Man was born to turn the world into paradise, but tragically he was born flawed. And so his paradise has always been spoiled by stupidity, greed, destructiveness, and shortsightedness.
Daniel Quinn

Alone on Thanksgiving 2001, I was a solitary figure as I walked north along County Road 23, two miles south of Ridgway, Colorado — the northern entrance to the San Juan Mountains.

The snow-topped San Juan’s rim the Uncompahgre Valley, home of farms, cattle ranches, and magical rainbows each April. Cows and horses dot the fields below. I felt peaceful.

The day awakened brisk and flowed toward me from the mountains to the east. My boots crunched the gravel. The cool air burned my cheeks. The morning sun warmed my skin. Magpies, bluebirds, and blue jays sat on the fence posts and in the trees along the road and dashed and darted about. I could feel the interconnected energy of the life around me—including myself as I too am part of nature.

How long can we live well on this planet when we extinguish 200 species a day to expand economic growth so we can feed, house, and enable the material and emotional addictions of our global over-population? Each day the threats of climate change grow more ominous. Will we change?

Nature has a deep purpose: to sustain the conditions for life—not necessarily human life but the existence of creativity and aliveness. Nature will survive humans; will we endure our own destructive flaws and learn to care for our home on earth instead of constantly diminishing her for more and more stuff and people? If we provoke her too much, she will turn her wrath on us more than she already has. Nature expresses her passions without mercy or sentiment, and she always wins. The longer we wait, the more we and all of nature will suffer.

I paused on my walk and said hello to two favorite young cows–“Brown” and “Tan,” I called them. They ignored me, and I moved on. A dozen deer, ears perked, stood frozen 30 feet away and watched me pass by. The local marmots rested in their homes. I saw no one and, other than the sounds of nature, my boots on gravel, and my breathing, my walk was quiet. I was in a reflective mood.

How can anyone believe they can control nature? I thought about a recent experience: I drove my jeep 12,000 feet above sea level on a narrow path of an old mining road. I was a few miles east of Silverton, 30 miles south of where I lived. A sudden rainstorm began washing the clay beneath my jeep away, and my vehicle began to slide back down the mountain close to a steep ledge. I went with her pull until I saw an opportunity to maneuver out of the slide. Nature reminded me of my powerlessness and humbled me.

I walked to the white house on the curve of the road into Ridgway, drank some water, waved to the barking yellow lab, and turned around for the walk home. In the spring, a couple of hundred skittish elk will graze in the meadows below me. Variety surrounded me on my walk. Diversity promotes adaptation and sustainability. A monoculture foreshadows death.

The return trip climbed uphill from about 7,200 feet. My breath got faster and deeper and my legs felt the strain. I finished my water.

Finally, head down, I trudged up the curved and rutted incline of the long driveway to the A-frame home nestled against the side of the mountain. I lived in the loft. I sat on the picnic table near the back door and under the deck; I was hot and wet with sweat. I breathed heavily. I notice Skeeter and Tate — two cats larger than Noga, my Westie — hunting in the brush. I felt alive.

I muttered an expletive under my breath in acknowledgment of the hard effort. I loved this three-mile walk in nature, which provided a milieu for creative contemplation. I was old enough to find it harder to believe in a loving God as I did as a child. I tried to figure out how I can believe and still see humanity as it is: so often cruel and unjust.

As I caught my breath, I thought back to when my brother Allan and I took a trip to East Africa for 18 days of wildlife photography in Kenya and Tanzania. The animals were excited, spirited, and expressive — they ran, jumped, and played. A Pride of lions slept, sunned themselves, and lounged while mischievous cubs played and irritated their elders who cuffed them gently.

A large group of giraffes loped across the plain. Two cheetahs stalked Thompson gazelles. A soundless leopard carried a young wildebeest into a tree to feast on for the next two or three days. Animals kill for food; not for ego or trophies. Elephants lumbered in front of the gigantic and snow-covered Mount Kilimanjaro as filled with excitement, I fumbled with my camera.

I watched the chaos of the annual wildebeest migration as two million grazers followed the rain. I began to sense the deeper order, programmed genetically over thousands of years, of their seemingly insane behavior. Order exists beneath chaos.

As I caught my breath, I decided to go and soak in the hot springs in Ouray — eight miles south at the front door of the San Juan’s. Many years prior, I drove around the mountain curve on highway 550 into Ouray. I saw the steam from the hot springs rising to the mountains. I was drawn to this beautiful place, and I returned several times to drive the old mining roads.

One day my divorce, my mom’s death, and the surprise death of my best friend provided the deep awareness of fragile and temporary life, and I loaded my jeep and drove West to grieve and live out my dream of living a year in the mountains.

The large hot springs pool sits surrounded by mountains and the town of Ouray — a tiny piece of Western history nestled in a bowl at the foot of the San Juan’s. I relaxed in the pool, drank water, and watched rock climbers, mountain goats, small avalanches, and the deer feeding in the adjacent park. Often I sat for hours and thought, other times I read, and I talked with locals and tourists. In the winter, the steam rises from the hot water, and often I can only see a foot or two in front of me. The pool fills with people when it snows, and snow-covered heads appear to float on top of the warm water.

I reflected on my connection with nature while I soaked. I thought about my eight days of whale-watching on a fishing boat out of San Diego:

I sat in a small skiff in the San Ignacio lagoon in the Mexican province of Baja California Sur. The boat bobbed in light waves. I watched as a 40-foot-long, 40-ton great gray whale surfaced beneath the boat and introduced her new child to the boat’s elated observers.

I peered into a large serene eye of the mother and wondered: What is her world like? Her gentle and knowing return of my excited stare linked us in a mystical moment. I realized that in one slight movement she could destroy the boat and kill its occupants. Instead, she chose to form a relationship with us — a profound choice: destroy or relate — the essence of competing worldviews in my world.

Mother and child floated with the skiff for a few minutes. The whales allowed the exhilarated humans to touch them and to lean over and kiss the barnacle-covered parent before mother and child submerged and disappeared. For a few short moments, the sky, the ocean, the people, the bobbing skiff, and the whale and her child were one. Nature is a form of love available to each of us. Maybe that moment of intimacy was God

Henry Beston wrote:

For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move furnished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

People, the whales, and the lions are animals. It’s our job to use our gifts to nurture the planet not consume it for things we don’t need.

I feel sorrow for our planet. Nature and America have declined since 2016: under assault by those who feel entitled to destroy our natural world for ego and money; they never get enough.

A few years ago, I stood alone in Canyonlands National Park near Mesa Arch. The sky was dark at 4:30 am. I looked up at the cloudless sky and saw the star-filled cosmos. I felt overwhelmed with awe and humility. Fear too. I felt the pain of my insignificance. The questions and mysteries of life swirled in my mind. I’m not the center of the universe: I am minuscule in my brief moment as a participant in the interconnected natural world. Two hours later, I stood in front of Mesa Arch and watched as the sun rose in the distance.

Daniel Quinn was the author of the quote that is the title of this essay. I hope future generations will be able to have their own journeys into nature. It will change them as it will continue to change me.

Monarch Butterfly: an endangered species.


Mesa Arch


Click on the images to enlarge.

Mesa Arch is located about an hour from Moab, Utah in the Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands National Park. If you want to capture this image, you should arrive at least an hour before sunrise as you will probably be joined by many photographers. I left Moab at 4:00 am, arrived at the access trail at 5:00 am for a 6:15 am sunrise and there were already a dozen or so photographers lined up in front of the arch. I was lucky to get the last prime spot. The rising sun lights up the underside of the arch.

More images:





Time Alone in the Desert

Aloneness is a vital part of any spiritual path. Tom Brown Jr. in Grandfather


Casey (my American Eskimo) and I had two weeks alone in the Sonoran desert. I decided to make the time my personal spiritual retreat—a time for my soul: I got up at 6:00 am, walked in the desert for five miles, exercised under the rising sun as it warmed the air, meditated for 45 minutes twice a day, read three excellent books on consciousness, journaled, studied, ate healthy foods and took some peaceful photographs.

The books I read were: Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunities at Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Ending the Pursuit of Happiness by Barry Magid and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. Each book added to my knowledge. The Tolle book was especially powerful to me. Many pages spoke to me and my life. I would read and study more of Tolle’s work.

In 2001 I lived on the side of a mountain near Ouray, Colorado for 14 months. I read, wrote essays on life and leadership, grieved some losses and pondered life in the natural hot springs. I consulted enough to pay my bills. I often spent weeks with little human contact. I came face to face with many demons. I felt lonely at times. But I knew the time alone would not last forever and sometimes I have to sacrifice something in order to experience something else. A powerful new vision—now real–evolved from that time alone.

My time in the desert was not all peaceful: I tossed and turned in my bed at night, often woke long before my 6:00 am wake up time and wrestled with ideas and insights from the books I read and my meditations. Once I jumped up: I had to write the ideas that came to me when reading Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. I felt excited when his words provided context for issues I had been struggling to understand for a year or longer. This was a time of inner expansion.

I worked hard to be present. I am a novice at meditation. I began to meditate about 1 ½ years ago. First I sat for 20 minutes a day. Then 45 minutes. At the end of my retreat, I committed to 60 minutes a day. As I meditated, I focused on my breathing. I observed the feelings and thoughts that passed through me. I often asked: “What am I resisting?” I concentrated on my senses while I walked. I admired the blooming flowers—new ones each day—in the Sonoran Desert. I listened to the doves and the quail sing their morning songs. I watched the roadrunners scurry among the cacti. A couple of nights, I sat patiently waiting for the beautiful sun to set below the horizon.

Soon it was time to clean the house and pack our SUV. I was ready to head for home. Casey was ready to come with me wherever I went. My mind was filled with ideas for projects, books to read, blog posts to write and things to do back home. My purpose renewed, I felt alive after a dormant period (See my blog post: Purpose Renewed).

I transitioned with several days in Canyon de Chelly and Canyonlands National Park for some photography. I loved the intensity of my travels and early mornings out in the natural world and days filled with new places and new images. I like contemplation and I like action.

We live better and longer lives with healthy relationships. We do need people. We also need time alone where we can reconnect with ourselves and the natural world, ponder our interconnection with all of life and renew our spirits.


The Desolate Canyonlands

Recent photos from Canyonlands, Utah.

(Click to enlarge)







From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Canyonlands National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
CanyonlandsNP GreenRiverOverlook.jpg

Looking over the Green River from Island in the Sky
Map showing the location of Canyonlands National Park

Map showing the location of Canyonlands National Park
Location San JuanWayneGarfield, and Grand counties, Utah,United States
Nearest city Moab, Utah
Coordinates 38°10′01″N 109°45′35″WCoordinates38°10′01″N 109°45′35″W
Area 337,598 acres (136,621 ha)[1]
Established September 12, 1964
Visitors 473,773 (in 2011)[2]
Governing body National Park Service

Canyonlands National Park is a U.S. National Park located in southeastern Utah near the town of Moab and preserves a colorful landscape eroded into countless canyons, mesas and buttes by the Colorado River, the Green River, and their respective tributaries. The park is divided into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves. While these areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character. Two large river canyons are carved into the Colorado Plateau by the Colorado River and Green River.[3] Author Edward Abbey, a frequent visitor, described the Canyonlands as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere.”[4]