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Rocks More Valuable Than Gold
Our State | October 2019
Joey Henson cannot keep his eyes on the road. They’re scanning the mountains along NC Highway 105, searching for stone. Trees are beginning to bloom the varied greens of spring, but it’s still possible to see clear through to the good earth. There, on a far mountainside, he can just make out the contours of a boulder.

Mountain Medicine
Our State | April 2019
The apprentices have gathered in the apothecary, as they do every morning, trekking from primitive cottages to the common area. From a distance, it ’s hard to tell what country, or even which century, they’re living in. Though there are a handful of buildings on the grounds of Mountain Gardens in Yancey County, there are no roads. To reach the onsite apothecary—where Appalachian and Chinese herbs are transformed into tinctures—you must abandon your vehicle and navigate stony paths. It’s a habitat designed solely for people and plants.

Ghost Dog
Garden & Gun | December 2018 / January 2019
It’s not uncommon to grow up, as I did, around black-and-white images of family members who came before. Still, as an adult, I’ve come to understand that it isn’t typical for a photograph of a dog to be the most talked-about among them.

The Everything Root
Our State | October 2018
Rob Newman has two guns behind him, a taser in his pocket, and his eyes on a silver truck. He’s noticed something curious: a toolbox with the lock casually hanging open. “What does he think he’s going to put in there later that might be worth something?” Newman says, calling the truck’s tag in to dispatch.

Salamander Safari
Our State | April 2018
Ancient creatures of the underworld have been lurking just beyond Jon and Brittany Laing’s cabin all week. In the dark hours of night, while they were sleeping. In the high heat of afternoon, while they lazed on the banks of the New River in Ashe County. But the Laings didn’t know what lived in the water until their site was invaded by dragon hunters.

I'll Fly Away
Washington Post Magazine| Novemebr 30, 2017
My body is suspended midair, and it's all I can do to breathe steadily. Everything around me is whitewashed. The padded ceiling and floor have blurred. I'm not consciously twitching a muscle, yet I'm moving. And I'm laughing, uncontrollably, because my mind cannot accept the absurdity of what my body knows to be true: I'm flying.

Target Lessons
Washington Post Magazine | March 19, 2017
Buddha has perfect posture, but I'm awkwardly hunched in the earthen alcove we're sharing. The street lanterns of Yamanouchi, Japan, don't illuminate much, so I'm grateful for the bulbs of this shrine. I've just traveled 6,738 miles—nearly nonstop—but I don't know where to go from here.

Bows & Arrows
Our State | October 2016
When I think of my grandfather, some scenes linger like the smell of cologne in an empty room. He dedicated his life to military service, and, in retirement, he became a renaissance man of the working class. His scent was all oil cans and sawdust, leather tanner and garage grit. The walls of his home in Salisbury held a collection of traditional bows that we intended to shoot together. Someday. He was willing to teach me. I wanted to learn. But we waited too long.

Dreams to Remember
Washington Post Magazine | September 1, 2016
It's Sunday morning at Beulahland Bible Church in Macon, Georgia, and the man in the pulpit is preaching to the choir. With 76 members, it's larger than some congregations. Finally, he turns to face the rest of us. Theater lights are blazing. Movie-quality cameras glide through the air on mobile cranes. The choir stands. The crowd stands. Here it comes: The sound of keyboards, drums. Seventy-six voices, rising. One thousand hands, clapping.

Desert Solidarity
Backpacker | August 2016
When I tell my 6-year-old son, Archer, that we're going to Canyonlands National Park in Utah, he puts a hand on each cheek and starts screaming: "Candyland? We're going to Candyland?"

A Job That Nourishes the Soul, if Not the Wallet
New York Times | January 3, 2016
The lawyer was in his mid-20s. He narrowed his eyes, peered at me from behind his cluttered desk and said, "So, why are you quitting?"

City Portrait: Boone, North Carolina
Our State | January 2016
In Boone, people sometimes include a disclaimer when making promises: God willing and the creeks don't rise. Why, you ask? Tonight is your answer. The creeks have been pulled from their banks as if by strange music. They're falling, dancing and drunken, into the South Fork of the New River, which runs just beyond my back door. Nearby, a paved road has already been covered by its currents. My gravel drive—an earthen dam holding a pond—is in danger. And the rains keep coming down.

A Boy, a Dog, a Decision
New York Times | April 27, 2015
My three-year-old son, Archer wants to go buy a gun. Right. Now. We do not have one in our house. I don't know where he has even seen one before, outside of animated films with dubious G-ratings. Because he isn't talking about a water gun. He's talking about the real deal, inspired by the vicious animal attack he's just witnessed.

Heirloom: The Story of a Meal
Charlotte Magazine | January 2015
It started as a game. A challenge. A riddle. Clark Barlowe's penchant for identifying plants took root because, when he was a child, his father regularly took him into the woods. As they walked the uneven terrain of Caldwell County, Barlowe's father put his hand against tree trunks, prodding: Can you name this one?

In Search of The Brown Mountain Lights
Our State | June 2014
Paranormal investigator Joshua Warren is silhouetted by cloud-shrouded moonlight. The points of his trench coat collar are turned up, two daggers jutting toward Brown Mountain. Though he's just returned from a three-month expedition to the tropics—where he was researching curiosities near the Bermuda Triangle—his skin is impossibly pale.

In the Glow of Night
Washington Post Magazine | September 18, 2011
I'm standing in a narrow alleyway when a stranger approaches to tell me that he can channel the power of the ocean. Crazy? Maybe. But I'm on the island of Vieques with a similarly far-fetched quest: to swim in a celestial sea. I tell the man, who introduces himself as Charlie the Wavemaster, that the Milky Way will soon crackle and shimmer as it slips through my fingers. Bits of stardust will cling to my hair.

Flock Together
Washington Post Magazine | July 26, 2009
Dan Lebbin is sitting on a motel patio--in full view of traffic--when he exclaims in horror, "I'm naked!" This is cause for concern, but it can't distract him from the tiny bird flitting from a power line to a tree that's shedding pink tissue-paper petals. He leans forward, squinting, wishing he could get a better look.

The Dangerous Spring
Washington Post Magazine | March 29, 2009
It's unsettling to have a severed, still-warm bull's ear hurtling toward you--something I discovered firsthand--but being the target of a projectile body part during a Spanish bullfight is considered an honor. I learned this cultural tidbit from reading Ernest Hemingway. My journey with the writer began many years ago with a poster, a $3 thrift store find that, at first glance, didn't seem to have anything to do with Hemingway.

Wings And a Prayer
Washington Post Magazine | March 30, 2008
The man sitting next to me on this flight is having a spiritual experience. Actually, he's remembering a spiritual experience, but the wild, alert expression on his face is evocative of someone giving religious testimony. His memory has been sparked by my confession that I am headed to the Mexican state of Michoacan to see millions of monarch butterflies congregate in its mountains.

The Longest Yard
Washington Post Magazine | April 29, 2007
My fiancé, Matt, and I are standing on a roadside in Kentucky deciding whether we want an old cast iron sink full of mud. For some, this might be an easy choice. But we are playing the is-it-a-piece-of-junk-or-an-antique-worth-saving game.

Bilingual By Breakfast
Smithsonian | February 2006
The concrete and tile house in which I'm living in Boquete, Panama, is often filled with echoes of the indecipherable chatter from the restaurant next door. It is patronized by men in evenly pleated Panamanian shirts and women in flower-print dresses. I long to mingle with them, speaking seamless Spanish. But my days here are divided into two categories: good Spanish days and bad Spanish days. And good Spanish days don't come around often.


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