November/December 2016

In this issue, Lauren Markham reports on how an Arctic community prepares its young people for the future while keeping their traditions alive, and Dean Kuipers reports on efforts to show how Floridians can coexist with panthers. Other features include Christopher Norment on the importance of inspiring a sense of wonder in schools; Barbara Hurd on the Galapagos Islands; and Nick Neely on the various markings we leave on trees.

Also: Poetry by Jim Daniels, David Roderick, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Dave Lucas, and Janice N. Harrington, and drawings of unlikely animal companions by Ripley Whiteside.


6 Frequently Asked Questions by the Time-Traveling Nature Lover

1. May I feed the animals? Feeding ancient animals is forbidden! It can have dire results. When the Time Travel in Nature Tours® (TTiN) staff first explored the Devonian period, we had scarcely brushed the 350-million-year-old millipedes from the backs of our necks when Tiktaalik roseae,the fish with a neck and wrists, common ancestor of land animals, came frisking up out of a streambed. No one had foreseen Tiktaalik’s cuteness. That body like an oversized tadpole. Those little fin feet. That funny big head waving on its world-historical neck as it goggled at us from two fishy eyes that held the ancestral gleam of a puppy hoping for a treat! We fed Tiktaalik. We even got it to hop on its hind fins. Then we watched the first neck develop the first crick.

2. Is it true that the dinosaurs don’t sound like dinosaurs? Guests on our Cretaceous Tour may request earbud soundtracks from CarniRaawwrr! Inc. But we recommend listening with your bare ears to real dinosaur sounds, described by one happy guest as “a zillion trombone players riding on Harley Hogs through the biggest ever migration of warblers and laughing loons!” If the experience disappoints, we will pay all expenses to send you and your family to Washington DC, where you may hear twenty-first-century dinosaurs roaring like lions on the floor of the US Senate.

3. Why isn’t there a tour of the Big Bang? Each tour destination must be in compliance with the No Intellectual Tampering with Incentivizing Trends Act (NITWIT), in view of the market impacts caused by the drowning of coastal cities, the spread of the Great Dust Basin, the Burning Forest Belts, etc. Unfortunately, the Big Bang is not a market-incentivizing destination, as it has no trade or development potential. We also believe it is not safe.

4. Can a tour guest meet God? What we offer is less holy than meeting God, but far more rare: four billion years of unfolding ecological history that you may personally encounter with guaranteed security and exclusive service. Should a guest meet God, however, there is no extra charge. God exists in the eternal present, freely and equally available to everyone, at any moment, and hence is ineligible for inclusion in the TTiN product lines under NITWIT.

5. Can I visit with my mitochondrial mother? Weaving, sewing, tanning, piercing, drilling, chipping, carving, grinding, digging, potting, painting, hunting, fishing, foraging, cooking. Caring for the sick. The old. The babies. The kids. Developing language, with complex concepts like “sauce,” “foreplay,” and “consensus-building process.” Paleolithic Tour guests should consider how their mitochondrial moms might feel when their already exhausting day is further interrupted by the demands of a remote descendant wanting to take a selfie. By law, however, we must disclose that NITWIT encourages contact with ancestors who own arable lands, in hopes of moving the US population safely into the past.

6. What if I do something that changes history or causes a time paradox? This is unlikely. But as a precaution, most tours are restricted to the Secure Viewing Drones, from which you may observe natural marvels like the loudest sound in history and the nuclear purple glow of Krakatoa; ancient fishermen wrestling a three-hundred-pound monster out of a vast blue lake in the green Sahara; the thunder of an asteroid-impact tsunami walling up the sky; and even more, right down to the shiver of life’s first film upon the Hadean waters. So leave your worries behind! The best reason for time travel in nature isn’t (dare we say?) market incentivizing. It’s that the universe is the biggest place in the universe, where everything happens sometime—but we only live once.

Sharona Muir is the author of The Book of Telling: Tracing the Secrets of My Father’s Lives, a collection of poetry, a collection of literary criticism, and the novel Invisible Beasts. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Orion magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University; two Ohio Arts Council Fellowships; the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship; the Bernard F. Connors Prize, and other awards. She is currently Professor of Creative Writing and English at Bowling Green State University.