Archive for December, 2012

Long Nights Moon of December

Photo: Schmeegan

Tonight we welcome the Long Nights Moon of December. Our nights are longest near the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere so tonight’s Full Moon will be sailing across the Texas sky for over 13 hours. Why not bundle up and take a stroll in the moonlight and admire our celestial neighbor? But don’t forget, the root of lunacy is Luna!

What We’re Reading 12-28-12

You may not know this but Whole Earth Provision Co. was originally a bookstore. We still have lots of books and lots of readers on our staff. We share interesting articles and photographs amongst ourselves every day, so we thought we would share them with you too.

 Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
The New York Times’ Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek by John Branch is a great example of text, video and graphics working together to enhance the telling of an already gripping tale. If you can’t read it now, set some time aside for this one.


National Geographic posted Restless Genes this week. Does the DRD4-7R gene make people more likely to take risks, explore new places, ideas, foods and embrace change and adventure? David Dobbs looks at the evidence.

Birds Eye View of Texas Cities
Our friends over at Traces of Texas posted this link to the Amon Carter Museum’s collection of Texas Bird’s-Eye Views, a kind of Google Earth for 19th Century Texas Towns. See how your town has grown!


This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

What We’re Reading 12-21-12

You may not know this but Whole Earth Provision Co. was originally a bookstore. We still have lots of books and lots of readers on our staff. We share interesting articles and photographs among ourselves every day, so we thought we would share them with you too. Despite the general holiday craziness, we did find time to read this week!

Mount Everest and the Khumbu Icefall had their portrait taken 447 times. Those images were then combined into a single two billion pixels image.
Mount Everest and the Khumbu Icefall had their portrait taken 447 times. Those images were then combined into a single two billion pixels image. David Breashears explains why in an interview with NPR.

Do you wake up in the middle of the night? Turns out, that’s what Mother Nature intended. Learn more in this Delancey Place excerpt from Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall.

“Using the word awesome was totally appropriate when it came to describing what the planet looked like.” The Overview Effect and the Psychology of Cosmic Awe from Brainpickings.


It always pays to think about ‘what is the history of the street that I live on’. PRI posted an audio slideshow on The Ghosts of History. More images at Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse’s Flickr page


This is one of an occasional series of posts of what we’re reading 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 in the comments section, so we can add them to our reading list.

Cozy Holiday Special


Cozy Winter Special

In just a few days, Winter will officially arrive at our door. While the days have been warmer than usual, at night, there’s a chill in the air. To help keep you toasty and warm, Whole Earth Provision Co. is offering a Cozy Holiday Special! Take 20% off all shelled insulated Winter jackets, all Winter hoodies, all knit headwear, all Goorin hats, all Buffs and all long underwear.* Whether you’re looking for a special gift or to fill a gap in your own closet, stop by Whole Earth and check out our Cozy Holiday Special!

*Insulated vests, rain jackets, scarves and most fleece are not included. This special can not be combined with discount or membership cards. Special is good for 2012 Holiday Season.

What We’re Reading 12-14-21

You may not know this but Whole Earth Provision Co. was originally a bookstore. We still have lots of books and lots of readers on our staff. We share interesting articles and photos amongst ourselves everyday, so starting this week, we thought we would share them with you too.

Here are a few of our favorites from this week:

Carson-Source-Wikipedia

Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring

Widely considered the most important environmental book ever published, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring has been reissued in a 50th anniversary edition. Margaret Atwood considers its impact and legacy.

Piles of salt near Colchani Bolivia by George Steinmetz

National Geographic photographer George Steinmetz has just published Desert Air, a collection of photographs taken from a paraglider in deserts around the world. This article includes a stunning slideshow.

The pale blue dot of Earth in a photograph taken by Voyager 1 in 1990

Carl Sagan may be fondly remembered for his comment about “billions and billions and billions of stars,” but his words still have the power to inspire us today. Order Animation has created a short video based on his Pale Blue Dot monologue.


This is one of an occasional series of posts of what we’re reading 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 in the comments section, so we can add them to our reading list.

Geminids, the last meteor shower of 2012

Okay, we admit it. The trailer was a bit extreme. Chances are you won’t be seeing giant explosions. But you might see a fireball! So head on out to the country for the last big meteor shower of the year – the Geminids! The show starts on Thursday, December 13th around 9:30 pm CST. Look to the northeast. The meteors appear to be coming from the constellation Gemini, just to the left of Orion. For the best viewing, give your eyes a chance to adapt to starlight. When you can see all seven stars in the Big Dipper, you know your eyes are ready. The number of meteors will increase through the night peaking between 2 and 3 am in the morning of December 14th.

The Geminids were first seen in 1862 and seem to be intensifying every year. Under the best conditions, as many as 150 meteors may be seen in an hour. Our friends at Earth and Sky remind us that “meteor watching is a lot like fishing. You go outside. You enjoy nature all around you. You hope you catch some!”

For more information on the Geminids and December planet sightings take a look at this short video from the Jet Propulsion Lab.

Celebrating Eliot Porter

"In Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World", Eliot Porter book cover

Today, December 6, is Eliot Porter’s birthday, his eleventy first. Porter departed this life back in 1990, but his presence lives on in his photographs and books celebrating the beauty of the natural world.

When he began his career, color photography was considered appropriate for commercial purposes, but not for fine art photography. Porter changed that. He had the eye of an artist and was a master of the color printing process. Even today, his works are marvels of hue, intensity and contrast. In the beginning, his books were published by the Sierra Club and were among the first to be printed in a large format with great care taken in the quality of the paper and the fidelity of the reproductions. They were among the first coffee table books – large enough that you needed a flat surface to be able to see the images to their best advantage.

His first book, In Wildness is the Preservation of the World, was published 50 years ago. It paired his photos of the New England countryside with selections from the work of Henry David Thoreau. Porter’s wife Aline first suggested the idea. To her, his photographs were like Thoreau’s writing. The idea took root and he slowly began rereading Walden and other works by and about Thoreau. At first he looked for descriptive passages that he might illustrate. But the thoughts he found most influential could not be illustrated, for example: “Most men, it seems to me, do not care for nature and would sell their share in all her beauty for a given sum. Thank God men have not yet learned to fly so they can lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”

The idea of illustration having been set aside, Porter hoped instead to complement in feeling and spirit Thoreau’s thinking and “to show the peril we face even more today by our ever faster destruction of life not our own.” Porter spent almost ten years, working on and off, selecting what he considered the best of Thoreau’s writing and photographing in all seasons the woods, streams, ponds and marshes of the Northeast. Gradually text and images came together into the book we know and love today.

The title’s eight words, In Wildness is the Preservation of the World, “express the theme of the book and tell what Thoreau discovered one hundred years ago (now one hundred and fifty!) that a leaven of wildness is necessary for the health of the human spirit, a truth we seem to have forgotten in our headlong rush to control all nature. Unless we reverse our course all wildness will disappear from the American continent even within the lives of those who are now the age Thoreau was when he died in 1862.” (For the record, Thoreau was 44.)

Fifty years later, Porter’s prediction has not yet come to pass. Wildness is reduced and continuously under attack but still abides. In Wildness is the Preservation of the World was a revelation those who had not experienced the beauty of wild places. The book was passed from hand to hand, shared with friends and family, and soon became a bestseller. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was also published in 1962. Together, though in very different ways, these books encouraged a growing environmental consciousness in our country.

Eliot Porter’s photographs help us catch a glimpse of a world we rarely see. It’s sometimes easier to take in the beauty of a vast mountain or canyon rather than the small subtle beauties of a drift of autumn leaves or the first faint bloom of a Red Bud in spring. By looking closely at Porter’s photographs, we can learn to see more deeply and clearly the beauty that surrounds us everyday. He believed that “You learn to see by practice. It’s just like playing tennis. You get better the more you play. The more you look at things, the more you see. …You just have to keep doing it.”

“Much is missed if we have eyes only for the bright colors. Nature should be viewed without distinction… She makes no choice herself; everything that happens has equal significance. Nothing can be dispensed with.”

So, on this, Eliot Porter’s birthday, may we suggest that you head to the library or your own bookshelves and find one of Porter’s books, sit down, and settle in for a good long look. Exercise your vision. You’ll be amazed at what you begin to see in the world around you.

Some of our favorite books by Eliot Porter:

In Wildness is the Preservation of the World

The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon on the Colorado

Appalachian Wilderness: The Great Smokey Mountains

Nature’s Chaos

The Birds of North America: A Personal Selection

Eliot Porter Portrait, Amon Carter Museum

Amon Carter Museum

Eliot Porter’s personal archive is in the collection of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. Their guide to the collection includes biographical information and some small images of Porter’s work. We recommend visiting the museum collection or picking up one of Porter’s books to fully experience the beauty and vibrant nature of his photographs.
For additional information read an article from Sierra Club: “Eliot Porter celebrated ordinary rocks, fallen leaves and the lush complexity of life….” In Photography Is the Preservation of the World by Rebecca Solnit


This is one of an occasional series of posts celebrating the birthday 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.