Pete Muller @pete_k_muller

“This is how it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?”

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@pete_k_muller photos and videos

3 days ago

It was with my father, Norman, that I learned how the presence of buried tree roots changed the sound of my footfalls on a trail. They create a muted, hollow yet amplifying effect that reminds me of the unseen. As a boy, I followed him into the mountains of New England, where he'd discovered things within himself many years before. His father was a Swedish immigrant and brought with him the Scandinavian appreciation for the outdoors. My dad did his best to impart that outlook to my sister and me. Last autumn, while I was teaching at @mtholyoke in western Massachusetts, I brought him to the Chesterfield Gorge, a dramatic, plunging ravine carved by the Westfield River. He'd never seen it before. I was grateful to give him something after all he'd given me. Looking at the churning waters below, I felt connected to to him and to the beautiful, enduring forces that shaped us both. "We are still in Eden," wrote my favorite painter, Thomas Cole. "the wall that shuts us out of the garden is our own ignorance and folly.” @thomascolesite #chesterfieldgorge #nature #father #fathersday

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7 days ago

What a scream. Been in Washington DC for the @natgeo #NatGeoFest . The days are dynamic and relentless. Nice to unwind a with @brianskerry @brentstirton @kaityarnall @ronan_donovan @galuchis and @katieorlinsky. We didn’t deserve such classy surroundings.

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15 days ago

In the days before our departure, an industrial cargo ship anchored off the shores of Lorino, a small sea hunting town in the Russian Arctic. Amid the constant pale, white light that defines the Arctic summer, the ship looked out of place. Occasionally, the crew boarded small motorboats to come ashore, look around and buy a few supplies. The ship remained for several days and stood in contrast to Chukchi fishermen who quietly fished the productive seam just off the shore. To do so, they used wooden planks to place nets in the depression along which fish liked to travel. Occasionally, a large school of fish would encounter the net and the question of meals for the week would be answered. The crew of the cargo ship would look on. I am constantly amazed by the number of things unfolding in the world at any one time. #fishing #russia #chukotka #arctic

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21 days ago

SOUND ON: I met Voshon on the side of the road on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. He was shucking oysters in the mid-morning sun. Unlike some on this remote island, he was receptive to my curiosity. People here have been pestered too long by journalists and state workers and organizations. Understandably, most just want to be left alone. Seclusion was part of the allure of living here. We hung out near a treehouse that he and his brother, Joe, built as kids. It’s now overgrown and dilapidated. We talked a long while about changes on the island, which is sinking into the Gulf of Mexico at an alarming rate. It's lost 90 percent of its land mass over the last fifty years. The future of life here is in question. Voshon’s voice has stuck with me.

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22 days ago

SOUND ON: Let’s try something new today. I’ve always enjoyed behind-the-scenes explanations of things. I love learning how it all gets made; pictures, movies, music. As I’ve been recording so much audio this past year, I thought I’d bring my spoken reflections together with a photo. Please do share with me how you feel about this approach.

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23 days ago

I gain first sight of the clearing from the depths of the forest. I'm sweating heavily. I am nervous, too, because unhabituated forest elephants move in the trees just beyond the path. The forest is so dense that a group of them could be standing only a few feet away and you might not realize. Being with large animals on their terms is humbling. Suddenly, it seems, the trees recede and we arrive to a splendor unlike anything I've seen before or since. At dawn and dusk, hundreds of elephants gather to drink the nutrient-rich subterranean waters that flow beneath the clearing. In this part of the Central African Republic, such a feature is known as a "bai," a word in Aka language that describes naturally open places where animals gather to eat. Standing on the edge, I momentarily forget the war that rages in the villages beyond and feel, for a moment, as though I'm looking at another era of the Earth's history, one in which human beings were peripheral or not yet in existence. I consider our contributions and that cost at which they came. For a moment, deep in the central African forest, the only sounds are those emerging from the creatures below.

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24 days ago

Sun chases the morning mist in the fields of Kamuyu in western Kenya. Savanna landscapes and the animals that live there tend to dominate popular imagination of Kenya. But the country is profoundly varied. I feel most at home in the green, rolling hills that provide most of the Kenya’s agricultural bounty. I relish opportunities to escape the bustle of Nairobi and take in the slow, peaceful start of rural mornings. Each form of life has its challenges, but I cannot help but note the broad sense of contentment often present in peaceful, productive rural communities.

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26 days ago

The drawings by Elizabeth Gould are beautiful, but more importantly they are a gateway to the ecological past. The rich ecosystem from which they emerged served as a basis of comparison for the transformations currently underway. Nearly 150 years after their creation, they captured and influenced a man whose ideas in turn captured and influenced me. Across time and space we arrive in dialogue. Interesting how things unfold.

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28 days ago

The scale of destruction in Paradise, California feels different from above. In a car, it rolls on forever, scene after incinerated scene. Out the window, the details of daily life, largely untouched since the day of the fire, invoke intimate awareness of the loss that occurred. From above, the details recede, the scenes merge and the scale of the fire takes on a different shape. From here, we see its completeness. We also see that Paradise is, in fact, a town on the "edge of the wilderness," as residents are fond of saying. Central to that were the trees; towering pines and beautiful, princely oaks. They drew people to Paradise but, as climate change alters the ecosystem, trees have become a major liability. I spent several weeks in Paradise attempting to better understand the emotional fallout of the Camp Fire. I met extraordinary and generous people who shed fascinating light on the subject.

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29 days ago

Hansjörg Wyss speaks with rare precision. This should not be confused with reticence for he is generous in conversation. On a gray morning in May, we chat for several hours about his life. "My father was extremely interested in nature," he recalls of his upbringing in Switzerland. "He knew about birds and plants and he shared that interest and knowledge with me.” His connection to the outdoors intensified as he discovered the beauty of the American West. "I've made many of my most important decisions, in life and business, while hiking or sitting by rivers." I push him to wax lyrical. He resists. "I never felt 'closer to nature' or these other philosophical things," he says. "Watching the light change during a day in the Grand Canyon is just a wonderful thing." I find his candor refreshing. We often go to such lengths to describe nature in philosophical terms that it almost obscures the simple beauty and significance of it all. Wyss does not posture. He does not embellish. He values nature and, as testament, has donated 1 billion dollars to protect it. It was an honor and pleasure to meet him. Shot on assignment for @insidenatgeo in honor of Hansjörg Wyss receiving the Philanthropist of the Year award at #NatGeoFest this June. Under his leadership and spurred by his $1 billion commitment to nature conservation, the Wyss Foundation launched the #CampaignForNature to help protect 30% of the planet by 2030.

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1 month ago

The Major and the Master Sargent | In the wake of the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, which left Betty's home in smoldering ruin, she picked up the phone and called Bill. Their friendship started several decades ago when both were in the Army. “Those were much wilder days for me,” Betty says, recounting a series of colorful stories. “I said, Bill, I've got five people with me and we're coming your way.” Bill lives modestly in a mobile home park in the nearby city of Chico. "He is a sweet man and opened his home to us." For nearly three months, the two lived as an odd couple. Neither have families of their own. Betty was restless. Bill was settled. The TV was on a lot. They razzed each other. I met Betty as she searched for solutions to recover the cremated ashes of her mother, which she'd accidentally left in her home as she fled. Believe it or not, she recovered them. We talked about fire and loss and meaning—and booze. We talked quite a bit about booze.

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1 month ago

The arrival of Steve’s daughters brought his sensitivity into stark relief. It was always there, of course, but often obscured by a masculine code that I and others helped enforce. They all live together in his childhood home, a place that--when we were kids--housed three men and one woman and today boasts three women and one man. I can feel this shift in Steve. It’s almost cellular. The constellation has been reordered and his place within it recast. While not without challenge, it's a configuration that evokes and rewards the best in him. I took this picture after we’d done some snaps for a family Christmas card. The organized grinning was done, everyone was cozy. I’m a familiar enough feature that my presence was handily forgotten. It was my favorite of the day.

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