A Road Less Travelled

August 12, 2018

In May of this year I was invited to be on a four person panel discussing our autobiographical accounts on the topic: “The Roads Less Travelled”; part of a week long 50th Reunion celebration of the Harvard/Radcliffe class of 1968. It was held in a rather large lecture hall at Harvard’s Science Center with an audience of around 170 people. The best part — from a visual perspective — was the large 10 foot x 14 foot screen where our images were shown.

In a nutshell, I spoke on the journey my life took after graduation: Peace Corps@Korea, Apprenticeship in carpentry and cabinet making @Alaska, Furniture design and fabrication @Penland School/North Carolina, Teaching design @UTas/Tasmania and, for the past 25 years, my life @Windgrove: a Refuge for Learning

The common thread behind all of my life’s choices — besides being “unconventional”— was to be of greater service to the common good of humanity and the wider world. In Alaska I usually worked in the bush building homes, hospitals, schools for the native peoples of the region.

During the last week of 1990 I canoed with friends down the Arthur River in northwest Tasmania. While walking by myself after an evening meal and pondering what New Year’s resolution to make, I spontaneously knelt down and audibly said to the trees and river: “I am ready to be of greater service”. At the time I was living in the house I had designed and was a tenured lecturer at the University of Tasmania.

But a month and a half later a bush fire took out my home. Total destruction.

Inwardly knowing that I was ready for a different life — another road less travelled moment — I quit my lectureship, bought 100 acres of barren, degraded land next to Roaring Beach, and began the 25 yearlong journey to find out what I meant when I said “I wanted to be of greater service”.

The most obvious sign of what I’ve done is plant trees.

After Harvard I gave a slightly longer presentation on a hilltop in North Carolina to a small group of Penland friends. Surrounded by tiki lamps and a mellowing sunset, while the image below of me smiling was up on the desktop screen, I asked the rhetorical question: Why was I happy?

The answer I gave was this passage from the Marge Piercy poem:

If they come in the night

Long ago on a night of danger and vigil
a friend said, Why are you happy?
He explained (we lay together on a hard cold floor) what prison
meant because he had done
time, and I talked of the death
of friends. Why are you happy
then, he asked, close to

I said, I like my life. If I
have to give it back, if they
take it from me, let me only
not feel I wasted any, let me
not feel I forgot to love anyone
I meant to love, that I forgot
to give what I held in my hands,
that I forgot to do some little
piece of the work that wanted
to come through.

In late 1975, after I decided to quit a well paying job as a foreman on the Alaska pipeline (and a relationship) to study art in Wisconsin, Paul Simon recorded “Still Crazy After All These Years”.

We’re now in the year 2018 and I’m-Still-Planting-After-All-These Years. Another banksia put into the ground three days ago means another flowering delight for someone in ten years time.

The poet Rilke speaks to me when he writes:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

None of the past 50 years has been all sugar and honey. As much as I felt honoured to have been invited to speak at Harvard with the resultant heartfelt applause from the audience after my slide presentation, over the years the multiple personal decisions to walk a path “not the norm” has been full of personal pot holes and is still full of pot holes.

But one thing is certain, and well worth the price:

Perhaps those who find the thought of dangling over the precipice a bit too harrowing, well maybe they aren’t the ones to ever be asked to be on a panel “The Road Less Travelled”.


It’s that time in my life to now give ample and fearless consideration to what it means when one’s physical capabilities are diminishing, but one still wants to be “in service”.

For inspiration I look to poet Mary Oliver.

Lines Written in the days of Growing Darkness

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?

I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

Mary Oliver

The line most ripe with meaning is: “…the vivacity of what was is married to the vitality of what will be.”

The two words that ring out within this line: vivacity and vitality.

In other words, as I approach my 72nd year, I can inspire and impart vitality to the next generation of people following in my footsteps by remaining full of vivacity in my later years to the very end.

I can do this as mentor and elder.

And it is not just young people who, through my vivacity could become vital in their later years. It is the earth itself. Let me continue to plant — literally and figuratively — seeds of growth for future generations of trees and all forms of life forces.

And here’s another Mary Oliver poem that offers encouragement — to anyone of any age — to live a vivacious life.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measly-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver



October 16, 2016

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.



Turning 70 this year has motivated me — or, more correctly, forced me — to look at my mortality and eventual death and get serious on formulating and legalising what Windgrove’s future will be.

With neither a partner nor any children to give my estate, this allows an opportunity to broaden the nature of just whom might be the recipients. A more altruistic, global endeavour, perhaps?

On the other hand….. having spent the past 25 years — yes, that is a quarter of a century — working almost daily to shape the land (9,000 trees planted), create studio art, create site-specific land art (Peace Garden, Peace Fire, Gaia Evolution Walk), and, clean rain gutters, chop wood and wash dishes along with hosting countless numbers of visitors, artist-in-residents and workshop participants, I could be forgiven if I choose to sell up everything, move to California and rest my butt at a cafe in Berkeley getting fat on an endless supply of coffee and croissants.

But… as the Rilke poem suggests: I live my life in widening circles… and even though I may not complete this last endeavour, I will give myself to it: body, mind and soul.

This is the fearless artist speaking, forever envisioning and walking into the unknown. For now, the more lazy, comfort seeking inner voice is taking a back seat while the Windgrove legacy is being drawn up.

After you finish reading this blog Legacy, scroll back to the top where you will see a posting entitled Windgrove’s Future. Take a moment to click on here and, then, download your copy of the brochure that outlines what has been planned.

And, while there, please submit your name and email address for future updates.

The photo below is an aerial image by Dan Bailey of eight of the “widening circles”.



May Peace Prevail on Earth

November 16, 2015

If family stories are true, my father started primary school at 18 years of age and went straight through to a master’s degree in accounting.


He arrived in America by boat and, like most immigrants loved his new country. More often than not his eyes would well up with tears when he sang America’s national anthem.

Throughout his life, though, he felt the pressure of being a foreigner in a new land. His surname Adamov was changed to Adams, not because he was ashamed of his heritage, but discrimination against “foreigners” wouldn’t allow him the freedom to move up the social/economic ladder as quickly as his desires and needs to support a family wanted to move along.

As a young lad, my father spent the entirety of WWI in Serbia. As an adult and because of what he saw and experienced of war, he shunned conflict and worked hard to make friends of Catholics and other people outside his historic ethnic Serbian Orthodox religious biases — even marrying my mother, a Protestant.


“Within every wound their is the seed of hope.”

Our global society is being severely wounded. And tested.

Every culture, including my “adopted” country Australia, has an unconscious xenophobic fear of immigrants, asylum seekers and those newly arrived. It rises to the surface when stirred up by the insanity of terrorism, but also by shock jocks, politicians and religious leaders looking to promote their particular world view.


My father chose peace, forgiveness and compassion over millennia of fear, distrust and hatred of “The Other”.

Make no mistake, my father had some wide fault lines in his character after experiencing what he experienced as a youth. But his chosen path — however rocky — was towards Peace.

I can do nothing less than honour him and the path he chose by walking this path myself.

Perhaps, even changing my name back to Adamov?


To self-medicate or not?

October 7, 2013

“The angina tablet was already doing its work, the tightness in his chest was retreating, the tingling in his arm had gone, and though some wild internal disorder beyond medicine remained in his quaking soul he felt well enough to return from the hotel bathroom to the bedroom.”

Richard Flanagan, from “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”


Let’s face it, life can be so difficult at times that a bit of self-medication can allow us to get through the day. The inference from the Flanagan quote is that the masking of the problem with prescription or non-prescription drugs or alcohol or, even, hanging out in the garden directly munching broccoli, is never a cure.

It does help, however. And who can blame anyone for doing what they do to ease the pain. I suppose what we have to ask is whether or not the actions we take to lessen the torment also lessens our ability to do the Work required to make the world (or, on a smaller scale, our personal lives) a happier place for ourselves and everyone.

When my soul quakes, I prefer to go to the veggie patch or elsewhere into nature and become — for a moment — distracted by the inherent beauty so richly abundant in all that grows. The minutia of life always astounds and helps settle whatever is troubling.



Inside the trees, where tomorrow
hides along with years, tomorrow
stirs. And there my sisters
never born touch lips to bark
and begin to sing:

Brother of Air, Brother of Sun,
please tell our story, that we
may live in the brief wind.

Wherever I stand I hear the trees
petition so. By listening
I know I’m born. By turning
the forest back toward itself
I live as a friend of trees:

Listen together; be ready.
You may be born.
I touch the bark
and call deep as I can:
Part of me.

William Stafford


And so I do what I can to stem the flow of incapacitating emotions and get on with the job of carving sculptures that can help tell the stories of the trees, the stones, water and wind.


On being naked

May 14, 2013

Just after lunch last Wednesday, with the hope of finding the last two rocks missing from the Drop Stone Bench, I went down to the area just below the 50 foot cliff where they had been tossed off. My hopes were up because the day was wonderfully sunny with a soft off shore breeze, it was a low New Moon tide coupled with an atmospheric high pushing the water even further down, and, the swell had dropped to a manageable size.

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To cut a long search and rescue mission short, I carried two stones home. Boy, was my face beaming. My smile went from ear to ear. And, I couldn’t help but express my joy by taking a Vitruvian stance. This is not “exhibitionism”; rather, a humble unencumbered human exhibiting gratitude to the joy of being alive.

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Below, I’ve photoshopped away half of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” to highlight the pose I take to express this joining of ecstasy with a sense of being animal. A sensual connection to earth rarely experienced by urban dwellers.

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In the movies, the good guy points a gun at the bad guy and says: “Put your hands up!”. The raised arms of the bad guy are an indication of submission, of being defenseless, of vulnerability, of being arrested and held in the power of someone/something else.

In the same way, when one is feeling victorious and there is no need to “defend” oneself by risking total exposure, we tend to uncrouch and — as the stadium fans do when their team scores a goal — throw our hands and arms up into the air in a type of archetypal surrendering to the gods as a salute of joyous thanks.

And by doing this Vitruvian salute, we symbolically become one with sky and earth. Energetically, we are the tree-of-life rooted to the earth extending branched fingers heavenward.

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All my life, whenever I’ve been out in nature and felt moved by the beauty surrounding/enveloping me, I have intensified the experience by shedding clothes with zero embarrassment. I do this as an artist wanting to taste creation. I do this as a lover wanting to express satisfaction in my lover.

Take the “em” out of embarrass.

The word embarrassment comes originally from the French embar: to enclose within bars; to imprison.

When we are embarrassed by nudity, we are closing ourselves off to a direct connection to nature; we are imprisoning ourselves in a religious and cultural mindset that denies our animalness, and hence, our sensual and evolutionary links to Gaia.

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Although not quite proportionally accurate, a more symbolic representation of the ideal human is Cesare Cesariano’s “Vitruvian Man” done 30 years after Leonardo’s drawing.

Just below the belly button is an erect penis. Does this represent the erotic nature and creative aspect of birth — the life potential sperm conduit of the “divine masculine”? Even as it points directly towards the naval — the remnant umbilical cord that connects all humans to the universal through the womb and the “divine feminine”?

I recognize that various friends, colleagues and readers of this blog will view the above photos with a certain mixture of bemusement and even concern; most likely thinking that “Peter” has lived in the woods too long and has, perhaps, gone a bit too feral?

To all who profess an interest in environmental philosophy and education, deep ecology and earth based arts, or, simply wanting to make a more real connection to nature in order to mitigate the causes behind climate change, let me say this:

“To really rejoice in who we truly are as individuals; to have full possession and use of our bodies to partake in all the sensual pleasures nature has bestowed on us; to make sure we embody the wisdom needed to bring about a thriving, just and spiritually fulfilling world…. go hence to the middle of a sunny field, the edge of a cliff top, a waterfall, a lake, a grove of trees. Take a stance. Strip off your clothes. Spread your legs wide open. Thrust your arms upward. Then, from deep within your animal belly, shout a shout announcing your place on this earth.”

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PS. The last photo is a self portrait on Cheju Island in South Korea in 1970 when I was an impressionable 23 year old just beginning my journey towards understanding the real work of this world.