Finding God in the Natural World

"I was raised to believe in a spirit world, that life exists before the earth and will continue to exist afterward, that each human being, bird, and bulrush, along with all other life forms had a spirit life before it came to dwell physically on the earth. Each occupied an assigned sphere of influence, each has a place and a purpose.

"It made sense to a child. And if the natural world was assigned spiritual values, then those days spent in wildness were sacred. We learned at an early age that God can be found wherever you are, especially outside. Family worship was not just relegated to Sunday in a chapel."
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Sacred Sojourns

"I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward. I pray to them because I believe in their existence, the way their songs begin and end each day — the invocations and benedictions of Earth. I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen."
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Exploring the Canyons of Southern Utah

"Once I enter the Joint Trail, it is as though I am walking through the inside of an animal. It is dark, cool, and narrow with sheer sandstone walls on either side of me. I look up, a slit of sky above. Light is deceptive here. The palms of my hands search for a pulse in the rocks. I continue walking. In some places my hips can barely fit through. I turn sideways, my chest and back in a vise of geologic time. I stop. The silence that lives in these sacred hallways presses against me. I relax. I surrender. I close my eyes. The arousal of my breath rises in me like music, like love, as the possessive muscles between my legs tighten and release. I come to the rock in a moment of stillness, giving and receiving, where there is no partition between my body and the body of the Earth."
Desert Quartet: An Erotic Landscape

My Grandmother's Shells

"When I die,' she said smiling, 'these shells will be your inheritance.'

"Thirty years later, these shells — the same shells my grandmother collected on her solitary walks along the beach, the shells we spread out on the turquoise carpet of her study, the shells we catalogued, the shells I bathed with — now rest in a basket on a shelf in my study. They remind me of my natural history, that I was tutored by a woman who courted solitude and made pilgrimages to the edges of our continent in the name of her own pleasure, that beauty, awe, and curiosity were values illuminated in our own home.

"My grandmother's contemplation of shells has become my own. Each shell is a whorl of creative expression, an architecture of a soul. I can hold Melongena corona to my ear and hear not only the ocean's voice, but the whisperings of my beloved teacher."
An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field

The Fullness We Feel after Prayer

"Spiritual beliefs are not something alien from Earth, but rise out of its very soil. Perhaps our first gestures of humility and gratitude were extended to Earth through prayer, the recognition that we exist by the grace of something beyond ourselves. Call it God. Call it Wind. Call it a thousand different names. Corn pollen sprinkled over the nose of deer. Incense sprinkled from swaying balls held by a priest. Arms folded, heads bowed. The fullness we feel after prayer is the acknowledgment that we are not alone in our struggles and sufferings. We can engage in dialogue with the Sacred, with God and each other. A suffering that cannot be shared is a suffering that cannot be endured."

Wild Mercy Is in Our Hands

"The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wildness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands."
Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

Bowing to My Homeland

"I choose to err on the side of preservation, and stand shoulder to shoulder with brother and sisters in our shared desire to protect the last, large expanse of wilderness we have left.

"Once strengthened by our association with the wild, we can return to family and community. Each of us belongs to a particular landscape, one that informs who we are, a place that carries our history, our dreams, holds us to a moral line of behavior that transcends thought. And in each of these places, home work is required, a participation in public life to make certain all is not destroyed under the banner of progress, expediency, or ignorance. We cannot do it alone. This is the hope of a bedrock democracy, standing our ground in the places we love, together.

"Red is a gesture and bow to my homeland.

"I want to write my way from the margins to the center. I want to speak the language of the grasses, rooted yet soft and supple in the presence of wind before a storm. I want to write in the form of migrating geese like an arrow pointing south toward a direction of safety. I want to keep my words wild so that even if the land and everything we hold dear is destroyed by shortsightedness and greed, there is a record of beauty and passionate participation by those who saw what was coming."

Listen. Below us. Above us. Inside us. Come. This is all there is.
Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

The Open Space of Democracy

"We remember that our character has been shaped by the diversity of America's landscapes and it is precisely that character that will protect it. Cooperation is valued more than competition; prosperity becomes the caretaker of poverty. The humanities are not peripheral, but the very art of what it means to be human.

"In the open space of democracy, beauty is not optional, but essential to our survival as a species. And technology is not rendered at the expense of life, but developed out of a reverence for life. . . .

"In the future, brave men and women will write a Declaration of Interdependence that will be read and honored alongside the Declaration of Independence: proof of our evolution, revolution of our own growth and understanding.

"The open space of democracy provides justice for all living things — plants, animals, rocks, and rivers, as well as human beings. It is a landscape that encourages diversity and discourages conformity."
The Open Space of Democracy

A Plea for Empathy Toward the Other

"Most people are not comfortable making a connection between racism and specism or the ill treatment of human beings and the mistreatment of animals. We want to keep our boundaries clean and separate. But isn't that the point, to separate, isolate, and discriminate? We create hierarchies, viewing life from the top down, top being, of course, God, then a ranking of human races, and so our judgments move down 'the Great Chain of Being' until we touch rocks. This is the attitude of power, and it hinges on who is in control. Who has power over whom? How does this kind of behavior infiltrate the psyche of a culture? And what are the consequences of scala naturæ?

"Arrogance is arrogance, and cruelty committed to a person or an animal is cruelty. We would rather not think too much about 'what is being done to those outside the sphere of the favored group,' yet I believe it is time in the evolution of our imagination to make a strong case for the extension of our empathy toward the Other."
Finding Beauty in a Broken World