Peter, Paul & Mary—Wedding Song—Valentines Day


Although Valentines Day has been designated as a day to celebrate love, its roots date back 100,000 years before St. Valentine lived. Loren Eiseley alluded to this:

… “in the dim morning shadows of humanity, the inarticulate creature who first hesitantly formed the words for pity and love must have received similar guffaws around a fire. Yet some men listened, for the words survive.” (The Immense Journey)


Three of the greatest mysteries associated with human evolution are the origin of love (Darwin had no clue), the roles of human sexuality, and the physical, mental and spiritual importance of the marriage commitment. What makes humans unique is that millions of other plants and animals engage in sexual reproduction (with or without body contact) but, as far as we know, none involves the mystery, passion and drama associated with being “married.” There are various forms of marriage that pre-date recorded history, but the essential biological importance is mixing gene pools, creating more variety, which enhance evolution and thus survival. Charles Darwin brilliantly figured this out, but his work is incomplete.

Written records are lacking, however, many Native American cultures developed marriage ceremonies, perhaps beyond 10,000 years ago. It is intriguing that in order to avoid a limited gene pool they intuitively understood that it was important for males (or females) to marry outside their clan.

Hindus perceived that there was a spiritual connection to marriage 3000 years BC, and about the same time Egyptians began “double-ring” wedding celebrations.  About 1200 BC, Moses described the spiritual connection of marriage in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Oddly, however, as brilliant as Greek scholars have been portrayed, most regarded women as second class citizens, primarily necessary for procreation.

I am not a Biblical scholar, but find it intriguing that the first miracle that Jesus has been credited with was making wine for a wedding celebration; a fact that 400 wineries in the Napa Valley are eager to share. 😉

 “For the Anglo-Saxons and Britain’s early tribal groups, marriage was all about relationships – just not in the modern sense. The Anglo-Saxons saw marriage as a strategic tool to establish diplomatic and trade ties. ‘You established peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them.’”  Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage.

During the 11th Century, marriage was about securing an economic or political advantage. The wishes of the married couple – much less their consent – were of little importance. The bride, particularly, was assumed to bow to her father’s wishes and the marriage arrangements made on her behalf.

However, for the Benedictine monk Gratian the consent of the couple mattered more than their family’s approval. Gratian brought consent into the fold of formalized marriage in 1140 with his canon law textbook, Decretum Gratiani. The Decretum required couples to give their verbal consent and consummate the marriage to forge a marital bond. No longer was a bride or groom’s presence at a ceremony enough to signify their assent. The book formed the foundation for the Church’s marriage policies in the 12th Century and “set out the rules for marriage and sexuality in a changing social environment”, says historian Joanne Bailey of Oxford Brookes University.

“As early as the 12th Century, Roman Catholic theologians and writers referred to marriage as a sacrament, a sacred ceremony tied to experiencing God’s presence. However, it wasn’t until the Council of Trent in 1563 that marriage was officially deemed one of the seven sacraments,” says Elizabeth Davies, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Whether or not the allegory of Adam and Eve represents the “first spiritual marriage,” as man’s sense of spirituality grew, so did his understanding that a man and woman joining in wedlock was far more complicated and profound than mere physical contact. As the length of time to successfully raise children increased, so did the time of mutual support and cooperation between mates. As the human concept of love grew, so did the need to develop rituals and symbols that were outward signs of an inner transformation. The marriage success rate in the US is a disappointing 50%, however, there are still millions of couples who are enjoying long, productive, loving marriages.


One of my very favorite “folk” songs is titled, Wedding Song (There is Love). It was made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary and I recently decided to Google a UTube version. In a wonderful synchronicity, I not only found the song, but an extraordinary story.

Evidently, Peter Yarrow asked his friend and singing partner, Noel “Paul” Stookey, to write a song for his upcoming wedding ceremony. Noel was deeply honored but equally frightened about the request. He thought that writing and singing a song for a couple’s wedding must be one of the most intimate and profound things a friend could do. However, the possibility of it falling flat or missing the mark was daunting to say the least.

He did what he had learned to do in crisis moments and prayed. He described the feeling of being guided to use a quote from the Gospel of St. Matthew:

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

However, he worried that some guests might find the verse too religious and so he changed the passage to read:  “For wherever two or more of you are gathered together in His name, there is love.”

 The song was completed the day before the wedding. As he performed it for the first time, the wedding party, and many guests, described an amazing spiritual aura filling the room. Later, however, a problem arose. Noel was recording Wedding Song for an album and the issue of copyrighting came up. He believed that the lyrics were “the words of God” and he should not plagiarize.  On the other hand, if he did not copyright it, unscrupulous record dealers would surely profit from the omission. Again, he felt guided and set up a special copyright domain that directed all royalty fees to worthwhile charities. The song has spread world wide, been enjoyed by countless millions and been sung at thousands (?) of weddings.

 When I finished reading the account, I was reminded that, in spite of protests from many of his friends, John Muir refused to take out patents on any of his (over 50) inventions. He believed that all of them were inspired by God and, therefore, belonged to all mankind. This being so, he reasoned that he had no right to profit from them.  

Two amazing men, each influenced millions of people, and they gave all credit to their Higher Power. Stories like these give me goose bumps.

Hoping that your Valentines Day is a celebration of love and life.

“Thank God for Yosemite Bears!” John Muir

God Bless Yosemite Bears





 Although I was dedicated to get as close as I could to the heart and soul of legendary John Muir, I was naively unaware that, in order to do this, I would have to experience some ordeals that he would have identified with. He properly warned that books (including his own) were useless in describing the intense adrenaline rush following surviving an avalanche ride, spending a snow-stormy night (without a tent or blanket) on Mt. Shasta, or a face-to-face confrontation with an American Black Bear (Ursus americanus).


It was Muir’s self-imposed vocation to get as close to the heart of Mother Nature as he could, which meant studying all of her plants and animals. In his first summer at Yosemite he was eager to make the acquaintance of what he thought was a “Cinamon Bear.”

Excerpt: The Wilderness World of John Muir. Edwin Way Teal.

“I watched his gestures and tried to make the most of my opportunity to learn what I could about him, fearing that he would catch sight of me and run away. For I had been told that this sort of bear always ran away from his bad brother man, never showing fight  unless wounded or in defense of young. He made a telling picture in the sunny forest garden. How well he played his part, harmonizing in bulk and color and shaggy hair with the trunks of trees and lush vegetation, as natural a feature as any other in the landscape.

After examining at leisure, noting the sharp muzzle thrust inquiringly forward, the long shaggy hair on his broad chest, the stiff erect ears nearly buried in hair, and the heavy way he moved his head, I thought I should like to see his gait in running, so I made a sudden rush at him, shouting and swinging my hat to frighten him, expecting him to make haste to get away. But to my dismay he did not run or show any sign of running. On the contrary, he stood his ground ready to defend himself, lowered his head, thrust it forward, and looked sharply and fiercely at me. Then I suddenly began to fear that that upon me would fall the work of running; but I was afraid to run, and therefore, like the bear, held my ground. We stood staring at each other in solemn silence within a dozen yards or thereabouts, while I fervently hoped that the power of the human eye over wild beasts would prove as great as it is said to be. How long our awfully strenuous interview lasted, I do not know; but at length in slow fullness of time…and with magnificent deliberation turned and walked leisurely up the meadow, stopping frequently to look back over his shoulder to see whether I was pursuing him, then moving on again, evidently neither fearing me much nor trusting me.”

When the Biodesign Class of ’92 arrived at Yosemite Valley, the first order of business was to set up our base camp and prepare for the next day’s backpack trip to the top of Half Dome. The campsite was a flurry of activity of erecting tents, preparing the cooking area and campers moving into their tent-dwellings. The students had been warned to put all food items in the steel, bear-proof boxes that Yosemite Park provided. I was busy with a plethora of details, one of which was not looking out for student backpack food storage.  Suddenly someone yelled, “Anna, a bear has your food bag!” and there was a huge commotion. I spotted a medium-sized female Black Bear with two cubs. She, indeed, had Anna’s bag in her mouth and was lumbering down the trail towards the nearby meadow. Thinking only of a student without several days of trail food, I sprinted toward the unwanted raider. Exactly like John Muir, I began yelling loudly and waving my arms and hat. When I exceeded her comfort zone, she wheeled on her haunches, dropped the food bag, lowered her head, made a terrifying squealing noise and charged me. Unlike Muir, however, I did an abrupt U-turn and ran back toward camp. However, a quick glance over my shoulder showed that she had reversed and was about to retrieve the food bag. Not to be denied, I reversed and charged with more yelling and flailing arms. Once again, she reversed and renewed her charge with an increased sense of urgency. Once again, I reversed and beat a speedy retreat. By now, many students were watching and were probably not sure whether to laugh or feel alarmed over the spectacle. Another glance over my shoulder showed her returning to the food bag. Like the bear, I must have felt an increased sense of urgency and roared and flailed more aggressively. She glanced over her shoulder and saw what she must have thought was a madman, paused briefly at the food bag, and ambled off into the meadow. Part of Anna’s food bag had a slimy coating of bear saliva on it, but otherwise the food was not damaged.

When I returned to camp, the students were having difficulty processing what they had seen. Some must have thought I foolishly risked being injured and that we could have shared to help Anna out. Like Muir, I had read that Black Bear attacks on humans are rare, especially if they are allowed a pathway for retreat. Even so, I enjoyed an ambivalent blend of terror and humor over the episode.      

In Memory of Pete Seeger

Heroes walk through life carrying their torches to light the pathways of others. Saints walk through life as living beacons for others. Anon.

How utterly important are the words from the Book of Ecclesiastes:


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

The world lost a true Saint. Pete Seeger leaves a vacuum in our society that only his legacy will be able to fill. He and his beloved wife fought the good fight for 70+ years. He eschewed the “good-life” of comfort and convenience, sought out and confronted cruelty and injustice. I saw him on an old video and he mentioned that his publisher had recently called him and asked if he could come up with another hit song like, “Irene Good night.” He laughed, but later was reading his, “Good Old Book” and the words and music emerged into a hit as famous as “Irene.”

The words have been around for thousands of years, perhaps because of their poignant, timeless message. Even so, the truly great folksingers are dieing off and with them the life-style and music that they represented. Fewer and fewer people sit around campfires and sing the great old folksongs. It makes me really sad!

Rest in peace noble champion of the downcast, downtrodden, and victims of injustice. You have run the good race and fought the good fight.  


Turn! Turn! Turn!”

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!

Evolution—Carl Sagan—Secular Humanism

Carl Sagan




I owe a huge double thank you to a BOFAW friend.  First of all, he shared, Carl Sagan’s YouTube video, “Pale Blue Dot.” And secondly, although I suspect that we have some differing views about Sagan, he provided the stimulus to present a view that very few students are aware of.  “The Pale Blue Dot” is an excerpt from his wonderful PBS series adapted from his book, “Cosmos.”  Sagan was a brilliant scholar, creative genius, excellent educator and did much to make the sometimes boggling study of astronomy more understandable to the “scientifically challenged.”  I showed the classroom version of “Cosmos” to all of my biology classes as a means of helping them appreciate how amazingly special it is to be alive on, “The Pale Blue Dot.”

I heartily agreed with most of the information in “Cosmos” but just as heartily disagreed with some of Sagan’s ideas. So, astronomers tell us that the universe is 13.8 billion years old; there are 7 billion people living on Earth and Dr. Sagan expects intelligent people to believe that this all occurred without a plan or planner? He presents the Universe with no known cause and chalks it up to chance.

His explanation for the “origin of life” and part of Darwin’s Theory are “science fiction.” Darwin himself, admitted that he had no clue as to how life began. Whether the story of “The Garden Of Eden” is true or allegorical it is not typically disputed that humans have the greatest amount of “free will” of all animals. This free will includes the right to think whatever we choose to think. However, the latest word from one popular Humanist, is that people do not have free will and that their thoughts and fate are the result of random molecular activity.

Sagan was a hugely popular scientist and proudly proclaimed that he was a “Secular Humanist.” I later learned that he was selected as, “Humanist of the year,” by the American Humanist Assoc. and named, “Humanist Laureate,” in the International Academy of Humanists.” In the early years of Biodesign, I didn’t know or care what Secular Humanism was. However, after the events detailed in BOFAW, chapter 3, “The Fire Storm,” it was necessary that I learn more about it. I discovered that Humanists generally think that all religions represent regressive thinking because they are based on myths, legends and folklore. They emphasize that the power of the human mind replaces the need to believe in intangible and unprovable religious beliefs. Respecting the spirit of The Garden Of Eden, I had no concerns with Sagan’s beliefs, or Humanism, until I realized that he had allowed them to skew his views on Darwin’s Theory and the origin of life.

In the 1950’s, scientists boldly claimed that they were on the brink of discovering the origin of life and would soon able to create life. After failing in both endeavors, anthropologist Loren Eiseley wrote in the final chapter of “The Immense Journey:”

“With the failure of these many efforts science was left in the somewhat embarrassing position of having to postulate theories of living organisms which it could not demonstrate. After having chided the theologian for his reliance on myth and miracle, science found itself in the unenviable position of having to create a mythology of its own: namely, the assumption that what, after long effort, could not be proved to take place today had, in truth, taken place in the primeval past.”

 This is exactly what Carl Sagan did in his book, “Cosmos.” He made statements about the origin of life that were not factual and, even today, can not be “scientifically” supported. Essentially, Sagan “created” his version of biological history using his own mythology. Even worse, he misconstrued Darwin’s theory to conform to the Godless, soul-less, spiritless world of “Scientism.” Either he was unaware of, “The Autobiography Of Charles Darwin” or he chose to ignore it to promote his anti-creationist agenda regarding the origin and evolution of life. Darwin wrote:

“Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity for looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a theist.”

In an absolutely wonderful irony, Sagan used Edwin Abbott’s story of “The Flat People” in an attempt to explain the “Fourth Dimension.” These people have length and width, but no height. When “someone,” from the land of “Up,” contacts a flatlander, he/she has no idea of what is happening. It is a clever ploy, however, it does not work. No amount of word-making can help a flatlander see “UP! The irony is that, in terms of spirituality, Sagan had no clue that anything that could not be “proven” could possibly exist. There are an estimated 5 million Humanists, including some very prominent people, however, 90% of the world population believes in some kind of higher power.

After receiving the video, I did some research and was surprised at what I discovered. The demographics of scientists who believe in a higher power is about the same as general the population; about 90% are believers. This list includes many of the world’s greatest scientists and naturalists: Copernicus, Bacon, Kepler, Descartes, Pascal, Boyle, Faraday, Planck, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Mendel, Agassi, Thoreau, Muir and most shocking to most Americans, Charles Darwin. Also, in spite of being educated in public schools, which have removed nearly all references to spirituality, only 21% of the American people believe that human evolution occurred without the presence of divine guidance.

“Vashon Jane”—Muir—Emerson







 Excerpt: BOFAW, chap, 9, “Gratefulness.


Before each trip, I would say that I could not predict what they would experience.


I could predict, however, that they would experience things


that would be impossible to imagine from the comfort of their beds


with their electric blankets turned on.



John Muir was a huge fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was a celebrated American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement.  Muir admired his essays on the relationship of nature, soul and self-reliance. By writing, “The whole of nature is a metaphor of the human mind,” Emerson was unifying man—creation—Creator. Also, like Muir and Thoreau, he emphasized the importance of being “reborn” in nature.


Emerson visited Muir at Yosemite in the spring of 1871. Muir was beside himself with excitement and later describing his arrival wrote:



I proposed an immeasurable camping trip back into the heart of the mountains. He seemed anxious to go, but considerately mentioned his party. I said: ‘Never mind. The mountains are calling; run away, and let plans and parties and dragging lowland duties ‘gang tapsal terrie.’ We’ll go up a canyon singing your own song, “Good-by, proud world! I’m going home,” in divine earnest.’ Up there lies a new heaven and a new earth; let us go to the show. But alas, it was too late—too near the sundown of his life. The shadows were growing long, and he leaned on his friends. His party, full of indoor philosophy, failed to see the natural beauty and fullness of promise of my wild plan, and laughed at it in good-natured ignorance, as if it were necessarily amusing to imagine that Boston people might be led to accept Sierra manifestations of God at the price of rough camping. Anyhow, they would have none of it, and held Mr. Emerson to the hotels and trail




Muir accompanied Emerson’s entourage to the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias, where he made one final attempt to get the Boston Bard to sleep one night beneath the giant trees. His pleas were ignored and the group mounted their horses to begin their journey back to Boston. As he reached a rise in the road, Emerson reined in his horse, turned around and waved his hat in good-by to his mountain-man friend.



Muir would reflect later:



I felt lonely, so sure that Emerson, of all men, would be the quickest to see the mountains and sing them.



It is considered boorish to reveal a lady’s age, however, in this case, I think it is appropriate to mention that Emerson was four years younger than Jane Berg when he declined to sleep, even one night, in Muir’s company, under the protection of the giant Sequoias.


Jane was one of the earliest fans of BOFAWFb and it quickly became clear that we shared a love for Yosemite, John Muir, and all of nature. Even so, I was a bit surprised (shocked actually) (;o) when she mentioned that she was going to leave the comfort of her Vashon Island home and gardens in April, 2013 to camp at Grand Canyon NP. She spent 9 amazing days camped on the South Rim. The trip included a mule ride, down Bright Angel Trail, overnight at Phantom Ranch, and ride up the South Kaibab Trail which offers some of the most stunning views of Grand Canyon.


She has described it as one of her greatest experiences, however, it happened to be just a warm-up for an even longer adventure. In the fall, she left Vashon again and traveled to Yosemite NP and volunteered with “Yosemite Conservancy,” assisting visitors in various locations. This required her to camp five weeks in a small tent.  Actually, the trip turned out to be 49 days, and included a week in the Eastern Sierras of Mono County.



Of the three great naturalists, Emerson, Thoreau and Muir, Muir was the wildest and his passion inspired the National Park movement which has spread globally. Jane responded to his call, “Come to the mountains and get their glad tidings.” What she did was really quite remarkable. She left her comfortable nest on Vashon Island and made two challenging journeys to two glorious National Parks. In so doing, she saw visions, marvels and wonders that Emerson could not have imagined. When I asked for permission to share her stories she said that she felt honored and hoped that others would be inspired to try their own new adventures. Furthermore, she said that her experiences made her feel younger and she is filled with so many memories of the beautiful places that she hiked and explored. Whether she was hiking in Yosemite high country or the Eastern Sierras she felt an abiding presence of the spirit of John Muir.


 She wrote:



“I found it amazing and wonderful to wake up close to the earth and profoundly beautiful wilderness. In addition to thinking of John Muir, and native peoples, I also thought of the Biodesign students and how important I feel it is to have children, and adults, experience nature.”



On our last trip to Grand Canyon, a married couple (both 85 years young) hiked up from Phantom Ranch to The South Rim. The first time they made the round-trip hike was to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, and they had done it annually ever since then.  Park rangers were on hand to welcome them back to the top and celebrate their wonderful accomplishment. Based on this, Jane has at least 13 more years of hiking to look forward to. The last time I talked to her she sounded like a teenager, eager to go “out for a walk” and see more of Mother Nature’s treasures.


Way to go Jane!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

You formed me





“You created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

David. Psalm 139:13-14

It is laughable to even think about writing a “blog post,” essay, poem or book that would be valued in the year “5013.” I wonder if David had any idea that the psalms he was writing, 3,000 years ago, would still be read, pondered and enjoyed. After selling 1.2 million copies of a book about Jesus, the author boasted that his book was the best-seller in the world. He wasn’t even close. Each year, over 100 million Bibles are sold globally, and all include the fabulous Psalms of David. Many describe his intimate connection to nature. John Muir knew all of them by heart and soul. He kept a copy of The New Testament with him at all times and it was as important as the “bread” he ate. Some critics of Biodesign Out For A Walk have labeled it, “controversial,” “over-the-top religious:” I can only respond that I humbly and honestly recorded what I saw and take solace knowing that people thought David and Muir were also “over-the-top,” yet their voices are more important that ever before.

 After all these years, gamete production, sexual orgasms, conception, embryonic growth and childbirth remain among the great human mysteries; some people regard all as miracles. Regardless of whether “we was made or just happened,” (Mark Twain) scientists and theologians agree that the human brain is the most complex organ on Planet Earth. David’s psalm leaves us with three options: Is it the truth? Is it untrue? Does it really matter?

In The Medusa and the Snail, Lewis Thomas muses about why people made such a fuss over the test-tube baby in England. The true miracle, he affirms, is the common union of sperm and egg in a process that ultimately produces a human being. “The mere existence of that cell,” he writes, “should be one of the greatest astonishments on the earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours, calling to each other in endless wonderment, talking of nothing but that cell.”

“Over nine months these cells divide up functions in exquisite ways. Billions of blood cells appear, millions of rods and cones—in all, up to one hundred million, million cells from a single fertilized ovum. And finally a baby is born, glistening with liquid. Already his cells are cooperating. His muscles limber up in jerky, awkward movements; his face recoils from harsh lights and dry air of the new environment; his lungs and vocal chords join in a first air-gulping yell.

Within that clay-colored, wrinkled package lies the miracle of ecstasy of community. His life will include the joy of seeing his mother’s approval at his first clumsy words, the discovery of his own unique talents and gifts, the fulfillment of sharing with other humans. He is many cells, but one organism. All of his 100 trillion cells know that.”

Human eyes can typically see 8 million colors.

Human ears can distinguish 300,000 different tones.

The surface area of the lungs is 1,000 sq/ft, 10X greater than the skin.

The human face can generate over 250,000 expressions.

If all of the muscles in the human body pulled in one direction it could lift 25 tons.

The human brain contains 30 billion nerve cells. It has 10 billion, billion working parts and can store information equal to 100 trillion words, and accept ten new facts every second. Adult humans have 100 trillion cells, each cell has 46 chromosomes, each chromosome is made up of thousands of molecules, and each cell contains over 100 billion atoms. The burning, yet unfathomable question is: How do the 100 billion atoms in each cell “know” how to be in the right place at the right time in order for life to occur? When Darwin contemplated this he opined: “When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.” [The Autobiography of Charles Darwin]

There are huge potential social and health advantages of being in tune with the rapture of being alive. St. Paul described the human body as a temple and people who have a deep appreciation for this concept are often inspirational and become beacons of faith, hope and love.

David did not have all the recent information available, however, it should be clear, even to hardened cynics, and egocentrics, that we are indeed, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Spirituality—Divine Spark—Soul [Part I]

Spirituality pic





Excerpt: BOFAW, Chap. 4, “A Class is Born.”

Therefore, the following clarifications were made:


1. The class was not a philosophy class.

2. The class was not a religion class.

3. The class was not a spirituality class.

Spirituality noun: the vital principle or animating force within living beings: breath, divine spark, élan, vital life source, psyche, soul.

When I asked the Biodesign Class of ’79, “How many of you have a soul?” every hand shot up.

“Grown men may learn from very little children, for the hearts of little children are pure, and, therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk.



Webster did an honorable job of attempting to define the indefinable. Using words to describe spirit can be as difficult as capturing lightening in a bottle. Perhaps, because of its mysterious nature, it just might be the most profound gift that was given to humans. Alfred Wallace reminded Darwin that his theory could not explain spirituality and Darwin agreed.

Perhaps the pathos of the word can be better felt by imagining what life would be without it. Therefore; Imagine what a life would be like without joy and sorrow; faith, hope or love; without values, free will and consciousness of truth, beauty and goodness. Imagine a life without peace, patience, gentleness, serenity, light-heartedness, kindness, laughter, tenderness and happiness; even anger, fear and lust (attenuated) play roles. When a person approaches a life like this due to disease, accident, or traumatic brain injury, he is often described as in a vegetative state. Tragically, there is a sever lack of spirit.

The Biodesign Class was an advanced biology class and even though we studied Black Elk:

“And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”

And John Muir:

“Everything is so inseparably united. As one begins to describe a flower or tree or a storm or an Indian or a chipmunk, up jumps the whole heavens and earth and God Himself in one inseparable glory”:

Or the many passages from Thoreau and Emerson that speak of the power of nature to transcend man’s thoughts to the spiritual level, the focus was not on philosophy, religion or seeking spirituality directly, but on the human brain’s ability to approach such issues. In fact the word “God” rarely came up in conversations, but many students could see that, whether sitting in classroom circles, or on top of Half Dome or at Grand Canyon or Mendocino, the conversations frequently soared to an otherworldly height. Whether they identified it or not, each had the potential of becoming a beacon of light that guided and inspired the unique, collective experience of each class.

Sometimes, however, my enthusiasm (filled with spirit) got carried away. I was passionately reading a passage from an inspired writer, around a warm and snuggly campfire in Mendocino, and a skeptical, somewhat jaded student snapped at me, “You can’t force us to be inspired.” His words hung in the air and cast a cold pall over the circle. After a pregnant pause (and bruised ego) I agreed with him. He was right! I could not force them to be inspired and that is a good thing. It is certain that if I could I would have abused the practice. Spiritual epiphanies, whether personal or class-wide, were always spontaneous, and could not be planned, scripted or replicated. If they could have, they would have ceased to be spiritual.

In his book, Inner Work, Robert Johnson suggests that Carl Jung believed that God needs human agencies to assist in the carnation of his creation. Thomas Mann wrote in “Joseph and His Brothers, “God needed the ladder in Jacob’s dream as a way to come and go between heaven and earth.” The visions of human beings make such a ladder and transmit information into the collective conscious of humanity.

Another way of looking at this is that we are all capable of being little “Light Houses;” illuminating paths for fellow pilgrims to travel by. Comparing our lives to Thoreau’s walk in the woods, he felt that we should be deliberate, tranquil, even meditative. Muir “went out for a walk,” Thoreau preferred the word “saunter,” which he claimed derived from the French a’la sainte terre: “to the holy land.”   [End of Part I]

January 6, Epiphany—Oprah—Archimedes







Contrary to what some Oprah lovers may think, she did not coin the term or concept of an “aha” moment. In 212 BC, after discovering the displacement theory, Archimedes shouted “eureka! I have found it!” Whether he ran down the streets of Syracuse naked is for others to determine. ;o)

Two hundred years later three magi made their equally legendary trip to Bethlehem. They probably did not arrive on January 6, and one gospel account depicts them arriving two years later. Camel travel obviously left something to be desired. However, regardless of the time of arrival, “Epiphany” can be symbolic for all people whether they regard themselves “religious” or not.


a. A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.

b. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization: “I experienced an epiphany, a spiritual flash that would change the way I viewed myself” (Frank Maier)

 Epiphanies can be experienced by anyone anywhere and, interestingly, are often experienced by children, regardless of ethnic or religious background. Because they are of a spiritual nature they can not be predicted, however, Louis Pasteur opined, “chance favors the prepared mind,” and people who are open to spiritual growth and awareness just might be more likely to experience them.

Happy epiphany hunting!

2013—Overflowing Gratefulness.






Happy New Year and a huge THANK YOU to all of you who have contributed images, links, likes, articles, comments and private messages over the last year. You have generated much joy, laughter and light. Conversely, you have also exposed causes of sorrow and suffering which, perhaps, is why Loren Eiseley wrote: “We are now in a position to see the wonder and terror of the human predicament.”
It has been an awesome privilege to share thoughts, hopes and dreams along with “Poems, Prayers and Promises,” with all of you throughout 2013. You are truly an eclectic bunch. I was wondering how I could show you the amazing diversity that I see on my “home” page, but decided that I could not equal the BOFAW review that Steve Burgess posted on Amazon Books. It is humbling, but assuring to note that, after 42 years, Lettie’s quest for truth, beauty and goodness is still resonating. She truly was a beacon of light in an otherwise spiritless Human Physiology class. Here is an excerpt from Steve’s review. I’ll bet that you will find yourself included.

“Are you someone who would cherish this collection of stories (even benefit from them?) I can firmly state that if you are listed here, you will: Biology teacher, religious person, atheist, agnostic, parent, naturalist, open-minded Darwinist, teen, educator, stuffy exec who wonders “why?, what for?,” psychologist, counselor, coffee-shop dwelling intellectual… For sure, any educator at any level would benefit greatly. Perhaps, even someone who going through life without a thought or care, this may be the fire that cracks open that hibernating seed within their soul. For someone who sadly may live in complete adversity, real or perceived, there are encouraging and uplifting tales that can provide comfort and perhaps healing and humor.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of the fans, friends, and adversaries who contributed to this page.

Nature’s Light

Sharka and Mark





One of my favorite poems is:

“He who serves his brothers best,

 Gets closer to God than all the rest.”

 While few mortals will approach the bars set by Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela, Buddha or Gandhi, “little people” play an important role in our collective experience called “humanity.” Ever since I discovered the photography of:

 Ansel Adams:

Galen Rowell:

 and a plethora of National Geographic photographers, I have suspected that paraphrasing the above poem is appropriate.

 He who photographs Nature best,

Gets closer to God than all the rest.

 I think that this paraphrase applies to:

Sharka and Mark Waite of  NatureIsUs:

Quang Luong:

Krystal Leonard:

Michael Gordon:

These photographers have all generously shared amazing celebrations of light. We have been richly blessed by their efforts to capture “the perfect image,” which may be as illusive as capturing the face of God.

Throughout the ages, poets, sages and philosophers have described the human experience as a battle between good and evil, light and darkness.

Photographers may not feel that they are “religious” or interpreting the works of God, but what profession (or hobby) could be more sacred than one that literally focuses on natural truth, beauty and goodness. Former colleague Greg Marvin once mentioned, “Everything in nature is either beautiful or interesting.” When I shared this thought with students there was usually a class clown who would blurt out, “so is horse shit beautiful or interesting?” My answer was, “Well, as a matter of fact it is extremely interesting. It involves the basic concepts of animal life including essential activities of anabolism and catabolism, ecology, natural recycling and much more. Did he not know that every pile of horse poop was a virtual “city” of microorganism activity?”

And while this is true, most nature photographers do not focus on death, disease, destruction or animal waste, they often spend their lives trying to capture “the perfect sunset,” the exquisite snowflake, a breathtaking dawn, a beautiful dewdrop on a perfect flower petal or an infinite number of beautiful objects of focus.

There are stories that Ansel Adams sometimes planned years in advance, hoping that he would be in the perfect place at the perfect time to capture the light that would yield one of his classic images.

It is impossible to imagine this Facebook page without photographs, whether snapped at the spur of the moment, or carefully executed by one of our “masters of light.”