Novelist. Essayist. Former entomologist. Now a full-time writer exploring travel, art, philosophy, psychology, and science.

Stories from a static year

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Photo by author

2020 was my first full year of writing on Medium

And although I told myself with almost every story I published that I was done with the platform, I kept coming back. Until the calendar flipped over and I realized I had a body of work on my hands.

Some of these stories are among the most popular I’ve written. Some were abject flops. But all have something in them that I’m proud of. A message I think is important. Helpful tips for others. Or just a single phrase that came out exactly the way I wanted it.

Anyway, although I cringe a little at…

Forget This Screen — The Real World Is Out There — Tenting on hills
Forget This Screen — The Real World Is Out There — Tenting on hills
Image by Fabricio Macedo FGMsp from Pixabay

If you haven’t started yet, you’re already behind. On March 1st, the Province of British Columbia opened up its campsite reservation system. The online hordes descended.

I was there too, credit card in hand. Fighting with my neighbors for a spot in the wild world. Because I miss it as much as they do. Our comfortable modern lives close us off from what we need most, the world we were made for. The natural world. Without it, sooner or later, we are all lost.

And maybe in among the forest trails, we are all hoping to find our way back…

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Footbridge over Hayward Lake. Photo by author.


My voice bounced back from the corroded concrete of the low bridge above the water. Not the best echo I’ve ever heard, but something. A reflection of sound like the reflection of light shining in a thousand tiny pockets of the water’s surface. And if light was as slow as sound, or if our eyes were quicker, the whole world would echo whenever we looked at it.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, fine. I’m just gonna stay behind you. That way you’ll run into things before I do.”

“Oh, thanks.”

It wasn’t my wife’s first time kayaking. That was years ago, on…

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Photo by Diane Baker on Unsplash

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.

The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those

That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant. — Hurt Hawks, Robinson Jeffers

Down with this sort of thing

The mute hideousness of domestic life. The dreary chores. The wordless frustration. The limits life imposes on us, the doors swinging shut one by one, closing off potential futures with every choice we make. Every trip to the grocery store shaves off another flake of your soul. …

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Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash

“You have to admit though. A win feels good.”

The bar we were sitting in was bustling; a dim-lit hive kicked into nocturnal life. This was before the virus, before the masks, when you could still talk business over a couple of beers. I’d already turned down the job he’d offered me. But he’s not the type that gives up.

I’ve known Arthur for years, from back when we were two young men barely in our twenties, occupying the very bottom rung of the career ladder. When we first met, we were both caught up in raging ambition. Both hungry…

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Photo by Michal Mrozek on Unsplash

“The city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo” — Desmond Morris

When I was a kid, my neighbor had an owl

A barn owl, I think. She was white, and she was beautiful. Her heart-shaped face was jeweled with glittering black eyes capable of freezing small mammals in their tracks.

Our neighbor brought it around to show us one day. We were city kids. We’d never seen a bird so magnificent as the one that clutched her arm, occasionally flapping silent wings as it fixed us all with an arrogant stare. Raptors are like that.

She was a witchy sort of woman, our neighbor. An old-school…

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Photo by Juliette Félix on Unsplash

A tree grows in a farmer’s field

Where I grew up in England, it was the spreading branches of oaks that towered like sentinels over otherwise cleared fields, the last remnants of forests cleared by invading Normans. But this is Western Canada, and even the trees are different. Here, it’s the deep-scored and fragrant Western Red Cedar, still standing ten centuries after the forest was cleared around it.

There’s an inherent pathos to anything that’s the last of its kind. A similar kind of nostalgia to the one that suffuses the early twentieth century writing I love. The sun setting forever on a vanished world. That melancholy…

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Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash

Who knew the apocalypse would be so boring?

The end of history has been announced over and over again, and it hasn’t been true yet. This isn’t it either. But it feels like it.

Like the heat death of the universe, when nothing has the energy to react to anything else. All that’s happened for the last year is that people have gotten meaner.

We can’t go out. We can’t move. To protect ourselves and each other, we have to stay wherever we were when the virus overtook us. In this quiet time, the days elide. The same sun fastened to the sky. …

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A wild orca off the San Juan Islands, Washington. Photo by author.

Readers, this article briefly mentions murder, addiction, and abuse.

You’re writing the past

We think in stories. It’s how we transmit information. Advice and warnings and laws cascade down through the generations via narrative. Wired to a story like whales are wired to their songs, we mistake them for reality. A story has a beginning and a middle, and an end. And once the story has begun, the beginning can’t be changed.

But if you believe that, it’s only because you haven’t heard enough stories. The past doesn’t determine the present. The present determines the past. …


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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Everyone’s broke

And horny. But mostly broke.

That’s what the Internet tells me. And now, confined to our houses like lame white-collar criminals, everyone’s looking for ways to make money. Side hustles, we’re supposed to call them.

As Kristi Keller points out, a lot of these side hustles start to sound the same after a while. Even your granny blogs these days. Illiterate tribesmen in the depths of the Amazon run drop shipping stores. And we’re all influencers. I just influenced my cat to purr by scratching her tail, and now I’m drunk with power and social proof.

Is the market saturated…

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