When I was much younger I would take solo backpacking trips in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. On one occasion I found myself at a very remote campsite deep in the forest. My original plan was to commune in some vague, Thoreau-like fashion with nature, and with a congenial assist from the Almighty, discover heretofore unseen truths. Read more

You would be hard pressed to find a place where the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” is more sharply defined than Manhattan’s Eastside. The gap between rich and poor is not just evident in the number of nannies pushing Hummer-like baby strollers south of 96th Street, but more harshly revealed by disparities in the area’s health statistics. North of 96th, specifically in East Harlem where the population is 56 percent Hispanic and 33 percent African-American, 31 percent of the people are obese and 20 percent are diabetic. Cross the line south into the land of the healthy, wealthy, and thin, where 84 percent of the folks are white, the obesity rate plunges to 7 percent and diabetes barely brushes 1 percent. Read more

Thumb through the opening pages of Kauai’s phone book and you’ll find local maps that denote something you won’t find in most places – a tsunami line. The barely perceptible demarcation that runs just inside the coastline of Hawaii’s western most major island is a subtle warning of the always present threat of natural disaster. Perhaps more poignantly, it is also a reminder of how perilous life has and could become for the 63,000 year-round residents of this otherwise paradisiacal isle. Read more

Rio Thomas is leading a small squad of volunteers through the damp, early morning fields of Alm Hill Farm at the outskirts of Bellingham, Washington. Their voices hushed by the gray sky overhead and limbs still stiff from sleep, this silent band treads carefully across rows of lettuce and strawberry beds before reaching their target – precisely lined-out rows of snap and snow peas with pods dangling loose and sassy like earrings from a gypsy’s ears. Thomas issues instructions to pick only the ripe pods, leave the young ones, and fill their harvest buckets at will. Read more

A recent New York Times dining section piece told the story of a 17-year old on his spring college shopping tour. Apparently the young fellow’s selection criteria was not limited to a school’s academic strengths but also included the quality of its dining service. On the day the young man visited Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, he was transfixed by the dining hall’s sumptuous repast that included vegetable ragout over polenta, spicy orange beef, Dijon-crusted chicken, vegetarian pho and spinach sautéed with garlic and olive oil. Precocious palate or not, the would-be collegian readily admitted to “something subliminal from the food…that influences your decision [about the college].” Read more