Nature

Great Allegheny Passage

On May 21, 1975, a small train rolled out of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station in Pittsburgh. At the head was a yellow, red and blue Chessie System locomotive, #6600 with asleeping kitten on the side. It was followed by a gleaming stainless steel Amtrak Silver Dome, #9401, and a vintage blue, white, red …

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Staying Close to the Plow

Outside Neal’s Harness and Tack Shop in northern Lawrence County, cars and pickup trucks park alongside Amish horse-drawn buggies. A row of gasoline-powered washing machines, a sideline of Neal’s business, squat in a row beside the entrance. Inside, the smell of leather pervades. Harnesses, saddles, reins, tack and sleigh bells on straps hang from the …

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Zoo View

As creative director and volunteer photographer of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Paul A. Selvaggio has photographed animals for the past 17 years. But it’s not quite a matter of point and click. Unlike Annie Leibovitz, when Selvaggio photographs his subjects, he has to worry about becoming their lunch. The animals’ keepers have been …

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The Origin of Spring

My benchmark for the onset of spring follows neither the facts of planetary motion, nor the predictions of a rodent. In my mind, spring starts when the daily average high temperature begins to increase after bottoming out in late January. By using this ruler, my favorite part of the year, spring, is lengthened. That magic day …

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Crystal Clear Designs

Winter slows the primal routines of nature. Trees shed delicate, food-factory leaves before they freeze. Forests subsist on sugar hived in roots protected from the cold by the consistently above-freezing deep soils. Tender wildflowers abandon all life above ground. Small creatures build their own larders — caches of autumn’s bounty gathered and stashed underground out of …

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The Perfect Snow

I’m both amused and dismayed by media weatherspeak. I’m amused by the hyperbole of Storm Watcher Central and Severe Weather Tracker.  You’ve seen the flashing alerts across the screen. The messengers and their moving maps presume to provide detailed information absolutely needed to save family and property from harm in the face of imminent and sure …

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Row Your Boat

You should see Pittsburgh from down here, with nothing but a shell of wood and a few threads of spandex between you and the Allegheny, the water slapping at your elbows and the skyscrapers jutting like exclamation points at the end of the river. Pittsburgh is a city more often looked down onto, as from …

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Farewell to a Summer Love

August afternoons resemble the blazing passion of new love: intense and torrid. August evenings are the antithesis: gentle and serene. They are a mature experience that is like a long, tender embrace. On August walks I avoid the blistering, high-sky sun of midday and seek shelter in shaded, cool, stream-cut ravines. The forest umbrella blocks the …

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The Dead of Winter

I have often tried to find the beauty in a frigid day. I have frequently searched for loveliness in a meadow swept bare and brown by icy winds. I have repeatedly tried to uncover elegance in snow-wrapped woodlands. My pursuits have always failed. I will always no more than tolerate winter. Each time I make …

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