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Seventy-five Mile Canyon / Grand Canyon National Park

For a guy who could easily be dead right now, I’m not feeling half bad. Here in the wilds of my backyard, I’m enjoying Peck’s Skippers and other late-season butterflies. I’m watching the sumac leaves catch autumn fire and the warblers dart through in migration. I even walked a half mile to my office yesterday — my greatest adventure since a heart attack put me down in the woods two weeks ago.

You know that thing they say about heart attacks? That you don’t want one? Yeah, it’s true. You don’t want a heart attack — certainly not while on the trail up Mt. Hunger here in central Vermont. Heart attacks hurt, a lot, like a fallen oak across your chest, and mine almost killed me.

But thanks to a brigade of people on the trail, some luck, and the science of medicine well practiced, I’ve got three stents and a second chance at staying alive. I’ll be spending the next few months in cardiac rehabilitation (exercise while wired up to monitors) trying to strengthen my damaged left ventricle. In the meantime, I feel, more or less, “normal.”

Cabbage White on Joe-Pye Weed

From among those you who already know about this event, Ruth and I have received a flood of love. Our living room is a gallery of your cards and drawings and prose. Our fridge and freezer are stocked with your cooking. We’ve been touched by our closest friends and families, by people we have not heard from in years, and by folks we have never met.

Never have I received such warmth from so many. And because Ruth and I cannot begin to thank all of you in the way we would prefer — to return every phone call, every text, every email, or better yet to thank you in person — my message here on the blog will have to suffice for now. Ruth and I are, more or less, healing in quiet for the time being. We may indeed take you up on your continuing kind offers to help us out. For now, however, we’re in good shape, with lots of family and dear friends nearby.

In addition to all of you, of course, I am grateful for so many things. Allow me, here on the blog, to express my gratitude to the people involved in saving my life — from getting me off the mountain to putting me back on my feet. Many of you are either sadly unknown to me or otherwise far too numerous to recall. But Alexei Rubenstein and Thea Schwartz happened to meet up with Ruth and me on the trail when I went down. Good thing for us. They were incredible (and strong in helping to carry me down). The Middlesex Fire Department and Fast Squad also did a lot of heavy lifting. Then there was the guy with the ATV — I never got his name. Montpelier Ambulance was waiting to treat me at the trailhead, and took me to Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC). From there, Barre Town Ambulance rushed me to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where, standing by, Dr. Harold Dauerman and his team installed my stents (and put up with my lame attempts at humor and conversation in the operating room, or so I’m told). And, oh, the nurses. Praise the nurses — from the ER to the ICU to the cardiology units. There can be no healing without them.

Now, here closer to home at CVMC, I can offer no greater praise for Melissa Beaudry, my nurse practitioner in the Cardiology Medical Group, who, during a follow-up visit after my surgery, recognized that we needed to drive up my blood oxygen levels, which is exactly what happened when I was readmitted for a couple of days last week and then came home on September 1. And long ago, when I was a newspaper reporter, I interviewed Dr. Mark Heitzman for an article about some hot new cardiac technology at the hospital. I was impressed with the guy then. Under his care now, I’m even more impressed. He and Melissa and the team, along with my new doctor John Wilson, are about to play a big role in my future.

I’m not quite sure when I’ll get back out chasing nature with my usual exuberance, or when I’ll return to my students in the Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning programs at the University of Vermont. For now I’m content watching the prosaic Cabbage Whites and Eastern Phoebes here in the garden. Oh, I’m also watching my sodium.

Thanks again, everyone. Onward!

  1. Michael Levine says:

    Love you Bryan. Just catching up with your recall of the remarkable day.
    I know you had a lot to give thanks for this year!!!

  2. Lolly says:

    Thanks for the explanation Brian. So glad that you are recovering so well..

  3. Robbie Weinberger says:

    Hey Bryan I just read your post today and so happy that you are on the road to recovery. It is wonderful how complete strangers are out there to do whatever it is to help a fellow human being.
    Take it easy and good luck with your rehab.

  4. Marcy Ashley-Selleck says:

    Just want to add my thoughts and gratitude that you’re healing ! I hope to see you again, in another photography class, bird blog, or future book ! Cheers and thanks to you Bryan !

  5. Cindy says:

    On this day after Thanksgiving I am just now learning of this event, as it frequently is referred to. So thankfulness for you and your loved ones is abundant. May the carefulness that you offer in your appreciation of natural wonders be turned upon yourself.

  6. Bill Gilbert says:

    Thank you for staying with us!!… and many thanks to all of those who helped in that effort.

    The role you have carved out in Vermont is unique and very special. Your ability to see (and photograph what you see) and your ability to capture the experience in words for all of us to share and thereby know, smell and see and even touch the natural world is unique.

    I well remember when I was one of the “fauna” you used to watch in the State House when working for the Rutland Herald. Tough, honest, serious knowledgeable and serious with a sense of humor.

    Take Care !! And keep up the good work.

  7. Roberta Downey says:

    As other folks have said there is no one we know with more passion for life and all it’s adventures. You have always been an inspiration to anyone who has crossed your path. Glad you decided to stick around!

  8. Linda Wurm says:

    Ah Bryan,what a sneaky way to get down a mountain! I wish you a steady recovery and the enjoyment of autumn. And then winter, spring, summer…..
    Linda Wurm

  9. Charlie Hewson says:

    So sorry to hear about your “mishap” but delighted that things are on the mend now. I love reading your blogs, but this one really surprised me! Keep on improving.
    Charlie Hewson

  10. Juan A Sanchez JR and Diane says:

    Bryan, I just found out today in Wagner’s lab. I am totally shocked, you always have such vitality, enthusiasm and energy I just can not imagine this. Diane was equally shocked- we both wish you a full and speedy recovery and a return to good health. Aside from your cardiac rehab, be careful and relax your mind. Best wishes. Juan and Diane.

  11. Patricia Clay says:

    Bryan, I am so glad you have been given another chance at life. I enjoyed the few times Kim and I shared our time with your outdoor adventures. Glad to see an ex-Michigander making nature so enjoyable for so many others in VT. Best wish from one Michigander to another.

  12. Janet says:

    I didn’t know about your trouble until I read your blog. Here, in Phoenix, this former Vermonter misses out on local news of the Northeast.
    You don’t know me. I woke up to you every Saturday morning on WDEV for years. I could certainly use your knowledge here. Nobody seems
    to know the birds. You might not either.
    Be well. Follow orders. And don’t push it.

  13. Carol says:

    What a shock! I am so glad you are recovering. I want to send you encouragement by telling you that my husband, Wally, survived an unexpected cardiac situation two and a half years ago and after 4 by-passes is now back to all his regular biking, hiking and (as I write this) helping with clean-up at a community site. You are much younger than he, and I feel sure you will be better than ever after the recovery down-time.
    Thinking of you with all good wishes, Carol (Eagle Hill field botany classmate)

  14. Pamela MacPherson says:

    Bryan…. Bruce and I were so sorry to hear that there was anything possible that could stop your exuberant self in your tracks. Oh no! Damn… We are feeling gratitude for all that came together in your rescue and transport. It sounds like you’ve had excellent care by the medical caretakers… and I do appreciate that you praised the nurses! You’re right; can’t do it without them.

    May you lean positively into this time of reflection, rehabilitation and healing. And may you find deep pleasure in quiet space and beautiful natural surroundings, that which is found in your corner of this vast and complex world..

    With great affection, Pam (and Bruce) MacPherson

  15. Ann Day says:




  16. Twenty-one years ago I was the recipient of a double coronary artery bypass and was back roaming the woodlands in less than six weeks. Then, nine years ago, while having a stress echo-cardiogram, went into ventricular fibrillation — fortunately the ladies in the stress lab had a defibrillator at hand. These types of things give you a new perspective on a lot of things, but do not let your heart attack keep you out of the mountains. As Linda Stiner said, “Look at nature, especially in the spring, and you will know that however long or brief, life is worth the living. “

  17. Kim Sargeant says:

    I am so glad that all of those good things happened that day in the woods and that you are on the mend.
    Best wishes for returning health and strength.


  18. Ann M Creaven says:

    I am so very grateful that you were rescued and saved….you mean so much to us who love nature and enjoy and value seeing it through your thoughts and eyes.

  19. Lin & Tom Wermager says:

    Dear Bryan,
    Sorry to hear this news but glad you survived to tell the tale. As you reflect on life from this new perspective, take pride in knowing that you’ve touched countless lives with your knowledge, humor and enthusiasm. Thanks!
    Lin & Tom Wermager

  20. Jeanne says:

    This comment is as much for Ruth as for you, Bryan. We’ve never met, but who knows? It’s a smaller world than we think. It was 21 years ago that my husband
    ‘went down’. For 20 years, he’d been the guy in the ER attending countless others, and the doc who hops down from the rescue helicopter on a mountainside, but that day, he was the one who needed help. The event did change our lives, and it took time to sort out, and there’s been ups and downs. But I look back at those who helped us with the deepest gratitude. We both ended up changing our work, moved from suburbia to beautiful Maine, and have been serving various non-profits ever since, starting a clinic to provide access for the many uninsured among us, and working on boards for organizations where we could have impact. Maybe the last 21 years have been a case of paying-it-forward, as we could never thank everyone enough. I wish you both richness and fulfillment as your lives recompose themselves.

  21. Sarah Cooper-Ellis says:

    Yikes, Bryan, what a wake-up. Much love to you and gratitude to Ruth for her care. So many great memories, so much strong learning with you. My sister and I talk about you often as we pursue birding adventures.
    Sarah C-E

  22. Tom and Helen Einstein says:

    Dear Bryan,

    We’ve been trying to follow your progress ever since Ruth called us a week ago from Burlington. She was understandably rattled at the time. The five hour delay between your attack on the slopes of Mt. Hunger and getting you to Ethan Allen hospital in Burlington for emplacement of the stents was worrisome, but apparently you had some medical intervention as soon as they got you off the mountain. But now you really do seem to be on the mend, and life seems to slowly be getting back to normal -at least to a new normal.

    I (Tom) went through something similar 18 years ago after hiking in the German Alps with Karen. However, I did not have a heart attack, and my stent wasn’t put in until about three weeks later, after I had checked in with my PCP upon my return home. After that, I remember going to about six weeks of cardiac re-hab. So we hope that your recovery was as good as mine seems to have been.

    All of us now breath a huge sigh of relief that you now seem to be on the road to a full recovery. This weekend you’ve been surrounded by friends and family. We’ve been impressed by the number of friends you have up there in Northern Vermont. You and Ruth seem to be famous up there!

    Our best wishes for a full recovery,

    Tom and Helen

  23. Julie says:

    So sorry to hear about your heart attack, but so glad you survived and are recovering in good hands. Take it slow with a dose of patience. Enjoy watching the geese fly by and the leaves turning. If you need support at home, check out All the best to you.

  24. Sorry to hear this. Good luck on a speedy recovery.

  25. Britt says:

    Dang, Bryan, watching sodium is not as enjoyable as watching dragonflies and… Glad you are surrounded by love and support and will get back to your exuberant ways. For now, enjoy the quite–make peace with it best you can!

  26. Phyllis Tiffany says:

    Just read your post and was mighty shocked!!! Glad you are in recovery and getting great care. All the best.

  27. Mary Jane Krotzer says:


    Steve and I were shocked to hear of your attack but not at all surprised that you have overcome! Keep on getting well and enjoying life to it’s fullest! Hope to run into you soon in the field.

    Wishing you all the best,

    Mary Jane and Steve Krotzer

  28. Ruth Stewart says:

    Bryan, Thank you for your so inspirational public sharing of this recent journey. Words can be so ineffective in expressing our feelings; but you have given us all the unparalleled gift of your words that help us appreciate the natural world and make us rejoice to know that you will still be spinning your verbal magic no matter the topic. May the glow of your life be out and about with all of us soon.

  29. Susan Sawyer says:

    Thanks for the update, Bryan — and I’m hoping that the prosaic visitors to your yard hang around doing interesting things right in front of you, and that the odd rare thing that flies through town stops in to see you first. All the best! Susan

  30. Tobey Levine says:


    So glad you’re alive!!

    As you may or may not know, Sue and I had to leave Monhegan in early July to get medical care for Sue’s cancer diagnosis. We are back in the Berkshires and 2/3 the way through her treatments…hell on wheels. But the prognosis is cured, so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    The outpouring of love from family, friends, the Monhegan community (which to us encompasses both of those categories), and strangers has been overwhelming, as you mentioned has been the case for you, too. We get cards, emails, gifts, and/or calls most every day. This love and support has buoyed and carried us through the hardest days and continues to sustain us.

    And so, knowing this, Sue and I send much love and healing light to you and Ruth with warm thoughts for a speedy recovery. Hopefully we’ll all be back on Monhegan next year.

    See you then!

    With love,
    Tobey and Sue

  31. Ann Cooper says:

    Wishing you a full and fast recovery–and lots of serendipitous nature passing your windows.

  32. Ginny Alfano says:

    Oh my gosh, Bryan! This is the first I’ve heard of your heart attack. I wish you the very best for a speedy recovery. Nature is such a healer so I’m sure you’ll be better very quickly. You have given so much of yourself to all nature lovers in VT and those like me who live elsewhere. Now it’s time for you to accept help from all those who love and admire you.

    My husband had a heart attack here at home two years ago. We live way out in the country with no help nearby. If it hadn’t been for my dogs incessant barking, I would have never gone inside. They never bark like that, so I knew something was up. I walked in and found Jim on the floor. It seemed like hours before the ambulance arrived and when it did, it was almost too late. On the way to the hospital, we lost him once but they got him back. Two stents later and a major change in lifestyle have left him in perfect condition. So, Bryan, I wish you all the best. With Ruth’s help, the doctor’s help and all of your family and friends, you’ll be 100% before you know it! We need you out there doing all the wonderful things you do in and for nature. As other’s have said, you’re a VT and beyond treasure! Best of luck to you.

  33. Jane Vossler says:

    Dear Bryan,

    So sorry to hear about your tragic adventure and glad to hear you’re recovering while enjoying the beauty around you.
    Here’s a quote I think you might like:
    “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive–
    to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” –Marcus Aurelius

    Take good care of yourself.
    Fondly, Jane and Larry

  34. Rollin S Tebbetts says:

    Well Jeezum Crow Bryan!
    Get better!

    While you are recovering….maybe you will observe a Merlin (heading south) wack one of your Phoebes.

    I wish you the best.


  35. Chris Hill says:

    Bryan, your grace and humor are intact. I’m glad, but not surprised, that you have such a strong community of friends both near and far. Thanks for posting this and take care of yourself, please.


  36. Barbara Carr says:

    I did not expect to read this, Bryan! I’m so thankful that you are ok & under treatment! Here’s to enjoying life at a slower pace, for now! Best wishes from Barbara.

  37. Janice Bauch says:

    So wonderful you are on the mend…all of nature needs you to help us understand and take care of our world!

  38. Louise Van Winkle says:

    Wow, Bryan! Do take it easy and follow the doctors’ instructions. We are thinking of you and hope for a speedy recovery.

  39. Ann Lewis says:

    So sorry to hear this but so glad you’re on the mend. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery. So glad you have such a good support system.

  40. Laurie Kemplay says:

    Bryan, Oh my gosh, what a shocking thing you survived. I wish you continued strength as you continue your recovery. The wonders of nature, already so dear to you, I’m sure are that much sweeter. Take care of yourself and I hope our paths cross again.

  41. Rick Jones says:

    Damn, Brian, I’m shocked, so sorry and worried about your heart attack. Thank the stars and someone else that you had people with the prescence of mind to help you and get you help. Many, Many best wishes to you, my friend. May you heal as quick as is appropriate and as slow as is needed. Much heartfelt wishes to you and Ruth. Rick Jones (Eagle Hill Rick:)

  42. Sue Cloutier says:

    Bryan, A am shocked to hear that we almost lost you! So glad you have had the help needed to get off the mountain and repaired. Continue to take care of yourself, and Ruth, as we do need you both to remind us of the natural treasures around us. Sue

  43. Cary says:

    All the best in your recovery Bryan. I plan on chasing bugs with you in Minnesota next July.

  44. Sandra Bruggemann says:

    Egads Bryan, Who would have thought you would have a heart attack. I am so glad you are getting better. Dr. Mark Heitzmam took care of John many years ago. John warned me before I met him that he was very handsome and he was. He was the best then and I am sure he is the best still. He really cares for his patients. Say hello to him for me. In the meantime stay well, obey the docs and Ruth and watch that sodium. You will be off and running before you know it.

  45. Dick Harlow says:

    WOW, so you are arising! Got a few things in my chest as well – would have been dead 10 years ago without them and todays technology!
    Hang in there, you have a ton of prayers and positive thoughts on your side.
    You will find recovery sweet, reassuring and positive.
    Warm Regards,

  46. Ellen Heath says:

    I can see from your writing why you’ve won so many friends over the years and how much vitality you have, both physical and intellectual, to overcome this setback.

    I’m also very grateful that my friend, Elizabeth Robechek recently of Vermont, introduced me to your blog.

    My very best wishes for a swift recovery.


  47. Pat Folsom says:

    So glad to see this, Bryan. I asked Chip about you this morning at NBNC. Take care and follow doctors’ orders. Continue the healing!

  48. Ginny Garrison says:

    I hadn’t heard. So glad you made it through and are on the road to recovery! May the wonder of Nature heal your heart and feed your soul. Blessings to you and Ruth.

  49. Lin Garrepy says:

    Wow.So glad you’re okay. But if you had followed your Cheif Security Officer’s first rule of hiking: “Do not have a heart attack”, you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble. Of course, now, you have to explain to Ruth what this is all about. If you need any more help with the obvious, I’m right here. Feel well, get better and get back to doing the things you love.

  50. Ruth Coppersmith says:

    Oh Bryan,
    I didn’t know. Thinking of you while I watch my Monarch chrysalis’s getting ready to eclose and hoping this time of rest, recovery and renewal will allow you to once again take flight.
    with affection,
    Ruth C. (another Ruth)

  51. Heinrich Wurm says:

    Bryan – so moved by your story and – I am sure lots of people tell you that – I can relate to it. 6 years ago, in much less dramatic fashion, I realized something was wrong. A few weeks later I had three stents in my right coronary and went through rehab etc. Last month, I was found healthy enough to donate a kidney and I am almost back to normal now – never without nitroglycerin- but grateful for a second chance. Take it slow, drink in what’s around you more intense than you already do, if that’s possible, and enjoy the friendship, help and encouragement coming your way. Nurture that myocardium back to health, slowly but deliberately and don’t ever hesitate to accept the help people offer you. You enriched so many folks’ lives, now its their turn!
    Warm regards – Heiner

  52. Marcia says:

    Shocked to hear this news, Bryan. Wishing you a complete recovery and a speedy return to the Mother Nature which is your natural habitat.

  53. Michaelanne Rosenzweig says:

    Oh, Bryan–This is my first news of your heart attack. (Irony abounds that one with such heart as yours gets afflicted in this way.) I send love, and gratitude for modern medicine, which knows so much about how to heal these maladies. After your rehab you will likely be good as new, though with a heightened appreciation of the beauty of the simple now (which I know you already have in abundance). I will miss bumping into you this year on The Rock. Next year, then. Love to you and Ruth.

  54. michele j clark says:

    Wow, Bryan! So glad you’re okay. What a shock!

  55. JoAnne says:

    You’re a real treasure! Enjoy the beginning of a new life!

  56. Lucinda McCloud says:

    Bryan, I hadn’t heard. I’m so glad you’re recovering well. You are such a picture of vitality with your adventures and enthusiasm for life and nature. These characteristics will carry you through your recovery process.
    Fondly, Cindy

  57. Sorry to hear of it Bryan, but glad you are still with us to grace us with your prose and gift for observation. Your attitude is exemplary and inspires us to be that much more diligent in appreciating all that we have. Hope our paths cross again soon, and in the meantime may you continue to find joy in every experience. Best, rich vial

  58. Julie says:

    I’m so glad to hear that, despite the tragic heart attack and the most inaccessible place where it happened, that you are alive, well, healing, and in good spirits. Observing the wind down of summer from your backyard will be some of the best medicine. Best wishes for a full speedy recovery!

  59. Victoria Davis says:


    I wish you all the best in your recovery and your eventful life. You are a Vermont treasure. I’m so glad you had the help you needed to get off the mountain and thereafter.

    Kind Regards,


  60. Franklin Snelson Jr says:

    So sorry to hear about this, Bryan. Best luck during your recovery. We’ll be thinking of you.
    Buck & Margaret

  61. Judy Brook says:

    Dear Bryan,
    My very best to you on your recovery. Enjoy life in the slower lane with those Cabbage Whites, let the warblers come to your backyard woods, and savor the drama, not of rescue on mountain trails, but of the seasons changing.

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