ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Wild Life with Mary Oliver

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
~ Mary Oliver (“The summer day”)

Wild Life: Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

Wild Life with Mary Oliver

Will you spring up from your pillow in the morning, heart racing, mind wild with questions and dreams? Will you sing softly then louder – to your spouse, your child, your dog, your view – an extemporaneous anthem of wants and wills and when’s and why’s?

Will you step into a steaming shower and listen to the raindrops and streams and oceans as you suds yesterday from your skin and hair? Or will you stride past the shower, the bathtub, the sink and dance directly to the lake? Will you dive in and swim until the shore calls you home again.

Will you pluck swollen raspberries from the brambles, grapes from the vines that wind through the fence around the garden, an apple from the gnarled tree in the first meadow?

And then, rested and clean and sated, how will you live this wild and precious morning?

Good luck! (And thank you, Mary Oliver.)

Mary Oliver Resources

The Emerald Mile: Kevin Fedarko’s Intrepid Tale

Kenton Grua, Rudi Petschek, and Steve “Wren” Reynolds… embarked on [an adventure] in late June of 1983, when they defied common sense and the National Park Service and set off, at night, to attempt a record-breaking speed run down the Colorado River in a 17-foot wooden dory called the Emerald Mile… To get from A to Z, they figured, would require roughly two nights and days of furious rowing. That is, assuming they lived through it… (

The Emerald Mile, by Kevin Fedarko

The Emerald Mile, by Kevin Fedarko

This attention-grabbing introduction to Kevin Fedarko‘s “Rocketing Into the Great Unknown: The Emerald Mile on the Colorado River” appeared in Outside Online in conjunction with the launch of the author’s nonfiction account, The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Though the Heart of the Grand Canyon.

Yes, the title’s looong. But if you’re chronicling a hair raising, adrenaline pumping, teeth rattling, skull crunching story about three intrepid watermen’s conquest of the Colorado River during impossibly furious conditions, I suppose you can wrap your title up and down the spine as many times as you can fit. At least if you’re a virtuoso storyteller. And Kevin Fedarko is nothing less.

I had the good fortune of listening to him read from The Emerald Mile a couple of nights ago at Collected Works in Santa Fe, and I can vouch for his storytelling. Top notch. I bought four copies, three as gifts, and one to read aloud to my bride. We. Will. Enjoy.

Kevin Fedarko

Kevin Fedarko

Here’s the skinny. Fedarko has intertwined two stories, one about a rare (and really scary) confluence of events in the Grand Canyon in 1983 and another about the natural wonder itself. The Glen Canyon Dam (and the perspectives of those who created and manage it) offers a sort of corollary tale as riveting as the three dory men’s once-in-a-lifetime daredevil escapade.

I’ll update this post once I’ve finished reading The Emerald Mile, but until then I encourage you to visit Fedarko’s Emerald Mile Facebook page to learn more about his hydraulic adventure. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s the Kirkus Review:

Man’s indomitable need for adventure is the only thing more impressive than the awesome power of nature and the brilliance of technology described in this lovingly rendered retelling of one of the most remarkable events ever to occur inside the Grand Canyon. (Kirkus)

Intrigued? Let me know what you think.

Commit. Begin. Now.

What will you do? (Image by virtualDavis)

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

~ W. H. Murray, The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951

Murray’s passage has occasionally been maligned because he erroneously attributed the following couplet to Goethe.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

Okay, let's do this!

It strikes me as a bit petty to toil in criticism in the face of useful motivation and beauty. Besides, boldness does pack plenty of power under the hood. And — whoever we credit with the seed that grew into this passage — the most important message is shoehorned into the last three words underpinning all commitment. Begin it now. What will you do?

Faust: Begin it Now

And, by the way, if you’re feeling persnickety (or just curious) here’s Goethe on the matter of dallying, boldness, commitment and action.

Enough words have been exchanged;
Now at last let me see some deeds!
While you turn compliments,
Something useful should transpire.
What use is it to speak of inspiration?
To the hesitant it never appears.
If you would be a poet,
Then take command of poetry.
You know what we require,
We want to down strong brew;
So get on with it!
What does not happen today, will not be done tomorrow,
And you should not let a day slip by,
Let resolution grasp what’s possible
and seize it boldly by the hair;
it will not get away
and it labors on, because it must.

~ Goethe, Faust I, Zeilen 214-230 (Goethe, Faust and Tricky Translations)

Now are you ready to begin? Begin it now!

Georgina Goodwin: Kenyan Journalist

Georgina Goodwin, Kenyan photographer

Georgina Goodwin, Kenyan photographer

My bride and I met effervescent Nairobi, Kenya based photographer/journalist/adventurer Georgina Goodwin when we eloped in 2005. Sheer luck. She was the photographer we serendipitously hired to photograph our traditional Masai rites in the Mara bush. We were instant fans and friends, and our lives have been intertwined ever since.

Ms. Goodwin is singularly beguiling, and not just for those hazel eyes and winning smile. Her bold images are trumped only by the stories they tell.

My work on THE WORLD OF WOMEN looks at… the way women manage and balance the system despite oftentimes difficult and compromising situations. Being the only young white female Kenyan photojournalist in the world this makes my view of the stories I photograph unique, a bridge of understanding between worlds… I must do my best to honor them their stories. ~ Georgina Goodwin

Ms. Goodwin’s bravery and compassion inspire, awe and worry us again and again. Discover her photographs and connect with the woman behind the lens here:

Today is your final opportunity to help Ms. Goodwin win the One Life Photography Competition which would accelerate her already meteoric rise.

This project is presented by Artists Wanted and PDN Magazine. Since 2007, Artists Wanted has distributed over $1.5 million in grants and awards to creatives like you, while PDN has been a leading photography publication for over 30 years.” (

If Georgina Goodwin wins the One Life Photography Competition she will receive a gallery exhibition in New York City; a showcase at PDN PhotoPlus Expo 2012; a $25,000 grant; a feature in PDN Magazine; and a photo essay in the One Life Catalog. And it will validate her fearless adventure. I sincerely hope that you’ll help propel her to winning the One Life Photography Competition. Thanks!

No Pants Subway Ride

On Sunday, January 8th, 2012 tens of thousands of people took off their pants on subways in 59 cities in 27 countries around the world. In New York, our 11th Annual No Pants Subway Ride had nearly 4,000 participants, spread out over six meeting points and ten subway lines… If you’re unfamiliar with this event, you might want to first read our history of The No Pants Subway Ride. Since this is the 11th year we’ve done this, there’s not too much to report other than it was another awesome time. (Improv Everywhere)

You’ve gotta love Improv Everywhere and their annual No Pants Subway Ride. Unless you’re too stiff to drop your trousers in public without blinking an eye. Unless you’re too uptight to smile and laugh when the fellow next to you drops his trousers in public without blinking and eye. Spontaneous acts of generosity and hilarity resuscitate levity which is darned near as important as nourishment, respiration and sleep. So say I.

Can you recommend another upbeat improv video or post?

If you’re in need of a wee bit more shake-of-the-blues improv happiness, check out “Black Tie Beach“, “Worst Ice Skater or Best Entertainer? and/or “Welcome To Heathrow Airport“. Bet your day’s going better already!

Monday Morning Meander

English: Meander on the River Dee just west of...

Monday Morning Meander (Image via Wikipedia)

My Mondays typically are energetic, frenetic, anxious. All weekend I’ve been building up To Do lists and massaging my timelines, and by the time I crawl out from under the comforter to share breakfast with Griffin, my Labrador Retriever, my mind is already off to the races.

I suspect that there’s a Monday Morning archetype with lots of other caffeinated-before-your-caffeinated folks who know exactly what I’m talking about. Which validates my suspicions that we all need to break pace for a few moments and meander to refresh the dreams and go juices. If you’re understanding me so far, this post may be for you. Let’s meander together for a few minutes before we pull back into heavy traffic or return to slaying dragons or charming venomous snakes.

Are you social? Digitally social? Plenty gab to be had of late regarding merits and demerits of social networks, but GigaOm‘s recent post, “Do authors have to be social? No, but it helps.“, is worth a look.

Mat Johnson described the people he follows on Twitter as his “dream party guests — interesting strangers whose wit keeps me coming back.” But Johnson also put his finger on another reason that some authors like him have taken to social media like Twitter: the ability to connect directly with potential readers. As he put it: “I’ve never had a single ad for any of my novels, had a movie made or been given a big budget push by a publisher. Usually, they just throw my book out to reviewers and hope it floats. Twitter lets me hijack the promotion plane, sidestep the literary establishment and connect directly to my current and potential audience… It’s a meritocracy; if you’re interesting, you get followed.” (GigaOM: Tech News and Analysis)

I’m borrowing Johnson’s Twitter/dream party guests analogy the next time I try to explain the joys of skinny dipping in the tweet stream to a perplexed (or dismissive) audience. And while I’m thinking about dream party guests, what happened to Kevin Smokler? Was he abducted by aliens? Or is he just giving a fall/winter rest. Back in the spring?

@ This is why we need your #TED talk. Tyler Cowen takes a cynical, skeptical look at stories #gagreflex
Karl Sprague

Are you familiar with narrative pollyannaism? Fellow optimist Karl Sprague just introduced me to its antithesis, died in the cloth story skepticism. Economist Tyler Cowen’s TEDxTalk distills the dark, devious, dangers of storytelling in his warning, “Be suspicious of stories“.

Cowen admits a weakness for compelling narratives, but he’s concerned that stories oversimplify our messy lives. He reminds us that stories distort complex human nature, interactions and institutions potentially misguiding us and fueling bias and self-deception.

He’s right, of course.

As Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics at George Mason University and co-author of economics blog Marginal Revolution and an avalanche of economics books, Cowen is right about a lot. And despite taking a few laps to warm up, his dry, self-deprecating sense of humor prevails, gradually softening his admonition. And his nod to Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s Living to Tell the Tale ultimately won me over.

“Life is not what one lives, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Stories do distort and oversimplify. But so do street signs, the nightly news, education, modern medicine, music and virtually every other human invention. His bottom line?

Be more comfortable with messy. Be more comfortable with agnostic…” (TEDxTalks)

I can live with that.

And what better way to wrap up than a digital recap of Sunday’s meander? Yesterday John Davis (@trekeast) and I escaped with our brides and progeny for a Parch Pond adventure. This Eddy Foundation wilderness holding includes a handsome pond which was frozen and snow-free, perfect skating. Here’s a clip shot by Mr. TrekEast on his iPhone:

For additional images from the outing, check out “Skating Parch Pond“.

Dream. Share. Live.

My friend Mia Starr (@fourdaysaweek) just shared her dream with me. Via Twitter. Via a comment on her blog. Via this video. Via the Holstee Manifesto which has inspired many, been shared by hundreds of thousands and will make you happier, healthier, wiser, sexier, funnier, calmer (and did I mention happier?) if you take a few seconds to read it. And then reread it. And then smile. Out loud. With friends.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, STOP. They will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analyzing. All emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate life is simple. Every last bite. Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people. We are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is. And share your inspiring dream with them. Travel often. Getting lost will help you find yourself. SOME OPPORTUNITIES ONLY COME ONCE, SEIZE THEM. Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them. So go out and start creating. LIFE IS SHORT. LIVE YOUR DREAM. AND SHARE YOUR PASSION. (FOUR DAYS A WEEK)

Did you reread it? I did. Did you feel like you could have written those words? I did. Maybe that’s why it’s so compelling. Familiar. As if we’ve been reminded of something that we already knew but maybe had forgotten about. Temporarily misplaced. Recovered. What a way to start the new year!

I couldn’t resist adding a comment. A goofy-but-sincere comment…

I dream. Aloud. Every day. Because I can. And because I can’t help it. I dream of telling stories and discovering new stories, of hearing the singing underneath, of gardening more and shopping less, of flanerie and adventure, of windy sailing and still sunrises, of continuing to fall in love with my bride after six years of marriage and a decade together, of stretching boundaries and nourishing imaginations, of giving back as much as I receive. This is my dream. This is my life. Thanks for asking, Mia!

Do what you love. Risk. Adventure. Create. Share. Inspire. Here’s to a reinvigorated life!

2012 New Year’s Resolutions

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

Resolutions (Image via Wikipedia)

Cheers to a razzle-dazzle 2012! I’m saluting the new year with a confession: I failed my top resolution for 2011.

There it is. I tried. I failed. Period. But last year is history, and the new year is my story!

That’s right, I’m totally undaunted. Humbled but not discouraged. Perhaps I was overly ambitious. Perhaps my resolve faltered. Perhaps I needed humility, checked ambition, faltering resolve. Perhaps I needed to unlearn and relearn and regroup and refocus…

One year ago today — with all the hubris and fanfare of a precocious adolescent — I threw caution to the wind and sang out across the interwebs.

I do hereby firmly resolve to publish Rosslyn Redux in multiple formats and to share my experiences over the next year while moving toward this goal.

My most important 2011 new year’s resolution was to deliver Rosslyn Redux to its audience. And I failed. Mostly…

But rather than sulking and groveling and begging absolution, I’m going to double down. My timing was off, but my goals were spot on. Last year whistled past like a downtown express which sucked my clutch of papers and carefully coiffed do down the tube in its wake. After standing on the platform for a while I learned to read an iPad and wear a hat. Now when the train bullets past I don’t blink.

My 2011 resolution numero uno eluded me, but I made strides and learned plenty over the last twelve months. Now I’m ready to deliver on my promise. I’m gambling that new year’s resolutions (like wine and cheese) tend to improve with proper maturation!

But good cellaring alone won’t be enough to deliver the goods. Dreams are dandy, but it takes good fundamentals and process to mature goals into accomplishments. Here are a few pointers I’ve collected to help guide me.

  • pick very small resolutions, measurable actions that you can fulfill… You want small goals you can meet in a short time. (
  • make your resolution specific, with a tangible, achievable outcome. (
  • create a timeline… that gives you enough time to make the right choice. (How to keep your New Year’s Resolutions)
  • Get back to scrappy… and do fewer things, better. (
  • outline the small, manageable steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve [your resolutions]… [Create a] a step-by-step plan…  (
  • [When you encounter] setbacks, don’t throw in the towel. Pick yourself up and start again. Setbacks are not a sign of failure; they are opportunities to learn and start again. (
  • Counterbalance all of these resolutions with a resolution that inspires you. Something you just want to do… Something that just makes you happy to be alive for another year. (

Not bad coaching, right? So far I’ve got goal and guidance. What’s missing? Inspiration. For the rocket fuel of success, no better place to turn than Seth Godin.

The thing is, we still live in a world that’s filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity — we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.

You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day… you have the power to change everything that’s to come. And you can do that by asking yourself (and your colleagues) the one question that every organization and every individual needs to ask today: Why not be great? (

I always and forever agree: we live in a world filled with opportunity. And we have an obligation to find, create, inspire and share greatness. In order to do so, we have an obligation to take risks.

I mentioned earlier that I mostly failed to deliver Rosslyn Redux to its audience. There are two exceptions. Last April the Rosslyn Redux blog was born. Nine months and four dozen posts later readership is growing and the chronicle/adventure is evolving. While working through the book manuscript the blog offers an open workshop to learn from my readers what is working and what is compelling and what is not. Reader comments and feedback have become an invaluable measure of my storytelling and focus, and I’m excited to ramp up the posts in the new years.

The second exception was Redacting Rosslyn, a solo performance at The Depot Theatre of readings, storytelling and vignettes ranging from a wader-wearing Amazon named Rosslyn to a perennially pickled bathtub yachtsman. Turning my book inside out for a capacity audience was scary and thrilling and addictive. I wanted to stay in that collaborative space, that creative tension between storyteller and audience forever. It was the first time that I’ve invite the public into the story, the first time I’ve shared the characters and scenarios with which I’ve been obsessed for years. The performance explored the uncanny parallel between renovating Rosslyn and redacting the Rosslyn Redux manuscript.

Renovating Rosslyn was an adventure. Writing and editing Rosslyn Redux is an adventure. Redacting Rosslyn is an interstitial adventure tucked into the folds of both, a wander into the unfamiliar. And it demands new methods and rhythms, new risks, new exploration. (

In this world filled with opportunity, this world in which we have an obligation to take risks, the blog and the live performance were my first two forays into the fulfillment of my 2011 new year’s resolution. In 2012, they will serve as the foundation upon which I find, create, inspire and share greatness.

I do hereby firmly resolve to publish Rosslyn Redux in multiple formats in 2012. In the weeks ahead I resolve to define small, measurable actions and to arrange them into a viable timeline in order to produce specific, achievable outcomes. I’ll organize a step-by-step plan and reduce it to the fewest, most necessary elements in order to succeed. I’ll get scrappy when necessary, and I’ll turn setbacks into lessons that will propel me toward my goal. One year from today I will celebrate success.

Thank you for your confidence!


Sarah Kay: Seth Godin’s Last Domino

Seth Godin's Last Domino: Publication of Sarah Kay's poem "B" marks the end  of the year long Domino Project.

Seth Godin is turning the page on The Domino Project following publication of Sarah Kay's poem "B".

“Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don’t last forever.” ~ Seth Godin

A year after Seth Godin launched The Domino Project he’s calling it quits. He summed up the takeaways in his post, “The last hardcover” which merits more rumination (preferably with several friends including an author, a publisher, and editor, an agent and a bottle of eighteen year old Laphroaig,) but absent the minds and the bottle of Scotch at 9:00am in my study, I’ll limit myself to an invitation and a few amuse-gueules.

First off, why’d he quit? What did he learn. And why’d he do it in the first place?

“The plan was to build a publishing imprint, powered by Amazon and filled with thoughtful books by inspired authors.” ~ Seth Godin

Right. So it was an experiment, Godin’s a laboratory for testing “what could be done in a fast-changing environment. Rather than whining about the loss of the status quo, I thought it would be interesting to help invent a new status quo and learn some things along the way.” (“The last hardcover”) Did you catch that? Godin stepped away from the traditional publishing world which had become increasingly bogged down in neigh saying and resisting the rapidly evolving publishing industry in order to help reinvent the publishing industry! That’s an ambitious experiment by my yardstick. And by his own estimation, it was a largely successful experiment.

It’s worth noting that even envisioning, announcing and launching The Domino Project was a successful experiment. The impact was real and the aftershocks are still tickling the tummies of the publishing industry. But catalyzing debate, driving change and incubating/publishing “twelve bestsellers, published in many languages around the world” is only part of the equation, you can bet on that. Savant Seth’s projects are rarely so tidy. They have tentacles and afterlives… He’s experimenting again. Authors need closure. Start a book; finish a book. Go on to the next. You can be sure that the phoenix already incubating amidst The Domino Project ashes will rise again, will rise soon, and will awe/shock many.

Prime time to reference Sarah Kay‘s short poem B, The Domino Project’s dazzling caboose and one of TEDTalks’ most riveting performances. Did you see it?

“There are plenty of things that I have trouble understanding, so I write poems to figure things out. Sometimes the only way I know how to work through something is by writing a poem. And sometimes I get to the end of the poem and look back and go, “Oh, that’s what this is all about.” And sometimes I get to the end of the poem and haven’t solved anything, but at least I have a new poem out of it.” ~ Sarah Kay

I understand this as if I’d written it, spoken it, myself. I wonder, wander and write to figure things out, to discover and ponder and sometimes even untangle the mysteries and adventures which swirl around me. Sometimes, not often. But at least I have the poem, the story, the journey. I suspect that Godin nodded his shiny pate when he first heard Sarah Kay explain what compels her to create poetry. I suspect that he realized Kay’s poem was the perfect way to conclude an experiment that had succeeded before it began, an experiment that discovered more mysteries and more adventures than it untangled or resolved. Whether a book, another project or a still unfathomable experiment, I’m confident that Godin’s next experiment will both awe and shock in the tradition of the best poets and oracles.

Until then, I offer you several remaining bite-sized-but-brain-busting amuse-gueules to challenge your own experiments.

“The ebook is a change agent like none the book business has ever seen. It cuts the publishing time cycle by 90%, lowers costs, lowers revenue and creates both a long tail and an impulse-buying opportunity. This is the most disruptive thing to happen to books in four hundred years.” ~ Seth Godin

“There is still (and probably will be for a while) a market for collectible editions, signed books and other special souvenirs that bring the emotional component of a book to the fore. While most books merely deliver an idea or a pasttime, for some books and some readers, there’s more than just words on paper. Just as vinyl records persist, so will books… because there’s something special about molecules and scarcity.” ~ Seth Godin

“If you’re an author, pick yourself. Don’t wait for a publisher to pick you. And if you work for a big publishing house, think really hard about the economics of starting your own permission-based ebook publisher.” ~ Seth Godin

“Publishing is about passion and writing is a lifestyle, not a shortcut to a mansion and a Porsche. Bestselling authors are like golfers who hit holes in one. It’s a nice thing, but there are plenty of people who will keep playing even without one.” ~ Seth Godin

By the time you read this post, the publishing industry will have already changed again. It’s changing that fast. Faster! If we learn nothing more from The Domino Project it is to stop lamenting, denying and resisting. Start inventing.

“This world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily, but don’t be afraid to reach out and taste it… never stop asking for more.” ~ Sarah Kay

I invite you to stop whining and start inventing!

The Story of Ferdinand, Revisited

Did you know that Ferdinand the Bull turned seventy five years old on March 31?

After posting my “Make Way for Ducklings” video on Rosslyn Redux, several friends mentioned that Robert McCloskey’s Boston duckling adventure was one of their favorite children’s books too. Which inevitably prompted me to throw The Story of Ferdinand into the mix. A lifelong fan of Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s masterpiece, I’m forever finding excuses to toss the flower-sniffing bull into conversation…

From good things, good things come! I was rewarded with exciting news: Ferdinand is a septuagenarian! For three quarters of a century Ferdinand has inspired kids (and adults!) to stop and savor the blossoms.

The Story of Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand (Image via Wikipedia)

Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand,” the book, which was illustrated with simple black-and-white ink drawings, opens. Deep in corrida des toros country, Ferdinand stood out from all the other bulls: “He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers.(ArtsBeat, New York Times)

Pamela Paul‘s post lead me to the quirky video above in which Seth Rogannarrates and the Salastina Music Society accompanies. Creative interpretation of the story!

Chasing down a related link to a vocal rendition of Ferdinand the Bull by The Lennon Sisters I stumbled across this version performed by theDixieland Swingsters. In fact, it turns out that YouTube is chock full of Ferdinand videos including:

I suppose that 75 years is plenty of time for derivative works to be inspired, produced and forgotten. And yet, I’d never stopped to consider the cretive legacy that The Story of Ferdinand. Cool. But I’m still sticking with the original. Simple line drawings and all!

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