In July 1999, I went to Japan for the first time, to speak at the RIKEN Institute near Tokyo. At the end of the week, I had a free day, and a friend suggested that I go to Nikko National Park. From the tour boat on Lake Chuzenji, I was loving the look of the hills and sky, but it wasn’t quite a photo until the fisherman showed up. All the men who were out fishing that afternoon had brightly colored umbrellas to protect them from the sun.
In the train station on the way home, I had trouble finding the correct platform. As I stood there trying to match my notes to the characters on the signs, a guy who described himself as a salaryman offered to help locate my train. Of course I ended up riding back with him. His English was rudimentary, so I tried to stick to small words when he asked me what I did for a living. Despite my convoluted attempt to describe scientific editing at the fourth grade level, he immediately understood: “Ah, Nature!” And he meant the journal, which is apparently famous in Japan. I can’t imagine having that happen on an American train.
Puffins in the water are shy, flipping underwater as soon as a boat gets too close. On land, not so much. The colony of Atlantic puffins breeding on Lunga Island, Scotland, seemed undisturbed by dozens of tourists within two or three feet of their nests. We had a rare sunny day to watch these birds, which were just starting to breed in late June 2013. Their day was divided between territorial squabbles and nest-building, interrupted by occasional trips to bring back some fish for their mates.
Norway has some of the best light on the planet. I took this photo on Rost, the outermost of the Lofoten Islands, on August 28, 2005. After a rough ferry ride from the mainland, we had to stay several days before the next ferry would allow us to depart. A storm had come through in the afternoon and ripped one of our host’s boats from the dock. He was in his eighties and too arthritic to run an outboard, so his wife called on my husband to retrieve the lost boat before it was swept out to sea. The next day she expressed her gratitude by fixing us a dinner of breaded cod’s tongues, a local delicacy.
Two days later an innkeeper on another island told us how sorry he was that New Orleans had been destroyed. We had no idea what he was talking about because we’d been completely out of touch with the world.