Sunday, January 3, 2016

Wendell Berry: Stand.


                     What I stand for is what I stand on.

                                                                                                 ~ Wendell Berry


Friday, December 11, 2015

HOWL: Guest Post by Susan Imhoff Bird

My guest blogger, Susan Imhoff Bird, is the author of Howl: of Woman and Wolf. Commemorating twenty years since the wolf’s return to the American West, Howl explores the passions and controversies surrounding nature’s most fascinating predator, while also delving into the reality of being human in today’s world.

My Alaska, My Wolf.

I dream Alaska. Immense, white. Fanged, feathered, furred. Hooded and gloved and without question, booted. Mukluks, Juneau boots. Huddled homes, expansive shorelines, seventy shades of blue to be discovered in sky and lake, river and ocean. Great and ferocious predators, thickened by fur and hardened by lot. Bears—black, polar, brown—wolverines and lynx, foxes, wolves. And the winged: bald and golden eagles, hawks and osprey, ravens and owls—great gray, northern hawk, and boreal—the fantastically named gyrfalcon, curving a path high above them all.

My Alaska is massive, resplendent, its edges blurring into towering, snow-sculpted mountains, bereft of trees. But if you peer closely, large paw prints traverse the slopes, dissolving into shadows cast by boulders, by landslide, by earthen tumult.

When I started studying wolves, I went on a late spring day to a valley that had, a month before, watched its snow melt into the ground and drip from banks into its rivers. I saw but one wolf that sojourn, though I’d hoped for more. I stood with a bevy of others, squinting into scopes, and watched the solitary wolf tear sustenance from the carcass of a bison calf. The Lamar Valley was well-filled with bison, cranes, and coyotes, while eagles spiraled above and a grizzly family pawed through a rotting tree trunk on a far hillside, but of wolves, I glimpsed only the one.

I returned to Yellowstone five months later, arriving the day after a blizzard, and learned to search for wolves on snow-dusted sage plains, on rocky outcroppings, on ice-laced creeks and tree-dotted buttes. Alaska, I thought, is more like this. I saw wolves—two who circled within forty feet of where I stood on frozen boots, two more a hundred yards away, and a family of eight who lounged atop a ridge, brought to near life-size by a powerful scope, whiskers flicking, eyes blinking, an exchange of paw swipes by two black cubs. Another morning, a pack of wolves was so far away that in my scope, they were lumps of gray-brown upon a rocky hill of gray-brown. Still others I tracked as they ran through winter-stiff grass and across ice bridges, only to disappear again in the shrub.

Soon I began to dream a wolf. She travels sloping mountain flanks, she sniffs for fellow and foe. She looks upon the world through eyes of gold, which glow on moon bright nights. Life is spent in snow and sun and rain, in pursuit of elk, caribou, moose, that routinely elude and escape. She sleeps curled nose to tail, she naps while the sun is high. She partners for life. She howls to bring her family close, and she howls to warn others away. She is guided by hunger, by instinct, by love, which are often one and the same. Her coat is a hundred shades of time-worn granite. My wolf is wild in every way, with a spirit so wide its edges blur. Into mine.

In my Alaska, live wolves. In my wolf, lives Alaska.

Find out more about Howl and Susan Imhoff Bird at


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coming to Pass: Guest post by Susan Cerulean and David Moynahan

Welcome to guest writer Susan Cerulean and photographer David Moynahan. Susan and her husband Jeff have collaborated with David and his wife Crystal for more than a decade--creating books and events, and exploring Florida's coast and other wild places from the Suwannee River to Iceland to the Virgin Islands.  Below is an excerpt from their newest collaboration, "Coming to Pass: Florida's Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change".


I once watched a woman collecting live sand dollars from a shallow bar off St. Mark's. She waded near me, knee-deep, fumbling for the flat rounded animals with her toes, and then pulling them to the surface of the water.

"What are you going to do with all those sand dollars?" I asked. For fear of crunching down on their shells, I had been stepping cautiously through the water column.

"I'm collecting them for party favors for my niece's wedding," the woman replied. She wiggled another palm-sized dollar free from the soft sand, and added it to the blue plastic bucket she carried.

"You know they are alive, don't you?" I asked. Her bucket brimmed with at least a hundred sand dollars. Their fine brown moveable spines, which formed a felt-like coating over their shells, waved impotently in the cool air.

The woman drew back, no doubt sensing the judgment I couldn't keep out of my voice.

"Yes, I do," she said. "So I'll have to soak them in bleach and let them dry before I can paint them for table decorations."

To this day, I cannot think what more I could have said to that woman, or done.

You know they are alive, don't you?

The deep pathology of our time, wrote cultural historian Thomas Berry, is to consider our rights and our story as human beings to be different from those of the rest of creation. One of the many consequences of such thinking is that it leads us to believe that our future is unrelated to the fate of the rivers, the shorebirds, or the sand dollars.

Susan Cerulean is a writer and activist who lives and works in Tallahassee, Florida. She has produced a small shelf full of books about her state, and especially loves being with and observing wild birds. Her nature memoir "Tracking Desire: A Journey After Swallow-tailed Kites" was named Editors’ Choice by Audubon magazine. This excerpt is from her latest book, "Coming to Pass: Florida's Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change," with images by David Moynahan.  Please subscribe to her blog about nature and activism at
David Moynahan is an award-winning conservation photographer living in the Florida Panhandle. His goal is to help raise awareness of the precious natural world that still surrounds us. At this time of spiraling environmental crises, too many of us have become exceedingly disconnected from nature. By adding his work to the efforts of environmental groups, scientists, and policy makers - honoring the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" - David believes that we can re-inspire awe, respect, and stewardship of our remaining wild places. 
A Florida native, David grew up in Miami, with Biscayne Bay, the Everglades and Keys his extended backyard. He spent his youth exploring the seashores and studying the creatures that lived there. Early on, he began to paint and photograph seascapes, fishes, birds, and abstract compositions from nature. Photography became the basis of his journal-keeping as he explored biology, medicine, art, travel, and parenting into adulthood. Over the past decade, his love and respect for the natural world, eye for composition, and long photographic experience have converged into the diverse and striking images that make up his work today.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jules Verne: Happy.

     With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
                                                                                                                         ~ Jules Verne


Friday, October 9, 2015

Igniting the Primordial Fire: A Guest Post by Annalisa Barelli

Welcome to guest blogger Annalisa Barelli, who lives and works on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. Through her visual art, writing, teaching, and activism, she exemplifies what can happen when art, nature, and advocacy link arms.

Autumn Sea (2009) mixed media on wood

Life is a collection of moments. Even when we gaze outward from earth into the depths of space, we find history reflected in the stars. Sitting on the edge of a mountain, I contemplate my place. The mountain was birthed millions of years prior to my existence, erected from fiery eruption, chiseled by glacier, smoothed by tide. As I rest upon the basalt rock, I feel into all of the moments that have made my own life possible. It is a lineage so long that faces and places disappear into the void, like the uncharted galaxies above. In this expansive view, the separateness that my mind constructs fades and I am returned to a place of connection.

Within The Flame (2015) mixed media on canvas
Walking down the mountain, I no longer can tell where the ground meets my feet or where history ends and I begin, yet in the vacancy of my unknowing I am more alive and more in awe with simply being. I am not a separate self, contemplating the world for meaning; I am part of a much larger expression. And it is here, reconnected to the essence of creation, that I am flooded with the color, vision, and feeling that seeds the growth of my art.

She, Untitled (2012) mixed media print of watercolor and digital alteration on paper
Nature has a way of igniting the inner primordial fire. The spark within that loves deep, beyond cognitive reasoning or any need to possess, into the core of life itself where creativity thrives. With receptivity and trust, the colors and images emerge and there is little room for control. For me, making art has always been a practice of attuning and allowing. In many ways I don’t feel like the creator, but rather a witness to creation. 

Through the Veil (2015) mixed media of acrylic, gouache and gold pigment on canvas              
It is my belief that the role of art is to challenge the mundane and carry visions farther, to bring together what was once perceived as separate, and to make each moment as beautiful as possible. The word inspiration at its root means to breathe. Just as the spark needs a wind to ignite the flame, our lives need inspiration for sustenance. For me, the greatest responsibility of art is legacy. It is not significant that the paintings or stories live on long after I am gone. What is most important is that I live colorfully, moment to moment, leaving my own unique mark on the world around me. 

 Creative Fire (2014) illustration of watercolor, gouache and ink on paper

I hold firm to the belief that we are all artists because we are all expressions of creation. When we open to our inherent nature, our moments become the canvas, the stories, and the songs. When we connect to that inner fire and recognize our own life as an expression of a much bigger creative force, we add more to the present moment. Our presence is transformed into a living, breathing art that endures long after we've left our mark. 

Annalisa Barelli is a visual artist, writer, and environmental activist. She resides on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State where she creates, teaches, and inspires. She is involved with the Protect the Olympic Peninsula group; learn more on her blogpost Activism as Art. You can visit her website at and purchase her work at 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Step into Nature: FREE SIGNED COPY and Guest Post by Patrice Vecchione

Welcome to guest blogger Patrice Vecchione, whose new book Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life,  is, says David Rothenberg, "a true workbook for the senses." As poet Jane Hirshfield writes, this book "...illumines the intimate connection between inner and outer, contemplative and wild, and shows the reasons these connections matter." Continue reading to find out how to get a free signed copy!

                                            Monterey Pine, Jacks Peak Park, California.

That a connection exists between nature and imagination is something I knew from way back, even as a city kid at a remove from unfettered natural enclaves and expanses. Most all children have an innate love of snow on the tongue and wind through their hair. Young spirits are fed by the natural world peeking through, even in small ways. Kids have fewer filters to separate them from that first, true human home.

My parents graced my young life with art--taking me to museums, concerts, and the ballet. A direct infusion into nature herself was not their m├ętier and was limited to brief forays at various parks and trips to the Bronx Zoo.

 As a kid, nature actually frightened me, its unpredictability did. Summer storms replete with thunder and lightning rumbled that point home. Through art, however, I began a sustained a relationship with the earth, liked how the denseness of a sketched forest removed me from the museum floor and into its haven. Images of earth’s places wholly drew me in way before I began to recognize and frequently experience the pull of firsthand nature enlarging imagination.

                                         "Winged Man" by Patrice Vecchione

Some years back, having been a long distance bike rider who, due to arthritis, had to give up even short rides, I took to the woods, for the banal desire to get exercise outdoors, not in a gym. It began innocently enough—I’d walk for an hour or so, get hot and sweaty and return home happily tuckered out.

The place I chose to walk was Jacks Peak Park, a 500 + acre densely wooded park ten minutes from home. What I’d ignorantly assumed was a park with few trails I quickly discovered possessed over 10 miles of interconnecting paths and more if one includes those that go off onto private property.

At first I went walking with little more than car keys and a full water bottle but, after a few weeks, I needed more. Words started coming at me that I felt compelled to write down—a back pocket pen and no paper meant my right hand and inner arm became my canvas, got filled with ink. Once home, I transferred those words to paper.

                            Notebook of "Finds:" feathers from two hawks and a Great Northern Flicker.

With a back-of-the-junk-drawer notebook added to my pocket I began walking not only for exercise but in order to listen and respond. The forest had begun talking to me—the wind whispered, the trees insisted I pay attention. Pay attention to what? To them and to the play between the whole of that natural place and her individual parts and my own imagination. It was just that I’d walk and hear things and be curious about what I was hearing and thinking and have to stop to listen, record, respond. 

What I heard and saw and smelled and touched turned into poems, essays, and collages. There I’d be mid-step watching and waiting—two mice chatting in the bushed, a squirrel leading my way down a path, the frightening loudness of a tree falling nearby. A small yellow flower with red spots at its center made me bend into the brush for a photograph. In late summer all the foliage at the end of life became newly beautiful to my eyes. Having previously preferred high heels to hiking boots and being anything but a nature aficionado, I became a changed woman, an artist anew.

"The Yellow Mountains," watercolor and collage, Patrice Vecchione

This link between nature and imagination was something I had to explore, to write about. I felt a book coming on. Luckily, my literary agent saw the value in it too, as did Simon & Schuster/Beyond Words/Atria Books. My book was bought on proposal and I received six months to write the book. Six months? As the ink on my signature dried I doubted that possibility. However, those six months were the happiest of my 58 years.

The wind wrote my book and the Great Northern flickers did. The rolling rocks gave their unrestrained input. The mountain lions I knew were somewhere lurking added elements of surprise to the words I found. I wrote it in the way nature revealed herself to me—one step at a time.

After about another six months Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life became a book to hold with pages to turn. It explores the unique identities of places, the link between imagination, inspiration and intuition, how engaging our many senses can expand our creative abilities and revive our spirits, the value of solitude in artistic practice, and more.

Gotta go—nature calls. Who knows what next words may call!

Now that you've heard from Patrice, you're likely enticed to hear more. And you can. Patrice is offering one signed copy for free. If you want it, here's what you do:

1. Comment on this blogpost between now and October 15.
2. Raffle-style, I'll pick one name to get a book.

3. Check back after October 15, or sign up to "follow" this blog and you'll get an email when the winner is posted.
4. If you're the lucky winner, email me your address, and you'll get your free, signed copy of Step into Nature.
5. If you're not the lucky winner, never fear, you can buy the book here or here.

Patrice Vecchione is the author of Writing and the Spiritual Life and two books of poetry, and is the editor of numerous anthologies. She offers creative writing and collage workshops at universities, libraries, parks, and community center, including Esalen Institute.
She lives in Monterey, California, with her best beloveds--her husband, two cats, and her garden. Connect with Patrice on Twitter @VecchioneAuthor and Facebook
PatriceVecchioneAuthor and

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

William Shakespeare: Infinite.

                            "In nature's infinite book of secrecy a little I can read."

                                  ~ William Shakespeare