Conversations with a Christmas Ornament

By Neil King Jr.

Christmas trees sparkle but they also notch, like nothing else, the tick tock of our years. But on this tree, a boyish lute player on a tin-can lid has all the time in the world.

When in Iceland to Fish, You Fish, No Matter What.

David N. McIlvaney

Iceland is a Shangri-La for the flyfisher, but you can’t be picky in your choice of fishing days. Sheets of rain? River flowing in a torrent? Gale-force winds? Just get to it. This is Iceland.

A Pilgrimage to the River Spey

By Chris Santella

For a week, I hurled flies into named pools along the storied River Spey, and it hardly mattered that I never landed a single salmon. Just being there, casting in such a place, was what really mattered.

Paddling the Seven Seas of Central Park

By Neil King Jr.

How a fixation on paddling all seven lakes and ponds in New York’s Central Park turned into a magical , full-moon night of exploration–and a view of the city as never seen before.

Three Cheers for the Far, Far, Far Away

By Neil King Jr.

We have a cottage that is very, very far away. You may think of that distance as a demerit. I have come to see it as the ultimate blessing, as the force that protects the place and makes it was it is. Distance, I’ve learned, now ranks among the world’s most elusive treasures.

When a Beautiful Boat Becomes the Emblem of an Unlived Life

By Neil King Jr.

When you buy a boat, you buy an imagined future, a dream you want the boat to play out. But when I could never find the right place for a gorgeous mahogany guide boat, she became the symbol of an unrealized aspiration.

My Once and Future Life as a (One-Night) Rock Star

By Bryan Gruley

For one giddy night at 17, right at the end of the summer before college, I learned what it meant to feel like a rock star. This fall, 47 years later, my old band and I are going to do it again.

What Happened When A Tick Took My Voice

By Neil King Jr.

Twenty months ago a tick took my voice. That dose of Lyme disease sent me on a journey of doctors and whispers and long spells of silence. A journey that still isn’t over. We record it here simply in the interest of science.

To Norway, To Swim

By Neil King Jr.

What better way to celebrate a big life transition that several days of swimming, well before summer, in Norway’s gorgeous but bracing fjords? That’s what we did right after my eldest daughter graduated from college.

My Long Quest to Savor All of Brazil’s Coast by Bike

By Douglas Engle

It all started when I rode down the coast from Rio for five days. And then took another long coastal ride, and another. I’ve now devoured more than a third of Brazil’s Atlantic rim over 10 or so trips, with 5,000 more kilometers to go. Here are 12 of the best moments, snapshot by snapshot.

How One Insane Game Became a Lifelong Source of Hope

By John W. Miller

For more than half my life I had yearned and strived for this one thing: To take a team to the International Little League World Series. The outlandish, utterly improbable way it finally happened became, for me, a lasting well of optimism and enthusiasm I now take wherever I go.

Emptying the Mind on the Island of Naxos

By Tyler Maroney

The beauty of wandering this island in Greece, or swimming its waters in search of an elusive octopus, or having that second or third cappuccino, is there is no why. Except, as someone once said, glory does accrue to those who hunger after the unusual.

In Praise of Mediocrity

By Neil King Jr.

We wallow most days in mediocrity and fall far shy of perfect in nearly all we do, but at least we have a window into that exalted place. And occasionally, in a single swing of a cue stick or brilliant shot at tennis, we know what true excellence is.

Got a Case of Teen Travel Angst? Find a Herd of Mountain Sheep

By Abdon Pallasch

Sheep suddenly blocked our route on a mountain drive through Wyoming. And what a favor that was. Like a biblical parable, those sheep woke up our teenage daughters and added, for all of us, a dash of the new and exciting. They launched our summer vacation.

Notes on a Drive Down the North Atlantic Coast

By Neil King Jr.

I had to ask myself during that thousand-mile drive to New York from the outer ends of North America: Was I addicted to the sight of evermore sea crashing against evermore rock? Ocean porn, I called it.

Hunting the Elusive Mushroom in the Forests of Bohemia

By M. Winfrey

Finding mushrooms in the forests of northern Bohemia goes like this: First you wonder if they are really there. And then you calm yourself, and they emerge, and you wondered why you ever had any doubt. Like you imagined them into being.

Three Boys and Their Jeep: Reliving a Rocky Road Trip

By Bill Grueskin

Two buddies and I took a pre-college road trip to the Canadian Rockies in the summer of ’73. It didn’t all go as planned. When we dug up our diaries 48 years later, we were in for still more surprises.

Into the Maine Woods with Old Sugarfoot

By Peter Fritsch

Meet Dave Mosher, one of those legendary, tireless, old-time fishing guides that still haunt our lakes and streams. May it always be so.

The Foursome in Front of Us

By Bryan Gruley

Sometimes what you remember about a long ago game of golf has everything to do with the folks in front.

Painting the Elusive Brook Trout

By Steven Weinberg

Trout may be sneaky and elusive in the river, but capturing them in water colors is still trickier. The first touch of brush to paper makes or breaks what comes next.

In Praise of Winter Geese

By Neil King Jr.

Spend a winter among geese in unpeopled places and you come to realize that we honking humans–too loud, too numerous, too fertile–are the real pests.

Scent of Deer, Descent of Man

By Neil King Jr.

In the meadow of my winter refuge, it’s a constant war of noses between me, my dog and the resident herd of deer. And a steady lesson in how inferior we humans are when it comes to the most potent of senses, smell.

Seeking the Essential During Our Long Covid Lockdown

By Abdon Pallasch

We have had so many 2020 stay-at-home orders, each more challenging than the one before it. A month into our first, we sought our own taste of the essential a short drive from Chicago. We found beauty, yes, but also an earful from an angry cop.

Knots, Rivers and Human Perfectibility

By Neil King Jr.

Thoughts on human fallibility and perfectibility, distraction and focus, impermanence and permanence, while standing in a river and trying to tie a knot.

Travel, Water, and the Suspension of Time

By Neil King Jr.

We travel to disrupt time, to stretch it like taffy so that it resembles the constant newness of when we were young. And nothing suspends time like swimming. Or more to the point, like diving into very cold water.

The Heartbreak of Losing
A Family Cottage I Loved

By Bryan Gruley

The cottage on a lake in Michigan was one of those whimsical purchases parents make. Over time it became our true home, the vessel for a million memories. We had no cause to think it wouldn’t be ours forever.

The Late-Summer Sadness of the Adirondack Chair

By Neil King Jr.

Set along lakes and ocean fronts in two, threes, and fours, Adirondack chairs are the emblems of passing summer leisure and idleness. And of imagined moments that never happen as we pass them by.

photo by Brett Rothmeyer

How Conquering Hills by Bike Keeps Me Sane

By John W. Miller

Nothing gives joy in these dreary times like grinding up the hills of my hometown of Pittsburgh. A workout that’s half pain, half ecstasy. On every hard ascent, there’s a moment of despair that raises a question everybody’s thinking now: Can I really get through this? Say yes, and you’ll soon feel the joy of gravity pulling you toward Earth.

Our Covid Road Trip Became a Love Song to a Huge SUV

By Neil King Jr.

A monthlong 6,200-mile, 20-state road trip from Washington DC to Montana and back was made all the more glorious by the land yacht we rented to take us there. Bigger than a Conestoga, she cost a tiny fraction of what the Oregon-bound settler would have paid for his covered wagon and oxen. So off we went into America for adventures unknown, smack in the middle of a global pandemic.

Zen and the Art of Baseball Coaching During Covid-19

By John W. Miller

A part-time job coaching preteen baseball in Pittsburgh is one of the few things keeping me sane, and happy, in the dog days of Covid. We’ve learned to play each game with intensity, knowing it could be our last.

Hitting a Curve

By Brendan Murray

These dreary days of distance and self-imposed quarantine have revived the remembered glories of Wiffle ball in a Chicago alley decades ago. All you needed then was an alley and an ageless will to play.

An English Elm in Brooklyn

By Tyler Maroney

I fell under the spell of an English elm one morning two Octobers ago during a walk through Brooklyn’s Fort Greete Park. That elm has now entered our family mythology.

River of Dreams

By Tom Cohen

I have canoed all my life, from the spring-fed streams of Arkansas to the mighty Zambezi of Southern Africa. On the banks of the Noatak in northwest Alaska’s Brooks Range, the countless strokes of those previous journeys had delivered me to the perfect place of worship for my pantheistic spirituality.

Comforting the Dead Donkey

A donkey I’d known for years died the other day. I heard the horses whinnying through the trees as the rain beat on the porch roof and when I went to investigate, I found Buddy crumpled in the mud along the fence, more the discarded effigy of a donkey than the angular, craggy soul he was on hoof.

Bobbing in the Wake of Pleasure Craft

It was as though the past had called and found me out fishing. At the end we gave one another a hearty farewell, knowing we weren’t likely to talk again.

Every Man a Ruler, And Yet Nothing Pleases

By Emanuel Howitt

Have we changed in 200 years in our rumbling, inchoate discontent as a nation? Not that much. In the fall of 1819, a 28-year-old Englishman named Emanuel Howitt came to the young United States to see if he might settle there. He didn’t much like what he found.

On Walking

By Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau was one of his era’s great practitioners of ecstatic walking and often sang of its virtues in his works, but nowhere so potently as in his essay Walking, published in The Atlantic…

Just Once More, Please

By Neil King Jr.

Surely more than once you have hiked atop mountains spilling to the sea or downed a glass of wine that had no equal or plunged from a dock into an emerald bay and thought, “This is so perfect. If I never do this again in my life, I will be satisfied.”

In Patagonia, With Rod, Reel and Humility

A week unlike any of the other 3,000 or so I have spent on Earth began as a birthday surprise from my wife. Seven days at a remote fly-fishing lodge in Argentina, in the far south of Patagonia. It was the surprise that just kept on surprising.

Alone Among the Maddening Crowd

By Neil King Jr.

What is it about travel and crowds and iPhones and Instagram and the quest for that magic photo moment? Let us muse for a moment on the difference between rapture and photos suggestive of rapture.

The Relevance Now of Thoreau’s Call to Keep it Simple—and Wild

By Neil King Jr.

Naturally, when the dictate came to self-isolate, more than a few of us thought of Thoreau. There he is, our national prophet of solitude, pottering among the beans in his garden and skinny-dipping in Walden Pond. Is that him cresting the hill in his sole pair of baggy pants, out on another of his rambles?

On Forgetting to Remember

By Neil King Jr.

For two hours we wandered the famous Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, that glorious monument to human vanity and our craving to remember, to memorialize, to put the passing flicker into stone. Nothing says “Nothing lasts” quite like that everlasting favorite, the decaying crypt. In Recoleta, Argentina’s rich and illustrious buried their beloved dead and swore unending remembrance and love, only to see the years and the rain and the weeds weave a different story.