Holy or the broken, hallelujah…





It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;

what is essential is invisible to the eye


Antoine de Saint-Exupéry






Holding Gramma's hand - bruce witzel photo




Charcoal drawing in Ottawa Art Gallery - artist unknown



Remembered and touched - Jackie and Mack Robinson


~ the brandt series ~ 

“Charles’ concern for the earth, rivers and friends of the forest has been unquenchable.”  Sister Pascaline Coff


Self and Environment


Photography and text by Charles A.E. Brandt (except as noted)


Charles Brandt forest photo (2)




It is early morning with its quiet and coolness. I walk out the old logging road to Catherwood Road. Catherwood is my connector to the outside world. My hermitage is located deep in the temperate rainforest, on the Oyster River, British Columbia. The logging road along with other trails through the forest is where I practice walking meditation. I do not think of the road as leading anywhere. It is the road to nowhere, the path on which I journey and have been journeying for a lifetime.

When I walk this road I have no destination, no timetable or estimated time of arrival. I simply place one foot in front of the other, let all my cares, anguish, angst, fears drop away. My breathing is in harmony with my pace, my pace is in harmony with the universe.

And although this is a path of nowhere, in reality it is a way to everywhere, because it enables me to enter into communion with the whole community of beings, beings which are diverse, interiorized, and each in communion with every other being in the universe. I become present to the most distant star, and she to me, the ‘complicated web of interdependent relationships’. Every atom of my being is present to every atom in the universe, and they to it.


Oyster River below hermitage - charles brandt photo


We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started 

And know the place for the first time.

~ T.S. Elliot ~



Image from the video Turning Point - Charles Brandt and Thomas Merton - produced by Geoffrey Leighton

Image from ‘Turning Point  – Charles Brandt and Thomas Merton’ produced by Geoffrey Leighton (click to view 17 min. video) 


Wellspring of Our Heart


Humanity is set on a path of exploration that will lead to the realization of the oneness of the human community and the earth community. When that begins to happen we will truly know the place for the first time.


We live in a dualistic, dysfunctional society that is intent on exploiting the natural world. We are in a crash situation, living between hope and despair. We have approached the bottom closely enough for us to begin to realize that we have to change. We sense that if we do not change, the human species could very well disappear.


Sunrise - Charles A.E. Brandt (3)


There is an attraction force present today that is beckoning us away from the pit of despair to the hope for a better world. A transformational process has begun that is leading us into a new age, the age of the earth. This this transformation begins with the human heart, in the core of our spirit.


We begin to detect a spring welling up in our heart. Perhaps it is now only a trickle. But it will never run dry.  Sometimes it runs more clearly and evenly. At other times it seems to have gone completely underground.


Beacon Hill Park, Victoria with painting effect - by bruce witzel

photo art by bruce witzel


It is a life force that needs to be purified so that it will flow continuously. It will lead to a transformation of our hearts and minds that will enable us to realize the unity of all beings and enable us to reach out with love to every creature of the universe. . .


Swainsons Thrush - Charles Brandt photo (2)


Looking Back


There have been several outstanding events that have encouraged us to move into the future, into the age of the earth. In 1969, from outer space, we saw the pictures of the ‘great blue marble’ from Apollo I. Since then the idea has been growing that there is something extraordinarily holy about this habitat that we share with all other forms of life.


earthfromspace - the overview institute - Copy


And then in 1992 one of the most important discoveries about the origin of the universe was announced. Suddenly it would seem science and religion have moved closer together.

Scientists discovered wispy clouds or ripples of matter that indicate how matter that was uniformly spread out into the newborn universe may have started clumping together to produce stars.


Trillium, hermitage, april l6, 'l5, charles brandt photo


Then the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro produced some magnificent statements. This conference of 179 member nations approved the Rio Declaration, a five-hundred page programme to guide international action into the twenty-first century.

  Coast Mountains, from Oyster Bay, Dec. 2, '14. charles brandt photo

There were also treaties dealing with global warming and biodiversity and the support of a permanent commission for sustainable development.

On the other hand, the Earth Summit was not a complete success. It failed because the ‘story of the universe’ was not sufficiently acknowledged. It is the dream that drives the action, and we are still not aware of the ‘dream of the earth’.


Dandelions at the Puntledtge Reserve, Courtenay April 11 2016 - charles brandt photo 


Recently, ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME, LAUDATO SI was sent out by Pope Francis which includes the best of science and spirituality and is a guide into the future.

 Saint Francis - bruce witzel photo


LAUDATO SI, the words of Francis of Assisi, gives praise to sister river and to brother sun.  He lived at the edge of the inside and was perhaps the first to speak of THE OTHER THAN HUMAN  COMMUNITY as having intrinsic value, more that objects for our personal use, i.e, the forest is not a  lumber yard, but is a community of subjects to be communed with and that the human community and the natural world must go into the future as a single sacred community.


Transformation & Turning Point 


We have still not learned how to commune with nature, nor have we undergone the transformation of consciousness that is necessary if we are to see the unity of all beings and the non-dualistic nature of reality…


Fawn Lily (pink and white) Black Creek Nature Park, aprii 8, '15, charles brandt photo original


And in my opinion the most important, we have not learned to pay attention. We have not yet learned, globally, to meditate. . .


meditation . Courtenay estuary, Laing property - charles brandt photo


Today it is clear that we stand at a turning point. It is the most critical turning point in the long history of the universe and the earth. We are creating a new mode religious consciousness which indeed is already palpable. But so far very few of us have entered into it. Until more of us do, our earth will continue to be threatened as we blindly close down our life support systems. To enter into this new consciousness our ego, the ‘I-Maker’, has to die.


  Butterfly - Charles Brandt photo


Our destiny is to bring about one of the greatest transitions of the story of the universe. Unless we enter into this transformation the next phase of the story will never come about. We are living in a transitional moment of the story.


Swan Abstract - charles brandt photo


All such moments are sacrificial moments. We are called to make sacrifices. And the most difficult thing about this is that we must ask others to do the same. If the story can be told clearly, people will accept this need for sacrifice. Life teaches us that whatever is achieved has a price.

    bleeding heart - charles brandt photo

We were given the beauty of the universe. We must make a response to it. We offer the gift of gratitude in return for the gift of the universe. We accept self-control as an aspect of gratitude. Ultimately we can only give back what we have been given.

  Looking across Courtenay River Estuary towards Comox Glacier - Charles Brandt photo 

We cannot just will the sacrifice. It has to flow from love. . .


Twins @ the Hermitage June 11. 2014 - Charles Brandt photo


Stream of Love


We need, then, to practice a truly contemplative form of prayer, which will lead us away from our dualistic approach to reality. There are many forms of meditation, of prayer, but in reality there is only one prayer: the prayer that is, without beginning. It is the lifestream of Ultimate Reality. It is the stream of love. . . To the extent we enter into that stream we are carried beyond and outside our narrow selves, into the very life of the Godhead, far removed from any dualism.


Waterfall abstract - bruce witzel photo

abstract photo by bruce witzel


(For those of us) as Christians, we open ourselves, by way of the mantra in meditation, to the resurrected, glorified, infinitely transcendent human consciousness of Christ. . .  Because the resurrected Christ is also the cosmic Christ, in touch and in relationship with every created being, we too enter (as we ‘put on the mind of Christ’) into a non-dualistic relationship of love with the entire human community and the community of the natural world. They become a single non-dual community of love and sharing.


Trumpeter Swans - charles brandt photo


In our journey of exploration we move out of emptiness into the fullness of love. This is our calling. Herein lies our responsibility. The universe has poured into each of us those unique creative spontaneities that will carry us forward into the age of the earth, an age that even now is beginning to shine through as we create a new mode of religious consciousness.

How necessary then it is to embrace those creative spontaneities which are unique to each unique being and placed within us to move forward so that one day we will truly ‘know the place for the place for the first time’. Our gift of being is the most precious gift. As recipients of the gift we can but offer it back in gratitude. . .

   A family in the  Sierra Nevadas - Bruce Witzel photo

  photo by bruce witzel




What does meditation have to do with transformation of consciousness that will enable us to cease closing down our life support systems? . . .

  Charles Brandt at his hermitage - photo by Nick Didlick

Fr. Charles Brandt at the hermitage in 2001 – photo by Nick Didlick


To realize our unity with all beings, and so to leave the world of duality is perhaps the most important step we take towards halting the environmental destruction that is taking place on the earth and in the universe. So we enter silence and stillness, exposing our human consciousness to the . . . human consciousness of Christ . . .

Though meditation we assist in the great transformation of human hearts and minds which leads the human community and the earth community into a single sacred community.


 Abridged from the book…


self-and-environment - cover image of book by charles brandt




Charles Brandt was born in Kansas in 1923. After serving in the US military in World War 2 (non combatant), he continued studies in wildlife conservation. Some of his key work was at Cornell University’s bird sound recording lab. In 1950 life led him into the Anglican priesthood and later he became a Catholic  monk. With guidance from Thomas Merton, Charles came to Vancouver Island in 1965 and soon was ordained a Catholic hermit priest, the first in over 200 years. In years since, he provided livelihood from his skill at book binding and now is a well known art and book conservateur, and that of the natural world.  At 93 years of age he is a humble and gentle activist for the earth and a leader of the World Community for Christian Meditation.

Posted for the Earth by b. thomas witzel





Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, Weed California - bruce witzel photo


The Why Sculpture at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, Weed California



Kohan reflection garden @ Slocan Lake, BC - Fran Guenette photo


Kohan Reflection Garden – New Denver BC

Four thousand  Canadians of Japanese Heritage were interned nearby during World War 2 including the well known environmentalist, scientist and broadcaster, Dr. David Suzuki.



“War does not determine who is right – only who is left.”   Bertrand Russell







Did you know that food can be cooked with the sun? For Earth Day 2016, here’s an introduction to environmental friendly solar cooking. Bon appetit.


Sun oven with reflectors open - Bruce Witzel photo


Reflectors are opened like petals on a flower, to collect and focus sunlight. The glass cover will trap heat inside the oven and pots.

You’ll understand this better by remembering how hot your car can get if it is parked in the sun.


Preparing a solar meal in a black pot - bruce witzel photo


With solar ovens it’s always best to cook with less liquid than traditional ovens because sun ovens operate in slightly lower temperature ranges. Also, it is best to use black cookware that will absorb the sunlight. An exception to this rule is parabolic solar cookers which are exceptionally hot.









Here are a few different solar cookers we have used over the years.


Solar cooking at Fran's old apartment at Universtiy of Victoria - Bruce Witzel photo



Homebuilt solar oven - by Bruce Witzel -2




My first solar oven, circa 1979 - bruce witzel photo


Our more traditional crock pot is used for cloudy days, and yet it works from stored solar electricity.


Traditonal electric crock pot - bruce witzel photo


This brilliant model designed in India is a solar electric plug-in hybrid. An electric heating element comes on if the sun goes behind the clouds.


Solar Electric Hybrid Cooker - bruce witzel photo 



In many sun rich areas of the world solar cooking helps women avoid breathing smoke from cook fires and saves money. The sun cookers also help save trees and the earth’s delicate ecology.


Care and Support Network November 2012 - courtesy Womens Engineers of Mali

This parabolic solar cooker was developed in part, by the Women’s Engineers of Mali.


Patricia McArdle, former US diplomat and a technical advisor to Solar Cookers International (SCI) is an advocate of sustainable, renewable energy, and a global promoter of integrated solar thermal cooking technology. This photo  taken near New Delhi, India (used courtesy of SCI.) illustrates the simplicity and elegance of a solar panel cooker.


Solar_cooking_in_Nepal - photo courtesy of  Solar Cookers International


What about this innovative idea for a built-in solar kitchen?




Jack Lund of Kyoto Twist Solar Cooking Society at earth day event - bruce witzel photo (b&w)



As surely as the sun arises, may the fog on our consciousness lift. Come on world… let’s have a full scale embrace of all the solar solutions and let’s get on with solar cooking.

Along with saving the planet from more massive climate change events, a small bonus will be that people who use propane barbecues won’t have to change cylinders all the time.

Put that in your barbecue and smoke it!


A good solar cooking  day as the fog lifts - bruce witzel photo


Cheers, and have happy earth day – every day.




 Dinner & Earth Prompt  

Izzy’s Clothesline Platform

Fran's rebuilt clothes line platform, April 14, 2016 - by bruce witzelMy wife Francis has a lovely piece of dialogue in her first novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight, when Izzy’s husband Caleb talks to his friend Liam as they watch Izzy hang out the laundry. Moving and humorous, all I might add is that some truths are best expressed in fiction. Read on, and then click to her blog at the bottom, for a bit of a chuckle! (And, I must confess – I hope you enjoy my own handiwork.)


Socks on the line - Guenette photo

For all the new readers of Disappearing in Plain Sight – here’s a treat and an example of how fiction informs reality.

One of the first building projects tackled after I came to the cabin was a crude platform up a couple of stairs that allowed me to reach the newly installed clothesline. For all it’s primitive nature, that original platform hung around a long time – twenty-three years this fall!

Sheets on the line - Guenette photo

In the above photo, the platform is barely visible. It was a humble structure all tucked up behind the salal bushes. And definitely on it’s last legs in 2015 with rotting posts causing the whole thing to lean forward at the front end. The already iffy platform was not helped, on more than one afternoon near the end of last summer, by the antics of a large bear who chose to climb up and plant him or herself on…

View original post 541 more words

What’s can you see the distance? On trees, bees & the sun.




   What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and one another.

~ Mahatma Gandhi ~


A week or so ago an amazing event occurred here at the lake, on an unusually warm and calm spring day. At first we couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t fire or smoke. Nor was it dust from logging or mining. After a bit of puzzling we got it – eureka! Away in the distance at the base of the mountains, an outburst of pollen was rising from the trees. It was as if before us, the earth and forest were making love. Mother nature, re-creating. Giving us life and sustenance…


Pollen flare-up over the lake in British Columbia, April 7 2016 -  bruce witzel photo


“The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”  – Isaiah  the Prophet


 A close-up of the pollen flare…

Pollen eruption at the lake April 7, 2106  telephoto view -bruce witzel photo


Most trees in our local ecosystem are evergreen conifers such as spruce, red cedar, douglas fir, and western hemlock. The only local deciduous broadleaf tree is red alder which grows rapidly and may shade out the more commercially favoured conifers. But red alders have important eco-logical value because their root nodules fix nitrogen in the soil and their leaves create rich compost on the forest floor. They also reclaim slide zones from logging and floods, hence preventing further soil erosion.


So, where did the pollen burst come from?

Although I’m not certain, I suspect it came from the alder trees – from the male flowers or male catkins, to be precise…


A fallen red alder catkin (male)  - bruce witzel photo



            Red Alder catkins (male) on left, and          

        slung over a huckleberry bush (below)


            Red alder male catkin & huckleberry buds -bruce witzel photo
















  Pollen flares at Victoria Lake - bruce witzel photo


As for the future, where is the pollen cloud is heading?


To the female red alder catkins (below), one might accurately surmise.


Red alder female catkin hanging in huckleberry bush - bruce witzel photo


“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson


Below is another view of the pollen burst. The lakeshore (left) is lined with broadleaf red alders.

To the left side of the frame are alder branches.


Alder tree and pollen eruption, April8, 2016 - bruce witzel photo



To shift the story a bit (and indeed the paradigm), the next day pollen was everywhere…


Alder pollen on solar water heater - bruce witzel photo


Can you see where I wiped it off the glass of the solar hot water heater?


Alder pollen on my fingers - bruce witzel photo



Usually our solar electric panels need little maintenance. But there was so much pollen I had to clean off the yellow film that was blocking out the sunlight.


31 year old Kyocera Solar Electric cells - bruce witzel photo


It was good I took the time, because for the first time I noticed some discoloration and darkened purple color on a few our oldest panels. These solar photo-volt-aic panels have been producing power for 31 years now. When brand new in 1985 the cells were all bright blue like the center one. Over more time they’ll begin to give us less electricity and in future we will need to install a few more solar panels to make up the difference.


It is also a good thing that solar solutions are rapidly becoming less expensive. Especially considering the harm that fossil fuels are igniting, and on the overall future of the planet.



“We cannot hope to either understand or to manage the carbon in the atmosphere unless we understand and manage the trees and the soil too.”  Freeman Dyson



Apr. 4, 2016 -Alberta Solar Jobs (source - Green Party of Canada)


I think the dream of a solar age is now coming to fruition. In realizing this, it will be good for us to be aware that nature will always provides us with the best most important solar collectors – 

the flora of the earth around us – the plants and trees.



Vancouver Island Lake on a calm day, with red alder trees in bloom - bruce witzel photo


And of course the pollen, and the birds.


Rufous Hummingbird - charles brandt photo



And the bees…


Finding the nectar - bruce witzel photo


Cheers – Bruce



The future depends on what you do today.

~ Mahatma Gandhi ~




Rufous hummingbird photo by Charles Brandt (click here for a link to a new video on the life of Fr. Charles)


                                  (WPC The future – potential of things to come)



from Thich Nhat Hanh . . .


Spring Green, Wisconsin at Taleisen East - bruce witzel photo

I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth.



Boy in Kaslo BC - Fran Guenette photo

In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.



Marble River - Bruce witzel photo

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air as a miracle.



A family in the  Sierra Nevadas - bruce witzel photo

But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or thin air, but to walk on earth.


Thich Nhat Hanh , Buddhist Monk

& friends



Photo source & credit – unknown.


Peace and love – Bruce




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