Every journey needs guiding stars. Mine have been nature, literature,
teaching, and human relationships.
Urban New Jersey instilled a childhood longing for lakes and forests.
Dartmouth College kindled a passion for books and mountains. The
wisdom and beauty of poetry combined with great teaching to make
academia look like a promised land.
Then the Army preempted grad school for language training in California.
But weekend escapes to the Big Sur and the High Sierra brought
healing and transformation. I discovered the nature writers and
hiked the John Muir Trail. Back at Yale, Muir’s copy of Emerson
appeared in the rare book library. I took my students up Mount
Katahdin after reading Thoreau’s The Maine Woods.
The next ten years were an education in teaching. The University
of Utah and Carleton College supported work in American literature
and writing along with special topics like Dante, environmental
studies, and natural history. My students explored the Canyonlands
and the Boundary Waters, inspiring wilderness essays for Orion.
1986-87 brought watershed change: marriage, fatherhood, a graduate
deanship at the Union Institute in Cincinnati. For the next eighteen
years I learned about urban nature and adult education while raising
a family and writing books. I developed ten graduate seminars in
literature and environmental studies and supervised thirty-six
Meanwhile, ecocriticism emerged with opportunities for national
leadership as President of ASLE
(Association for the Study of Literature and Environment), as a Director of the Orion
Society, and as a
reader and series editor for trade and university presses. PBS,
NPR, and the Chronicle of Higher Education all covered aspects
of this work, which I now continue in private practice.
Innovative teaching and scholarship have always thrived at the
margins of disciplines, where thought and imagination blend. Naturalists
call such an edge the ecotone, a place of biotic richness and evolutionary
ferment. My books and essays draw insight from this kind of ground.
They use natural history, ecocriticism, and creative nonfiction
to probe both wilderness and urban environments, looking for ways
to connect with nature and deepen our spiritual life.
Likewise, my faculty development workshops and custom seminars create learning communities through active
facilitation, interactive presentations, and experiential activities
grounded in scholarship. My literary coaching helps people discover
their “real work,” listen for their emerging story,
and nurture the voice they need to tell it with clarity, economy,
A true teacher knows that learning depends on listening, that
story speaks more deeply than information, and that process can
be just as important as product. The Inuit call such a person isumutaq, “one
who can create the conditions where wisdom shows itself.”
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"Naturalists call such an edge the ecotone, a place of
biotic richness and evolutionary ferment."