weekly photo challenge: grand community

Introducing the Brandt Series –

Earth as sacred commons

Photography by Charles A.E. Brandt & quotes by Thomas Berry (1914 –2009)


“The Universe story is the quintessence of reality. We perceive the story. We put it in our language, the birds put it in theirs, and the trees put it in theirs. We can read the story of the Universe in the trees. Everything tells the story of the Universe. The winds tell the story, literally, not just imaginatively. The story has its imprint everywhere, and that is why it is so important to know the story. If you do not know the story, in a sense you do not know yourself; you do not know anything.” 


Trumpeter Swans - by Fr.Charles A.E. Brandt 

Some of us have gotten to know one another, so I’ll tell you a story . . .

Numerous fellow bloggers will relate to being brought up within the Catholic faith. The 1960’s blew in with winds of change – for the church and the world at large. 

An unusual and auspicious event occurred when I was eight years old at the Canadian Martyrs Church, where I served  as an altar boy for many years.

I don’t remember the event specifically . . .  though it helped to form me in ways I could never imagine.

It was 1966 and Charles Brandt  (the man who took these photos) was ordained to the Catholic priesthood. His mandate was to live the life of a hermit priest. It was the first time this happened in over 200 years “which is pretty unusual,” as Charles said.

“I came from the Trappist Monks, that’s a Benedictine order. Everybody knew about the hermits on Vancouver Island from all over the world. It was a group that wanted more solitude that you couldn’t find in the big order… I came from New Melleray Abbey (Iowa) to join the hermitage on the Tsolum River — when the mine was going in on Mount Washington.”

That was a copper mine Charles refers to – it operated only two years.


American Wigeon - Charles Brandt


As I swam with my friends in local rivers during lazy adolescent summer days of the early 70’s, I always wondered why the Tsolum looked so different. Acid rock drainage from the defunct mine had combined with poor upstream logging practices, and eventually the Canadian Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans declared the Tsolum River toxic and dead.

Over the years, government agencies and and non profit groups had unsuccessful attempts at capping the mine. Finally in 2009, a 4.5 million dollar grant from the British Columbia  Ministry of Environment helped  with a passive wetland treatment plan, and later a new impermeable cap was built. The copper leachate was halted. Water quality is back to normal.

This October 2013, the Tsolum River supported a large run of salmon that returned from the ocean – 60,000 Pinks and numerous Coho, as well as the bugs and plants they feed on.


Coho spewing with cuthroat waiting - Charles Brandt


Charles Brandt lives in an inclusive and universal way.  With his gentle collaborative activism he goes about the great work, as Father Thomas Berry names it. Awareness is raised to develop broad based partnerships to help defend and recover fragile eco-systems of rivers and watersheds that sustain humans and non-humans alike. The great work is an ongoing testament of how the earth can heal and the earth might survive – if we let it.


CharlesBrandt - Comox Valley Record


At 90 years of age with humble wisdom, Charles is ever faithful to the contemplative life, Christian Meditation, and to honour the earth as a sacred commons.


Tsolum River - by Charles Brandt


As a community lets celebrate  the beauty of the natural world while we contemplate the meaning and impact us earthlings have. Within our families, communities, local governments, towns and cities, let us together co-create a better world. We live for such a brief time. Who will we become? And what shall we choose to do?

Our mission is to build up Peace, Joy, Love, Justice, Freedom and Care for the Earth. The moment is now.


  Trumpeter Swans - Charles Brandt

“We might sometimes reflect and recall that the purpose of all our science, technology, industry, manufacturing, commerce, and finance is celebration, planetary celebration. This is what moves the stars through the heavens and the earth through its seasons. The final norm of judgment concerning the success or failure of our technologies is the extent to which they enable us to participate more fully in this grand festival.”  Thomas Berry

This ongoing “Brandt series” is meant as a collaborative effort with you the reader . . .

May we be well – and the earth be well.

Bruce Thomas W.


This post was created for  2 Weekly Photo Challenges: Grand & Community


    • Thank you Mary – Charles is a wonderful photographer and also adept at knowing and naming the flora and fauna, even the difference between male and female of any given bird species. By the way – I really enjoyed your post on the civil war re-enactment and the Washington DC cherry blossoms – well done.

  1. Beautiful site, both words and images.. Thanks for liking one of my recent posts.

    I used to come up from Santa Cruz, California to camp and windsurf on Nitinat Lake for weeks at a time, so your photos of the island bring back lots of fond memories…

    • Pleased to meet you Tom. I’m also pleased you feel a personal connection to the photos. We do have some beautiful lakes here on the island.

      On your own site, I love the photos of the artwork as well as your thoughtful “talking stick” prose – the way it connects your personal thoughts and experiences to the broader world, both past and present…

  2. How wonderful to have access to this site. How I have loved roaming the woods and countryside since I was a small child! That where I find peace and joy. Thank you for this site.

    • And thank you fpr a lovely comment, Elizabeth.The natural world that surounds us is rejuvenating and life giving. I am pleased you you have found the blog enjoyable as well, and I’m sure Charles concurs.
      Best regards – Bruce

  3. Being a lucky sister-in-law , his brother and I have had the distinct pleasure of receiving many of his photos by email. We and the family have really enjoyed them. May he contribute many more to us and his community of friends. Sincerely, wanda and frank Brandt

    • My sincere thanks for your leaving a commemt Wanda. You and Frank being so close of kin to Charles, and having love and appreciation for him in this manner, really illustrates the interconectedness that Charles has dedicated his life to. I am honoured with your visit here. Best regards to you, and peace. Bruce

  4. It would be so good if more people saw this posting; especially the politicians. The photography of Charles is always superb and a joy to behold. Thank you Charles and Thomas

    • Listen up readers!! Could some of you twitter this or add it as a facebook link, etc.

      Great idea Elizabeth – and yes indeed, thanks to Charles Brandt and Thomas Berry for their life work of putting this, the Great Work & the Dream of the Earth, into the fore.

  5. PLEASE NOTE THIS CORRECTION: Charles emailed to let me know the 4.5 Million in funding came in 2009, not 2003 as I report in the blog. He also said that he doubts any Steelhead have returned to the Tsolum River this year – it’s unknown at this time. Bruce

  6. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge-Community | WoollyMuses

    • They are indeed! Charles also has a degree in orthinology and with a keen eye towards the natural world, you can look forward to many more of his photos of birds and wildlife.

      Thanks Roy – and wishing you the best of this wonderful season. Bruce

  7. Well I must say this was a fascinating read! I’ve been thinking about how important trees are lately. I don’t know why it strikes me so. Yet I have this compelling urge to go plant trees!

    • Yes the importance of trees – mainly carbon, like people. And how trees act to remove from our atmosphere the ever rising CO2 levels. The sacredness of the carbon molecule equals thes the sacredness of the earth & the sacredness of us. I hope this makes some sense.

      I am glad that you found this post fascinating. Peace and best regards – Bruce

      • It makes perfect sense to me Bruce. Not only do they filter our air, did you further know that an average size tree can soak up in it’s roots, close to 100 gallons of water a day? So without trees, this would quickly become a water world…

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