit in on this meeting. Especially during this biweekly half hour, I am struck by how many different pairs of hands a manuscript passes through on its way to becoming a book. Words and images go from author to editor to transmittal editor to production editor to copy editor to designer to typesetter to proofreader to printer to indexer — and at each of these stages, this unique manuscript (these words, these images) are the sole focus of attention and care from a particular skilled person for a critical period of time. The manuscript is passed from hand to hand, and the end product is the culmination of the individual effort of many people, all of whom are personally and professionally invested in the quality of the final book. Even with the increasing influence of technology on the production process, bookmaking still has many of the characteristics of a fine craft.

Okay, I can see those eyes rolling, and you’re right — it doesn’t always work this way. I, too, have heard the horror stories of embarrassing publishing mistakes and unexpected glitches along the way (and have even been part of a few that we won’t go into here). Mistakes happen, despite everyone’s best efforts and despite the planned redundancy at key points of the process (proofreading by a professional freelancer as well as the author, for example). But, really, most of the time the process works, and the final book is the product of the skill and dedication of all those hands and minds — beginning, of course, with the author’s.

After today’s production/editorial meeting, I need to return calls from authors and a couple of my D.C. colleagues, work on negotiating pending contracts, and try to catch up with emails and proposal reviews. But first, I will make the noon trek to the mailbox (one-half mile away from my home office, on the county road). Twenty years ago, the daily mail delivery often set the agenda for the rest of my day, since communications with authors were primarily by letter, and manuscripts and proposals always arrived via the mail carrier.

These days, nearly all of those items arrive electronically, so the mail isn’t quite the focus of my work pattern that it used to be. But the trip to the mailbox still marks the midpoint of my days.

Chira on the lookout for yellow star thistle.

Today, I’m going to extend the mail journey with a noontime adventure with my dog, Chira, a four-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback. Chira and I take a long walk every day, usually in the late afternoon. But today I want to take another look at part of the land that is in the mailbox’s vicinity — a large patch of yellow star thistle that I noticed over the weekend was still putting out new flowers much too late in the season.

Yellow star thistle is one of the most devastating of California’s invasive plants. When I moved here 30 years ago, none of the knee-high plants that put forth sharp spikes and yellow flowers grew in this area; over the last decade, I have watched star thistle establish itself and begin to take over meadows, roadsides, and fields all around Northern California. I know that the problem is even worse in the rest of the state. My co-owners and I (the land I live on is co-owned by 15 people) have struggled to figure out what, if anything, to do about the star thistle on this square mile of land that we love and for which we are responsible.

Our ownership group is in many ways a microcosm of society, and the diverse opinions about management strategies reflect a full range of values about wildness, human management, technology, and the relative importance of all these things. (Well, I guess we don’t reflect quite the whole range of values: No one is arguing for using herbicides). All of us agree that we want this land to be wild and healthy, but translating those goals into our life on this land is not straightforward. Some people are wary of any human intervention in natural processes; others feel that being good stewards of this land means making careful and humble management choices.

The star thistle control options include hand-pulling (very labor intensive, hard to do on a large area), mowing (means buying and maintaining machinery that may cause unnecessary other damage), burning (potentially dangerous in the season when it would be most effective), and importing weevils that target star thistle as biological controls (and risking a Pandora’s box of unknown effects). As we have worked through the options, it’s been important for us to learn about the ecology of star thistle, how it not only crowds out native plants but also, with deep taproots, upsets water cycles, which are particularly sensitive in California’s wet-season/dry-season climate.

Learning about the global context has also helped us to understand the dimensions of this problem. As Paul Ehrlich has said, “Humanity is finally recognizing that invasive species are a threat of the first order to native biodiversity around the planet and to crucial services supplied by native ecosystems.” Understanding that “our” square mile is tied to the global ecosystem is a critical link in connecting our daily lives and responsibilities with the large and sometimes distant-seeming threats to natural systems on a global scale.

Because of the importance of this topic within the overall concern about biodiversity, Island Press has published five books on invasive species in the last four years, and we have three more in production for publication in 2003 and 2004. (Click here to learn more about our books on invasive species.) The different books are written for various audiences, ranging from the general public to international scientists and officials; they discuss theory, policy, and management strategies, and offer case studies of successful and not-so-successful efforts to control invasives. My hope is that all of these books will help to provide some of the information and guidance we all need to make the right decisions and take the right actions in both our private and professional lives to help safeguard a natural and healthy environment for now and for future generations. Biodiversity affects everyone, and protecting it is a task for us all.

Ah! The sailor’s motto is proven right again: The fog has completely dissolved, and the meadow is full of pure clean sunlight.

Friday, 24 Oct 2003

COVELO, Calif.

When I stepped outside this morning, I was greeted by the howl of a lone coyote — coming from the hill to the west of my house instead of from the river canyon to the east, which is the direction from which the coyotes usually call. I remember the first time I heard that sound, soon after I moved here. I had no idea what I was hearing — it was truly otherworldly, or perhaps like a very weird cocktail party in the distance. Over the years, I’ve come to hear the lilting, spine-tingling yelps and howls as a measure of wildness, and when the coyotes seemed to go silent a few years ago, I feared that it meant bad things for this near-wilderness. But the rangy, canny canines returned shortly thereafter, to my relief. Each time I hear them now — always with a start — I feel my inner compass reorient to the wild world surrounding me.

I’ve been mulling over one of the administrative items from our Roundtable meeting on Wednesday. We’re approaching the end of the strategic planning process that Island Press has been involved in for a year, and Dan Sayre (vice president and publisher, and leader of the RT meeting) told us that within the next few months, as part of the final piece of that process, we editors will need to update and revise our plans for our subject areas. This bit of news was met with something less than universal enthusiasm, since updating editorial strategies in the midst of an already over-the-top workload conjures visions of sleepless nights, no weekends, and an endless series of apologies to authors for delays in working on their manuscripts.

But, if I put aside the effect on my day-to-day life, I’ll admit that I do actually enjoy the process of updating these plans, which gives me a chance to step back and take a look at the Big Picture of what we do at IP: What are the trends within the subject areas we are responsible for? What kinds of information do people working on these issues need? How is the audience growing, shrinking, shifting?

Biodiversity close to home: forestland near Dean’s house.

As I see it, the Biggest Picture of all, the one that frames everything else, is the sobering fact that biodiversity — this complex, interconnected action of life and its processes that is responsible for the health, stability, and beauty of the natural world (which includes, of course, human life) — is in crisis.

As most of you probably know, the estimates of the current rates of biodiversity loss in different habitats are so alarming that biologists speak of the current crisis as a sixth mass extinction event. Humans are off the hook for responsibility for the first five such events, since the most recent one was 65 million years ago. But this one, the sixth event that we are in the midst of right now, is, undeniably (if mostly inadvertently) the result of human activities. Human consumption and increasing human numbers are altering habitat, triggering the spread of invasive species, and, in marine areas, depleting biodiversity through overfishing.

One of the great benefits of my job is the chance to learn about the fascinating intricacies of the natural world. As I have worked with scientists who are leading the way in improving our understanding, I’ve learned that the choices that biodiversity rests on are often, unfortunately, cause/effect issues that do not happen at a scale of time or distance that we can easily perceive. Consequences of, for example, land conversion or environmental change often do not materialize until well after the changes have happened; scientists call this “lag effect.” Likewise, most environmental problems are not generated primarily by a single large perturbation, but are rather the result of many, often unrelated, insults, until the cumulative effect results in a major catastrophe. What this means, as Michael Soule points out in Conservation Biology: Research Priorities for the Next Decade, is that untutored human intuition, even with the best intentions, is likely to be inadequate for providing useful responses. Local extinctions or other environmental changes that happen out of sight — far away — are often “invisible” to individuals elsewhere and therefore seem unconnected and irrelevant to people immersed in busy lives.

Updating my editorial plan means taking a refreshed look at how books can help to meet the challenges of stemming this sixth extinction. Most of the books in IP’s Ecosystems Studies area are published for people who are working to better understand, protect, and restore biodiversity. We also try to reach students, both those who are training for environmental professions and those who will pursue other careers but want to be fully educated citizens. And members of the public, both activists and ordinary citizens, are an important part of our universe, because the protection and restoration of natural processes are increasingly the responsibility of everyone on the planet in many different ways. Without at least a basic grasp of ecology and the connections of all life, it is hard for anyone to make sound choices about consumption and other behavior or to vote wisely. We work hard at making the language in our books accessible to anyone interested in the subject, so that nonspecialists as well as biologists can learn about, say, the ecology of forest fires in Flames in our Forest: Disaster or Renewal?

At the heart of my part of the planning process, and underlying all of my daily work with manuscripts and my frequent conversations with authors, scientists, and others working on biodiversity issues, is the shared, gut-level knowledge that biodiversity is the very ground and substance of life. That without it — without the uncounted species from the invisible microbe to the Asian tiger; without the processes of pollination, soil regeneration, and carbon cycling that different species perform — life would not exist. That below a certain level of biodiversity, humans would not survive. And certainly, without the soaring hawk or howling coyote or whining mosquito, our lives would be unspeakably impoverished.

Chira communes with nature.

This knowledge is never far from me here, thanks to a home and a job that keep my awareness of life’s diversity and interdependence above a subliminal level. Speaking of which (the job part), it’s time for me to turn to the multitude of emails in my in-box, and to the stack of other tasks and manuscripts on my desk. Thank you for sharing the days with me during this week of diary-writing. I’ve enjoyed it, and hope you all have, too. Now, I’m going to take a brief break to play in the meadow with Chira before shifting gears. And this weekend, I think we’ll go to the river, where, if we’re lucky, we may encounter signs and smells of those howling coyotes …