No Man Is An Island

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH  

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.          John Donne

Having Patti Rosellini discover BOFAW reminded me of Elton John’s “Golden Oldie,”  “Michelle’s Song.” A very, very long time ago (1975) I was not aware of the song until students used it in a slide-show to translate and communicate what they experienced on their trip to Yosemite. The current slide-show captures some of the joy and innocence that Biodesigners often experienced as they discovered the wonders of themselves, each other and Mother Nature. They were “casting pebbles in the water” that are still sending gentle ripples throughout the universe.

One of the most important themes of Biodesign out For A Walk is that The Class, and the book, were the result of a collaborative effort between students, parents, chaperones, scientists, sages and multiple mentors. Truly, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts and I was merely a “piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  It was truly an awesome privilege to be invited into the sacred realm of the teenage soul and I think it is important to share some of their insights.


My Book Launch: Win A Kindle Fire

Join me for my virtual  book tour for Biodesign Out for A Walk. You will have the opportunity to download the book for free at the end of the virtual book tour.  Also you can help me spread the word and earn entries to the Kindle Fire HD Give-away Contest. I have put the information below so you can follow the tour schedule. I have included the contest form so you can enter it here or on my Contest page as you finish each option. on the site.  You can also add it on Facebook:  Then click on the contest option below the cover.  Good Luck!

Tour Schedule

August 27 – Tour Kickoff at VBT Café Blog
August 28 – Interviewed at BK Walker Books Etc.
August 29 – Spotlight at Bikers With Books
September 3 – Spotlight at Rose & Beps Blog
September 5 – Guest Blogging at Deal Sharing Aunt
September 10 – Author 2 Author Marketing at BookIt! BK (Tips on Marketing for Non-Fiction Authors guest post)
September 16 – Spotlight at 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy & Sissy Too!
September 16 – Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner
September 18 – Spotlight at Assisting Assisting Authors Online
September 20 – Spotlight at Brooke Blogs
September 23 – Reviewed at Notebook of Books

Just For Fun and a Little More







 Mike Dunn posted an amazing video of a singer arguably reaching the lowest known notes recorded buy a human. It sounds very much like the lowest note capable of being played on the grand organ at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. The organ has over 7,000 pipes; one is about the size of a human pinkie finger, and produces a note over 5,000 Hz.. Many people can not hear it, but most dogs in the neighborhood can hear it just fine. The largest pipe is 8 inches in diameter and 32 feet tall. At 16 Hz, the human ear can detect the individual oscillations and the sound is more like a motorcycle driving through a tunnel rather than a note; thus the comment from Mike’s page, “it sounds more like a burp.” I doubt that either note is used in regular musical presentations.

In the earlier years of Biodesign, several classes visited the Army Corps of Engineer’s “Bay Model” in Sausalito, walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, and several points of interest, including Grace Cathedral. Albert Einstein is featured in one of the clerestory stained-glass windows and I had a friend (John Fenstermaker) who gave the students a demonstration of the grand organ. We were not there for “religious” reasons but to explore the spiritual capacity of man which includes science, music, art, architecture and so much more. The cathedral features replicas of the massive bronze “Gates of Paradise,” of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Renaissance masterpiece in Florence Italy.

 Fenstermaker demonstrated how Johann Bach wrote music that would leave the organ, travel down the cathedral and reverberate back. Music lovers who appreciate what he did, can sit in the center of the cathedral and experience waves and waves of music washing over them. It does not need a name, but many students experienced something that was not explainable in human terms. Fenstermaker ended with a version of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” which blew all the cobwebs out of the cathedral as well as most of our minds.

The students were right next to a world-class concert organ-master and watching him work was extraordinary. He used all five keyboards as well as the foot pedals. Fingers flew up and down and he mastered the pedals with the heel and toe of each foot. This meant that he not only commanded ten fingers, but two heels and toes which meant that at every moment he was in command of an astonishing,  FOURTEEN variables.


For those who have read BOFAW, Chip Detro was in one of the lucky classes that got to tour Grace. It is near the top of Nob Hill and we decided to go top China Town for dinner. The street down to China Town is perilously steep, especially for someone in a wheel chair. Chip left his motorized chair home and was therefore at the mercy of his classmates. He described the descent down Nob Hill as the scariest thing he had ever done. We laughed all the way down as he kept shouting, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Don’t let go of me!” Little wonder, as he only had use of his right forearm, thumb and index finger.

In a wonderful synchronicity, I located this U-Tube video of Bach’s Toccata. It gives me goose bumps to listen and watch the video-graphic notes. Musicians may be able to watch the organist’s left hand (upper) right hand (middle) and bass notes (lower) played with heels and toes. I think the different keyboards are also color coded. Simply amazing!  


alpha woman 

 Excerpt: Biodesign Out For A Walk, Introduction.

 “They learned that Albert Einstein and Loren Eiseley agreed that every branch of science was cloaked in mystery and that it would be their challenge and privilege to contemplate those mysteries.”


 “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”


Eiseley: Excerpted from, The Immense Journey, Time/Life Reading Program.

“Professor Eiseley is one of the increasing number of contemporary scientists who insist that the mystery still exists, and that there is more to evolution than was dreamed of in the 19th Century’s refusal to philosophize. Moreover, he makes us feel that unless we too realize this we are in danger of ceasing to be truly human.” Joseph W. Krutch.

“Eiseley is less concerned about man conquering nature than nature, in the form of God, conquering the human heart. As he has written elsewhere” ‘whether we speak of a God come down to earth or a man inspired toward God and betrayed on a cross, the dream was great, and shook the world like a storm. I believe in Christ in every man who dies to contribute to a life beyond his life. I believe in Christ in all who defend the individual from the iron boot of the extending collective state…

I have been accused of wooly-mindedness for entertaining even hope for man. I can only respond that 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 the fire. Yet some men listened, for the words survive.’

Darwin’s Doubt, Ichemoid Wasps, black Widows, Praying Mantises & Evolution

Caterpillar pic Linda    



Excerpt: Biodesign out For A Walk, Chap. ;21. Simple Gifts.

One of nature’s most outlandish displays of mystery is demonstrated

billions of time each year and goes mostly unnoticed and never

fully understood. It involves the “common” caterpillar. Whether

it spins a cocoon or secrets a chrysalis, what happens next is pure

mystery. Essentially, the pupa dissolves itself into a sort of cellular/

molecular soup. Molecule by molecule, cell by cell, all internal and

external systems are reconfigured. A score of legs are reduced to six.

Leaf-crunching mandibles are morphed into a tubular proboscis that

will suck nectar. The lethargic “worm” is transformed into a feather-light

gossamer that literally floats on the air.


Charles Darwin is arguably the Isaac Newton of the biological sciences. As such, however, he does not deserve the godlike status that some secular scientists have bestowed upon him, nor does he deserve the satanic status that as Fundamental Religious people have labeled him. He was a brilliant man who “thought outside the box,” and was more fortunate than Socrates, Jesus and countless other progressive thinkers who were put to death.

In a huge double irony, Darwin was not only unable to explain the Cambrian Explosion, but deeply troubled by the possibility that a “God of love” could create or allow some of the horrid examples of animal behavior that were necessary for his doctrine of “survival of the fittest” to occur.

 In a recent column by George Will:

“In 1860, Charles Darwin confided in a letter to a friend: ‘I had no intention to write atheistically, but I can not persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of the caterpillars.’

What appalled him had fascinated entomologist William Kirby (1759-1850): The ichneumon insect inserts an egg in a caterpillar, and the larva hatched from the egg “gnaws the inside of the caterpillar, and though at last it has devoured almost every part except the skin and intestines, carefully all this time avoids injuring the vital organs, as if aware that its own existence depends on the insect on which it preys.”

Although the story of the Ichneumonids may have been unpleasant to Darwin, nature is filled with gruesome, gory, heart-wrenching and cruel examples of disease, parasitism, and predatory animals drenched in blood, all for the sake of, “survival of the fittest.”

Whenever possible, Black Widow female spiders trap and devour their mate (after copulation). The classic, perhaps most bizarre case, is the female Praying Mantis who waits until her mate’s reproductive organ is firmly inserted in her body, before she turns her head around and devours him from the head down. Even after his head is gone, his thorax valiantly continues to throb and pulse, pumping vital sperm into her body.

Darwin knew that his theory had some missing links, but so did his childhood religion that presented God as the all-knowing, all-loving Creator. Perhaps, more significantly, he failed to mention the mysterious process of lepidopteron metamorphosis, whereby each caterpillar secrets a chrysalis (or spins a cocoon) and digests itself into cellular soup. It would be as if the most complex computer secreted a covering around itself, reduced all components to simple molecules, emerged in a totally new form and flew away on wings. Darwin knew that no utilitarian philosophy could explain the miraculous process and modern scientists are still at a loss as to how this can happen.

Happy Anniversary Christie

Happy Anniversary Christie

Excerpt: BOFAW, “In Thanksgiving.”

And finally, the omega factor is often the most important in a
list. If readers are not able to see, or perhaps more importantly feel
between the lines, and sense that Christie was the guiding light for
The Biodesign Class and this book, I will have failed. Her quiet life
of prayer and contemplation provided the unseen spirit that hovered
over the hundreds of circles we formed each year to compare, communicate,
and contemplate. Without her, I would likely have been
like Ingrid (class of ’84) who suggested that, “I could have been born,
grown up, grown old, and died without knowing what life was really
all about.”

It is a bittersweet realization to know that most visitors to Yosemite Valley can easily grasp John Muir’s metaphorical reference to The Valley being a Temple, but not be able to grasp that they are really seeing a reflection of the “temple” within. St. Paul was well aware of this when he wrote:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.

This concept was beautifully illustrated to Christie and me, 15 years after we were married. We attended a “Marriage Encounter,” week-end which was conducted by 15 couples who had dynamic marriages and wanted to share their secrets of success. I came away with three powerful reflections.

1) Feelings are neither right nor wrong, but how you respond to them can be.
2) Each married couple is a “Little Church” and should be a center of worship.
3) In order to accomplish this, each couple should spend 20 minutes a day focusing on their strengths and areas that can be improved.

Neither Christie nor I like to have our pictures taken. We also do not appreciate the misguided idea that “we” were responsible for The Biodesign Class and BOFAW. We were convinced of this the last time we visited Yosemite and Mendocino. Although they were still beautiful, they were hauntingly empty without the laughter, pain, joy and sorrow that the students radiated as they were coming alive.
John Muir did not like being, “Propped up for the populace to gawk at,” and neither do we and so Linda Williamson’s “Foreword” to BOFAW is a little embarrassing.

I now realize that one of the great lessons of Biodesign was learning
how a strong marriage works. Christie was, and is, the strength
behind the scenes; the wind beneath Lowell Young’s wings.

However, I humbly agree with her assessment and hope that if one person (or couple) benefits from this blog, it will not have been written in vain.
After all, 49 years ago, I was minding my own business, in the girls dorm at SFSU, when she walked by, wearing a stunning pink sweater and pants that were discretely too tight.
June 20 marks our 48th wedding anniversary and she is more beautiful now than when we met and can still fit in her wedding dress. LOL We have four fantastic children, nine precious grandchildren and an assorted passel of God-children and “spiritual refugees,” all of who have enriched our lives beyond our wildest dreams.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if I describe our marriage as equivalent to climbing 1,000 Half Domes, hiking Grand Canyon 1,000 times and being lulled to sleep 1,000 times by the Pacific Ocean.

African story tellers often end their stories with this prayer;

“This is my story.
Take from it what speaks truth for you.
The rest, send back home to me with a blessing.”

From both of us.

Metamorphosis and Adolescence

Metamorphosis and Adolescence


Every beautiful (and not so beautiful) butterfly must go through the torturous process of metamorphosis. Likewise, every adult human had to navigate the often traumatic, troublesome, sometimes terrifying labyrinth of teenagedom. Lori Evans, Bio.’79, recently invested six weeks of her time, talent and treasure in a group teens, introducing them to the dramatic world of William Shakespeare. Her mentor, Kevin Coleman, wrote one of the most concise expository essays on adolescence that I have read. In three brief paragraphs he encapsulates many of the aims, goals, objectives, hopes and dreams of Biodesign students who “only went out for a walk and discovered that going out was really going in.”

Kevin Coleman:

“Adolescence itself is often a time of CRISIS. As such, it is a time of both danger and opportunity. Adolescence is a time that can be extremely confusing, emotionally intense, terrifying, dangerous and desperate; numbing, rife with poor judgment and mistakes, fraught with hopelessness, resignation and despair. It can be a time of ecstasy, of ‘true love’, deep friendship, passionate expression and harrowing betrayal. Whatever can be said, adolescence is all that and more; it burns hotter and freezes colder. And it can all happen in the course of 1 day.


Adolescence is itself a kind of RENAISSANCE. It is a time of unparalleled potential to develop intellectually, emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually, socially, psychologically, and existentially. When adventures that are personally meaningful are absent or overlooked or un-attempted, or when the ability to attempt to create them is not developed or supported, these potentials can atrophy (diminish, become dreary, fearful or hopeless, retreat into resignation, rot). Conversely, these potentials can go postal, ‘act out’, or seek expression in unfulfilling, inappropriate-even extremely destructive ways.


Adolescence needs RITES OF PASSAGE. It needs those intensely experienced, dangerous moments when we transition from child to adult: those peak moments that are: 1) personally meaningful, 2) esteemed by the surrounding culture and 3) risk real or imagined death. Adolescence is a time of needing-to-be-tested in new ways, more extreme ways. When cultural, social, familial or interpersonal testing opportunities are not personally meaningful, or rightly esteemed by others, or intense enough, adolescents will often seek out or create others that are, however reckless, irresponsible or dangerous. Rights of passage are why and how we grow up.”


Coleman’s terse, yet powerful, essay conjured up two immediate reflections. First, I am amazed that I survived adolescence. Two of my high school buddies were killed in a horrifying car crash. That could have been me several times. But there were countless other times when I could have ended up in jail, nothing felonious, but definitely worthy of a “time out” in the “the cooler.”


The other is much more current. John Muir deeply admired RW Emerson. However, when he came to visit Muir at Yosemite, he refused to sleep outside for even one night. Emerson was 72 years and his entourage felt he would risk catching a cold or pneumonia. As Emerson left Yosemite, Muir was deeply saddened and wondered how someone could write so profoundly about nature from his office in Concord Massachusetts. I had the same question about Coleman. I spent 24 years of learning about adolescents by interacting with them in the wilderness so how could he learn so much about them by “playing” around with them in dramatic presentations. It was a delightfully humbling revelation.




The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence


Inspired by a photo from Jane berg.


Excerpt: BOFAW, Simple Gifts.


A boot that I had not heard squeak suddenly sounded like a loud stair squeak. A

squeaky clevis pin on my backpack sounded like a rusty gate opening.

The blood rushing through my ears became audible and a little

spooky. This happened when no air moved, no insect buzzed, no

bird chirped; it was the silence of death. Ironically, as in many close

encounters with death, life often takes on a deeper, richer meaning.


Grand Canyon has so many amazing gifts that it is impossible begin to identify or comprehend them. I suspect, however, that 99% of the visitors are missing out on one of the greatest, the gift of silence. In this case, you truly have to go there to know there. There is something mysterious, ephemeral, and maybe a little spooky about dropping below The Canyon Rim and leaving all the noise and clutter of society above. Each year, several million tourists drive to The South Rim, look over the edge, buy a hamburger, ‘T” shirt or coffee mug and head for Las Vegas. Out of over 4 million visitors, only a few thousand people hike down into The Canyon and fewer make it to Phantom Ranch. Taking the mule ride down can be exciting, hiking with a partner or friends can be a great experience, however, only by hiking alone can you experience moments of a vacuum-like silence. The experience is unique to each person but can be cathartic, scary, thrilling or include a spiritual epiphany.

In Barbara Moritsch’s, “The Soul Of Yosemite,” she properly documents the problems of “loving Yosemite to death.” Grand Canyon NP has had its own struggles, but has made some wonderful improvements. People began to flock to The Canyon in the 1950s and ‘60s. All of the typical concessions of hotels, restaurants, gift shops etc. expanded with the increasing tourist dollars. However, Grand Canyon incurred a problem that was nearly unknown in all the other Parks “AIR PLANES!” Big planes, small planes, fixed wing and helicopters assaulted the Park like huge roaring locusts. Commercial airlines planned flight lanes over The Canyon as an advertising ploy. Dozens of daily sight-seeing flights, originating from Phoenix, Flagstaff and Las Vegas began landing at the small Grand Canyon Airport. Many of them flew over, or even down into, sections of The Canyon. Perhaps, because of their aerobatic ability, the most insidious planes were the squadrons of helicopters that took thrill seeking tourists down into the Canyon, close to the steep walls, sometimes mere feet above the Colorado River. Over a period of several years, the great gift of silence was shattered. Hikers who enjoyed solitude and sacredness of peace and quiet were insulted with dozens of daily intrusions. After years of being “deaf” to both noise and hiker complaints, the NPS began an aggressive program of noise abatement. Commercial air carriers were required to avoid the air space over The Canyon. Tourist flights from Phoenix, Flagstaff and Las Vegas were routed away from The Canyon and required to fly directly to Grand Canyon Airport, seven miles from the rim. Even the NPS took a proactive role and reduced “casual” helicopter flights from Headquarters to Phantom Ranch. Currently, Park Service flights are restricted to emergency use or cases where the use of mules is deemed unsafe or grossly impractical. The result has been a huge reduction of airplane-generated noise. The photo that Jane Berg provided offers a snapshot of part of the Park Service commitment to noise reduction. It would be much easier, and more efficient to supply Phantom Ranch with helicopter service; it would also destroy one of the greatest experiences of hiking in Grand Canyon. The last five or six Biodesign Classes experienced the return of silence to The Canyon. Typically, I let the students hike out ahead of me while I enjoyed the quiet mysteries and solitude. If Christie was along, there were great spaces between our words. Typically, there was also a rude foreboding of our return to “civilization.” Somewhere, at or nearby, Indian Gardens, we would hear the distant, muted wail of the Grand Canyon R-R steam engine approaching the station. Some students later described the wail as nostalgic. As for us, it was a sad warning that we were about to leave one of the most amazing places on Earth and return to the noise, clatter, fumes of tour buses and what confused minds regard as reality.