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More than warblers or butterflies, wildflowers or dragonflies (even more than my newfound fascination with moths in the subfamily Pyraustinae), like many of us I’m drawn to people who shed light on the human condition — how and why we think and act.  We’ve got the philosophers and other thinkers for that stuff. And among my favorites is Erica Heilman and her podcast Rumble Strip.

It is not merely that Erica interviews criminals and soccer moms, artists and nurses, taxidermists and poets. In these conversations, Erica also explores fear, joy, doubt, misery, exuberance, frustration, success — the routine of the human condition.

Yellow Warbler by Bryan Pfeiffer

Yellow Warbler

Erica’s podcast is a conversation of ideas — good and bad. That’s because Erica is smart and funny. She is curious and passionate. And she never takes herself too seriously. She takes her podcast guests seriously — all of them, no matter who they are or what they do. And for that, for how she illuminates the world and us, for us, we owe Erica much gratitude. Oh, and Erica is my friend.

Because she has suddenly taken an interest in birds, I took Erica birdwatching last week. I hadn’t expected her to bring along her microphone and recorder. But she did. So as we watched Yellow Warblers glow and a Baltimore Oriole build a nest, we talked about knowledge and joy (even a bit about death) and how any of us might find our place in the world. You can listen to our conversation — or just listen to the birdsong there at the southern end of Berlin Pond here in central Vermont. 

And do listen to other Rumble Strip episodes. (You might start with one of my favorites [about war and hairdressing], for example, or this one [about knots and the pandemic]). You will cry and ponder and laugh and everything in between. After all, The Atlantic named Rumble Strip’s series Our Show the best podcast of 2020. So listen. And like those actual vibrating bumps on the highway, put there for our safety, in Rumble Strip you will wake up — and you will think.

Two pyraustine moths for you:

  1. Hal White says:

    Kindred spirit. That interview reminded me of how enjoyable our few times together in the field have been, especially in bogs!!! A minor distraction for me about 2 minutes into the interview was the sound of a distant loon (not mentioned in the interview) that generated a flood of memories of the north country, which I desperately miss at times. Hope our paths cross in the not too distant future.

    • Hi Hal, It’s so nice to hear from you. And I so miss our exploits — particularly the few we’ve had here in the north. Yeah, I sort of had the same feeling about those loons. Erica and I did acknowledge them — how could we do otherwise? — but they were a casualty of editing, particularly Erica’s focus on the moment, which I really loved. So many distractions out there at the pond. I hope to see you in OK next year!

  2. Sally Edwards says:

    Enjoyed! Thanks.

  3. Julie Filiberti says:

    Love. Love. Love. Observation years. I’m going to be using that one!

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