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City Creatures Blog

As urban populations grow, and contact with nature becomes more constricted, is our psychological and social well-being in jeopardy?  Are healthy ecological communities, biological diversity, and even wilderness compatible with urban areas?  An extension of our City Creatures project, this blog explores how cities can be remarkable places that offer opportunities for intimacy, connection, and transformation with other species, and with one another, in our shared urban habitats.  

To request guidelines for blog post submissions, please email gavin@humansandnature.org

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Adam’s Task or Why I Teach Nature Writing

I began teaching nature writing in Chicago over twenty years ago, while adjunct faculty at two universities. At the time, I wasn’t surprised that most students didn’t know what nature writing was—though I was taken aback when asked what I meant by “nature.”

I thought, “You’re kidding, right? What’s nature? What do you think birds are? ... Read More »

Rabbits in a hutch

Of Bunnies and Babes

The seven young women couldn’t help but cradle the shivering beasts to their breasts as they marched from hutch to slaughterhouse. The girls were mostly early-college aged—suburban raised, free range. Enrolled in a farm-to-table course at Sterling College, the seven had pulled the bunnies from the campus’s rabbit hutch. It was the first day of ... Read More »

A volunteer talks with kids drawing animals at AAAS Family Science Days 2014 photo credit brave lux joe mazza

Drawing on Empathy

I teach a natural history class for non-traditional college students.

Several years ago, I began assigning a weekly field journal to my students to help improve their observational skills by doing independent field observations and describing one plant and one animal in their journals. It also gives us an excuse to get out of the dim, ... Read More »


Carp Traps

I was anxious as summer ended last year. I spent much of the season fishing in various remote places, and the suburban area in central Michigan where I live the rest of the year felt more than subpar in comparison. Honestly, when I arrived back home in early August I did not know how I ... Read More »


For the Birds

There is a lot of talk these days about weather and climate. Weather being the super-cooled cloud droplets—snow—falling hard this morning. I have read that every snowflake is sui generis, each crystal its own unique self. Two feet of individualists rest on my lawn. Weather, like the snowflake, is particular to the moment, a ... Read More »


Triptych Depicting Pigeons at Clark and Lake

A winter of grief, grief so deep that my body, emotions, thoughts—my whole self—had gone numb: so numb that I would stand on the Clark and Lake “L” platform facing into the cold wind, Chicago’s sharp-taloned Hawk, and let it rake me through and through, welcoming the discomfort. I carried a talisman in my ... Read More »


Encountering Starlings Again for the First Time

Early one January morning, awakened by the kicks and twists of my gestating daughter, I looked out the living room window, eager for a glimpse of a black-capped chickadee, a northern flicker, perhaps a great blue heron cresting my residential Phinney Ridge neighborhood. My daughter wanted to come into the world as much as I ... Read More »


The Nature of Violence

Late one winter night, on a nearby side road, my headlights caught a furry animal with large triangular ears and a long tail crawling on top of some other animal. The blacktop was dark and silent, so I threw the car in reverse and whirred backward until I could train my lights on the bloody pointed ... Read More »

fall trees , hickory Nov 08 009

Uncertain Memories

“He knows God rightly who knows Him everywhere.”

~Meister Eckhart, Sermon V

Nowadays in summer I keep my hair like I did when I was a child. Back then, near the end of school, my parents would take me to the barber to get a “burr”—a title which perhaps came from the sound ... Read More »

walking ancient roads

Muir and Plato Go for a Stroll

I am leafing through the worn out pages of my old copy of John Muir’s essay (it’s really more of a long travel brochure) on Yellowstone National Park. I lifted it from a gift shop at one of the entrances to the park years ago, when some friends and I were on one ... Read More »

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