Friday, July 31, 2015

Love Nature Love Humanity

“To love nature and to hate humanity is illogical. Humanity is part of the whole. To truly love the world is also to love human ingenuity and playfulness. Nature does not need to be cleansed of human artifacts to be beautiful or coherent. Yes, we should be less greedy, untidy, wasteful, and shortsighted. But let us not turn responsibility into self-hatred. Our biggest failing is, after all, lack of compassion for the world. Including ourselves.” — David Haskell, The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature, 2012, pg. 158.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Continually I marvel

Continually I marvel
at the existence of hummingbirds.
They strike me as nothing less
than a zoological miracle,
a wonder of creation's fancy
flashing and whirring and buzzing
flower to flower
like a whimsical dream
on the periphery of comprehension. 
And to think they are fundamentally the same as a turkey!
I don't know whether to applaud in delight
or kneel in speechless awe. 
It's crazy!
Life is crazy. 
Delightfully, wondrously, magically crazy.
And we, we humans,
we get to be here, too. 
Continually I marvel. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


When the sun sets at the end of the day, ten thousand more suns are revealed by the darkness. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Profligate Beauty

How dull we are to the common beauty around us! Too easily we think of beauty as something rare, fleeting, or elusive. I think this is wrong. I know it's wrong in wild nature. If anything, creation is profligate when it comes beauty's dispersal. It's everywhere. Extravagantly. Excessively. 

Bear's Foot is beginning to bloom in Tennessee right now in the second half of July. Smallanthus uvedalius (Yellow Leafcup, or Bear's Foot) is a tall, course perennial herb, 3-10 foot tall, common in woods and meadows in the eastern U.S.  It's overlooked and disregarded as a weed by most, but I have some in my backyard and have come to appreciate its sunny yellow blooms and large bear paw leaves. This one has stubbornly come up through the oak woodpile I stacked on top of it a couple of months ago. It now adorns our firewood as it cures. And when I notice, it adorns my day. 

Beauty is often rough, common, and persistent. Far too often we don't even notice. Maybe we'd smile a little more, if only we would see. If only we would look. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

No Fear. No Challenge.

“But it is worth remembering, I think, that some element of fear lies at the root of every substantial challenge. And it makes no difference at all whether the challenge is to your mind or to your body, or whether—with richer promise than either, alone—it embraces both.”—Colin Fletcher speaking of his 1963 walk through the length of the Grand Canyon

Friday, July 17, 2015

Be Still

Go for a walk, pick a spot, along the way, and stop. Just stop. It doesn't much matter where. It can be in the woods, or a park, someplace wild, or even your own backyard, as long you can be still. And stop. Just stop.

Stay there. Listen. Look. Relax. Let your mind, your heart, and your spirit relax. Sit long enough to feel what this place is like. Know what it is to be here, at this spot, at this hour. Soon you will begin to notice things you hadn't noticed before, a passing cloud, a salamander, the shadow of a fern, a cool breeze gentle as breathing.

Sometimes you can see as much in an hour of sitting as in miles and miles of walking. This is true in the forest, and I suspect it may be true most everywhere. It takes time to truly see. To experience a place, you must learn to be still.

Be still. And then be still. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pursue Wonder

Explore like a child. Whether on a moonlit walk in the neighborhood, a hike through fresh snow in the forest, or a spring saunter discovering new wildflowers, always ramble with the delight of a child. If you aren't constantly amazed, you're doing it wrong. Pursue wonder. 

AT Speed Record

I have mixed feelings about this sort of thing, but it's noteworthy that accomplished ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek just set a new record for fastest assisted Appalachian Trail thru-hike. He covered the 2,189 miles in just 46 days, 8 hours, and 8 minutes. This new record narrowly bested Jennifer Pharr Davis‘s 2011 record of 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes. I want to be gracious and recognize everyone's right to hike their own hike in their style, but I do hate seeing backcountry hiking turned into an athletic competition. I hope he managed a few moments of wonder along the way.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer Storm

Flashing fireflies and lightning 
fill the night air. 
Roaring and silent
lights in the darkness.
Messengers of wonder.
Heralds of glory. 

Walking to See

“There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details.”—Edward Abbey

Sunday, July 5, 2015


“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.” — Yvon Chouinard

This is not a commercial. I repeat, this is not a commercial. I'm just a fan. I've  been fascinated by Yvon Chouinard for years. I'm not totally sure, but it probably started about the time I bought one his wonder wicking Capilene t-shirts in 1999. By the way, much to my wife's chagrin, I'm still wearing that 16 year old t-shirt, even though I've bought it's replacement.

Chouinard is an accomplished rock climber, environmentalist, and businessman. He started by making gear for rock climbers (Chouinard Equipment, which later became Black Diamond Equipment), but most people today would probably know him as the founder and owner of Patagonia.

Chouinard has always been a pioneer and innovator. Today Patagonia leads the way as a socially and environmentally responsible clothing company. One of their most interesting campaigns encourages us not buy new Patagonia gear, but to wear and repair what we have.

For the last couple of days I've been reading bits and pieces of Chouinard's wisdom from interviews and short essays, and my interest and admiration continue to grow. I think need to read his book, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman.  

There'll be more thoughts inspired by Chouinard, I'm sure. In the mean time, I'm going to pay more attention to how I climb my mountains. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015


A common lesson of hiking is the concept of simplicity. Whether dayhiking for a few hours or backpacking through weeks and months, it is always helpful to carry fewer and lighter things. “The rule is to carry as little as possible,” advised Henry David Thoreau. Indeed, for one accustomed to carrying a heavy pack, traveling light brings liberty and freedom. This is as true in the rest of life as it is on the trail. 

Today I have been pondering freedom, and I can't help but wonder if we give it away even as we proclaim its benefits. Too often, I think, we Americans celebrate our freedom by subjugating ourselves to the tyranny of too many things. Given freedom we welcome new burdens.

Thoreau says it was an accident of the calendar, but I think it is not without significance that he moved into his tiny house at Walden Pond on the Fourth of July. On that day, quietly and without fireworks, Henry began his now famous two year experiment in simple, intentional living. 

The year was 1845 and the country was young. The Industrial Revolution had begun, but the world was yet to be cluttered with today's gadgets, gizmos, and common affluence. Thoreau seemed to know intuitively what most of us never learn, that too much stuff is a threat to all freedoms, no matter how cherished.

Of course, we all need certain things to live, and many modern conveniences truly make life better. But freedom will always die beneath the weight of too much stuff. I am hopeful, but not confident, we will eventually learn this truth. We often say, “less is more,” but I see little proof that we believe it.

What can be done? How can embrace a “less is more” mentality? I think this can really only happen on the individual level. We can choose to live differently than our neighbors. When we have enough already, we can say “no, thank you” to more. Very few, if any, of us have the power to influence society, but we all make choices about our own possessions. We can remind ourselves (and we'll need to do it constantly) that the pursuit of happiness is not the same thing as the accumulation of more stuff. No matter what others do, we can choose to travel light. 

Life is a journey. Walk well. Travel light.

Friday, July 3, 2015


The other day I came home from work to find a perfect feather lying random in our front yard. It's a wing feather from a Barred Owl. To me it seemed like a missing piece from another world. It so out of place I couldn't help but pick it up. Now lying on the desk by the computer, it is just as out of place, perhaps more so. 

Pondering the feather's journey stirs my imagination. Was it blown here from a swaying perch during the storms last night? Was it lost as wing struck earth in a brief struggle over dinner? A dinner of mouse, or vole, or maybe even a rabbit. Or did it simply come loose and fall to earth as the owl flew silently and peacefully overhead? I will never know. 

A glimpse into another world, the feather reminds me there is unobserved mystery all around us. All around us all the time.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Speed of travel matters little compared to direction. This is one of many lessons learned from hiking. Check your compass.