Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, images kindly supplied by Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Ken Lubas.
At 19 years old I was a guitarist in a rock band playing some of the big places in Hollywood. Staying at my manager’s place we would wake up to the classic picture of sleeping bodies in the living room and party remnants. That was my life for a very long time working with a variety of bands, some of them quite famous and getting great airplay. I connected with song writing because you could create a punchy story that meant something in just three minutes. I never wrote any “I love you baby” type songs – more satire and political stuff. There came a time though when I needed a change from that world. The late nights and the constant travelling around to clubs playing the same songs was getting old. I needed to be somewhere I could give something back and get myself outside and into nature.
I had that freedom you get from being the youngest child, a little more rebellious I guess. At the age of five, I was already outside pruning and taking care of the garden – it became a passion early. I was aware of the impact that people and pollution were having on the environment and told my mother I wanted to be a gardener. She said to me “Don’t be a gardener, be a horticulturist- a scientist who studies plants.” Family and friends made jokes about me being a ‘tree hugger’ and that I would grow up and ‘marry a tree.’ At the age of 15, I was devastated when my grades did not match my desire to follow the scientific path towards horticulture. I turned instead to geography but was not sure where that would take me. It was only in the army and in the thick of the jungle in Brunei at 18 years old, that I realized how helpful geography was for distinguishing places by using terrain, plants and trees.
I’m just like anyone else who has a burning desire to live life to the fullest and with purpose. I want to leave a mark on this planet with my work; connect meaningfully with others; be in love. These are all standard things for a 38-year old single successful guy to want. It’s common to want to explore a life that reaches all the edges of human emotion from frustration to wild elation depending on the day and to be free to express myself without fear of other people’s limiting beliefs, or what that should look like.
I have severe cerebral palsy, a condition that does not define me, but does confine me to an electric wheelchair and this creates a story in many people’s minds. A story that is not true.
Image credit to Jeroen Hofman
Kevin Richardson was interviewed by Australian author Veronica Farmer before coming out to Australia for his next Speaker Tour...
I was born on the 8th October 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa. I spent my childhood in the suburb of Orange Grove, far from the African bushveld that I now call home. At around the age of 4, this calling to work with animals began with the rescue of a baby bird I helped raise with my father. The neighbors started calling me 'The Bird Man of Orange Grove' as I began to take in and care for many more waifs and strays.
I planned to follow a career with animals and set my sights on veterinary science. However during my teens, the usual teenage drive for exploration of life and a natural rebelliousness, took my focus away from studies and I was not accepted onto the course.
Image by Mark Crocker
SPIDERS - FROM FEAR TO FASCINATION...
My mother turned 90 this year. She is perceptive, insightful and beautiful. She has an easy grace and a natural charm. She reminds me more of Lauren Bacall than Marilyn Monroe. She is politically progressive and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Oh, and one more thing... She is afraid of spiders.
I really had no idea my mother was afraid of spiders until I started writing a book about them. She must have known somehow that the fear can be passed on and wanted to protect us from the dread and horror she felt when she saw a spider, or even a picture of one so we never knew.
I was completely unprepared when she couldn’t skim my book about spiders and enjoy the amazing photos. Instead, she recoiled with a shudder and a grimace.
Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, images by Mike Bhana from www.wildfilm.tv
Ocean environments are vital to us on so many levels, especially for island nations like my own home of New Zealand. Oceans are intrinsic to our way of life, to our culture, summer holidays, happiness; all of those elements for us of being truly Kiwi. If we woke up one morning to find that all our waterways were polluted, that there were no more fish in the oceans, no more Saturday mornings out with our kids, teaching them to fish or swim, we would lose a sense of home and who we are as a people. The sea has always been a huge part of my life, it's in my blood and helping others understand and connect with that world is important to me.
Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, author & storycollector for the Made Beautiful by... series
I had a premonition before the event, a sense of dread. I knew this was not something to be ignored as I had a similar kind of premonition many years before, one that left me with a gnawing undercurrent of deep discomfort. That time, it had proven true as my father passed away soon after. I had only been a teenager. This time, 14 years later, the premonition showed me a tragic accident and I knew the vision was showing me my own death.
Looking back to that day over a decade ago now, I was at the height of my music career and life was good. My debut album “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” had three hit singles and had reached the Aria Albums Chart top 60. I was feeling on top of my game, but there was a sense that there was something missing.
Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, images by Lawrence Scott
Six years ago, I tried to die. I was overcome in total despair. There was nothing left but a swirling black hole full of loathing with a one-track mind that screamed for annihilation, a cleansing of me from myself.
As I stood there alone in that room, about to make that final decision, I began to sharpen my liberation, my device to inflict pain, to feel something other than this roar of self-hatred. I stood there, afraid of what I was doing and yet the darkness engulfed me, was what I had become. There was not enough energy to stop forward motion. My mind was a jangling chasm of broken glass and was telling me that the body must break next.
Made Beautiful by NATURE... an interview with Tree expert Professor David George Haskell, (Tennessee U.S.A)
I remember as a child feeling connected to creatures that I could sit alongside and watch. I used to spend a lot of time by the family pond poking around with sticks and discovering small thriving communities. I enjoyed growing fresh vegetables in the garden and watching birds in the backyard. Those early experiences of connection to other species seemed very natural for me and as I look back; I see that I did not have a sense of humans being distinct and separate and divided away from nature. It seemed that we were simply one community
AMAZON #1 BEST SELLER