When working in Australia, the weirdest thing about the experience wasn’t the accents, the plastic money or the fact that you can order a burger loaded with kangaroo and wallaby meat.
It was the birdsong.
Every day I walked a mile or two from my hotel to the shop and was unnerved by the birds singing in the morning because it was so alien. It’s akin to visiting a retirement home where the background music is death metal.
This week I’m back in Arkansas near where I grew up. It’s my first visit back in many years, and the first thing I did this morning was to walk off into the mountain forest around our cabin. While I love the hardwood forests of Kentucky, I miss the shortleaf pines (Pinus echinata) we had in every corner of our farm.
The bark always looks like a pile of tectonic plates crashing into one another. And I always loved walking on the brown carpet of needles that formed in a large stand of pines.
After getting my pine fix I spotted some blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica), with its odd-shaped leaves and shagbark hickory, which I see sometimes in our neck of the woods as well. It was all oddly comforting, even though I haven’t lived here for almost 30 years.
But I really knew I was back in Arkansas when the first roadkill I saw was an armadillo.
— Christopher Schwarz