Tag Archives: Brock Evans

Getting Back to Speed~~The Road to Recovery

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary 058 from Michael Dawes

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary 058 from Michael Dawes

It’s commonplace to note the ups and downs in life. As they say in Spanish: la palma sube, y el coco baja. And yet, when we find ourselves at our own nadir, or in the midst of a deep recession, we often despair. The way back up seems so steep, and the recovery so slow. Worse yet, to garner hope, and seek a way out, we need someone, or something, to blame.

As I read the news each morning, searching for the slightest positive signs, I too am discouraged, but not so much by the slow pace of economic growth, or even by the slanderous attacks made against President Obama. Far more disheartening to me are the pontificating pundits,’ who, once having heralded Obama’s ascendence, are now unrelenting in their criticisms of him for failing to get it right.

Economic indicator from jakekrohn

Economic indicator from jakekrohn

One need only consider Elenor Clift’s recent piece in Newsweek, “The Problem With the Cult of Obama: Halfhearted Soul-Searching at the White House,” in which she calls upon the President to reinvent himself in accordance with voters’ aspirations. As the Jungian analyst Lawrence Staples, author of the book, Guilt With A Twist: The Promethean Way, might point out in response, winning praise–or an election, for that matter–is not the best measure of success. After all, Prometheus outraged the Gods when he stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals, but, in so doing, he greatly enriched humankind.


In like fashion, the Democrats poor election results might not reflect Obama’s inability to track the pulse of the American people, but rather his willingness to nonetheless take a risk, and diverge from the game of politics, in order to achieve what he believes to be overriding societal goals. (See, for such an argument, Ari Emanuel, “Forget the Carter Comparison: Obama is Following in the Footsteps of Harry Truman–and That’s a Very Good Thing.)

Turning the pundits’ criticism back upon themselves, one might ask: What have you done lately to stimulate recovery? To be sure, negativism is not the answer. Think about recovery from disease. Do you blame the sick person; do you lash out against God? These are self-defeating strategies. I know from personal experience, having been caregiver to my husband, Brock Evans, as he successfully battled stage 3a multiple myeloma. Most unhelpful were the doctors who slinked along his bedside, rolling their eyes behind his back, and cautioning him that “people in his condition don’t do very well.” On the other hand, what made all the difference in the world–that is to say, in addition to his own courage and fighting spirit– were the mailbags from well wishers reaffirming their love and cheering him on. One turning point came when he received a song, written for him by Carol King, appealing to him to “Hold On, Hold On.” It went like this:

You ask yourself the question
What am I going to do
How can I go on when life has let me down
You know it won’t be easy
But time will take you through
You can find your courage in the love inside of you

Hold on, Hold on . . .

So, as in the words of Hal David, it would seem that “What The World Needs Now, is Love Sweet Love, “ or, at the very least, some very enthusiastic cheerleaders.

My Husband, The River Hero

Brock Evans-River Hero

Brock Evans-River Hero

KENNEBUNK, MAINE – (June 11, 2010) – Protecting and restoring rivers and other waters is vital to the health of our country and communities. At River Network’s recent annual National River Rally conference, a pioneering group of clean water heroes came together to collaborate on innovative new ways to protect the nation’s water. In addition, this year’s River Heroes Awards ceremony, sponsored by Tom’s of Maine, celebrated six remarkable water protectors and the victories of their campaigns.

Included among this year’s River Heroes is Brock Evans, president of Endangered Species Coalition, Washington, D.C.

For more than forty years, Brock Evans, a former Marine, lawyer, former director of the Sierra Club’s Washington office and National Audubon Society’s Vice-President for National Issue, has worked tirelessly to protect and lobby for the environment. Brock’s efforts have helped gain wilderness protection for the Pacific Northwest’s North Cascade Region, defeat the damming of Hell’s Canyon, and found the Green Wave Movement for environmental justice. He currently serves as the President of the Endangered Species Coalition, an association of 450 environmental, scientific, and religious groups dedicated to protecting and strengthening the Endangered Species Act.

“It’s a tremendous honor. I spent 45 years working in environmental organizations and the River Network is one of the most vibrant, exciting groups,” said Brock Evans, honoree of the James R. Compton Lifetime Achievement Award and president of the Endangered Species Coalition. “To receive an award from a group who is doing so much themselves, is humbling. Each one of them is a hero.”

Coming to Closure

Lifehack from manu contreras

Lifehack from manu contreras

Making the most of the last days of summer is like squeezing the tube of toothpaste until there are no squeezes left. This was our intent, in fact, the Thursday before Labor Day, when–on a whim–my husband Brock and I decided to head back to the Lake. We were looking for closure. We wanted to gather our wonderful summertime experiences together, and wrap them up, so we could leisurely unpack, and savor them, at some later time.

Having assembled together at Lake Hawthorne on the Forth of July to welcome in the summer, so too we gathered in early September, along with the katydids, to bid it goodbye. As in all such comings and goings, there were rituals involved–in this case, rituals designed to build social capital and hold the community together over the long winter months.

As in all such comings and goings, there were rituals involved.

The weekend was chockfull, to say the least. An evening cocktail party mellowed us before the annual business meeting on the following day, when we joined in a circle on the meadow to discuss and debate the thorny issues entailed in jointly managing a 450 acre commons. A community picnic followed, along with the raffling of prizes, boat races, and more. But, for me, the main event was the treasure hunt!

Let me emphasize, this was no ordinary treasure hunt. The groundwork was laid the evening we arrived, when my son Steve greeted us by quickly ushering us out the door. Armed with a chest of jewels (or so they seemed to the innocent eye), he explained the plan: on the next day, the lake children would search for the treasure by following clues, written by Steve in elaborate verse, and deposited in significant sites around and in the lake–Sunset Rock, The Ice House, Table Rock, etc. As we followed Steve into the woods, we came to the point where four trails converged. Depositing a clue on the branch of a nearby tree, Steve then paced out forty steps to the right, where he buried the chest, marking the spot with crisscrossed deer bones shaped as a cross. Brock and I, feeling depleted after our long drive, headed back to the house for a swim and a cocktail, while Steve traipsed on, depositing the rest of the clues.
21treasure hybt

The real fun began the following day, when the children, escorted by a few adults, set out together in search of the buried treasure. They were not alone. Along the route were a few of Steve’s friends who, dressed in unbelievable costumes, helped interpret the clues.

Fortune Teller in the Attic from Brock Evans

Fortune Teller in the Attic from Brock Evans

The next-to-last stop was our house, where the children climbed the stairs up to the dormitory (reputed for generations to be the home of ghosts) only to find a fortune-teller who–in exchange for the coin sequestered at their last stop–provided the final clue. Not long after, among shrieks of delight, they were divvying up the treasure.

It is times like these that make farewells so bitter sweet. The more enjoyable the experiences, the harder it is to bring them to a close.

Wrangler Jeans From Way Out Texas

Wrangler Jeans From Way Out Texas

Driving home from the lake, and contemplating the new school year, I thought about my next point of closure–resigning as Director of CCT. I leave the program in excellent hands–those of Dr. David Lightfoot, my former dean and mentor–who without a doubt will bring the program to new heights. And, as a member of the faculty, I shall have more time to do what I love best, pursuing with my students the treasure of seeking greater knowledge and understanding. Nonetheless, I am grateful to the students, faculty and staff who–given the special times we have shared–have made this, for me, a tender moment indeed.

Another Day of Reckoning

Day of Reckoning courtesy of Erik Kolstad

Day of Reckoning courtesy of Erik Kolstad

Driving to the airport to catch a plane to Utah, where my husband Brock was scheduled to have his semi-annual multiple myeloma check-up at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, I was reminded of Shakespeare’s famous quote:

A coward dies a thousand deaths a hero dies but one.

Perhaps then, I am a coward: for although we have been undergoing tests for almost seven years, each time we do so, my heart is in my throat.

for although we have been undergoing tests for almost seven years, each time we do so, my heart is in my throat.

Arriving in Salt Lake City, we settled into our hotel, our headquarters for the three-day evaluation procedures. The staff of the Cancer Institute inspires confidence. My husband–a former Marine–compares it to an elite military unit. I concur; but I would add that the people at the Huntsman center are as caring as they are competent. Clearly, they are accustomed to working with people on the precipice of death.

Day one is devoted to tests–urine collection, a pet scan, a bone marrow aspiration and extraction (ouch!), as well as a series of blood draws. Even though some of the procedures cause considerable pain and discomfort, our anxiety is kept in check by our efforts to adhere to the tight schedule. Over the day, patients move–as if playing a game of musical chairs–from one medical station to another. Reflecting the various stages of the disease, some are in wheel chairs; some wear protective masks; while others don a variety of headdresses. As we repeatedly encounter each other, we begin to bond, becoming distracted by conversation and gaining confidence and support from our shared, death-defying stories. Meeting others who are in the same boat, we are reminded that we are not alone. Never again can we say, why did this happen to us? Touched not only by the situation at hand, but also by the openness and intimacy with which we engage each other, I sense I am in a holy place, experiencing something sacred.

Raising the Roof At Ely Cathedral, from antonychammond

Raising the Roof At Ely Cathedral, from antonychammond

On the second day, however, our fears surge, driving our blood pressures to new highs.

On the second day our fears surge, driving our blood pressure to new highs.

While grateful that the day of poking, pricking, and prying is behind us, we feel helpless in the void. All we can do is wait, asking ourselves what if? and trying not to let our imaginations run away with us. Afraid of only exacerbating each others concerns, we deny our worries, turning to television for distraction. By evening, mounting tension shatters the silence. Holding hands, and lying side by side on the king-sized bed, we let go, sharing, yet one more time, our thoughts about life and death. Through tearful eyes, I describe to Brock my feeling that I am a prisoner in a room filled with echos of death, from which there is no escape. He reassures me, noting how we have transcended this situation before and will do so again. As he says, whatever happens, in whatever time we have left, we will spend it painting a beautiful mural on Death’s chamber wall, depicting our truly wonderful lives. With that thought in mind, I fall asleep.

Finally, the day of reckoning arrives. We meet our doctor, Guido Tricot, to learn our fate. Much like Heinrich Schliemann searching for the lost city of Troy, Dr. Tricot has been vigilant in his search for a cure for the dread disease, multiple myeloma, considered only seven years ago to be fatal. Over the past few years, he has changed this prognosis. Employing a protocol that entails carefully timed tandem stem cell transplants, together with a variety of mysterious chemo potions, Dr. Tricot has saved any number of lives. What about us? Reviewing the data from our medical tests, he turns to us, and in his gentle, dignified manner, announces the results. “Perfect, couldn’t be better, we are very pleased,” he said. Brock and I are also elated, as well as very grateful.

Red Canyon, Utah: The Land of the Gods, from Linda Garcia

Red Canyon, Utah: The Land of the Gods, from Linda Garcia

Reflecting on this topsy turvy world, in which life and death are so delicately balanced, I am reminded of complexity–that place situated between chaos and order. Thinking about the recent paper I have written with my colleague Garrison LeMasters, I recall too the romantic perspective of the world, which places the Gods and their shenanigans at the center of our fates. So I think: Perhaps the doctors represent the rational and orderly side of this equation, while the Gods represent randomness and chance.

What next? How to celebrate? Having paid our due to the doctors, we are off to Utah’s canyon country to pay our respect to, and play with, the Gods.

Dog Days!

Why does my heart feel so bad? by pearmax

Why does my heart feel so bad? by pearmax

Let’s just say I am standing in for my mistress, whose life over the last several weeks has become a little topsy turvy. But please forgive me if this post is not up to snuff: I have never blogged before. It’s not that I am unaccustomed to reflection–to the contrary! But while my mistress reflects, typing away, sitting in her comfy chair, her computer ensconced in her lap, I am comfortably situated on the couch, amidst the pillows, my paws resting over the edge, looking out the window, watching, watching, watching. So what you get here is the perspective of a dog. How is that for interdisciplinarity? 

The truth is that our family has experienced a punctuated disequilibrium. As well, depending on the outcome, one might say a phase transition. At least as I see it–perhaps somewhat narcissistically–everything about my life has been disrupted. Much will have to change.

The truth is we have experienced punctuated disequilibrium. As well, depending on the outcome, one might say a phase transition. 

Shall I tell you what happened? Well, as in the case of all punctuated disequilibria, life in my house had been proceeding nicely, notwithstanding, of course, its occasional ups and downs. Quite contented with our daily routine, we took it somewhat for granted, assuming normalcy would continue apace. Then came the big surprise when, on that fateful day several weeks ago, my master pivoted on his–shall we say–more than adequately-sized feet and landed on his shoulder, breaking his bones and shredding the tissues surrounding them. Hearing him scream, I raced over to where he lay on the floor. l licked his face, hoping to sooth his soul–but to no avail. He turned away. Minutes later, men, arriving in a white truck, absconded with him to whereabouts unbeknownst to me. It was more than 10 long days before he returned, and, when he did, he was unrecognizable, to say the least.

At last, coming home

At last, coming home

Of course, I couldn’t have been happier to have him home; that said, however, there were a number of adjustments that have had to be made, many at my expense. The first thing to go was the couch, my own special perch, where I typically sit and watch the world go by. Suddenly my master, not being able to go up and down the stairs, took over my roost. To make matters worse, there was the issue of my toys. In the past, I could chew them, shake them, and fling them wherever I was inclined. Everyone clapped and laughed. Now my toys are considered a hazard; the minute I leave them somewhere, they are picked up and herded over to a corner of the room. My daily walks have also suffered; because my mistress is preoccupied in the morning, bathing and dressing my master, our outings have gotten shorter and shorter, even as the weather has improved.

The New and Refurbished Brock Evans

The New and Refurbished Brock Evans

Reflecting on my unfortunate situation, I am reminded of the Spanish saying about the vicissitudes of life, La palma sube, y il coco baja (The palm tree rises, and the coconuts fall). However, I find this saying less than satisfying under the circumstances. So, determined to get to the bottom of all these mysteries, I put my head on my Mistress’s lap; looked at her with my big sad eyes; and implored her to provide a more adequate and analytic interpretation of what was going on. “Ah, Sparky,” she said knowingly (after all, she is the Director of the CCT Program). “Take heart”, she said, as she scratched behind my ears. “No doubt, our equilibrium status has been seriously overturned. But, we are reorganizing to adapt successfully to this phase transition and the new fitness landscape accompanying it. Just think of the benefits of a more simplified household, especially in this increasingly complex world. Even better, look at your Master and witness how well, in the face of a disaster, he has reorganized himself!”

After the Fall

Life as a waterfall by allher

Life as a waterfall by allher

This is not the blog that I had intended to write. Most ironically, I had planned to write a blog about the safety net (see my next post), and about how our social relations function as a safety net, allowing us to experiment–to take steps in the dark–and thereby reach new levels of achievement and understanding. Sometimes, however, the lack of a safety net can perform a similar function. Sometimes, wisdom can be gained from a fall.

Sometimes, however, the lack of a safety net can perform a similar function. Sometimes wisdom can be gained from a fall. 

Friday morning was promising. The rainy weather was changing for the better. At breakfast, my husband, Brock, read an article to me from the Smithsonian Magazine written by Roy Rowan, and entitled Do Not Go Gently (April 2009: 104). The article was a reminder that our sunset years will only be golden years to the extent that we actively live them, substituting the wisdom of our experiences for the vigor of our youth. Inspired, we set out, ready to conquer the day.

What happened next, according to the doctor, was a perfect storm; events converged to bring about a crash. All revved up, my husband rose from his chair, pivoted on his (some might say) sizable feet, and, caught up in the momentum, kept turning until he landed on the floor–his shoulder (the one most damaged by the multiple myeloma) taking the brunt of the fall. Letting out a scream of pain, like no other scream I have ever heard, he crawled to a chair in which he buried his head. What to do? With him wearing nothing but a bathrobe, the real challenge was getting him dressed, all the while he was writhing and screaming. Up went the jeans, inch by inch, over his bended knees, around his buttock, finally coming together at his waist. Unable to move his large-size frame, I called am ambulance, which took him to the ER at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Amidst all this chaos, Brock–finding a measure of humor in this ridiculous, albeit horrendous, situation, blurted out: well, at least this will make good dinner party conversation.

Amidst all of this chaos, Brock–finding a measure of humor in this ridiculous, albeit horrendous, situation, blurted out: well, at least this will make good dinner party conversation! Taken back for a moment, I thought: much as Rowan had advised in his article, we were making the most of life’s adventures, be they what they may.

Sibley turned out to be a good choice.  The first orthopedist we encountered was Dr. Benjamin Shaffer, who by luck was performing surgery at Sibley. He stopped by for a consultation, and advised us that Brock needed immediate attention. Brock’s fall had not only splintered a number of bones in his shoulder, some of which had torn the soft tissues, he had also dislocated his shoulder. There was no time to waste, he said. The primary physician for the Capitals, who were playing a major game that night, Dr. Schaffer could not do the surgery himself. So he turned us over to his equally capable partner Dr. Jonas Rudski, who, late in the evening, performed Brock’s operation, and was stellar in every possible way.

Brock, at Sibley

Brock, at Sibley

It will be a long climb back–perhaps six to eight weeks. What have we gained? Appreciation!. After all, we are still alive, and we are still together. As well, we are planning to make the most of it.

Holiday Greetings!

Written (late) December 2008, by Brock Evans

Dear Family and Friends,

Yep. “Things are a little late this year,” as the song goes. But for good reasons we think. For example, we just returned yesterday from what Brock calls “a Norman Rockwell kind of Christmas”, meaning that so much reminded us of the popular Saturday Evening Post covers, from those more innocent times when we were children in this season. All of it–the lights, the presents under the tree, the warmth and the music everywhere, occurring amidst the happy (and noisy) chaos of delighted scampering grandchildren. ‘These are the kinds of time we dream about’, says Brock. …and how blessed we feel for being actually able to experience them all over again. Now.

Better late than never. . . another unanticipated benefit is that we got to read your own beautiful and interesting cards and newsletter first–another real treat. We now feel so reconnected Thank you. So much fun, in fact, that we may just be ‘late’ again next year!

So back to the rest of this (mostly) happy and eventful year; what’s been going on in the Evans/Garcia household? Basically a bit of this and other bits of that. . ..yet all together, it has seemed to us, woven into one pleasant, challenging, and adventurous tapestry. Some important markers and milestones, and some sadness too.

At Georgetown University, Linda continues on as Director of, and teacher in, the ever more successful (and popular with students) Masters Program: Communication, Culture and Technology. Indeed its great success (plus what Brock calls her ‘spreading renown from pervious writings”) has attracted international recognition. eg. Linda’s appointment to the Technology Assessment Board of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, and an invited lecture at the Central European University (Budapest) on “The Future of the University.”

But best of all for Linda has been her blog. Begun in July, in response to a challenge from Brock, it quickly became what Brock describes as a ‘brilliant and articulate set of essays which tie together ‘unrelated’ things from ‘real life’ (Such as desert canyons, frogs, Thanksgiving, etc.) into the network theories she teaches daily.

Of course Brockie, ever the ‘modest’ one, invites you to read the blog entry featuring him (Living with a Legend), which is about a wonderful Leadership Award he just received.

Brock has not been idle through all this activity, even as he (His words) ‘basks in the reflected glow of Linda’s accomplishments” (to see what the really means, see below, under ‘travels”) Still President of the Endangered Species Coalition, still speaking and lecturing about conservation, the Endangered Species Act, and–most importantly for him–still always reminding the new ones coming on (in such places as Ohio, Boston, and California) that “no matter what the odds, you can do it.”

While delighted about the results of the election (“it seems that once again we have our country back,” we say to each other and friends), Brock, ever the wary political animal, warns that some of the new faces may likely not be much friendlier to environmental values than those just replaced. So this is not a time to relax, or to cease striving; not if we want to pass on a sustainable and beautiful earth into the future, he says.

While most of the travels were business related, one turned out to be among the most memorable ever. That one was a visit to the University of Wyoming for a day-long series of lectures in October, time to coincide with the anticipated birth of new grandson, Kaydon–to son Noah, and Sarah, who live in Fort Collins, just an hour away.

The lectures and visit to the splendid facilities at the University of Wyoming (many of Brock’s papers are deposited there at its renowned American Heritage Center) were thus a high point of the whole year and not only because of the lively sparkling interchanges with students and faculty. But also because of that anticipated ‘afterwards,’ namely, Brock’s first meeting with our third grandchild who Brock termed after a few days of holding and admiring, as “a very very hungry and fast-growing delightful little gnome, who could just about fit into the cup of one hand while I fed him.” Not any more! In his latest pictures, the tyke almost completely fills out a Washington Redskins T-shirt, his first gift from his grandfather.

Family: After a spell of experiencing the downside of this ‘new economy’ son Joshua now is a full tim IT engineer with a firm in Northern VA, while Stephanie continues her job as artist-in-chief for celebrity magician Chris Angel. Stepfather Wayne sadly passed away last January, and now Brock’s 95-year old Mom, Adele, lives with sister Lynne and Mark at their home on Long Island. Part of our “Normal Rockwell Christmas” included a warm and cosy visit there, and, again, more spirited conversations. “We only hope, if and when we reach 95, that we can be as much fun to talk with as Mom is,” we say to each other after each such visit. That other ‘grandchild’ part of our Christmas was spent with Steve, a successful management consultant, and Supermom Haley. . .and with the delightful causes of that happy chaos, 8 year old Ben, and 5-year old Sophie.

TravelThe picture this year is from a beautiful trip to the canyons of Southern Utah in July. The smiles on our faces are because of the happy news just received at Brock’s visit to the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he was pronounced to be ” still in complete remission” from the bone marrow cancer that struck at him six year ago. And, a spectacular 8-day adventure in Vienna, Prague (met by a friend from Slovakia) and Budapest. The reason was Linda’s invites, referenced above. But Brock said: “I’m not gonna miss this one. . .” so while Linda lectured and did Board things, Brock wandered happily through the old cobbled streets, cathedrals, and ancient monuments of places long dreamed of, plus savoring delightful restaurants when Linda was one.

Another eventful and happy year. Thank you for being such good friends and for letting us share our activities with you. Love, Brock and Linda

Living With a Legend

I have often heard tell that my husband, Brock Evans, is a legendary person, but then seeing is believing.

I have often heard tell that my husband, Brock Evans, is a legendary person, but then again seeing is believing. Last week, I saw for myself.

The event was The Endangered Species Coalition annual awards reception. As President of the Endangered Species Coalition, Brock’s ostensible role at this function was to present the Brock Evans Award to the renowned environmental leader Rodger Schlickeisen, President and CEO of the prominent national environmental organization, Defenders of Wildlife, and prime architect of the conservation’s movement’s greatest electoral victory–the defeat of arch enemy and far right anti-environmental Congressman Richard Pombo in 2006.

Unbeknownst to Brock, he himself was to receive an award from the Wilburforce Foundation for “outstanding conservation leadership.” Included was a substantial cash award, which he hopes to use to complete the research for his forthcoming book, making real the legends of the environmental movement–what he describes as the stunning achievements of ordinary people who rose up to defend the places they love. The result of all of these efforts over the past forty years, Brock says, is a beautiful legacy of over two hundred million acres of parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges, which are the envy of the rest of the world.

Watching Brock receive this award, I remembered how much his tales about environmental victories had meant to me, personally. In fact, what I recall most about our courtship are the accounts that he would regale me with, inspiring me to strive for the ‘gold ring.’ Take, for example, the stories Brock often tells about the rescue of the mighty Snake River from dams, and the equally compelling account of protecting the valley of French Pete Creek, in the state of Oregon, from clear-cut logging. In both cases, the destruction of these places seemed to be a foregone conclusion. But Brock and his friends pushed back anyway, applying the techniques of what he calls endless pressure, endlessly applied. Notwithstanding the gloomy predictions of the pundits, they won! Both places are now federally protected wilderness areas.

Three Sisters Wilderness (courtesy of H. M. S. photostream)

Three Sisters Wilderness (courtesy of H. M. S. photostream)

So when I get discouraged, and think all is lost, I keep these stories in mind, and just press forward. I know that, when Brock completes his book, these same stories will inspire a whole new generation of environmentalists as well.

The Big Picture

My husband, Brock Evans, is a masterful story teller. Like Johnny Appleseed, Brock spent most of his life traipsing around the country, telling compelling environmental stories, and spreading seeds of hope and commitment on behalf of the environment where ever he went. Upon hearing these stories, people rose to the occasion: they stepped up, and spoke out on behalf of saving the local places so dear to their hearts.

Brock’s motto, “endless pressure, endlessly applied”, was a sure-fired recipe for success.

Brock’s motto, “endless pressure, endlessly applied,” was a sure-fired recipe for success. Hence, wonderful places such as as Hells Canyon, Congaree Swamp National Park, and the Alpine Lake Wilderness Area are now preserved.

Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon

What makes Brock’s stories so captivating is that they do not merely describe a place or an event; rather, they are elaborate tales that incorporate all of the complex and contingent factors on which success depends. By providing a larger context in which the story unfolds, the audience can step into the picture, experiencing it both vicariously and first hand. They can become, in effect, part of the community of practice.

Photography appears to be like story telling in this regard. It is inherently holistic. Although photographers may hone in on a specific target, they give it meaning–above and beyond its aesthetic value–when they situate it in the overall context that rendered its form. Georgetown’s Dean Schaefer, who teaches Looking at Photography in the Communication, Culture and Technology Program, brought this home, when he referred me to Frank Gohlke’s lovely piece, Measure of Emptiness: Grain Elevators in the American Landscape (John Hopkins Press, 1992). Describing how he became enraptured by the poetic possibilities of grain elevators, Gohlke notes:

. . .the grain elevators could not be considered in isolation from the landscape; the building and it context were inseparable. At the same time, I was beginning to realize that the landscape is not a collection of fixed objects on a static spatial grid but a fluid and dynamic set of relationships. Its appearance is the result of a multitude of forces acting in time on the land itself and its human accretions.

Perhaps it is the photographer’s holistic perspective, so well characterized by Gohlke, that allowed my friend and photographer Anna Sofaer not only to discover the solstice and lunar markings on Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon (see my previous blog), but also to grasp–as no other scholars were able to do–the cultural and religious significance of these markings.

Just give me the facts, m'am

Just give me the facts, m'am

As any child will tell you, without stories and pictures, the world is pretty bleak. As well, it is not very informative. Remember the radio and TV show, Dragnet. In almost every segment, the star, Sergeant Joe Friday, appears at the scene of a crime, where a ‘frantic’ woman is attempting to describe what happened. Totally in command, the stoic hero, Joe, takes out his pencil and notebook, and says: Just give me the facts m’am. Have you every wondered, how Joe could possibly solve the mystery, if all he had to go on were the facts?