An American travel writer, poet, and essayist, she is best known for Islands, The Universe, Home (essays), Heart Mountain (novel) and This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland (essays). Her 1994 memoir, A Match to the Heart, describes her experience of being struck by lightning.
She studied at Bennington College and the University of California-Los Angeles and began a full-time career as a writer in 1978.
Her literary works are notable for their personal presentation of facts about the physical world.
She grew up in Santa Barbara, California. She later married Thomas Kearns.
She and Joseph Hilbe both studied at the University of California-Los Angeles.