Journal Writing

His Voice Lives On

The link to Wild Thoughts Magazine now leads to a defunct site. The essay is no longer available online.

Something about going through the winnowing process of an editor and acceptance of a written piece strengthens writing and makes you feel that the effort was worth it. Hank Green, editor of the online nature writing magazine Wild Thoughts, has published a piece I wrote about my maternal grandfather, one of the early inspirations for my love of the natural world. Please have a look at the essay, “Walking With Opa, and then take some time to read some of the other stories.

20 replies on “His Voice Lives On”

This touched me so much especially as my Grandfather is now nearing 96 and his large frame has grown so frail. He is increasingly withdrawing from the world though his mind is as sharp as ever.

Like your Opa, he has taught me so much in life, not least about spirit and fortitude. I know he will go soon and I did this drawing as a tribute to him and a preparation for me:

Thank you for sharing your life with us.


Beautiful essay, and beautiful drawing from LM. It’s wonderful to have the chance to appreciate words and pictures created with such heartfelt sincerity, and it’s helping stir up my own long-dormant writer’s urges. Thank you both!


LM, what an unexpected drawing! The simple showing of your grandfather’s hands and the pigeon speak about so many things as you gaze at the picture. My first thoughts were of kindness and gentleness and a love for nature. It’s really quite amazing what you can find yourself discovering about someone if you take the time to look at them.


Your beautiful essay has given us so much pleasure. My husband was born near the Harz mountains. My first visit through the mountains was in ’83 and I loved the magical spirit in the ancient forest and the lovingly maintained old villages.

Interestingly, the East German border was only 3km from his hometown – it looked like a prison fence with threatening guards. In 2000 we revisited that border which now has a museum about those days. So sad how families got split up just by an arbitrarily chosen line, one that could have easily gone 3km west!

LM – a beautiful drawing!


i have been enjoying your words so much. it took me a while to figure out how to comment, but i have 🙂 i think the old ones influence our view of the wild places in ways neither they or we understood at the time. if, as an adult, you are nourished by the wild things, the odds are you were taken into the outdoors by an elder, and led by a trusted hand. thank you so much for this lovely piece of writing. it reminded me of the precious elders in my own life and i am once again grateful to them for showing me what really matters.


yllstoneworlf… it looks like the comment system is causing trouble for everyone. I have to take a good look at it once I’ve gotten the other work I’m involved with at the moment out of the way. I love not having any spam, but the blog has been much quieter than it ever was during the last three years, so there must be something not done the right way.

Thanks for your comment. I also love the photos on your site! I was going to leave a comment there, but I’m quite confused by the registration process. Do I have to be a LiveJournal subscriber to be able to leave comments?


I tried to post by registering with one email address (wanadoo) and nothing happened – then tried with hotmail – no problems!


Is it possible some of your former readers don’t realize you’ve returned to blogland – for me it was a chance that I clicked on your URL. Your goodbyes sounded so definite and fairly long-term. How about sending out an email or comments on their blogs we love them too?!


Hadn’t much time yesterday but I want to say thank you for all the kind words.

Butuki, your description of my grandfather is spot on – he is kind and gentle and has a love of nature. He taught me respect for all creatures and an awareness of the world around. He has always had strength and great integrity. I hadn’t really thought about why I had chosen to draw his hands and the pigeon …. but I guess it just seemed to sum him up.

One of the things I have discovered about weblogs is that people can be themselves and show what is in their hearts …. and there are some wonderfully wise and sensitive people out there who help make the world a richer place.


Hello! I was reminded to drop by here after a comment on Ralph’s north to garradunga blog.

My partner mentioned to me about a friend of his who used to take tourists up for bushwalks in Tasmania, Australia. They’d be the ones who’d go on ahead of the group, carrying all the set-up equipment, lugging big, heavy loads, and prepare the site where they were going to camp for the night, so that when the group reaches them, the tents were ready, and the food starting to cook. For some reason, I thought of you, and how you’d probably enjoy doing something like that. Tasmania’s very beautiful, absolutely wonderful for bushwalks.

Now, I’m off to read your article.


Na ja, Koshtra. Hab ich erst Deutsch gesprochen biß ich sechs Jahren alt war. Hier im Japan kann ich nur manchmahl sprechen, und dabei ist mein Deutsch sehr schlecht geworden. Hast du auch Deutsch lange gesprochen? Deutsch ist ganz anders von Englisch; es hat einer anderen Gefühl und ich möchte gern daß ich deutscher Bücher beßer lesen kann. Zum beispiel, auf Deutsch ist Rilke unglaublich schön, daß mann auf English nicht übersetzen kann.


Ivyai, how timely! I’ve been researching and talking to people in Australia about the prospect of perhaps moving to Holbart, or nearby, to live (I’m actively looking at New Zealand …perhaps Queenstown; Canada …Vancouver; and several countries in Europe… as an EU citizen I can live in many places there). Tasmania appeals to me because of its wildness and remoteness and, what I think must be, laid back lifestyle. It reminds me somewhat of Oregon in the United States. Several other people have told me that it is a great place to live, and perhaps Holbart, as a city with some history and culture can bring it all together. I’m hoping to visit Australia sometime this or next year to have a better look around.


Hobart’s where I grew up! It’s not a cosmopolitan city yet, though — just giving you fair warning. You’re right, it is extremely lovely, but it’s also not as exposed to a variety of cultures [though that’s changing even as I speak] so there would be incidents where you’d encounter extreme close-mindedness. Hmm, I’m being euphemistic here — why not come out and say it. Racism. But not everyone is racist.

I haven’t been to New Zealand, but I hear it’s wilder than Tassie.

Good luck with your quest.



Yeah, racism… how inconvenient that I always, always have to keep that on my list when I search for places to live. I lived in Oregon for ten years and Eugene, which I love dearly, was probably very similar to Hobart… not quite cosmopolitan… and lots of blatant racism, especially outside the town. But then I have never been anywhere in the world (except Spain and Portugal, simply because I look so Iberian) where I haven’t personally experienced racism. I’d have to live on a desert island to get away from that. I’ve heard lots of accounts of “extreme close-mindedness” from Australia and New Zealand and lots of my non-white friends have warned me away from both of them for living. But I also believe you have to go see things for yourself and not take things on hearsay. So I still want to visit and see how things look from the ground. It’s probably not as bad as I fear and not as good as I daydream. Just more real places with real people.


I hardly know what to say; actually I feel shocked to have stumbled upon your blog today. It is so beautifully written and sensitive that it seems to leap out of the ether as a wonderful gift. I just read the very beautiful evocation of your grandfather and have to say that I couldn’t help ending up with a big lump in my throat. Your grandfather in Germany was my grandfather in Nova Scotia. Of German descent, we called him Bumpy, a name I always thought strange, but now I think it must have derived from Opa. My grandfather had been a gold miner in early days and then owned a garage, but made the most of any time available to escape to the woods where he loved to fish, hunt, make camps and roads, or cut wood. But mostly, I think he loved the silence, freedom and physical challenge of being on the wild land. I regret that I too rarely joined him. I think that you are lucky to have those memories and that “sending” blessing that holds you so well, so very well.


OnceWritten, er, uh, wow, thanks. I do appreciate the praise, truly, but I honestly get very embarrassed by it. I write because ever since I was a boy something has whispered through my head to get the words out. I love the expression. But mostly I just love the way words move people’s minds and get them to express themselves in return. I love nothing more than watching someone sitting, perhaps on a train, deeply engrossed in a book. That one person, over long distances or great spans of time, can touch the spirit of another person and get them to dwell for a time inside the mind of the writer is, I think, pure magic.

Your grandfather sounds like a character. Wish I could read more about him.


Yes, magic. Whenever I discover a new wonderful writer I feel I am falling into space; I sometimes sense a kind of vertigo as I plunge into the thoughts of the other and there’s certainly music and rhythm and maybe smoke and mirrors too. A world conjured from black and white on a page is magic, except I know how hard it is to mix the elixers that will produce such a place. If you indeed hear the whispers of the muses, then you have a gift better than Merlin’s sword. As Vincent said, “Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it.” I’m thankful for the artists and the writers.

Unfortunately Bumpy is gone before I had enough time to ask him the questions I should have. My grandmother always seemed to fill the room, he was quietly smiling and benignly nodding agreement in his chair. A handsome, white brush-cut presence always with a tan and healthy colour who loved hugs. I think most of what I learned from him was in the years before I can remember, except when I go to the woods I “just know” certain things that someone must have showed me. When I was four or five we rescued a deer whose mother had been shot and kept it for most of a year until it had to go to a wildlife sanctuary. In my living room is a picture of a little girl in a full-skirted dress with her hand on a fawn’s back. Both look fairly uncomfortable, but I think as much of the camera as each other. My grandfather’s kin came to Canada around 1750 as part of the Palatines’ movement out of an inhospitable land where the crops had failed and the Catholics had the habit of killing them. He, like most who came, was pretty religious. I doubt he ever tasted beer and certainly never smoked, after marriage anyway. He loved a “good piece of pie” though, squash pie being one of his favourites. And his favourite expression, about anything good or bad or in between was, “boys oh boys oh boys (oh boys)”. I can still hear him saying that and see his smile.


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