Many seekers on a vision quest have hung their hats on Henry David Thoreau’s explanation for his time in the woods at Walden: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Thoreau’s Walden was the first story that came to mind when I began thinking about a yearlong photography project at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio, N.M. In a time of great civil chaos that has touched each of our lives deeply in a very interdependent world, living simply — sans phones, radios, televisions, computers, cars and other trappings of a modern life — is not as easy as it must have been in Thoreau’s time. But with support from my wife, I have been able to arrange my affairs to make being on the refuge and photographing the center of my daily being. So, on Dec. 21, winter solstice 2021, Year of Refuge was born.
The self-imposed challenge is clear: make the nineteen-mile trek from my home in Socorro to photograph at the 57,331-acre Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge daily for 12 months and reflect on the refuge as a place and an opportunity for personal learning and self-discovery. (I have allowed myself monthly visits to my now-96-year-old mother, a day’s drive away in Arizona. These visits account for the only three days I have been absent from the refuge since I began, and, with luck, these visits will be the only source of days missed in the remaining nine months. And yes, I know Murphy’s Law by heart.)