I was born in the smallish northern Pennsylvania town of Warren in May 1946. From the age of six, I grew up in a house four miles outside of town where my life centered around farming and woods buddies, school and Boy Scouts (Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow). As a Scout, I cleaned the grave of Seneca Chief Cornplanter before it was moved to make way for the Kinzua Dam. I read a lot about far-away places.
My father’s side of the family descended from the Scotch-Irish stock of Appalachian settlers. There was a professional hunter among them – who was also a Civil War Sharpshooter. Others were teamsters or worked in the oil and gas industry. My mother’s side were of German heritage. My maternal grandfather was Dean of Liberal Arts at Penn State when he died young. I inherited his name.
Twenty years after high school, I would earn my PhD from Lund University in Sweden in Sociology and Social Anthropology. My work had a foot in deep theory (systems and evolution) and another in the field – in my case, in India. Post-doctoral work took me from India, to Borneo, to Appalachia, and to Canada where my focus was (and still is) on people of the forests and on their place in the health of the ecosystem.
I was also an artist from a young age. I remember submitting a drawing of Mickey Mouse to Disney in sixth grade (did not get the job). There is a photo of me in my high school senior yearbook doing an oil painting, hair combed back in the super cool style of the day. I kept up my art over the years. It has taken different directions, but it has always been inspired by an awe of the beauty of the world. My media are as close to Nature as I can get: charcoal, pencil, and ink. For me, watercolor shares the freshness of bubbling brooks, a forest breeze, the color of a sunset, and the curve of a child’s finger.
If my life has had a purpose, academically, a common ground was to link the lives of everyday people with the challenges of environmental sustainability. The people taught me humility. The challenges taught me to question — to see the forests for the trees. What I have learned I have carried into my years of retirement and I hope they provide the foundation for my work now. It is a wisdom that reminds us to listen with our heart to the words of the world; know that art can be both a path into beauty as much as one into inquiry; know that science can lead to truth by asking the right questions.