I have always been a writer. My mother encouraged me to take up the pen because as a child I was very ill with asthma and it looked as though I would be shackled to a sedentary life – a sentence that I rebelled against, successfully, for the rest of my life. At first it was the money that convinced me, even at that age, that writing was a good career path. I treasure a copy of a story I wrote in my English hometown when I was 9, and the check sent by the BBC for a children’s story when I was 11. The latter was the first time I had been paid for anything and there was the extra frisson of having the check come from the BBC. Then and now my greatest pleasure came from sharing my stories and observations so that others can join in the adventure.
My parents brought me to the States in search of a climate that would be easier for a kid with asthma, and I ended up as a teenager in Utah. In my teens I multi-tasked as a part-time printer’s devil, reporter, and proofreader for a small weekly newspaper and as a kids’ columnist for two other weeklies, then won a degree in journalism and took fulltime newspaper jobs in Bermuda and England and Bermuda again. Eventually I moved to New Mexico, first as a newspaper editor then as a science writer for a very large and creative organization, Sandia National Laboratories. After retirement I became a media consultant and independent writer. At various times in these years I worked as a wholesale vegetable cutter, an educational promoter, and (in Greece) a civil engineering tunnel foreman.
In England I became fascinated with the natural world, which today ranges from elephants and algae to the human biome. In Bermuda I wrote about snorkeling and reef life. In America I extended these interests into the physical sciences and published or blogged books and articles on such things as nanotechnology, space satellites, and solid-state physics. Then I took on biological sciences with forays into functional magnetic resonance imaging, genetic engineering, and the neurology of hallucinations. I have written from my New Mexico desk about the Tahrir Square demonstrations and the curious origin of the Hawaiian state flag. All of the above and more were wondrous to me and challenged my ability to understand them well enough to write their stories. All along my aim was to describe my subjects in readable language so that others could share the wonder with me, maybe even delight in it. And I always held tightly to the belief that objective journalism should be a mainstay of any democratic republic.
Why did I decide to become a journalist, or writer? Simply because it gave me license (and an income) to be curious, and because being more specific would tie me down to a too-narrow field (last time I checked, the New York Public Library listed only one of my efforts, an article on ballet). Importantly,over the years I learned the special-ness of savoring natural environments one-on-one, until I all but forget that I am in the picture too. This is the main reason I named my memoir Wonderment.
When people ask me for my favorite quotation, I usually think of even bigger things and quote Stewart Brand: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”