Living and Writing in the Natural World

Peaches, Thomas Jefferson, and Xi Wang Mu

August 28, 2013

Inside the cup: peaches of immortality
Every summer about this time I come to the same conclusion about peaches as Ben Franklin reportedly did about beer: “Beer is a sign that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Indeed, though for me it’s peaches rather than beer. You’d think after over a month of peaches on my oatmeal, on my pancakes, over ice yogurt, and overwhelmingly just eaten straight, the juice dribbling down my chin—you’d think I’d be tired of peaches. You’d be wrong. , (more…)

Stranger than We Think

August 21, 2013

Fueling up for the journey north
I saw another monarch butterfly last week, and it set me thinking about some of the incredible things non-human animals do, and what it shows about the place of humans in the cosmos.

This monarch was probably the second in a chain of four or five generations of these butterflies, a saga that starts in their overwintering home (in Pacific Grove, California; another locus is northern Mexico). Beginning each spring, (more…)

How I Escaped a Chinese Dungeon

August 14, 2013

While researching exotic locales for scenes in my novels is one of the best parts of being a writer, it sometimes involves privation and discomfort, not to mention the occasional threat of incarceration. I came within a hair’s breadth of being arrested in Beijing in the spring of 1984, for example. (more…)

Night skies and Sunny creeks

August 8, 2013

One thing that John Muir and Lao Tze agree on is that you’ve got to spend time outdoors. Connecting up with “Godful nature” or “the flow of the Tao” is critical, each claims, to maintaining the health and sanity of humans. Being in the natural world is its own reward, of course. I do it mainly because it makes me feel super, which is more important than even St. John or Sage Lao recommending it. This summer, I’ve been doing it a bit differently—more sky than creek. (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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