How does “Seeking the Silence” affect the Brain?

August 19th, 2010

In the midst of my preparations for my trip to the arctic at the end of the month, my wife Janet sent me an link to an interesting article that appeared recently in the New York Times.

The article by Matt Richtel, entitled “Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain” (, recounts a rafting trip in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area by a group of scientists who were interested in “what happens when we step away from our devices and rest our brains.” Described as “a trip into the heart of silence”, no cell phone or internet connection was available to the participants.

By their third day in the wilderness, most of the scientists noted that they had begun to feel more relaxed, less anxious about their workaday responsibilities and more focused on and reflective about their surroundings.

Of course, one can argue that any “vacation” can achieve the same result, but nonetheless the participants were curious to follow up on possible changes in the brain that occur under these circumstances. Apparently, research increasingly seems to support the idea that digital overload and resultant brain changes can be countered by connecting with our natural surroundings and distancing oneself from the cacaphony of modern life.

Of course, annecdotally, my recent artcle in the Networker is, in part, an attempt to describe the mental changes I experience when spending a couple of weeks alone in the wilderness. To my friends, I have often described this period of time as one in which I once again “discover my place in the universe.” By that I mean that I deliberately create an opportunity to connect with my natural surroundings and to experience myself as an animal amongst other animals.

Can you do the same thing if you practice yoga, or meditate, or go for a walk in the woods? For me, those practices are not quite comparable. For one thing, they do not involve absenting myself entirely from the influences of my daily surroundings. For another, I find that my reorientation usually requires many days, if not weeks.

Each year about this time I find myself anticipating and longing for this reconnection with an existence that is simpler, more primitive and certainly more at responsive to the rhythms of nature. In less than two weeks I will again be alone—a small part of a larger nature—this time on the North Fork of the Koyukul river in Alaska’s Brooks range.

But more about that later. I’d be interested to hear about what you do to give yourself respite and rejuvenation.

Take Care,

“Stonehenge Dawn” and “Stonehenge Night” added to the “Imaginarium.”

July 27th, 2010

Today I’ve added two new photos to the “Imaginarium” portion of my website. Inspired by a visit that Janet and I made to Stonehenge in November of 2009, they are titled, “Stonehenge Dawn” and “Stonehenge Night.” What I’m trying to capture in these images is the feeling I had of treading on ground where such an ancient civilization had managed to construct an edifice that would defy today’s engineering. Each image is available as a matted print in special sizes. I’d like to know what you think of them, so when and if you’ve got a minute, please go view them at

Take Care

Returning to Alaska’s arctic wilds

July 25th, 2010

Well, it’s a week from the time I posted my last blog and I’m babysitting a couple of my grandkids! They are fast asleep now, so it’s a good time to check in and write a few words about my upcoming trip.

I must say that I’m really looking forward to this journey, as I’ll be back out on Alaska’s rivers’ for the first time in a couple of years. Two years ago I drove  and camped for about three weeks, over a distance of nearly 2,000 miles from Fairbanks to the Yukon Territories (Dawson City, Whitehorse), down through northern British Columbia to Skagway on the Chilkoot Inlet, over to Haines and Haines junction, and then back to Fairbanks. Along the way, as you can imagine, I drove through some pretty incredible scenery. In fact, the spectacular mountains that you see at the top of this page are the Kluane range, which tower, at that point, over a little town called Haines Junction.

Last year my pilot friend, John Norris of Anchorage, flew me into the Tongass National Forest, a rain forest on the edge of the glaciers, where I spent a week in a rustic, isolated cabin surrounded by towering pines. Much as I enjoyed the diversity of these two trips, I found myself missing the rhythms of river canoeing.

So, at the end of August, I’ll be headed for the North Fork of the Koyukuk River in arctic Alaska for a two-week canoe journey that will start in the Brooks Range, one of the world’s northernmost moutain ranges. I’ll be canoeing a bit over a hundred miles in some of the most remote wilderness of North America.

Right now my daughter and her husband have walked through the door and my babysitting chores are over, so I’ll have to continue my description in my next blog.

Until then, happy AdVentures!

Take care,


What’s An Article About Grizzly Bears Doing in the Psychotherapy Networker?

July 15th, 2010

As you can imagine, I’m really pleased that the Psychotherapy Networker decided to publish my article, “Seeking the Silence,” in their July/August 2010 issue. Actually, it’s not just about encountering grizzlies in the Alaskan wilderness, though that’s part of it. Editor Rich Simon was most interested in what prompted me to go to remote wildernss locations by myself for weeks at a time. He asked, “What’s it like when you’re by yourself for such an extended period of time? Do you get lonely? Scared? How did you come to decide to do this? Have your experiences changed you over the years that you’ve made these trips?”

You can find out the answers to these and other questions by downloading a pdf of the article from the home page of Let me know what you think of “Seeking the Silence.” I’d really appreciate your comments. I’ve also added some new features to Again, any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Next week I’ll describe my plans to canoe the North Fork of the Koyukuk River for a two weeks in Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park.

Take Care,


Hello world!

July 14th, 2010

Welcome to my blog on!