What is the Morning Report?

Rebooted, and ready

For those of you who don’t religiously follow my twitter account, first of all, bless you. But you might wonder why I named my nature writing newsletter “The Morning Report” when like most day-job-having writers, I am wont to write it very last at night, usually because something is keeping me awake.

When I adopted a dog in late 2018, I agreed to do his morning walk, mostly because I work from home and my partner leaves for work at 7:30 am, but also because it is good for me to get out of the house that I both live and work in. I spend somewhere between 10 and 12 hours glued to a screen, and everyone involved, including myself, was getting a little concerned about my habit of waking up and logging directly on to manage social media accounts before coffee.

Categorically, making this commitment was a nightmare. The weather in the Merrimack Valley in the winter meant I woke up in the dark at 6:30 am to put on two pairs of pants and walk my 10-month-old puppy in the snow for at least an hour, just so that he would sleep for the 2-3 hours I needed to get focused work done. I drove 20 minutes each way to get to a park large enough to tire him out. Every routine around work I had previously was smashed into tiny, tiny pieces. And while I love my dog, he was a brat about it 95% of the time.

However, because I am both addicted to twitter and was freshly arrived in my relatively rural town after nearly 6 years living in urban centers, mornings in the park absolutely blew my mind. As miserable as the cold was, and as much as I hated going outside in the morning, I had genuinely forgotten how much I loved to be in nature, and how fascinating nature was on its own. And so the Morning Report was born.

Two years ago in the morning report:

And a year ago in the morning report:

After two or so years of tweeting out my observations from our morning walks, I have a digital catalog not just of what caught my eye, but how the seasons shift. I can also use to triangulate where the good mushrooms grew two years ago, a huge plus. It made me a better nature writer, which I had been aiming at for years, more observant, and more likely to slow down enough to observe. And if you follow me closely enough, you can generally find that a burst of Morning Report correlates to optimistic, productive periods in my own personal seasons.

I love to read and write more formally about the natural world, but there is only so much time in a day, and also the nature writing world is fraught with the same issues any beat has. Breaking in can be difficult. So much of what is published sounds the same, however unintentionally. I’ve been so gratified to see writers come to the fore in recent years who write about nature in the context of climate change and solidarity with non-human beings, with wide, wide lenses on what “nature writing” is. (I’ll make a list for a future dispatch, I think.) I dreamed up HumanxNature in part because it was what I wanted to read and couldn’t find.

Now I spent all day glued to my screens, but I start my day with the world outside. And the woods outside my windows feel likes like an empty place, and more like a crowd of quiet friends. The deer that live there feel like neighbors, and I certainly pay more attention to them than the vast majority of the cul de sac’s human occupants. I’ve learned to identify the plants, birds, trees, mushrooms that form my personal slice of the outdoors, and the world feels like a less lonely place because of it. And while this feeling of community has ratcheted up the tension of our collective precarious existence, but I’ll take it. I prefer a high-stakes and crowded world to a gently greening static backdrop.

If you’ve gotten this far, I invite you to join the Morning Report life. Anywhere plants grow and animals live is nature, even a city park, even your subway stop and its rats, even if you don’t have a large orange hound to bully you into it at daybreak. Tweet it or don’t, but greet the outdoor world as a friend. It’s hard to feel lonely while a bird is singing.