Photographer, naturalist, writer, Steve Perrin lives in Bar Harbor, Maine, where he works on coastal issues (pollution, erosion, sea-level rise, fisheries management) and reflects on consciousness. “Consciousness,” he says, ”gives me my world, or rather makes it up as I move through this mysterious life. If I can’t understand my own mind, I can understand nothing of any significance. So I work at it because I want to understand one thing before I die, or at least make an effort to understand as well as I can. Consciousness, after all, lets me lead an original life. To understand the world, I must first come to grips with my perspective on the world that sketches out my situation as I see it. From the inside, not the outside.”




25 Responses to “Profile”

  1. gene franck said

    yes, I really believe you have finally found your place on this earth, Steve what joy to follow you through your wanderings of the mind.

  2. Steve Perrin said

    It took a while, didn’t it? I had to dig down through layers of stuff I let others lay on top of me to find my buried mind. Miraculously, it still works. I strongly encourage others to unburden themselves of social expectations and be who they are. –Steve from Planet Earth

  3. Kevin Gorman said

    Hello Steve,
    I don’t know how many years ago it was that I first started telling people my favorite question was, “How do you know, that you know, what you know, and when do you think that that you knew it?”, but it was many. This should be interesting.
    Kevin from behind my eyes.

  4. Steve Perrin said

    Kevin, we are truly brothers under the skin. My favorite question is: How do you know that you know what you think you know? The gray area between knowledge and opinion is the underlying topic of this blog. I am always amazed at how certain people are of their own opinions. My most useful tool is doubt, followed by skepticism. Thanks for stopping by. –Steve from Planet Earth

  5. Lee said

    Thank you, Steve, for sharing this fascinating blog of insight and vast knowledge!!

    I can only assume people are their own opinions and act accordingly as it serves (unconsciously) a survival element. In addition, it leaves little or no room for consciousness to emerge, hence, reinforcing the subconscious that there is no choice but to remain opinionated in order to survive.


  6. Steve Perrin said

    Lee, thanks for stopping by. I will own up to vast ignorance, yet with a sense of direction leading to a smattering of understanding. I agree, consciousness is an aid to survival. The problem being that we seldom recognize where our true interests lie, so go of half-cocked without really thinking through the consequences of our actions. I think there is a slim hope we can come to our senses in time to relieve our current crises somewhat. In time? I don’t know. –Steve

  7. Lee said

    Dear Steve,

    I have been sitting here for a few good hours reading some of your remarkable Reflections. It’s a treat and challenge for the mind as each sentence and paragraph, assemble a variety of inquisitive matters to explore. It amazes me how the mind seeks meaning or understanding and reasoning to one aspect and simultaneously stimulates another aspect to investigate. My mind, flooded with questions, is in constant search to learn.

    Lee from the scenery of confusion

  8. Steve Perrin said

    Lee, Questions, curiosity, inquisitiveness–these are the highroads to consciousness. You are well on your way. Consciousness is given us to solve what we take to be problems over and above what evolution has equipped us to deal with. Consciousness puts us on our own–which may be scary–but what more exciting adventure? I think the great accomplishments of humankind have been kindled by questions in the mind of one person. Keep seeking. –Steve fr. Planet Earth

  9. OldMack said

    While reading your last few lines in the piece about the apostle Paul I seemed to hear Tom Lehrer’s tinkling piano and peculiar voice; he was singing “We’ll all go together when we go.” That song served as background music during a “Top Secret” briefing when a group of technicians wheeled a “Suitcase Bomb” onto the stage of the auditorium and demonstrated its “Dial-a-Megatonage” feature. The two-man portable contraption, smaller than Pop’s old steamer trunk, was essentially a thermonuclear weapon; one capable of detonating in an explosion equivalent to one or five million tons of T.N.T. The “device,” with its rotary dial similar to telephones of that day, was probably a prop to generate laughs—yes, the crowd of officers in the audience roared—and meant to enliven a series of otherwise deadly lectures. This was the finale of the “Command and Staff Course.” As I was the only man retching instead of laughing, I deduced that I was probably the only person among them who had stood in a ditch 1800 yards from ground zero while an actual nuclear weapon was detonated. My brothers in arms had all been commissioned after the surface testing of “special weapons” had been terminated; they could not remotely conceive of the destructive power of a 5 KT “Tactical Nuclear Weapon,” much less one yielding a Megaton of explosive force (not to mention the hellish fireball). We have all heard the numbers of men slain at Ft. Hood by a single zealot armed only with pistols. . . .

    • Greetings, OldMack, Your conscious mind seems filled with memories enough for a lifetime of reflection. From roaming dogs to tactical nuclear weapons tests, you are gifted with a mind that encompasses both and, as Lee said in May, struggles to make sense of it all. I celebrate your mind as it makes sense of your life. Keep at it, I say. That’s what my whole blog is about, like Doc in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, writing down his thoughts, putting the scraps in his pocket, fingering them, crumpling them, finally throwing them by the side of the road as he travels to visit another patient. Keep your mind active and you’ll do OK wherever you are. Thanks for visiting. –Steve

      • OldMack said

        Dear Steve,
        Unlike your blog, mine is/are used mainly for story telling. I hope they entertain readers, yet I know many who dip into the meandering tales are bored by some of them; especially those which seem to make no particular point. If asked why I write them, I reply with off hand answers and not very politely at times. “Doc’s pocket litter” aptly describes my stuff. Nearly three decades ago a psychologist employed by the VA suggested that I might benefit from “writing off” some of my “traumatic” experiences. Not having a clear notion of things traumatic I simply began writing. I’ve only scratched the surface thus far, but each piece, whether completed or not, has had the effect of lightening my load. It’s almost like setting out on a journey wearing a rucksack filled with stones and removing one stone with each tale. Now, from my home in Seminole, Florida, my mind has wandered back to the Alagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine; a wonderful 7-day adventure in good company.

  10. OldMack said

    For almost three hours now my mind has been challenged, enlightened and entertained by your words and pictures (The typed animals engaged me for nearly half an hour in addition to contemplating the integration of two private schools and your enforced opportunity for idleness or creativity). I consider my time well spent.

    While resting my eyes after reading several of your maunderings, I sat in a chair on my south-facing font porch in the sun and out of the wind with my three dogs and a cat lying on the sun warmed concrete floor near my feet. They were apparently gathering energy and preparing to make an attempted escape from the confines of our house and yard. Our very old Labrador retriever, “Franny,” bolted first; she’s the Alpha bitch of our pack. Franny paused at the frost-wilted garden surrounding our mailbox to relieve her bladder, when Zooey took off with the pup, Buddy hot on her heels. Zooey is a shepherd, bull terrier mutt and Buddy is half hound half pit bull and the only male among them. Buddy, having only females as role models hasn’t learned to lift his leg, but squats just as they do. Normally our pets respond to voice commands or whistles, but not today; there was more sunshine than we’ve seen in a week and the thermometer was inching towards 50 degrees—too nice a day to lie about snoozing. I had to stir myself, grab a leash—just in case—and follow after them. After being told to “go home,” Franny led her pack back to our porch. And I, having stirred my own legs, returned to your blog, where I vicariously enjoyed your visit to the Shaker village.

  11. Strange, what lies deeply hidden and unacknowledged in our minds looms now and then to haunt us, but when we put it in words we kind of pull its teeth, rendering it harmless. I don’t understand the process, but practice it as much as I can, paying close attention to subtle glimpses that last only for a fraction of a second. The trail leads that way. I lived in Sarasota in 1946-47, and went to 8th grade at Sarasota High School. I remember avoiding copper-mouth moccasins by the pond back of the school. You’ve been on the Allagash. That’s the stuff our minds are made of at this stage of life, glimpses backward more than prospects ahead. It’s still an adventure. Keep telling your stories. –Steve

    • OldMack said

      1946-47 I was also in the 8th grade. In fact, I was the 8th grade, in a one-room school at Lake Van Orden siding of the SPRR tracks–all in snow sheds for avalanche protection–at the summit of Donner Pass. A set of twins from grade 6, Barton and Nancy Hooley, taught me to ski during lunch recess. Fine memories, of a teacher, fresh out of college, standing on top of her desk while chipmunks I’d captured and set loose in the classroom darted about causing pandemonium.

  12. Those were the days. Donner Pass is so loaded with freight, it’s hard to picture a school there rather than a graveyard. And what a school it must have been. Talk about teacher-student ratio! In 8th grade, with a friend, I was trying to make explosives in the chemistry lab, but without success. I did help dismantle Sarasota Army Air Field, which I’ve blogged about.

  13. OldMack said

    Nice pun: “Donner Pass is so loaded with freight.” That winter of my 8th Grade, we had a snowfall of 21 feet which came down at the rate of 12 inches per hour. In order to get out of the two-story lodge in which I lived we had to open the dormer windows and tunnel up to the surface and then snowshoe out to the bank of U.S.40. Our normal winter transportation to school was by Snow-Cat, which towed us on our skis by dragging a long rope. That lodge–“Crampton’s” was located across the highway from Hampshire Rocks State Park, located on the right bank of the Yuba River. A few years ago I went in search of Crampton’s and found an off-ramp from Interstate 80 in its place. My job, which paid for my room and board, was manually pumping gas up into the glass container from which the gas flowed by gravity into the tanks of our customers’ cars. The price of gas was eleven cents per gallon. Since ours was the only filling station between Cisco and Truckee, the rotary snow blower would clear the approach to our pump. But we had to shovel steps in the snow bank down to the pump. It was a wonderful experience; it improved my math and gave me an appreciation for the conditions faced by the Donner Party.

  14. OM, your story gets better and more amazing with each episode you share. Do you ever think of yourself as a national treasure? Not that you should be in a museum, but you have certainly lived an American life in your time on Earth. Thanks for sharing. –Steve

    • OldMack said

      Thank you for giving me space to post the above anecdotes and for your responses to them. This is the year, the year I’ve sworn to myself and my wife in which I shall cull the 8 cubic feet of typescripts and hundreds of floppies for something coherent and readable. I don’t know yet wheter it will be a novel or a memoir, but it will be a book.

      Today I’ve been watching the memorials to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and ruminating on the year of his death and Robert F. Kennedy’s too, and recalling the feeling of being in Washington, D.C. while half of the city seemed to be burning, while federal troops were encamped and ready for the order to impose martial law in our nation’s capitol. It was an anxious time in a city divided by irrational hatred and vitriolic speeches and violent acts. I’m writing about that episode tonight and the power that great art has to sooth a tortured soul.

      On that hot, overcast day in that smoke filled city I took refuge in the Phillips Gallery and there, in an upstairs room, I sat on a bench before August Renoir’s ”Luncheon of the Boating Party” for an hour, literally feeling the summer breeze ruffling that awning, and experienced an inner peach.

  15. I think of ’68 as a bad year, but in retrospect it was not necessarily all bad because it was a transition that led to sanity in some degree. I still wear the beard I started in those days as a sign of protest against the way things were going, or not going. Earlier, in ’60 or ’61, MLK Jr spoke at Iowa State University where I worked as a photographer, and I have a photo I took of him in the art gallery against a wall depicting angels. Write your book, man, your life as you have lived it–just the emotionally-charged high points, the stuff that only you know and still feel. Retire from the world and concentrate on this work that has been given to you. It’s why you are here, as a sentinel for the rest of us. Remember the 5,000 year-old man who thawed out of the Alpine glacier? He was on the forefront of his life, as are you. Write it down. You don’t really have a choice. Thanks for sharing. –Steve

  16. OldMack said

    Hi Steve,
    The Alumni News from Western Oregon University—my alma mater—informed me today that a tenured faculty member has published a book: Train Your Brain: How to Maximize Memory Ability in Older Adulthood by Robert G. Winningham. The book is now available at a discounted pre-publication price of $50 and change. I’m tempted, and in need of it, but can’t afford to buy it right now.

    Of greater interest to me at present is the DOD’s publication of a new “Psychological Operations” manual which redefines the term “Propaganda” and its uses. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists wrote a brief, entertaining and informative review of the Psyops manual in his newsletter “Secrecy News” today. Steve also included a crisp little note on how he spent MLK’s birthday.

    Professor Winningham would improve memories of events which the Department of Defense would prefer we forget, or at least not keep pestering them with FOIA requests for the still-classified documents needed to refresh our memories. I’m still searching for a book that will teach me how to forget it without “writing it off.” OM

  17. OM, my view is we remember what we immerse ourselves in and interact with. The point of memory is effective action in the now. So if we put ourselves in situations similar to those prevailing when a memory was established, recall is that much easier. It helps if strong feelings are (or were) present to grease the ways of remembrance. Current distractions interfere with recall, so you need to put yourself in a place you won’t be distracted or disturbed. And it helps to put in your 10,000 hours of engagement with the topic to build strong neural pathways in your brain, which facilitate recall. For what it’s worth. –Steve

  18. OldMack said

    Steve, I was surprised by linking here from a response to stuff by John D. MacDonald on “Cal’s” blog. Is that one of your pseudonyms?

    Since my last visit here I’ve been working on culling stuff from my archives. I’ve filled a box three inches deep with 1st draft material scanned into MS Word 2000. Some of that older stuff amazes me. My response upon reading a 30 year old document is: “Wow. I wonder who wrote that?” If my name wasn’t on it, I’d swear a gremlin visited my office in the dead of night.

    I still need a Spell Check program that’ll work with Notepad. If you know of one compatible with Windows XP operating system, clue me in.

    We’re having a pleasant day here, following some rainy days, so I have to get the mower out and tune it up. You probably recall how fast the grass grows down here at this time of the year; I can sit on my porch, scribbling on a legal pad and hear it growing.

    Three weeks ago we awoke to find Franny lying on the kitchen floor dead. It was a terrible blow, even though not unexpected at her age. I miss having her wake me up by licking my feet when she had to go out to relieve her bladder at 0300 daily. Zooey and Buddy and our cats miss her too. That small feral cat my wife adopted just delivered a litter of three; one of which has identical markings of its mother. Last night the father of the kittens came round to pay his respects, but “Oreo” the mother ran him off for not keeping up with his kitten support.

    • Dear Not-so-old-Mack, Good to hear from tampabay. No, I don’t know how I got linked to Cal’s blog. Glad your going through your archives. That’s tough work, but full of discoveries, as you say. The point being to “do” something with the best of the best. At least get it all into one place so someone can discover it–a near relative, say, or good friend. You’re an original, so there’ll be nothing like it. Keep digging. Sorry about Fanny. Our attachments are a good part of our story. Don’t know of a spellcheck for notepad. Maybe spelling mistakes aren’t the worst of it, and you’ll be forgiven. Y’r friend, –Steve

  19. Rachel L. said

    Are you the editor and publisher of The Boston review of photography, Cambridge, Mass., 1967-1968?

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