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Please forgive me as I temporarily digress from my normal discourse on patterns and connections in Nature to tell you about the most wonderful summer I have experienced in many years. A summer of growing passions for protecting Nature.

I just returned to my home in Mexico after an incredible ten weeks of engaging Nature. I’ve spent the last seven summers living in my camper and engaging Nature in the forests, meadows, and mountains of North America – from the Mexican border all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Much of my writing on this blog and in my books as well as my nature photography  have come during these solitary forays.

These summers have been my opportunity to connect, one-on-one, with Nature’s three voices – her aesthetic voice, her spiritual voice, and her logical voice.

What made this summer so unique and precious is that I chose to “shunpike”. Look it up on Google !! It is a real word with great meaning. I completely “shunned” “turnpikes” (shunpike – get it?) – following only secondary roads. Many times the roads were far less than secondary. Forest service dirt roads with barely a trace of vehicle traffic was common for me.

I followed these roads to find where they would take me. I had no plan or time schedule. I let circumstances, curiosity, and my quest for adventure  lead me. I let Mother Nature come to me. If you’ve studied any Tao, this is called “wu-wei” – effortless effort.

I would stay at a place until Nature and I agreed that it was time for me to leave.  Long stays of around 10 days happened when I was free to engage Nature without human generated environmental damage or noise pollution (see my “Broken Links” post). It was with the long stays that I got to “know” a place. I’d sit for hours empty handed as I absorbed Nature. Only when I felt a connection did I bring out the camera and notebook. 

Through shunpiking, I was able to observe both the positive and the negative side of human interaction with Nature. I saw families enjoy and engage Nature. Parents teaching their kids about trees and rocks and birds. Youngsters shrieked with glee at each new discovery. I also saw the   destructive nature of  mankind.  ATV traffic, dogs barking, and government sponsored logging and grazing halted wildlife activity in the forest. 

This summer, while letting Nature lead me, I became much more aware of our need as humans to protect our wilderness and educate our children in wilderness protection. Nature photographer Rafael Rojas offers us the idea that our very survival as a race depends on a protective consciousness:

“By protecting wilderness, we protect ourselves first of all. In the end, all the environmental causes focus on our well-being. Unless we make the planet explode from the core, nature will never perish, and where mountains exist today, deserts will appear or tropical forests will grow. When we talk about protecting the environment, we talk about conserving our home, improving our quality of life, becoming happier and healthier and living in a more balanced way. If we do not do things properly, our chance will pass and our species will decline. Give the earth some billions of years, and it will recover as if we had never been here.”

This summer has instilled a passion in me. As Rumi puts it:

“Mature yourself and be secure from a change for the worse. Become the light”

It is my hope that this blog and my photography will help promote a positive and protective consciousness toward Nature. 

Much of my inspiration and my passion for doing this blog, writing my books, pursuing nature photography, and volunteering for conservation efforts comes from these summers alone in Nature. But my encouragement and my energy to do these things comes from close friends and family as well as those of you who I only know through the Internet. We exchange dialog by way of comments on blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, occasional emails, and a phone call once in a while.

As this blog site on patterns in Nature approaches its first anniversary, I want to thank all of you for the interchange. There seems to be growing interest in my subject since I am now experiencing about 2,000 page views a month ( Update: Now over 4,000 page views as of 1 May 2013). For this interest and exchange, I am very grateful.

The end result that I’m hoping for is an expanded dialog on the subject of patterns in Nature. And with this, your help in communicating the critical importance of preserving connections in Nature in order to insure our survival as a species. I’m hoping that all of you will join me in helping our fellow humans build a healthy consciousness and reverence for Nature.  

Please join me in this effort.

My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.

4 thoughts on “Shunpiking”


    Those look amazingly like elk rubbings – when the elk are rubbing off the velvet on their antlers, they can do an incredible amount of damage to small trees, even (often) killing them. If there are baby pine trees in the area, they seem to prefer those. Scratchier? Its one of the signs hunters look for to see if there are bulls in the area. Of course, we also have those who write their names in the bark…we have some that go back to the Basque sheepherders in the late 1800’s.

    What you are seeing here is the black fungus, or canker, that invades damaged areas and is very common. The tree grows around it, and we have seen mature climax trees where it or something like it can go up the center of the tree quite a ways. Its just part of the forest.

    Of course, there are parts of the forest like bark beetle that have been with us for millenia but can devastate huge swaths of trees. Man isn’t always helpful, either! I ask: Are we part of the forest, too? Are we a part of nature, or separate from it? If we are part of nature, and I think we are, as God’s creations, too. We are nonetheless the part that reasons at a level beyond instinct, and can do something about our actions. Yet we are also driven by survival needs. When we observe the destruction of the rain forest by marginal farmers doing slash and burn, we have a responsibility to stop the destruction, but how do we replace livelihood?

    We look at our own actions, and try to begin there. In some cases, that is all we can do. Sometimes we can do more, yet our efforts are often a tribute to the law of unexpected consequences. But we have to try anyway, on an individual level, and on a global one.

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