Pick a direction.



S. Skelly

Flamingos raise their babies in nests that sit in super-alkaline and hyper-saline water that is toxic to other animals. It takes time to build immunity and sometimes a chick may tumble out of the nest into the water, where it will die unless one of the flock notices and provides assistance.

The Lesser Flamingo enjoys feeding on blue-green algae that, in most animals, can fatally damage cells, the nervous system, and the liver. They are happiest in huge gatherings.[1]

"Invasion" depicts how beauty and flair is deceptive and often hides an insidious truth. Similarly, celebrities, influencers, and autocrats can wield power over us, blinding us to conditions hostile to our survival.


Unknown Unknowns
K. Neilsen

Sometime in April a friend offered me some tomato starts. Although I possess a notorious black thumb, I also like a challenge, so I gratefully accepted two Black Krim seedlings. In my mind they were already dead, even before I took possession—I didn't want to get attached. I stashed them out of the way, on top of the refrigerator, while I contemplated my next steps.

I have never grown tomatoes or any other food, other than some windowsill herbs which died almost immediately; I had no idea how to shepherd my little plantlings into maturity. I obviously needed some soil, a couple of containers. I had seen tomato cages so figured I needed those as well. Under different circumstances I would have visited a nursery or two and conversed with knowledgeable gardeners. (Some of the most useful advice I have ever received came from the then dean of Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley during a legal research course: “Ask someone who knows.”) Lockdown prevented me from following that advice, and even when the nurseries started opening for curbside pick-up, I avoided them because I did not know what to ask for. Lacking a better strategy, I procrastinated.

I hesitated for almost two months, in fact. During that time I consulted my sister, who suggested grow bags. I loved the idea. “How big?” I asked, looking doubtfully at my still tiny but still living plants. “As big as you can get them,” she replied. I acquired some soil from Amazon, chosen almost at random.

Both my sister and the internet advised hardening the seedlings before planting. I tried this one day, perhaps for thirty minutes. The plants objected.

I retrenched.

The grow bags arrived and I realized that I, or rather, the tomato plants, required more soil, which I ordered. I tried several times to buy tomato cages but they were sold out everywhere. Delays. Eventually I convinced myself to buy some sturdy, easily stored, extraordinarily expensive cages. Meanwhile, I slowly exposed the plants to the sun, as prescribed. They did not die.

Planting day arrived, or it would have if I had had the foresight to purchase a spade. The spade arrived but my just in time research now indicated the necessity of some fertilizer. More delays.

Finally, I replanted the seedlings. They thrived. Until they didn't. After a few weeks of vigorous growth, they began wilting. I had been warned—don't over-water tomatoes. (“Tomatoes typically require one to two inches of water a week,” says the internet. What does that even mean?) I considered whether over-watering might be the problem. My cohabitant, who grew up in Western Pennsylvania, where it rains all summer and, apparently, people grow loads of tomatoes, argued the opposite case—that they needed more water. The internet was not helpful—every site I consulted attributed the symptoms I observed to either underwatering or overwatering; the internet did not know. I continued watering. My tomatoes continued dying. Desperate, I decided to let them dry out. I didn't water for an entire week. I fretted. My plants improved.

In spite of the trauma, both plants began making tomatoes. They continued to grow while at the same time looking distinctly unhealthy. One fruit on each plant developed blossom rot. Both plants suffered blossom drop. The internet helpfully explains that both of those conditions can result from either underwatering or overwatering.

I acquired a soil moisture meter gizmo and began to water the tomatoes when the indicator indicated “dry.” Should I water them when it indicated “moist” instead? I did not know. Should I water them until the soil was “wet” or until it was thoroughly “moist”? Again, I did not know but at least I had a plan. Based on DATA.

Last week I harvested my first tomato. It suffered blossom rot, which did not deter me from eating it, though I did excise the rot first.

Was it the best tomato I've ever had? Not even close. It was, however, the most expensive. Taking on faith that the current fruit will ripen and that the plants will wait until they do so before dying completely, I reckon each tomato will cost about $9.15. That isn't a typo. Still, I consider even that one tomato a victory, and am certain that I will eat its siblings and cousins with relish and triumph. Moreover, I'm eager to try again next year, perhaps after a lengthy consultation or two with someone who knows.

Meanwhile, my tomato plants are still living and dying, just like the rest of us, I suppose.


D. Krupka


Burmese Map of the World
S. Miller

In this map

of an uncontainable life,

a tiny tree perches

atop a giant egg

that grew from a mantra

stored inside a seedpod

that sits in a row

among others yet dormant,

the last of them aglow.

Energy channels

extend outward,

feeding branching roots,

tender lacy tributaries

whose tensile strength

braces and supports

oceans and continents.

You were a fool to think them fragile.

Carwash: soap and rinsing. By S. Miller

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