• faint hope for the Monarchs


      The Monarch figures for 2017 were released in February: down 1/3 from the previously year, which was only slightly better than the figures for 2014 and 2013, the lowest in at least 20 years, a decline of more than 80% in recent decades. According to a report in the New York Times by Michael Wines there […]

  • Why the butter in ‘butterfly?


      Whether it is their metamorphosis, their vibrant colors, their gentle fluttering, their beauty, something about butterflies touches our imaginations. They transcend our negative associations about insects and seem more fairies than bugs. Perhaps this accounts for the great variety of names for butterfly in different languages. The “monarch” was named by a 19th century […]

  • ‘butterfly’: a linguistic anomaly


      How can we account for the world-wide variety in word ‘butterfly’? The most interesting essay on this linguistic mystery comes from William O. Beeman, of the Dept of Anthropolgy, Brown University, 2000: The Elusive Butterfly. He notes that since the 19th century, “one of the bedrock principles of linguistic analysis” has been that most words […]

  • the bugs and us


      My parents, like the Monarch butterflies, wintered in Central Mexico. Fleeing icy Manhattan to join their friends in Palm Beach or Palm Springs would have been too easy. Instead, after my father retired from dentistry at 80, they set up house in Ajijic, a small lake-side village outside Guadalajara with a big ex-pat community […]

  • wine cellars and mortality


      One of the essential appeals of “laying down” wine is that you can buy it when it is young and relatively inexpensive, after which it can sit in your cellar aging and taking on value. Over the years, you can chortle at the high price a wine is fetching— in a wine store or […]

  • Why are smells so hard to recall?


      The sense of smell has a conflicting relationship to memory: the memories it evokes are the most intense and emotional, while scent itself is so elusive as to seem beyond memory. Proust may have been the first person to describe the phenomenon of scent/taste-induced memory, a memory so complete that it feels like the […]

  • bellicose bambini


      The history of Italy is a gory tale of non-stop internecine fighting. If Disney had animated it, the tongue would be trying to devour the toe, the grommet to strangle the lace. To walk the otherwise charming old streets is to tread on centuries of dried blood, fratricidal blood. Other travelers may focus on […]

  • travel wars: us v. them


      To most, the sixties “generation gap” was a vague, pop-culture generality. To us—my parents on one side, my husband Michael and I on the other—it was my family’s defining motif. We were deeply, truly, madly split on every subject. Police brutality. Dean Martin. Grey Poupon versus French’s. It was all equally significant. Where you […]

  • why can’t I appreciate wine?


      I am a good cook and have a reasonably good palate. But I’ve never been able to identify very many flavors in wine and can never remember any of them. This has always been something of a mystery to me. Scent, like music, which I also can’t remember, seems totally ephemeral to me. It […]

  • travel fantasy meets “small-world”


      By the time I was a midlife wife and mother, I knew the Age of Exploration had long since passed, and yet I still craved a sense of discovery—and of self-discovery—when I traveled. The word “trip” continued to have a ‘60’s ring. Over the years, I’d come to realize that what I sought was […]


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