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The usefulness of nothing – Philosophy, science, art, and a request

Cooper Island ice throw

Sea ice break up

The Philosophy

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;

But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.

We turn clay to make a vessel;

But it is on that space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.

We pierce doors and windows to make a house;

And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.

Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.

Dao de jing


The science and art

The first time I went to the Arctic, I rode to the island that would be my summer home on the back of a cargo sled pulled by a snowmobile. It was the last weekend in May 2000.
Two snowmobiles, two cargo sleds, four people moved across the open ice of the Arctic Ocean, flat, cold, and boundless. Flocks of eiders and long-tailed ducks hung low along the horizon following their ancient rhythms to nesting grounds still frozen into the tundra.
The majority of that summer I lived on the island alone. It snowed, it rained, there was fog, there was a hurricane, the wind rarely ceased. And I was in frozen heaven.
In our over-caffeinated, over-extended, over-scheduled lives, the Arctic is the space upon which the usefulness of the world relies.
Out of sight to most, it is one of the great regulating factors of the Earth. Now more than ever its vast emptiness is useful to us all.
Formally trained as a biologist, I recently expanded my focus to include writing and photography as a means of connecting more people with the wild world. Combining these skills is a way of fostering innovative thinking and dialogue between people and disciplines with the intent of bringing positive change to the environment. To that end, I applied for and was accepted to an art and science residency titled The Arctic Circle in Svalbard, Norway, in fall 2018.
I intend to create a written and photographic weaving of my journals from my earlier time spent in the Arctic, with climate change science, and the experience of returning to the Arctic as a writer and photographer 18 years after my first visit as a biologist.

The request

I have started a GoFundMe campaign, Artistry in the Arctic, to help fund this expedition. I am requesting funding to cover the residency fee, airfare, and a few necessary expenses of autumn in the Arctic. Generous friends and family, some of them brand new friends and family, have already donated almost enough to cover the deposit due in March. Please consider contributing any amount you are able. Small donations add up, and with your help, we will all go to the Arctic for a new adventure as – internet access dependent – I will post as much as I can along the way.
I set rewards for different donation levels – your choice of any photo that I post during the trip, signed and delivered to you.

For more information and to donate, please visit:

Artistry in the Arctic

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

xoxo T

Cooper Island bird life

Puffin in the house

Year-end musings

winter mind

The winter mind.

It seems my mind is both full and empty.

I think about a time when my neck doesn’t hurt, and the tendons don’t grind – these days are both past and future.

I think about Big Cat, a cat the color of fallen oak leaves.

There is blank space where my mind struggles to find something to think.

I think about —- and his careful and attentive questions about my well-being.

I think about —–, how I will get the job there. How I will be if I haven’t gotten the job.

I think about the oaks and pines outside my window and the pieces of the sky I see through their bare branches and needles.

I try to think of something to write, and I see nothing.

oak leaves

A cat the color of fallen oak leaves.


I think about visible and unrecognizable, the words that chose me for 2017. I wonder what words 2018 will bring me. I don’t see them. My mind says I can’t see them. Maybe they will see me as 2017’s words did.

Enough comes to mind. As in, “I am enough,” or “I have enough,” or “This is enough.” I am content to let this sit for now. It is enough.

A more visceral part says to me, “No. All this is true. And I am more. I can do more. I can be more.”

Enough and more? Similarly contraindicated as visible and unrecognizable. Not opposites. Not opponents. Co-workers. Collaborators. Co-conspirators.

Becoming visible was an act that made me unrecognizable to many. Becoming unrecognizable allowed me to be visible to many more.

Being enough can allow me to be more. Being more offers enough to others.

Yes. Maybe these are the words I need.

I am enough. We are all enough.

I have always been enough. We all have always been enough.

I have more. I am more. I offer more. Striving for more opens me to…

I go back to the blank mind. There are pieces of thoughts, glimmers of ideas floating about in there. I can almost see them. I can’t quite feel them. Beyond the list of what to do today, tomorrow, and next week, there are much grander thoughts. They need to be let out. Hoarding them produces a feeling of scarcity – if I let this into the world, there will never be another, and I will be without grand ideas. No. That’s not right. Letting them out into the world brings them friends and community. It allows expansion, the ideas grow and multiply.

Here is an idea:

What if each of us believes that we are enough?


What if each of us believes that every other person is also enough?

We would all have more.


Antarctica melting away

Yesterday, I flew from Portland, Oregon, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I read about the melting of Antarctica as I looked down on the Nevada canyons and desert.

It was a surreal juxtaposition of time and place and global dilemma – adding to my carbon footprint while judging Man for our follies.

Antarctica may look like Nevada sooner than we think.


Please forgive the previous completely random post… I was playing with new software and inadvertently published it.

That said, I am working on some new, fun things that I hope to show you soon. Stay tuned! xoxo T


World Jellyfish Day

World Jellyfish Day

3 November

Kiss a jellyfish!

Oh, and it’s my birthday. I couldn’t be prouder to have it coincide with such cool, gelatinous, invertebrates.

Jellyfish shots all around.

Love, hugs, and gratitude,

Yours Truly,




More better language, importanter beer


Beer is importanter


The misuse of “less” and “fewer” has long irked me.

The word “impactful” makes me gag. 

“Addicting” really wants to be “addictive.”

Despite my personal misgivings about these words, they are real. Misused, abused, and cringe-worthy as they may be, they are verifiable.

Last week, I heard “concepting.” I don’t even know where to begin with this. It pains me. It is more than just wrong.

Language must grow and change shapes to survive. Shifting words to new meanings is part of a living language. It doesn’t always make it sound more better, but it does keep it from becoming stagnant and dying.

Attempting to loosen the stodgy rules of language in my head, it seems that beer may be importanter than further education.