Living and Writing in the Natural World

The mood of the universe these days

February 27, 2013

Today we got in the mail an envelope postmarked simply “Buckingham Palace” with an enclosed card from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Will and Kate. On my walk through Bidwell Park the grey, leafless oaks were accented by scores of bright cream and pink flowers of intervening Prunus wild cherry saplings. And on my way to the grocery I listened to Jon Miller and David Fleming on the radio calling the plays of the San Francisco Giants first game of spring training. What do all these things have in common? (more…)

Lazarus species 2: "Dawn" Redwood

February 20, 2013

A swarm of redwood species blanketed the Northern Hemisphere from 100 to 20 million years ago. In 1948, most were known and studied only as fossils, the leading authority being Professor Ralph Chaney of Berkeley. He was particularly interested in extinct members of the genus Metasequoia, the last of which had disappeared 30 million years ago. The San Francisco Chronicle’s science writer, Milton Silverman, was in Chaney’s office in January of 1948 when Chaney opened a bulky package covered with Chinese stamps from the day’s mail. Out tumbled a recently-living branch with green needle-leaves, the opposite arrangement of needles identifying it as—Metasequoia! Chaney promptly fainted onto his desk. (more…)

Happy Birthday, Mr. Darwin

February 12, 2013

Today is Charles Darwin’s birthday, and hardly anyone has done more for the true understanding of us humans and our world than this good Victorian gentleman. He completed the revolution begun by Copernicus centuries earlier, by establishing clearly that in addition to our planet not being the center of the cosmos, we humans are merely one species of many on the planet, formed by the same processes that form the other species, and in no way exceptional. He established this not by any stroke of genius, but “the old fashioned way,” as the old Smith Barney ad goes. Consider: (more…)

A New Year, by China and the Moon

February 8, 2013

Day after tomorrow is the Chinese Lunar New Year, which means tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and it’s time to be putting up the lanterns and thinking about the menu. The Chinese way of celebrating the new year is very different than our western one, and because of the differences their celebration has survived thousands of years and precipitates the greatest annual human migration on the planet. There’s a good reason for that. (more…)

Rhythms of a Human Life

February 5, 2013

A roaring bonfire in the middle of an almond orchard, talk about the stages of life, lots of wine and crystalline stars in the night sky—we must be in California! And so we were this past weekend, as we helped a friend of my wife observe her 60th birthday. A human life, like forests and planets and dreams, has a certain rhythm and track to it, and we were celebrating. (more…)
Sierra Buttes of the metamorphic, Mesozoic Sierra Nevada range

Infamous trail marker, New Mexico

"Bon voyage" to the backpacking daughter

emerald waters of Colorado River's Black Canyon

Immature White Ibis, coming into adult color

"Fierce and cruel alligators appear to us, but beautiful in the eyes of God. They, also, are his children." --John Muir

Hometown of 4077th MASH Company Clerk

The view from a sea cave

Man and Best Friend, Bennie

2,425 feet of "songs that bear pureheaven in every note"

Sun rising behind over-optimistic paddler, San Pablo Bay

Tomales Bay: North America plate on the right, Pacific plate on the left--and San Andreas Fault immediately below!

Corner room of Mt. Vernon Inn's restaurant. The Colonial Hoecake is not to be missed.

Georgia O'Keeffe's "Chama River" near Ghost Ranch entrance

Ortega showroom, Chimayo

A typical collection of urchins from Puako in the old days, before their return to the tidepool

Harbor seal on a redwood log, Big River

Darwin Falls, up Darwin Wash in Death Valley's Argus Range

Steinbeck and Ricketts pal Frank Wright (right) at Cannery Row

"What? You never seen an otter use a rock?"

Saint John, from

One of Monet's famous water lilies

The newest Sherlock

Eagerly awaited harbingers of spring

Zhou Minzhen, Barnett, Ye Duzhuang at Peking Man Cave

Julia Morgan's "Hearthstone" at Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Do you think the females will like my chain, guys?

40 feet of falling water at Glen Aulin

AJ, Kyle in monsoon at Emei Mt

Young John Muir

Whitney looms behind Ash, Maya

The young Charles Darwin

lunar new year festivities

Courtenay-Latimer's 1938 sketch

Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer

A son and Half dome in snow

Celebrating the harvest, S.F. style

40.5 lbs of trouble

A helpful label

Father, Son under Hamilton Dome

Camping among the sequoias

Fathers and sons at Bearpaw Meadow


Nothing here yet.

Selected Works

His journals reveal a hidden Muir, whose radical worldview challenges
Taoism reveals simple habits for health and balance in our modern lives
Classics Revisited
Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins stumble upon ancient Chinese treasure
Sherlock Holmes discovers his brother has been murdered by a Nazi spy on the eve of D-Day
Historical Fiction
Murder and passion during the 1948 Communist siege of Peking
Nuclear war looms as China demands the return of Taiwan
A Virginian finds romance in Korea as Chinese and Japanese armies battle, 1895

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