Archive for May, 2012

Donation to Support Texas State Parks

On May 24th, 2012 Whole Earth Provision Company presented Texas State Parks with a check for $30,871, proceeds from an in-store fund drive and from ticket sales for the Banff Mountain Film Festival . The fund drive came in response to Texas Parks and Wildlife’s call for donations to help keep parks open in the wake of the extreme drought, wildfires and declines in park visitation and revenue in 2011.

Thank you from all of us at Whole Earth Provision Company

From left to right front row: Alicia Sullivan, Walter Wakefield, Marie Fraide, Jack Jones, Joe Jones and Carter Smith. Second row: Brent Leisure, Ralph Duggins and Holland Jones.

We wholeheartedly thank our customers and everyone who attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival presentations for their generosity in giving to such a worthy cause. As Texans, we are blessed with opportunities for an amazing range of outdoor adventures. Our State Parks offer rivers, mountains, canyons, caves, lakes, beaches, springs, piney woods and forests, hiking and biking trails, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, sailing and the opportunity to see all kinds of wildlife. Thanks to Texas State Parks, these magical places belong to the citizens of Texas and are available for all of us to visit and experience. We encourage everyone to take full advantage of these, our Texas treasures. Get out and visit a Texas State Park near you. You’ll have fun and your visit will be a vote of support for our great Texas State Park system.

Celebrating Peter Matthiessen, American writer and environmentalist

Happy Birthday Peter Matthiessen, American writer and environmentalist!

In 1959, Peter Matthiessen published Wildlife in America. Behind its innocuous title, lay a blistering indictment of European settlers and their descendants for the destruction of North American species and habitats. The book, together with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, marked the rise of an environmental movement that led to the passage of the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Wildlife in America is, however, much more than an environmentalist screed. Matthiessen is an accomplished storyteller as well as a keen observer and student of natural history. The book begins with the first European sightings of the abundant bird and sea life off the North American coastline and follows the slow and inexorable spread of European occupation across the continent. Along the way we meet creatures who are extinct, endangered, diminished and flourishing and the adventurers, scientists and conservationists with whom their lives have become intertwined. Matthiessen has a gift for choosing memorable incidents and excerpts from journals, histories and literature that bring his subjects to life and leave you wanting to know more. For some readers, the book has been life changing.

Like many “nature” books of the 1950s and 60s, Wildlife in America is illustrated with line drawings. We live in an era of photographic images, but a close look at Bob Hine’s work shows how a drawing can clearly convey information that is often lost in the crush of detail found in a photo.

So on this, his 85th birthday, we salute Peter Matthiessen, a great American writer, and encourage you to dive into one of his books and join him in his explorations of the natural world and the human heart.

Suggestions for your bookshelf:

Wildlife in America
Blue Meridian
The Snow Leopard
The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes

The journal Environmental History published a forum on “Fifty years of Wildlife in America”. An introduction by Peter Alagona highlights the book’s place in environmental history and traces its influence through the years.

For more information on Matthiessen’s life and work see Nicholas Wroe’s interview in the Guardian from 2002.

This is one of an occasional series of posts celebrating the birthdays and accomplishments of environmentalists, ecologists, travelers, adventurers, thinkers, artists, writers and scientists who have inspired us to a greater appreciation of and participation in life on planet Earth. Who has inspired you? Please let us know, so we can add them to our celebration list.

Patagonia Advocacy Weeks

For every pair* of Patagonia Footwear sold between May 15th – 31st Patagonia and Whole Earth will donate $10 to Audubon Texas.

Audubon Texas is the state program of the National Audubon Society, dedicated for 100 years to protecting birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. Learn more about the mission of Audubon Texas and their efforts helping conserve our natural lands.

Don’t forget your Gift-With-Purchase!**

Pick up your free downloadable music card when you purchase a pair* of Patagonia Footwear shoes.

*Sale items not included.
**While supplies last.

Baron Von Munchhausen

Baron von Munchhausen
Happy Birthday Baron von Munchhausen! Traveler, Adventurer and Raconteur Extraordinaire

One of the great pleasures of traveling is collecting experiences that can be polished and embroidered and then shared with the folks back home. Baron von Munchhausen raised the telling of travelers’ tales to a fine art. So, in the interests of helping you make the most of your upcoming summer adventures, here are a few hints from the Baron.

You might be surprised to learn that the Baron was a real person, especially if you’ve read some of the stories or seen Terry Gilliam’s movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Did he really ride a cannonball or visit the moon? It does seem unlikely. However, Thomas Seccombe, in his introduction to an 1895 edition of The Adventures, points out that it would be the height of absurdity to designate the Baron a mere liar. Rather, “he was a delightful personage who kept an open house and loved to divert his guests with stories, not in the braggart vein… but so embellished with palpably extravagant lies as to crackle with a humor all their own.”

So, how did the Baron do it? Seccombe suggests that these were the secrets of Munchausen’s success:

Tell your story in a cool and composed manner with perfect naturalness and simplicity.

Speak as a well-traveled citizen of the world, without resorting to ambiguity or verbosity.

Accept that your adventures are numerous and perhaps singular, but also perfectly normal for someone with your extensive life experience.

When telling your least believable tales, do not smile. Make your audience believe that you are to be taken seriously.

We hope you will be able to use these suggestions to ornament your own adventures for the entertainment of your friends and family this summer and for years to come.

Baron von Munchhausen

Learn more about the real Baron von Munchhausen.

The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen – A Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia; humbly dedicated and recommended to country gentlemen, and if they please, to be repeated as their own after a hunt, at horse races, in watering places, and other such polite assemblies; round the bottle and fireside (whew, what a title!) was first published in England in 1785. It has joined Sir Thomas More’sUtopia, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as an honored member of the English genre known as the imaginary voyage. As editions have proliferated over the years, more adventures have been added which were never told by the original Baron. So, if you are looking for material for your own tales or just want to study how it’s done, check out The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen.

This is another in an occasional series of posts celebrating the birthdays of environmentalists, ecologists, travelers, adventurers, thinkers, artists, writers, and scientists who have inspired us to a greater appreciation of and participation in life on planet Earth. Who has inspired you? Please let us know, so we can add them to our celebration list.

The North Face Speaker Series presents Mark Synnott, Big Wall Climber

In 1993, Mark Synnott found himself asking the same question that faces many college graduates: “Now what?”  All he really wanted to do was climb.  Working as a carpenter for the next few years, Synnott took advantage of the job’s flexible schedule to take extended climbing trips.  By 1996 Mark had made it to the remote Baffin Island. Spending 36 days living in a portaledge on the side of Polar Sun Spire, a 4,700-foot rock tower, began Synnott’s journey of tackling some of the tallest walls on our planet known as “Big Wall” climbing.

Mark’s penchant for climbing expeditions becomes apparent reading through his list of adventures in big wall and alpine style climbing.  With two other climbers, Jared Ogden and Alex Lowe, Mark help established Parallel Worlds on Great Trango Tower, one of the longest rock climbs in the world a 6,000 ft climb, topping out at 20,000 feet.  Since his days in Baffin Island he has climbed in some of the world’s most remote and beautiful places like Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Patagonia, Tibet, China, India, Pakistan and Borneo. Recently, he explored the Ennedi desert in North Africa, where he and his team scaled surreal-looking rock spires and arches. Mark mixes tales of high adrenaline with droll humor, and his images are breathtaking.

General admission tickets are free and reserved seating is $8.  VIP tickets are $20 and include reserved seats at the presentation as well as an exclusive pre-show reception with Mark Synnott.  All VIP ticket sales benefit The Woods Project.

For tickets and more information, visit

Maurice Sendak RIP

Maurice Sendak

“Please don’t go. We’ll eat you up. We love you so.”

Rest in Peace, Maurice Sendak, beloved author and illustrator…

Did you long to join in the rumpus with the Wild Things? Or were the quieter adventures of Little Bear more to your taste? Was In the Night Kitchen banned from your school library? Or did you receive your first lessons in “Etiquette for All Occasions” studying Sendak’s illustrations for What Do You Say, Dear?

For the past 50 years, Maurice Sendak has been the beloved companion of American children and their parents. Tattered copies of Where the Wild Things Are have passed between generations and snippets of rhyme have become permanently embedded in brains:

“In January
it’s so nice
while slipping
on the sliding ice
to sip hot chicken soup
with rice.
Sipping once
sipping twice
sipping chicken soup
with rice.”

This evening let’s pull out the wrinkled, well-worn copies of our favorite Maurice Sendak storybooks, have a good read, and give thanks.

Here are a few of our favorite interviews with Maurice Sendak:

“Once upon a time Maurice Sendak wandered into a dark forest. Childhood has never been the same.”

Sendak offers insights into Where the Wild Things Are in his interview with Bill Moyers.

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. …What I dread is the isolation. …There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”

In November of last year, Terry Gross talked with Maurice Sendak about his new book and old age.

“He was a man of ardent enthusiasms – for music, art, literature, argument and the essential rightness of children’s perceptions of the world around them.”

The New York Times’ obituary is a fine introduction to Maurice Sendak’s life and accomplishments.

May’s Full Flower Moon

On Saturday evening we welcome the Full Flower Moon! In Texas, we should call it the Crape Myrtle Moon. Unlike points far to the north, our wildflowers are fading in the heat. May’s Full Moon is a Super Moon, the biggest and brightest of the year. It’s the perfect opportunity to turn out the lights, go outside, and experience a moonlit world.

Celebrating Frederic Church, American landscape painter

Niagara Falls, Corcoran Gallery

Niagara Falls Corcoran Gallery

Floating Iceberg – Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Happy Happy Birthday Frederic Church, American landscape painter!

Nineteenth century landscape art introduced the viewing public to the natural wonders of the Americas and the world. These paintings served as the nature videos of their day. If you couldn’t travel to Niagara Falls, Frederic Church’s large painting might give you an inkling of the awe and power you would feel standing close to the edge of the falls.

Church is a member of the second generation of the Hudson River School, America’s first group of landscape painters. His teacher, Thomas Cole, the school’s founder, believed that the contemplation of natural beauty, either in person or in art, would benefit a viewer’s moral and spiritual nature. The spectacular American scenery was also a source of national pride and, in Church’s case, inspired showmanship.

Heart of the Andes  - Frederic Edwin Church

Heart of the Andes, Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 1859, Church unveiled an enormous painting Heart of the Andes which was more than five feet high and slightly less than ten feet long.

“The painting’s frame had drawn curtains fitted to it, creating the illusion of a view out a window. The audience sat on benches to view the piece. Church strategically darkened the room, but spotlighted the painting. Church also brought plants from a trip to South America to heighten the viewers’ experience. The public was charged admission and provided with opera glasses to examine the painting’s details.” Wikipedia

Imagine looking at a painting with opera glasses! Only a work with extraordinary detail and finish could stand up to that kind of scrutiny. Unlike Van Gogh or the Impressionists, there were no visible brushstrokes.

Iceberg Flotante, Juan March Foundation

Iceberg Flotante, Juan March Foundation

Church did not wrestle these huge canvases out into the wilderness. They were painted in the studio, created from drawings and painted sketches done on site and later combined into a large scale work. Artists like Church traveled, sometimes for years, before returning home to paint the major works that brought them fame. Church’s journeys took him to South America, the Arctic, the Near East, Rome, Greece and Mexico.

The Iceburgs, Dallas Museum of Art

The Iceburgs, Dallas Museum of Art

Church traveled to the North Atlantic Ocean between Labrador and Greenland to study ice. His painting The Icebergs, which now resides at the Dallas Museum of Art, is considered to be one of his masterpieces. The contrast between the study of an iceberg and The Icebergs shows the shift from pure representation to heightened drama in the large scale paintings.

At the heart of Church’s work is his gift for capturing the changing effects of light. In The Icebergs we can see the brilliant whites of the full sun on ice and snow, the mysterious sea greens created by light reflecting through water, the darker areas in shadow cut off from direct sunlight and the ever shifting light of clouds and sky. His paintings often depict early morning or sunset, times of day when natural light is most dramatic.

Frederic Edwin Church

If you would like to learn more about the Hudson River School, the Blanton Museum of Art has an exhibition on American Scenery: Different Views in the Hudson River School Painting. The show runs until May 13, 2012 and includes work by Frederic Church.

More information on Frederic Edwin Church:

  • The Worlds of Frederic Church by William Gerdts
  • Wikipedia online gallery of the art of Frederic Church

  • This is another in an occasional series of posts celebrating the birthdays of environmentalists, ecologists, travelers, adventurers, thinkers, artists, writers, and scientists who have inspired us to a greater appreciation of and participation in life on planet Earth. Who has inspired you? Please let us know, so we can add them to our celebration list.

    Wi-Fi at Texas State Parks

    Photo by: Paularps

    Are you one of those folks who, even when they get away, want to stay in touch via electronic devices?

    Fear not. Some Texas State Parks have internet access available for park visitors. The signal is usually available only in some areas of the park. Please check with the park for details.

    Here’s the list of Texas State Parks with Wi-Fi.

    Celebrating Jerome K Jerome

    Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome

    Happy Birthday Jerome K. Jerome, author of Three Men in a Boat – To Say Nothing of the Dog! – a serious contender for the funniest novel ever written, especially if your taste in humor runs toward Monty Python. Published in 1889, the story chronicles a boat trip taken by the author and two friends on the River Thames in a camping skiff. The original manuscript had been commissioned by a publisher as “history mixed up with comic relief.” An astute editor removed most of the history and kept the comic relief. Since its publication, Three Men in a Boat has never been out of print.

    England during the Victorian era sent explorers and travelers to the far corners of the earth. Less adventurous English men and women explored local rivers and enjoyed afternoon outings on the water. (Remember Ratty in The Wind in the Willows? “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”)

    Camping, whether experienced in the Nineteenth or the Twenty First century, has not changed that much. Today we rarely struggle with canvas tents, but otherwise, Jerome’s account of camping in the rain has a familiar ring:

    “Camping out in rainy weather is not pleasant.

    It is evening. You are wet through, and there is a good two inches of water in the boat, and all the things are damp. You find a place on the banks that is not quite so puddly as other places you have seen, and you land and lug out the tent, and two of you proceed to fix it.

    It is soaked and heavy, and it flops about, and tumbles down on you, and clings around your head and makes you mad. The rain is pouring steadily down all the time. It is difficult enough to fix a tent in dry weather; in wet, the task becomes Herculean. Instead of helping you, it seems that the other man is simply playing the fool. Just as you get your side beautifully fixed, he gives it a hoist from his end and spoils it all.

    “Here! What are you up to?” you call out.

    “What are you up to?” he retorts. “Leggo, can’t you?”

    “Don’t pull it; you’ve got it all wrong, you stupid ass!” you shout.

    “No, I haven’t,” he yells back; “let go your side!”

    “I tell you you’ve got it all wrong!” you roar, wishing that you could get at him; and you give your ropes a lug that pulls all his pegs out.

    “Ah, the bally idiot!” you hear him mutter to himself; and then comes a savage haul, and away goes your side. You lay down the mallet and start to go around and tell him what you think about the whole business, and, at the same time, he starts around in the same direction to come and explain his views to you. And you follow each other round and round, swearing at one another, until the tent tumbles down in a heap, and leaves you looking at each other across its ruins, then you both indignantly exclaim in the same breath:

    “There you are! What did I tell you?”

    Meanwhile the third man, who has been baling out the boat, and who has spilled water down his sleeve, and has been cursing away to himself steadily for the last ten minutes, wants to know what the thundering blazes you’re playing at, and why the blarmed tent isn’t up yet.

    At last, somehow or other, it does get up, and you land the things. It is hopeless attempting to make a wood fire, so you light the methylated spirit stove, and crowd round that.

    Rainwater is the chief article of diet at supper. The bread is two-thirds rainwater, the beefsteak-pie is exceedingly rich in it, and the jam and butter, and the salt, and the coffee have all combined with it to make soup.

    After supper, you find your tobacco is damp, and you cannot smoke. Luckily you have a bottle of the stuff that cheers and inebriates, if taken in proper quantity, and this restores to you sufficient interest in life to induce you to go to bed.”

    Three Men in a Boat is full of asides that astonish with their insight and humor:

    “Some people are under the impression that all that is required to make a good fisherman is the ability to tell lies easily and without blushing; but this is a mistake. Mere bald fabrication is useless; the veriest tyro can manage that. It is in the circumstantial detail, the embellishing touches of probability, the general air of scrupulous – almost of pedantic – veracity, that the experienced angler is seen.”

    The journey from Kingston to Oxford on the Thames is relatively unchanged from Jerome K. Jerome’s day. Fans of the book, using its detailed descriptions, still take to the river to follow Harris, George, J. and Montmorency (the dog) on their journey. The book has given birth to several movies and even musicals. If you can stretch your memory back to 1975, you may remember Michael Palin and Tim Curry starring in a Masterpiece Theatre production.

    Learn more about Jerome K Jerome

    + Why won’t Walsall honour Jerome K Jerome?
    +Jerome K Jerome Wikipedia

    This is another in an occasional series of posts celebrating the birthdays of environmentalists, ecologists, travelers, adventurers, thinkers, artists, writers, and scientists who have inspired us to a greater appreciation of and participation in life on planet Earth. Who has inspired you? Please let us know, so we can add them to our celebration list.