Carrie Naughton Posts

Discovering online lit mag THE FEM this year was a definite high point for me. What a great source of inspiration. I’m bowled over to be a part of their poetry page.

I wrote “Ninevah” in the same vein as (and striving for the same caliber of) poems in the “Poets Respond” category at Rattle. While not a vehemently political person, sometimes events shake me up enough to knock a poem out of me. When I saw this Hyperallergic article about ISIS destroying statues at the Mosul Museum, I felt a helplessness that translated into poetry.

This was a scary thing for me to write. I am mostly a fence-sitter. Someone hesitant to take a stand in case I misunderstand issues, history, people. This time my sadness took precedence. I want to know how human beings can break a seemingly infinite cycle of cruelty to each other and to our home, this planet. What part do I play?

I reread Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacharib.” I contemplated, as I always do when I’m distraught, images of the Earth from space, and yeah even this image, which always seems to blow my mind and change my perspective. I sought out stories of female goddesses from ages past and the calm wisdom of Carl Sagan. Then I wrote a poem.

You can read “Ninevah” here. Thanks!


“Family portrait (Voyager 1)” by NASA, Voyager 1 – Visible Earthsource: version: Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

read me

Last summer I posted about the wildflowers on Josie’s Ridge, specifically clematis. This summer’s rock star is the Sego lily, and her lil’ buddy the Flower Crab Spider.

The Sego lily (Calochortus nuttallii) is one of 70 species in the Calochortus genus (calochortus derives from Greek, meaning beautiful grass) found up and down the Americas from British Columbia to Guatemala. This wild lily is both elegant and tasty – its edible bulbs have long been part of the diet of many tribes like the Hopi and Navajo. It’s the state flower of Utah, mainly because the Mormon pioneers discovered this nutritional fact and didn’t die of starvation. The word sego is the Southern Paiute name for the bulb itself, according to Merriam-Webster.

I have never eaten a Sego lily bulb, but I do see these flowers all over hillside trails around Jackson Hole in mid-July, and they are exquisitely beautiful. Also, these lilies always seem to have tiny chartreuse spiders tiptoeing around on their stamens and petals. I finally got a photo of one pretty arachnid and sent it off to two super-helpful plant identification websites, hoping for a name. I got answers within only a day or two! For free!

1024px-Misumena_vatia_qtl2You can read my question (basically: what is this spider??), and the speedy response I got (it’s most likely Misumena vatia) at the Land Grant University’s eXtension website here. This was so fun I’m trying to come up with more questions to ask!

I also sent my spider ID question to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s help site Mr. Smarty Plants, which has to be the best cutesy name ever. Mr. Smarty Plants couldn’t give me a definitive answer because hey, he isn’t Mr. Smarty Spiders, which I understand. BUT I still got a great list of insect identification websites.

Misumena vatia, pleased to meet you! I’m fascinated that you use flowers as your hunting grounds. And you can change color to suit your flower! There you are hanging out on some yarrow this time, eyeing your prey. Eight eyes on the prize, spidey!


Photo of Sego lily and her flower crab spider by me.

“Misumena vatia qtl2” by Quartl – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons  


field notes

So I didn’t forget to do a June documentary review. I am rebelling. I confess I have never been much of a documentary-watcher (did I already confess to that before? is this old news?). It’s true – sometimes I do not love the Real World. (Except I do love this Real World). I don’t listen to talk radio. Not even NPR really. I have enough voices in my head talking at me, I don’t need extra. I have failed numerous times listening to podcasts – the only ones I love right now are Welcome to Night Vale and The Coode Street Podcast, and oh hey – the former is fiction (or IS IT) and the latter is (pretty much) about fiction. As I’ve said, watching/reading/listening to News makes me barf in despair. So – don’t worry, I just need a bit of anarchy and she-lives-in-her-own-world right now and then maybe I’ll do a double feature documentary review later this month. Cuz it’s July! I know this because I am constantly sweating and the garden is growing too fast and threatening to go to seed. Also I just Stand Up Paddleboarded for the first time ever.  Summer, huzzah!

I’m looking at these possibilities for July documentaries. (Feel free to post a Comment and vote.)

Dreamcatcher (no, not the horribly ridiculous Stephen King film adaptation) but THIS incredible woman.

The Overnighters Simply because the viewer comments on Netflix are so wildly differing – what the hell is this about? I will see.

Cartel Land Because I just read this review.

Mainly I’ve been reading books like a mother-effer. I am 5 books behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge but I am gritting my teeth and gonna catch back up. I just read a Jonathan Maberry book in 24 hours. (This is not much of a brag, but still).

I decided to read a book about writing poetry – Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town – because it’s got a low page count (ha! cheating) and it’s been on my list for a while. AND because I recently attended two separate poetry workshops that varied so astoundingly in their respective teachings that I’m feeling a need for some familiar ground.

I don’t like to be told that poetry should never contain fragments, should always have proper punctuation and complete sentences, should contain exceedingly perfect line breaks.  Doesn’t this, Do that, Don’t do this. EXCUSE ME. Rules? Maybe if I’m rocking Terza rima Dante-style (NO. This will never happen). Otherwise…where I’m going I don’t need any rules.

Enter Richard Hugo, whose happy, knowing, conversational book stirs up all kinds of poet-y magical feelings in me. I am enjoying his anecdotes and lessons about “that silly, absurd, maddening, futile, enormously rewarding activity: writing poems.” He says: “I don’t know why we do it. We must be crazy.” Preach, Richard.


Photo of the Tetons from the Bar B C Ranch Road by me.

grab bag

Continued from my last post, Grassy Lake Road, Part 1

Where was I? Oh yes. Fast asleep in my campsite on the Reclamation Road, just south of Yellowstone. Grizzly Country.

SPLASH! Thud. Splash-plonk!

I sat bolt upright in my tent and listened real, real hard. I’ve heard many an animal nosing around in a campsite before (don’t get me started on the Point Reyes raccoons), but usually I’m in a crowded campground or I’m in a tent with someone else. This time I was entirely alone.

And I was freezing. I realized I’d been sitting up outside of my sleeping bag for several minutes and I began to tremble with either terror or cold or both. I heard more rustling sounds – something coming through the willows along the river bank. Could be a moose. Could be a black bear. Could be….

IMG_3120Well, I had to look. Why are tent zippers the noisiest damn things? I knew for certain that a flimsy nylon tent was not capable of saving me if a big ole bear decided I smelled tasty. I didn’t want to spook any creature, really.  Trampled to death my a moose? Embarrassing (for everybody). But I just couldn’t sit there shivering all by myself, unable to see what was coming through my camp. And no way in hell was I going back to sleep just then.

ZZZziiiiiipppppp. You cannot unzip a metal zipper slowly enough to make it a quiet endeavor. I got up on my knees, poked my head out the tent door and blinked in the starlight. The Milky Way blazed. The birds were still singing – at midnight. The river gurgled and churned. No moon. But enough glow to make out the biggest bear I have ever seen – a gigantic black bulk lumbering slowly and so, so quietly through the grass not five yards from my tent. I couldn’t tell if it was a griz or a black bear, so I won’t embellish.  But it was huuuuuuuuuge.  Almost as big as my two-person tent. And then…it just kept on walkin’.

I did not sleep for three hours. Several more visitors during the night paid me visits. One of them sounded like a clumsy elk tripping over a downed log – but I didn’t peek that time. I feel asleep again soon after and woke up at dawn, alone again.

IMG_0417A couple hours later, post-coffee, I knew I couldn’t stay a second night. I knew I’d come back another time, though. I was thinking this as a Park Ranger drove up to chat with me and give me the standard Bear Safety sheet. I told him about the bear from the night before. He said it might’ve been a large black grizzly whose territory encompassed the JDR, and who was affectionately known as XL.

I can imagine all kinds of responses to this post. You weren’t even in the backcountry, big deal. You are so stupid to camp alone. You should have made noise. You are a rock star! Why didn’t you run for your car and leave?! 

All I can say is: Of course. And: No regrets. I didn’t go looking for trouble, and I locked up my food. I didn’t get mauled to death. I saw something no one else saw; it’s my memory. I will never forget the way that bear moved through the high grass, in the cold dark under the stars. Or the way the Snake River changes its sound – from a fast rushing to a dampened chuckle to a muted cobble-thumping sigh in the watches of night. I was feeling sad and dispirited when I went up to Grassy Lake Road. I recovered my lost spirit there, that raw feeling of being alive in this extraordinary world.

Reclamation Road, indeed.


Photo of meadow and Camp 2 by me. Bear Safety sheet from National Park Service.

field notes

There’s a 40-mile dirt road running from Idaho to Wyoming (or…Wyoming to Idaho) between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It’s called the Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road – after its destination points. Or Grassy Lake Road (on some maps, Grassy Lakes Road), referring to the large reservoir just west of the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway. The Bureau of Reclamation built the road around 1911 to haul materials and supplies from Ashton, Idaho to the construction site of the Jackson Lake Dam. So, on the Forest Service maps, it’s called Reclamation Road.

IMG_3097I called it home one night a couple weeks ago when I needed to get out of town. I packed up all my glamping supplies (tent, 2 pillows, monster Thermarest, down sleeping bag, hammock, cooler full of gourmet cheese, beer, and chocolate) and headed north. I got about five miles from home and remembered my Coleman stove. I went back for the stove – a woman needs hot coffee in the morning. Now, I can do camping with nothing more than a sleeping bag and a headlamp, but not if I don’t have to. I don’t mind Clif Bars for every meal, or mice crawling in my hair in the middle of the night, but I don’t love it.

IMG_3105Along the eastern end of the road, mostly following the Snake River inside the boundaries of the JDR, you’ll find 8 developed camps spread out over ten miles. That’s a total of 14 campsites (I counted), and they’re all free. They’ve got fire rings, picnic tables, bearproof trashcans and some of the cleanest (shockingly cleanest) vault toilets I’ve ever encountered. I thought about driving as far away from Flagg Ranch as I could and taking the last open site, then got lazy and chose Camp 2. Absolutely no cell service, hardly anybody driving by on the road, and my own private beach on the river (okay, I did share it with a few Canada geese and several rather vociferous killdeer).

IMG_3113Across the road sprawled a vast meadow of camas in full bloom, and for a while I watched a pair of sandhill cranes poking around in the tall grass. A squadron of American white pelicans zoomed up the river. Ruby-crowned kinglets foraged in the boughs of the lodgepole pine stand where I strung up my hammock. The mosquitoes were eager, but few, and rolling myself up burrito-style in my hammock saved me.

Around dusk, I dutifully locked up all my food and everything remotely smelly, and fell asleep in my tent while reading. Then I woke up at midnight to the sound of something very heavy splashing and kerplunking at the river’s edge.

To Be Continued

Photos of Grassy Lake Road, Camp 2, Snake River and Camas (Camassia quamash) by me.

field notes

Oh, kids. I have been so busy balancing day-job, poem-writing, and summer-celebrating that I’ve neglected this blog for a couple weeks. In my spare moments, though, I have been doing a lot of sciencey essay and article reading, so I thought hhmmm…until I can finish some new deep, wacky, joyous blog posts for this month, I can share with you links to my favorite sites of late. They are collectively aesthetically beautiful, challenging, geeky websites with fascinating content, in my humble opinion. I recommend subscribing to all of them – most have a free weekly email of articles published.

This is dedicated to all the awesome female scientists who tweeted hilariously about being #distractinglysexy in response to Tim Hunt’s comments regarding the “trouble with girls” in science labs.


The Last Word on Nothing

Virginia Hughes



BBC future



Wired Science 

I Fucking Love Science      (because right???!!)


“NautilusCutawayLogarithmicSpiral” by Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

grab bag

Let me be honest from the start. I am geopolitically ignorant. I avoid the news as much as possible because it provokes within me overwhelming bouts of anxiety, depression, and helplessness. When I do connect to mainstream journalism, it’s through the BBC News app on my iPad, and even then I usually focus on the Science and Environment sections. A week ago if you’d asked me about someone named Mubarak, I would have said, “I have no idea who that is.” Maybe that makes me the worst person to review a documentary about the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Maybe it makes me the ideal audience.

Having watched The Square, I’m still no expert on Egypt, revolutions, or humanity, but I suppose the only thing to do is keep learning. I can only offer my tiny, individual observations in this moment, knowing everyone else has their own as well. I think it would behoove anyone to see this documentary. Chronicling the uprising against the Mubarak regime that began in January of 2011, the film subsequently follows a diverse group of Egyptian revolutionaries over the course of several years’ turmoil. The interviews are intensely personal and heartfelt, and the footage is raw and realtime. This isn’t a sixty second soundbite on CNN or FoxNews. It felt like history recorded by those living it, not propaganda, not history written by the victors. Watching The Square – almost two hours in length – merits time and attention.

I first read about this film while doing a general Google search for documentaries to watch and review for my blog. I found this listicle and lo, The Square is actually available on Netflix – in fact, it’s a Netflix production and a 2013 Academy Award nominee.

The Square was directed by a woman – Egyptian-American Jehane Noujaim – which pretty much locked me into choosing it as my May documentary watch project.  I appreciated the film’s inclusion of female activists (Ragia Omran, Aida El Kashef) in a largely male-dominated political arena. I also checked out Noujaim’s TED talk, and you can see that here – an emotional plea for peace through art. I’ve often heard people complain that musicians and artists shouldn’t make political statements – that they have no place doing that and should only “entertain.” I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t want to live in that world. I need music, art – and that includes street art – literature, dance – and films like this – to inform me, to inspire me. So I can keep striving to cultivate peace myself.

Tahrir Square February 10, 2011 By Jonathan Rashad (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

get reel

Words Dance has published another one of my poems! “Texarkana Tap Water” was inspired by my time last Autumn in Texarkana, Texas. A gorgeous state – Texas is big enough to encompass many different kinds of beauty, from high desert to the hill country to the bayou. And Texans really set the bar high for hospitality. Much thanks to my friend Susan for the opportunity to immerse myself in this part of America, even if the tap water was quite…unique. My heart goes out to everyone affected by the floods. I suppose the eventual good news is that the state’s four year drought is over. I would raise a glass of tap water to that. You can read my poem here.

“Old map-Texarkana-1888” by Henry Wellge (1850-1917). – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons  

read me

I dig fossils.

I mean, not literally. I have never been on a fossil dig; I’m no paleontologist right? But I dig fossils, man. I didn’t realize this until a recent trip to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in eastern Oregon. And of course, I have been gettin’ my Darwin on – lots of fossil talk. I listened to the audiobook of Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True on my Oregon road trip. Pretty good overview of evolution with detailed examples, but I cracked up every time the narrator adopted a limply terrible British accent to read the Darwin quotes.

I didn’t plan on going to John Day Fossil Beds. Driving back to Wyoming from Bend on Oregon 26 (oooh, so gorgeous), I didn’t want to show up at my motel early, so I stopped at the Sheep Rock Unit of the monument.  The monument is actually three separate areas – a total of 20,000 square miles – spread out along the John Day River valley. I showed up at the Thomas Condon Visitor Center – ten minutes before closing. Bummed! I speed-wandered through the exhibit (40 million years in 8 minutes) and grabbed some pamphlets before the Ranger chased me out. Then I ambled across the road to the Historic Cant Ranch, a restored old sheep ranch and house, just as a big dark thunderstorm started to brew.

IMG_2963When’s the last time you really thought about fossils? High School science class? That museum somebody dragged you into on your last family vacation? Me too. But now I’m starting to become more interested in the fossil record. I’ve found a good overview website from the American Geological Institute about evolution and the fossil record that also has a handy concise summary of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. And there’s this web page from Nature – the most detailed, image-rich resource I’ve found that explains how scientists can determine the age of rocks and fossils.

The John Day monument’s landscape is beautiful – colorful striated cliffs, rolling meadows, the gentle river. And it’s extremely important to paleontologists; they are still actively digging, researching, and compiling within this important repository for the big mammals of the Cenozoic. The fossil assemblages are remarkable for their sheer quantity of specimens as well as the intactness of the communities preserved in the rock layers. As the Oregon roadsigns told me, it’s a Journey Through Time.

IMG_3007The word fossil comes from the Latin fodere (dig) and fossilis (dug up). I spent last weekend digging in my garden. Actually, it’s a plot in my town’s community garden that I share with two friends. I pitchforked the heck out of one corner (I cannot take credit for the rest), and yanked out a wheelbarrow-load of quack grass by the roots. I’m calling it quack grass, but I’m not 100% sure that’s what it is. I am 100% certain it’s annoying, pervasive and hard to remove. But it’s gone (for now), and I replanted some strawberries in a wee corner patch. The rest of our plot is ready for peas, lettuce, kale and even quinoa. Seeds shall be sowed over Memorial Day weekend.

The goal this summer is to start seed saving. I’ve never done that before, but it dovetails nicely with the first chapter of The Origin of Species – Variations Under Domestication. I’m rereading that this weekend. Also, I always find myself thinking of Punnett Squares and Gregor Mendel’s pea plants whenever I’m trying to grow food. Maybe a post about that later. Right now I just keep adding to my Seeds reading list.

I love multi-tasking, so I listened to The Reluctant Mr. Darwin while gardening in a soft spring rain. David Quammen is my favorite science writer, though this book reads more like a mini-biography. So far, Quammen focuses on Darwin’s deep relationship with his devoutly Christian wife, Emma, and on his relationships with his scientific contemporaries, all of which contributed to his intense internal struggles over how and if he should share with the world his discovery of descent with modification by means of natural selection. Thus far, it’s a wonderful portrait of the man. Grover Gardner narrates the audiobook, and I always enjoy his voice; I’ve listened to him narrate the excellent Miles Vorkosigan novels of Lois McMaster Bujold.

More gardening and Darwinning adventures to follow!


Photos of Sheep Rock, leaf fossil and strawberry patch by me!

book reviews field notes my darwin project

I’m reading Rebecca Stott’s highly enjoyable book Darwin’s Ghosts, a lively and accessible review of the philosophers, scientists, pundits, and artists who preceded Darwin in the contemplation of evolution. Each chapter discusses a particular group or individual, so I’m getting to know a lot of historical figures in finer detail than I ever have.

Take Aristotle for instance. What do you know about him? Probably more than me. I knew he was a philosopher, but I could never remember if Plato was Aristotle’s teacher or student (ahem, Plato was the teacher). Also I mistakenly thought he was a Greek. Nope. He was from Macedonia, and in 344 BC, that meant he was often treated like an interloper, a metic – an immigrant. He spent a lot of time island-hopping around Greece, teaching, studying, and observing the natural world. He wanted to understand and explain everything, and did not accept myths and supernatural stories in place of the natural laws he sought. He didn’t support the theory of species transmutation over time (Darwin mistakenly thought he did), but he was an intellectual badass who engaged in hands-on scientific study whenever he could.

As is probably the case with most people, it’s the unexpected anecdotes that stay with me when I read biographies. I learned about sponge diving this time. Aristotle was way into sponges – the soft ones that were historically used for everything from bathing to water filters to contraception. Sponges baffled and delighted Aristotle. He couldn’t decide whether to put them into the Animal or Plant category. So he started hanging out with the sponge divers of Lesbos (and yeah I know that sounds like the punchline to a bad joke).

1024px-Spongia_officinalis_001Sponge diving is an ancient form of underwater diving, a rare combination of grace and brutal fortitude that’s both sport and commercial skill. Because Aristotle couldn’t dive (most of the men who did were deaf or deformed from years of enduring the underwater pressure), he had to investigate by asking questions. He interrogated the divers about everything involved in gathering sponges from the sea floor, and about the sponges themselves. Turns out Spongia officinalis belongs to the kingdom Animalia.

There’s a recent New Yorker article about sponges by the wonderful Ed Yong (if you haven’t subscribed to his weekly The Ed’s Up emails, you are missing out). Go check it out.

And that’s all for now – I’ve gotta go hang out with Darwin’s Ghosts.

“Busto di Aristotele conservato a Palazzo Altaemps, Roma. Foto di Giovanni Dall’Orto” by Giovanni Dall’Orto March 2005. Licensed under Attribution via Wikimedia Commons

“Spongia officinalis 001” by H. Zell – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

book reviews my darwin project