Articles by Rebecca Lawton

History

All through March, I wanted to compile a list of women who've made history running rivers—but stopped each time. Why only a month? I asked. Why can't March—and all months—be about a thing called The People's History? How amazing we would feel as a body united, not splintered into factions we observe according to Presidential designation. [...]

Bubble

"We don't grieve in a bubble," my bereavement counselor tells me. She's been advising me about grief, not only as an experience, but as a process and opportunity for learning. There's been no way to talk about the death of my father late last year without framing it within 2020's overwhelming and worldwide losses. Piled on top of those, grief feels bigger. Cumulative. We build grief debt, as others have called the build-up of loss upon loss upon mounting loss. [...]

Soul

When I was a river guide I carried Barry Lopez's River Notes in my ammo box. I liked to lend it to the passengers or read essays from it aloud on my raft. In 2015, I told Barry about its importance to me the first time we had a conversation of more than a few words. He looked at me carefully for a minute and went back to his work. Later I learned through his wife Debra Gwartney how uncomfortable he was hearing that kind of praise. Maybe the words cast him as a god in a way that put pressure on our friendship. [...]

Lifelines

Staying alive on the 2020 rollercoaster ride has meant taking shelter—and finding connections where we can. This year's traditional year-end list of resources for writers and readers features a few favorite literary and environmental lifelines from the past twelve months. [...]

Forward

The young man standing six feet behind me offers to buy my drink.

I’ve wandered up the river to Main Street to mail a letter at our small-town post office. Making an unplanned stop at the local coffee shop, I’ve asked for a golden latté and ginger scone. Rung up and ready to pay the shop’s one barista before she fills my order, I’ve realized my wallet must be sitting on the kitchen island back home. [...]

Data

On the river trail yesterday, a shiny U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge was hard at work among the rocks. New since September, the gauge is likely reading discharge (quantity of flow), water temperature, and water level. This one's not online yet, but it's sure to be gathering data every fifteen minutes. [...]

Options

"Failure is not an option," words famously uttered by Ed Harris as NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz in the 1995 movie Apollo 13, weren't really his. Instead, they were coined during the film's creative process. [...]

Fragments

River guides learn to take feedback from the water itself, sensing when we've caught the right current. Slamming a boulder or rock wall or ending up on a slow boat to nowhere gives feedback in real time. It's not always learn or die––but it's certainly learn or suffer long timeouts in eddies or slave-rowing against the wind. [...]

Drafting

Out my window: Mojave desert bajadas and mountains in sun and heat. In my apartment: a cool refuge. On my [...]

Oases

What can we say about oases? That question, the opening sentence in my latest book The Oasis This Time: [...]