“Why Read a Book?”

Two of my pleasures, in one poem: reading and looking at birds. Oh man. Not sure I’d always choose birds over books, but on these beautiful fall days, when the sun is warm and the birds are migrating (and especially when I have the chance to get outside and band them), birds definitely win out. Though I do love to lose myself in the words of others, it’s hard to ignore the amazing poetry flying overhead and all around. Continue reading

Christmas time is nearly here

jasper under the christmas tree

Christmas time is nearly here

Give a shout, hooray!

It’s time to be with those held dear,

To frolic, sing and play.


Christmas 1951

But behave yourself, the warning goes,

To kids, both naughty and nice

See, Santa Claus, he always knows,

Every kindness and every vice.


Smith cousins Christmas

Still, I’ve never met a kid who hates

The Christmas season time,

For parents though that love abates

With all the Christmas whine.

mom and dad christmas morning

So give a hug to one you love

And go romp in the snow,

But don’t forget when push comes to shove,

It’s Christmas time you know!


sledding in Boulder Colorado

I wish you happiness, I wish you cheer,

This glorious Christmas time,

I wish you joy, with loved ones near,

Enjoy my Christmas rhyme.

Bogie puppy eyes

26 Things I’ve Learned in My 26 Years

Here is the world.

Beautiful and terrible things will happen.

Don’t be afraid.

— Frederick Buechner

Canyonlands National Park Utah

Canyonlands, Utah

1. Not everything in life has to be hard.

Sometimes the easy path is the one you’re supposed to go down. Sometimes it’s the universe showing you where you’re supposed to go.

lily in sunlight


2. If you throw the candy wrappers away in the trash, Mom will never find them.

If you stuff them in the couch she will find them and you will get in trouble.


imageswhisper-words-of-wisdom_615x454 3. Let it be.

As in, the microwave/car/laptop/whathaveyou that is malfunctioning will probably start working properly again if you let it alone for a spell. Granted, this doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. I have in fact “fixed” a microwave and a few car problems this way.


4. A sense of humor will take you far in the world.

I honestly don’t know how you’d get by without one. Life is ridiculous, there’s no getting around that. So just enjoy it. Laugh and be merry.

winter camping Wyoming

5. Go camping.

If you want to get to know someone really well, go camping with them. Hopefully you realize that they’re awesome, ‘cause if not it’s going to be a looong weekend.

Fundy National Park New Brunswick Canada

Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

6. Travel.

Traveling is imperative for any well-rounded individual. Even if you can’t physically travel to far-off lands, mental travel can be enough. Read a book, or watch a documentary/movie that transports you somewhere else and teaches you something about other people and the world around you. The world is a large place, but not as big as it seems. The people living on the other side of it are just like us. It is not as scary as you think out there. GO!

blue springs state park florida

Another travel perk: hugging manatees.

7. A good book is always worth its weight in your checked bag.

These are your reserve books for the travels home, because of course you will have finished the books in your carry-on bag. You should have a book to read on your person at all times.

8. It’s better not to tell Mom what you did until after you make it back safely.

Or ever. This includes skydiving, almost getting arrested in Washington DC for sleeping in your car, and picking up hitchhikers in foreign countries. Especially that last one.

skydiving Ohio

9. If you make cookies, they will be eaten.

Especially if you live in a bunkhouse with other field biologists. And especially if they are male.

10. If you simply expect things to work out, they probably will.

The world does not have it against you. It might not happen exactly how you planned, but it will work out in some fashion.

Adopt a kitten, get some sweet corn!

11. Going for a walk is an excellent way to generate thoughts.

galapagos islands

12. There are many people in this world who do not know how to put toilet paper on the holder.

Perhaps they purposely didn’t change out the empty roll because they wanted you to have the joy of doing so.

change toilet paper brain damage sign

13. Not speaking does not mean not caring.

Or not being intelligent. Sometimes we just can’t speak, or don’t know what to say.

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

14. Just because that’s how it’s been for a long time doesn’t mean that’s how it’s supposed to be forever.

15. My family will always be odder than yours.

Therefore, there is very little you can do to weird me out.

Lauren and Grandad with hats

16. It is very hard for me to be happy if I can’t go outside every day.

Sunshine, trees, fresh air, blue skies, and some mountains would be preferable. That’s all I need. And some birds.

Nepal Annapurna

17. Sometimes you just want to do nothing.

And that’s okay. You don’t have to be working on something all the time. It’s okay to take a break every once in awhile and just breathe.

Teton Science School Wilson Campus bunkhouse

18. Though sometimes you might think otherwise, it’s probably better that you didn’t actually say what was on your mind.

Stupid can’t be taken back, and neither can unkind words (no matter how deserved they are).

Darn it, if only my parents hadn’t raised me to be such a polite and respectful person…

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

19. Climbing up a mountain on your own steam is a powerful feeling.

The view is always better when you work for it.

trekking Mt. Kinabalu Malaysia

It is not always advisable to wear Teva sandals and socks to climb mountains. But I find them to be excellent hiking foot attire.

20. Be excited about something every day.

I learned this one from my dog, who, for all of his 14 years, was excited to the point of backflips for his food. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that excited about food, and, thinking about it, I’m not sure why not. Food is exciting stuff. Life is exciting stuff. So get excited about it, and don’t bother with what other people think.

food truck moab utah

21. You can’t outrun your past. Or a charging moose.

And of the two, I can personally attest that the charging moose is much more terrifying.

Fundy National Park New Brunswick Canada

22. Birds are cool.

Like really cool. For instance, migration. Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico. RTHUs weigh 2-6 grams (0.1-0.2 oz) and are 7-9 cm (2.8-3.5 inches) long. At elevations of 2,000 to 5,000 feet, in 11-18 hours, the tiny birds fly 600 miles over the Gulf. Woah.


23. Send postcards.

Everyone loves to get mail. I mean really, is anyone going to say “Don’t send me any more mail, I don’t like getting a little personalized note that lets me know you’re thinking about me”? No.

24. People leave their brains at home when they go on vacation.

On that note, the middle of the road on a blind curve is not a good place to stop to take a picture when there is traffic coming from both directions.

Also, when the sign on the visitor center says “Hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.” that doesn’t mean we employees want to sit here another half hour while you use the bathroom, ask detailed questions about the refuge, and browse the gift shop. But by all means, go right ahead. I get the equivalent of 87 cents an hour for this internship, and no, I have absolutely nothing better to do with my time right now. I really don’t want to go home and eat dinner or anything like that.

south carolina hiking

25. Make music.

Sing. Play an instrument. Music is the language of the soul. And it just feels good.

Especially when it involves boomwackers and Call Me Maybe.

26. Love like sunshine.

Love should warm you, brighten up your day, help you to see things you didn’t before. It should be everywhere, illuminating everything.


Also, I wanted to mention that I have learned a great deal of other things in my 26 years, this is only a sampling. Just wanted to clarify.

I stay a little longer

Good-night! good-night! As we so oft have said

Beneath this roof at midnight, in the days

That are no more, and shall no more return.

Thou hast but taken up thy lamp and gone to bed;

I stay a little longer, as one stays

To cover up the embers that still burn.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

from Three Friends of Mine

I see you there, in your fleece zippered robe, bare feet, smile. We sit at the computer, watching a television show, giggling and exclaiming together. Three of us, brought together by your love. They laugh, secure in knowing they were chosen, they are treasured, the daughters of your heart. You keep asking if you can adopt me too, and I grin and say yes. First to bed, first to rise, you usually head upstairs before we do. They have school tomorrow, so we won’t be up late. I will ride with you, and after the school run we take the dogs for a walk before going for coffee. We will meet the guys at the coffee shop. We do this almost every school day; a routine, a ritual.

Now we are left, loving echoes and memories. We listen for your voice on the stairs.

NIght-night honey buns! I hear you say. I love you!

Love you Mom! Night Mom, love you!

Goodnight, I say. See you in the morning.

flower 2_615x461

Alice Seigal

January 14, 1957- October 23, 2013

The Cuteness Scale: A Poll

The Cuteness Scale: Bird Edition

Mostly just for fun, and because I wanted an excuse to go through all my cool bird pictures, I made this poll. Please take it, and rank the following 15 birds on their level of cuteness. This is a highly-scientific research study, in case you were wondering. I even have funding from the NSF– the National Smith Foundation, which provides itinerant Smith children with food and shelter while they are in-between field jobs. The only requirement is that you are a biological child of Mike and Vicki Smith, so luckily I don’t have much competition for funding.

This is just the first edition of this poll, I feel like improvements can, and probably shall, be made. I think it would be really fun to do a cute baby bird one next, but I’ll have to go on a picture-gathering mission first. Or just do a few more field jobs.

For more information on the birds included in this poll, check out these links: 

Black-capped Chickadee

Yellow Warbler

Red-eyed Vireo

Black Vulture

Brown Creeper


Blue-footed Booby

Florida Scrub-Jay

Cooper’s Hawk

Waved Albatross

Mourning Dove

Wilson’s Snipe

Red-naped Sapsucker

Common Raven

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Thanks for taking my poll!

Hope you had fun! I know I did.

Things My Brother Says

In honor of my little brother’s birthday yesterday (22, you’re making me feel old here Eric!), here are of some of his more recent quotes– as in, these are the only ones I can remember off the top of my head. I could write a pretty good series of Things Eric Says, and I’m fairly certain one of these days that will probably happen. So perhaps consider this a preview of epic works to come. They say that as a writer you should mine your family life for material. Pretty sure I’m set for writing material for the rest of my life. For a kid with selective mutism he sure has a lot to say when no one else is around, and most of it is hilarious.

Selective mutism is defined (by Wikipedia) as “… a psychiatric disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech is unable to speak in given situations or to specific people. …. Children and adults with selective mutism are fully capable of speech and understanding language but fail to speak in certain situations, though speech is expected of them. The behaviour may be perceived as shyness or rudeness by others. A child with selective mutism may be completely silent at school for years but speak quite freely or even excessively at home.” This describes Eric to a T. It can be a challenge, but hey, we’ve all got our issues. Some are just more obvious than others. I’m sure some of his teachers, who I don’t think he ever spoke to during his 4 years of high school, would be astounded at at the Chatty Cathy he turns into as soon as he gets home. One never knows exactly what will emit from his vocal cords, so it’s never boring (see below).


Things My Brother Says


  • “I’ll bet this metal pole would float.”


The King of Drama hiking in Death Canyon.

The King of Drama after a mile or two of hiking in Death Canyon.



Dad: “Are you in shape yet?”
Eric: “No.”
Dad: “Well then we better keep biking until you are.”







  • “Don’t make me turn on my synthetic lightning.”


Bison at Yellowstone

Bison in Yellowstone National Park, July 2013, just chillin’ like a villin.



Mom: “The bison like those dry spots to hang out in.”

Eric: “They should try my lips, they’re pretty dry.”





  • “Look at that wad of goats over there.”


  • After farting in the kitchen directly in front of me, just before leaving the room: “Here’s your gift of Christmas stench.”


  • As we approach a waterfall on a hike: “I hear the pitter-patter of falling water. Or 100 mountain goats peeing at the same time.”
Castle Geyser, Yellowstone National Park.

Castle Geyser, Yellowstone National Park.

  • “I think my ass geyser just exploded.”


Happy Birthday Eric! You’re the best little brother I’ve ever had, and I can’t imagine how boringly-normal my life would be without you. You are one of the most righteous dudes I’ve ever met, and I’m so proud of you.

Rock on, bro.


Happy Father’s Day!

Watching TV with Dad

“To her, the name of father was another name for love.”

Fanny Fern, Fresh Leaves

Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful Dad, and to my Grandpa and Grandad.
Because of you all and your love I’ve become who I am today.
I’ll never be able to tell you enough how much you mean to me, and how much I love you. (So I’m putting it on the internet, where it will exist forever.)
Thank you for everything. I love you.

gpa gma and mom

Grandpa, Grandma, and Mom a few years ago.


Lauren and Grandad with hats_ 2
Me and Grandad, up to something serious, as you can tell by the headgear.