I’ve been creating ‘right-brain’ answers to ‘left-brain’ questions since I was thirteen years old when a long summer road trip through Mexico lit a fire that has never gone out. For over forty years, I have expressed my answers in writing, photography, speaking and activism.
Born in Philadelphia, I migrated west to Phoenix at the age of six in a ‘covered station wagon’ with my family. Inspired by the prehistoric ruins of Mexico, I became active in archaeology as a teenager, including two memorable summers of desert survey as an employee of Arizona State University. Pursuing ‘left brain’ questions raised by my interests, I earned a B.A. in Anthropology from Reed College. I chose to express my answers creatively in books and photography as well as films made while attending UCLA’s graduate school in filmmaking.
In my twenties, I developed a deep love of the American West through travel, camping, and conservation work for environmental organizations. While employed at UCLA’s main library, I ‘hit the books’ in pursuit of a deeper understanding of the region, studying its history, people, and cultures. In 1990, on the centennial of the official closing of the frontier, I put my research to work when I embarked on a fine art photographic project documenting the modern West. Titled The Indelible West, the book earned a Foreword by author Wallace Stegner.
In 1994, my ‘left brain’ turned full-time to conservation when I became active with the Sierra Club in response to troubling political developments in Washington, D.C. Three years later, I cofounded The Quivira Coalition, a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to building a radical center among ranchers, environmentalists, scientists and others around practices that improve economic and ecological resilience. I served as Executive Director for fifteen years before becoming Creative Director. I worked on the front lines of collaborative conservation and regenerative agriculture, exploring on-the-ground solutions to pressing global issues, including land restoration, local food, and the sequestration of carbon in soils.
Quivira was also a creative endeavor for me, involving writing, speaking, shaping an annual conference, and developing new projects. Over time, writing became an increasingly important ‘right brain’ activity. In 2005, Wendell Berry included my essay The Working Wilderness in his collection The Way of Ignorance, a big endorsement that encouraged me to expand into book writing, including Revolution on the Range (Island Press); The Age of Consequences (Counterpoint); Two Percent Solutions for the Planet, and Grass, Soil, Hope (Chelsea Green), the latter with a Foreword by Michael Pollan. In 2017, I published a collection of my writing on the effort to resolve the feud between environmentalists and ranchers that had imperiled the wide open spaces of our beloved West, titled Grassroots: the Rise of the Radical Center.
In 2016, I embarked on a new ‘right brain’ project to write fiction, inspired by a distant cousin, William Faulkner. My first work, Consilience, is a contemporary love story about time-travel, an uncertain future, and resistance. The Sun is the first book in a mystery series set on an historic ranch in northern New Mexico during the tumultuous year of 2008. It involves a murdered ranch employee, a stolen rodeo horse, a black helicopter, angry environmentalists, menacing oil-and-gas developers, a missing Sasquatch hunter, a mysterious billionaire and a misplaced can opener.
I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.