It Is All About The Journey

The New York Times advertises their trips as, “Journeys for the Curious Mind.” Robert Frost encouraged us to take the road less traveled and Ralph Waldo Emerson reminded us that, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” There is something that fascinates me about people on a journey and I am drawn to photograph them…people living their daily lives, putting one foot in front of the other to discover the unknown or return to a place of knowing. I have a deep curiosity about where a person is headed to and why. New understandings unfold through the accompaniment either in silent observation or animated interaction. Is the person walking fast or slow, bent over or standing tall, smiling or deep in thought? So much can be learned about the other and leads to a connection of “you AND me”.

On The Journey

A Smile For The Journey Off the Beaten Path

Balancing and heavy burdens on the journey.

Many people piled into a truck sitting on top of produce.

The Journey is better when shared with a friend.

Women walking around the fields looking for beans

Trusting in the wind and the currents.

Tender Moments Along The Journey

A Burmese Mother and Her Child on the Journey

Making the journey so much easier with love and laughter.

Gentle parental protection

Such tenderness in this moment as a grandson washes his grandmother who no longer has fingers to do this herself.

This young girl took her water buffalo on a journey for a cooling bath.

I also try to check in and explore the internal territory of my journey and was very focused on this with the beginning of the new year. What path am I on and is it the best for me at this moment in time? Am I creating touching moments for those on the same journey and am I taking the time to just stop and say, “Thank you” for so often being on the receiving end of welcome, touching kindness and generosity. May I just take this opportunity to extend my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to those who have walked beside me for a bit or for the long haul! You have and continue to add much sweetness to my journey and I wish you all a journey of wonder, undiscovered paths with the curiosity to explore and times to just sit and enjoy the view.

From my heart to yours.

Buddhist Monks in Myanmar

Myanmar has recently broken free from an intensely repressive military regime. While there are many growing pains, there is much hope. As with many countries struggling with issues regarding refugees and immigrants, there are some who profess strong opposition to inclusion, holding tightly to the concept of borders and singularity rather than seeing us all as interconnected and occupying only one planet. There exists in Myanmar a longstanding anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim sentiment. Prashanth Parameswaran stated in “The Diplomat” that, “there’s a real challenge here that’s symptomatic of a country in which the question of national identity has always been fraught, complex and unresolved.” Almost 90% of the population in Myanmar is Buddhist, most practicing Theravada Buddhism. Their practice follows the Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration and right mindfulness. Amidst all the complexities, the Buddhist monks that I saw, were a gentle and quiet reminder to simply be mindful of what I say and what I do and to ask myself if my words and actions are healing and uplifting. I am not sure if I believe in karma, but I thought that even if I start out with only two out of eight, it is nice way to live life!

Lofty Thoughts and Dreams

Lofty Thoughts and Dreams

Sitting In The Heart of Greatness

Sitting In The Heart of Greatness

Lost in Prayer

Lost in Prayer

Eyes That Capture A Heart

Eyes That Capture A Heart

Monks Walking and Talking Together

Friends Together

Monks Enjoying Favorite Drinks

Monks Enjoying Favorite Drinks

Tired Buddhist Monk

Oh So Tired

Daily Life

Daily Chores

Viewing the results of an earthquake.

Buddhist Monks Keeping Watch

Buddhist Monks Keeping Watch

The Long Neck Women of Burma

Dreams definitely do come true. In reality, maybe not as often as we would like! There is always a fine line between “magical thinking” and hope. However, this moment in my life had the quality of blessing for me.
Many photographers I know would say that growing up they would spend hours pouring over the pages of National Geographic. We were living vicariously through the compelling photographs of far off lands and people and tucking away the images into our dreams. I would see photographs of the Long Neck Women and think they were so beautifully exotic and meeting them seemed so far out of the realm of possiblity. Time passed, travel across continents became much easier and (some) borders opened up. I was off! I cannot even begin to explain the gratitude I felt when I got off the boat with cameras around my neck and climbed up onto a dock and was welcomed by these beautiful and exotic girls and women. I had so often seen the photographs, but now I was in them! Just writing those words brings forth a wellspring of emotion for me.

Dreams Do Come True

Dreams Do Come True

National Geographic (where it all began for me!) has created an informative and interesting video on these Padaung Long Neck Women and since the focus here is to connect the past with the present, I thought it would be the perfect link to add.
https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=The+Long+Neck+Women+of+Myanmar&ru=%2fsearch%3fq%3dThe%2bLong%2bNeck%2bWomen%2bof%2bMyanmar%26form%3dPRUSEN%26mkt%3den-us%26httpsmsn%3d1%26refig%3d7d3a577ed7aa4226a185364a79604262%26pq%3dthe%2blong%2bneck%2bwomen%2bof%2bmyanmar%26sc%3d1-30%26sp%3d-1%26qs%3dn%26sk%3d%26cvid%3d7d3a577ed7aa4226a185364a79604262&view=detail&mmscn=vwrc&mid=8706ABA9757C2ACD64148706ABA9757C2ACD6414&rvsmid=8706ABA9757C2ACD64148706ABA9757C2ACD6414&fsscr=0&FORM=VDFSRV

Creating and Living in Beauty

Creating and Living in Beauty

Young Woman Weaving

Young Woman Weaving

Long Neck Woman Weaving at Inle Lake

Long Neck Woman Weaving at Inle Lake

Sunset and a Moment of Quiet

Sunset and a Moment of Quiet

Portrait of a Long Neck Woman, Myanmar

Portrait of a Long Neck Woman, Myanmar

Portrait Through the Brass Coils

Portrait Through the Brass Coils

May something that you think is so out of reach move into the realm of possibility for you!

Reflections from Inle Lake, Myanmar

“As above, so below…” This is the name of a 2014 horror film and also the name of a song on the debut album of the Tom Tom Club. In actuality though, the quote has it origin in the ancient writings of the Hermetic Principles, studied by philosophers, scientists and spiritual leaders throughout history. The next line in the quote is, “As within, so without.” Without going off on an esoteric monologue, suffice to say that these powerful but simplistic words speak to a unifying and dynamic energy connecting all. The sky and the heavens are reflected on earth. The way one is feeling and thinking radiates outward with rippling effects able to lift up or tear down.

At Inle Lake, Myanmar, I was mesmerized by the brilliant patterns and impressionistic reflections on the lake. Light, color, design, vibrancy, “As above, so below” …”, it all danced together so beautifully and I felt totally alive to be brought into this oneness.

Flower Boat, Inle Lake, Myanmar

Flower Boat, Inle Lake, Myanmar

Reflections on Inle Lake

Reflections of Home, Inle Lake, Myanmar

Reflections of Home, Inle Lake, Myanmar

Reflections of Home

Reflections of Home

Lotus Reflections

Lotus Reflections

The Colors of Sunrise

The Colors of Sunrise

Swirls of Blue

Swirls of Blue

Dancing Colors

Dancing Colors

Lessons From Myanmar

Life on the Water

Life on the Water

Home on The Lake

Home on The Lake

A very common site to see while in Burma are people smoking both long and short truncated cigars called cheroots. Rudyard Kippling mentioned them in his famous, “Road to Mandalay” as he described his Burma girl:
“An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin white cheroot, an’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s feet.”

Burmese Woman Rolling Cheroot

Burmese Woman Rolling Cheroot

The color of cheroots can vary from green to black and are made with a mix of tobacco leaves and pieces of bark. The smoker may enjoy a distinctive sweet taste when honey, star anise, tamarind and jaggery are added into the tobacco mix. (Being from Philadelphia, I had no idea what jaggery is but discovered that it comes from the sap of palm trees and is mixed with sugar cane juice. We just have the Liberty Bell, not many palm trees!). Cheroot filters are made from small corn husks and it is all rolled together in thanal-phet leaves with sticky rice acting as the sealant. In the midst of stilted villages, floating gardens, fishermen balancing on one foot and small havens where cultural traditions are still carried on, the Inle Lake region is a must see for any traveler wishing to get caught up in the magic of Burma. We saw girls sitting crossed legged, hands moving at lightening fast speed as they separated the spices and rolled the leaves of these subtle fragrant cheroots, following in the footsteps of generations before them.

Woman In The Fields Taking A Break

Woman In The Fields Taking A Break

Having A Good Laugh!

Having A Good Laugh!

Love That Smile!

Love That Smile!

Twinkling Eyes

Twinkling Eyes

Reflecting and Relaxing

Reflecting and Relaxing

Here Comes Another Smile!

Here Comes Another Smile!

Often, older, older women whose faces have been deeply etched by the forces of nature are photographed puffing on cheroots with smoke snaking around their serious faces. We are so drawn to the wizened crone characteristic and the stories that lie beneath those many lines and wrinkles. Actually, there are 98 photographs of these women on Google Images (I counted!) So many photographs are both striking and compelling but I noticed that there were only 8 where the women were smiling. If this is an enjoyable past time, I wondered why such an absence. I will probably never know the many back stories to those photographs but I would like to share my experience with these women. Let me begin with a quote. An 18th century German composer, Robert Schumann stated, “The artist’s vocation is to send light into the human heart.” David Heath and Win Kyaw Zan are two men I hold in high esteem as true artists. I was so fortunate to have their mentorship throughout my recent trip to Myanmar. There is such an obvious brotherhood between David and Win. It has been forged during their 16 adventures together, documenting life and traditions hidden away from the Western world for so very long. I was thrilled they brought me “into the fold” and made me feel like family… but then that is what I saw them do time and time again with many others, which brings me to the main point of today’s post. Sitting in thatched huts or out in fields, we too were drawn to photograph these brown skinned, weathered and wise women enjoying a good smoke! We could have photographed with a long lens, never making our presence known while in a way stealing something from them and or we could respectfully enter into the intimacy of their world and not miss out on an amazing opportunity. David and Win went for the latter. Outgoing and fun loving, the camera went down while their smiles, introductions, compliments and jokes brought about quick friendships. We all lingered and laughed and loved every minute! The Burmese women easily allowed us to photograph them. They showed us the pensive look, but now they also flashed those wonderful smiles that were definitely contagious! The “strangerness” melted away into that “light being sent into the human heart” and we were family, connecting continents, cultures and hearts. I was so fortunate to travel with two masterful photographers. They encourage and challenge me to truly be mindful of the artist’s calling. May we all discover that vocation and pass it on now…it is so needed and our children are watching.

Watching with Hopes and Dreams

Watching with Hopes and Dreams

Iceland: Street Art

There are many diverse and interesting museums in Iceland where I explored the unique art, history and culture. However in this beautiful land of contrasts, what struck me was the “museumless” artwork offered freely on the streets of Reykjavik. Plain walls were transformed through vibrancy, color and imaginative design… all became manifestations of the creativity and pride of the locals. The city has so much to offer to the peregrinating tourist!

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland’s Magnificent Waterfalls

Some of the synonyms for “Magnificence” are splendor, grandeur, beauty and greatness. I would add many more but one definitely being breath taking after standing by two of the largest waterfalls located along the South Coast of Iceland. The Seljandsfoss Waterfall (seen in the Amazing Race 6) drops approximately 200 feet and it has a well developed loop trail that allows for up close and personal views from behind the falls. The Huffington Post Travel just posted beautiful photographs of the Falls during the spring if you would like to get that perspective. I however, was there when a late night snowfall blanketed all in site and the temperature dropped so many degrees below zero. (I stopped counting – when it is below zero, it is all relative!). The winds and freezing temperatures quickly turned the path behind the falls to ice. Since I didn’t yet have my strap crampons with me to ensure that my cameras and I would remain upright, I was only able to capture the views from the front of this powerful work of nature.

Skogafoss (SKOH-ga-foss) Waterfall is also located in the south of Iceland. There is a hiking trail enabling visitors to climb alongside the cliffs to get a stunning view from the very top of the falls and the Atlantic Ocean as well. The thundering water cascades 200 feet down and has a width of 82 feet across. This was one of the sites used for the film. “Thor:The Dark World” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

The freezing water hitting my face…the thundering sound of falling water, every sense heightened while feeling so very small against this backdrop of sheer wonder and magnificence.

Iceland's Wonders

Iceland’s Wonders

Cascading Waters of Iceland

Cascading Waters of Iceland

Iceland's Glory

Iceland’s Glory

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Slippery Slope

Slippery Slope

Just as light shapes, water follows suit. The icing created unique, constantly changing abstract designs.

Iceland's Natural Wonders

Iceland’s Natural Wonders

Iceland's Stunning Waterfalls

Iceland’s Stunning Waterfalls

Iceland's Waterfalls

Iceland’s Waterfalls

Iceland: Glacier Lagoon and the Play of Light

Iceland Glacier Lagoon at Sunset

Iceland Glacier Lagoon at Sunset

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Gentle Day, Gentle Night

Gentle Day, Gentle Night

With the approaching Winter Solstice and viewing the thousands of photographs I took in Iceland, I am so very conscious of light and its many qualities. Such a gift it is. It shapes the landscapes of our mind and our earth. It uplifts spirits and brings forth a quiet reverence as it takes its leave at the end of every day. Aaron Rose stated, “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” I was so grateful to be in the right light at the right time on this trip.

In Iceland, light covers the landscape about 10:30 am and night begins to enter in about 3:30 pm. On the solstice, daylight last only 4 hours. One site I passed was a cemetery with each headstone lit up. Jonas,(Arctic Adventures) my guide, explained that 66% of Iceland’s primary energy use comes from vast geothermal sources so people try to light up as much as possible during this time, even graves! I have to say the twinkling lights on snow covered streets created such a magical feel… but speaking of magical, Jokulsarlon, Glacier Lagoon was like no other place I had ever seen. It is said to be one of the greatest wonders of nature in Iceland. This lagoon is a recent one, the result of a warming climate. Huge blocks of ice constantly break off the glacier and the tide brings them to rest on a black volcanic beach. Jonas wanted to get us there just as the sun was beginning to set. I was in total awe as I witnessed such beautiful changing light as its rays touched each player and gave it its special moment. Turquoise, golds, blacks, gentle and vivid pinks were each brought forth and again, “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary!”

Awe Inspired Question: How Did They Ever Build These?

While in Greece and Italy, I found myself in awe of the human spirit driven to continually seek higher ground combined with the engineering skills to achieve these vantage points…how in the world did they ever do that?!

Breath Taking! Life in Greece!

Breath Taking! Life in Greece!

Delphi, reaching the heavens

Delphi, reaching the heavens

Cliffs of Italy

Cliffs of Italy

Italian Vacation

Italian Vacation

Greek Mountain Stay

Greek Mountain Stay

Hotel View

Hotel View

Greek Island Homes

Greek Island Homes

Pompeii, Walking on Sacred Ground

Paths of Pompeii

Pompeii Muted Colors

Remaining Artifacts from Pompeii

Person of Pompeii

Pompeii Unearthing

Years ago, I can remember being totally mesmerized when I heard the story of molten volcanic ash enveloping an entire city and its inhabitants. Approximately 2000 people living life were now preserved in their final moments for the ages. Mothers and fathers sitting at a table, little ones sleeping…these acts became their last on August 24, 79 A.D. EyeWitness To History.com relates an ancient voice from the past that reaches through time to relate these horrific events. The ash grew to be 16 feet and a once flourishing resort for the rich and famous of Rome with marketplaces, brothels, taverns, bathhouses and a 20,000 seat arena was totally silenced until 1748. The archaeologists found buildings intact, skeletons frozen in time, art and artifacts of every day life. Today, Pompeii draws thousands of tourists. One must past through about 15-20 vendors lining the entrance selling bottles of lemoncello, cameos carved from shells which may or may not be authentic and of course row after row of the famous winged penis which was the city symbol (who knew)! There was no McDonald’s in site though!! Despite all of the tourist trappings, every time I walk through Pompeii, it is truly one of those “pinch me now” moments. I wander through the homes, seeing mosaics and frescoes which are erotic and beautiful still visible after thousands of years. It is a bit surreal to come upon the few frozen remains still on display… the people who were so compelling to me years before. Many of the artifacts have been moved to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and is so deserving of a visit. It is said that a third of the city still remains covered. In just a span of 4 years, I saw graves carved into stone that had just been unearthed. It continually gives me a reason to return so the story I heard sitting in a classroom may take on new layers of richness and intrigue.

“Feeling It” Series

Dreaming

“Dreaming”

Her hands in steaming hot water and surrounded by dirty pots, one can only wonder what this Amish woman is thinking about as she gazes out the window. Is there contentment in her heart or longing…or a bit of both?

Feelings, Mood and Taking a Different Path

Childhood and Summer

As a photographer, I have spent years trying to master the technical and will happily continue for many more if I am lucky… it is a constant! When I am able to get that tack sharp image I am thrilled. In fact, that type of image was one of the aspects which first drew me to photography many years ago. So often I would look at an image and discard it if it wasn’t in focus. Creativity though is thinking out of the box, trying different things, playing and having fun, going down that overgrown path. So I decided to do just that…to create an image that is more about the mood and the feeling…the universality of feelings in a very simple image. Abandonment!

My first image is an attempt to capture the moments we are able to just stop, enjoy and just get caught up in curiosity and exploration…here’s to summer and childhood!

Sorrento, Italy …Rain and Shine

We drove into Sorrento in a rainstorm but it did not dampen this small town’s charm. The narrow winding streets create a sense of intimacy and invite one to explore. Not knowing what is around the next corner but being greeted with surprise after surprise.

Rainy Day in Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

In Southern Italy, lemon trees abound. It seems that lemons come in two sizes here – large and extra large and limoncello is the drink of choice. In one of the stores, I was kindly invited back to see how it was being made. With a vegetable peeler, long strips are taken from the lemon and put right into vats where they are left to steep in vodka for several days. A sugar syrup is made and mixed with the vodka mixture and then it is strained. Limoncello is both delicious and strong (for my taste!). My advice is to try some AFTER visiting all the other quaint shops. We found everyone so open to us and spent a lot of time “visiting”! Hospitality is a hallmark!

Sorrento lemons

Making Limoncello

Limoncello Bottles for sale

Shop owner, Sorrento, Italy

The town sits on the top of rocky cliffs. The next day, we ventured down by both elevator and stairs in order to catch a boat over to Capri.
We saw ingenuity at work! Since there is little beach, piers were built out over the water. Sitting on top are very small and brightly colored bath houses for people to change in and then lay out on the piers for some sun bathing!

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento has both charm and grandeur. Taking in breathtaking sites and wandering through the narrow streets, spending time with the locals is such a captivating experience. This is why I try to return year after year!

Sorrento, Italy

Capri is next!

Yapa: A Way of Being

Handmade by the women in Peru.

Handmade by the women in Peru.

 

Handmade Gifts from SERRV

Handmade Gifts from SERRV

 

 

According to Cultural Survival . Org, “Quechua has been spoken in Peru since it became the unifying language of the Inca Empire 600 years ago.”  Yapa is so much more than a Quechuan word. Yapa is a spirit embraced by so many of the Peruvian people I met.  The meaning is simple but has such amazing rippling effects…it is the Quechua equivalent of “pay it back”.  When I was in the markets throughout Peru, it was a very common occurrence to get back to where I was staying and find something extra had been put in the bag… a ring, a charm…something that conveyed such a spirit of generosity and care.  “Have something extra for the road!” As the recipient of this kindness, I then wanted to do more and give more.  It was contagious.

Loving to shop and see artisans from around the world, I just attended a fair trade gift and craft festival sponsored by SERRV whose mantra is, “To enrich and inspire.”  Their mission is to eradicate poverty by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.  This organization provides grants to expand resources, supports equal rights for women and collaborates to build sustainable markets. As I love the back story of photographs, I also so enjoy hearing the back story of the piece, the artisan. Every piece for sale has a specific story behind it explaining the craft and the life of its creator.  I was taken with many of the items and purchased a pair of silver earrings made by a Chilean artisan.  As soon as I went to pay for the item, Bethany, (thank you so much!) went right over to get me a beautiful hand painted dish which she said I needed to go with the earrings…no charge, nothing asked for in return,  just that something extra… Yapa! It all came back to me and hopefully, this time I won’t forget how important it is to give a bit more because I have been so fortunate to receive a bit more!

 

PS…If you have some gifts to buy, the SERRV site has wonderful suggestions that will make your Black Friday such an enjoyable day, exploring the world and not fighting crowds!