Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Michael Sims

Book Excerpt: Kingfisher Days

Each Page a Ghost

August 23, 2010 Michael Sims is a nonfiction writer, the author of several books about nature, including In the Womb: Animals (a companion to a National Geographic Channel series, National Geographic Books, 2009); Apollo’s Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination (Viking, 2007); Adam’s Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form (Viking, 2003); and Darwin’s Orchestra: An Almanac of Nature in History and the Arts (Henry Holt, 1997). Kingfisher Days is a work-in-progress, Sims’s first effort to write personally about his life and his own experience of nature. His blog of the same name is, he writes, an online “journal about one man’s response—half scientific, half aesthetic, mostly affectionate—to the natural world behind ordinary urban life. Some days I don’t know if I’d rather write a field guide or a poem.”

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A Natural History of Cemeteries

A man remembers the boy he was when his father died—or does he?

June 17, 2010 My father is buried there, in the lovely and quiet hilltop cemetery at the end of the road, the Hedgecoth family cemetery with its guarding meadow of Queen Anne’s lace and goldenrod. He has patiently lain for decades on his side of the big bed of which the gravestone is headboard. Overhead, fox and vole, wasp and cricket, perform the rote gestures and fatal spats for which nature programs them. Us. Moles bump their heads on his pillow. Roots embrace him, trying to reach his nutrients. I will be nutritious, too, some day.

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Roadside Zoo

Just another life-or-death road trip

On a trip to Maine, my wife and I saw more dead animals than live ones. I became morbidly fascinated by them. That smudge on the road was amphibian, I would think, his cold humor drawn to the stone warmth of highway on a passionate night. Overturned, an ottoman would aim its wooden legs like this dead possum. The immigrant coyote? A wild rug flung on the carpeted ditch. And all those raccoons, their comic bandit role forgotten in these deathbed scenes.

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