The Irish Cemetery Sunday

Graves from the 18th century

While I was in Ireland, I was fascinated with all things castles, cottages and cemeteries. They hold the spirits of greatness, intimacy and connections. Since my DNA was gifted to me from those born in Ireland many years before, there was a strong pull to the cemeteries. (It is said that my ancestor was King Brian Boru but I will save the castles for another time!). The cemetery was where I could stand on the dark sacred ground joined in some way with those who came before me. In quiet, I could connect and try to hear the stories being whispered into my soul.

18th Century Graves

On our first full day in Donegal, the rain was pelting and pouring down with the wind whipping. We were staying with Joe and Noreen McFadden, two of the most wonderful people you could ever meet who could write the definitive book on Irish Hospitality As A True Art Form! They told us that this was Cemetery Sunday. A first for me since I never heard of it before growing up in the states. Throughout Ireland, each Catholic Church that has a cemetery attached chooses one Sunday in the year to hold an outdoor mass and those with deceased family members buried there come together to honor, remember and reconnect. Did we want to come? I couldn’t think of anyplace I would rather be!

Cars lined up for miles in Donegal, Ireland

The teeming rain was no match for the love and dedication of the people. Cars were backed up for miles to park. Once in, the greyness of the cemetery was enlivened with the colors of flowers and umbrellas. Each person would decorate the family grave and stand by the headstone during the mass. If someone knew that a family member would be away and there would be no one to tend to a grave, others made sure they would decorate and stand in. The beautiful bouquets were not only in the flowers but also in the offered kindness of others. Through the music, prayers and affection shown, this bit of earth was transformed into a sanctuary of an invisible, unending communion. The cycle and connectedness of life were palpable as the fathers’, mothers’, sisters’ and brothers’ stories were told and as the living stood with the dead.

People making sure each grave has flowers.
People stand through downpours to honor loved ones.
Hundreds honor their loved ones in the midst of pouring rains.
Gathering After The Mass

All during the mass, people were huddled together in support and then gathered together after it was over. As I was photographing the groups of people, I looked up to see a young man who had walked up to the end of the cemetery. The wind and rain were pelting but he was just looking out onto the sea, alone with his thoughts. It was all so striking to me…the rhythm of accompanying and letting be, the need to gather together and then the need for each person to go off and in the aloneness, try to hear the love being whispered into their soul. I had never experienced anything like it and yes, there was no other place I would have wanted to be.

Silent Reflection

PS…Lorla and James, you could also co-author the book! Heartfelt thanks!

Living Namaste: Spoken Word Poetry and Photography

How our new book has been waiting for this moment in time!

Book Cover

As a young girl, I always was enamored with the ways of the world. I was fascinated by people who did not look like me, who celebrated different festivals and who lived lives in far off places.

Then transformative events happened within the magic of Christmas day, the day we celebrate light and new life. When I was 13, my Aunt and Uncle gave me a subscription to National Geographic. I was the only one in the family who ever received a magazine subscription as a gift. How did they ever know their choice would have such a profound impact on my life?

Three years later on Christmas morning, my Mother gave me my first “real” camera. With 5 children, money for gifts was tight but somehow she found a way. She knew how much I hoped for it and how much it meant to me. This woman, my mother was truly my Auntie Mame, Pied Piper and Peter Pan all rolled into one. She (and my strong, quiet father) gave me the security of deep roots while encouraging me to spread my wings, try new things and go to new places. For years on Wednesday nights, my parents would invite anywhere from 10 – 25 people into our home for dinner. My mother told me that the work would always be there but the people wouldn’t and the more the merrier! One of the greatest gifts my parents gave to me was the name of Frances. It was my dad’s idea to name me after my mother. Within my name also lies my calling. I only had my parents for 26 years and now I find myself trying to honor my mother’s legacy of welcoming and connecting, generously giving while living life with openness, appreciation and exuberance. I try to live up to my name but she set the bar high! My mother gave me my first camera so it has become very important to me to do as much good as possible with my photography. All of this has woven its way into the desire for this book to make its appearance to the world today on June 15th – what would have been my mother’s birthday and also on the weekend we celebrate Father’s Day. I hope my work makes them proud!

We are surrounded by images of violence and words that belittle and divide. Alysa and I wanted to counter that with images and poetry that hopefully would uplift and honor humanity. I have been so fortunate because no matter where I travel to my experience has always been that of kindness and acceptance from the people I have met around the world. A heart felt inspiration called me to reflect upon the first words spoken. Greetings from around the world are both powerful and beautiful and if we allow those words to enter deeply into our consciousness, we honor the space between. There is harmony and the experience becomes poetry. I started living in the spirit of Namaste and it has totally changed my life. A practice so simple and yet so profound. We both put pen to paper and birthed, “Living Namaste – Spoken Word Poetry and Photography sharing life lessons and wisdom. It would be our hope that the words and images cross borders and boundaries to bridge and heal. Therefore, partial proceeds from the book will be given to Doctors Without Borders and The Untours Foundation. We have also made the decision not to post our book on Amazon or Barnes and because that would add $7 more to the cost of each book. We would rather have money going to the charities and keep “Living Namaste” affordable. We are hoping that people will enjoy the book enough to spread it’s existence by word of mouth so that we do not need the Amazon platform.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read the journey of this creation from the heart. If you would be interested in purchasing, here is the link:

By A Beer, F Schwabenland

Amish Mud Sale, 2019

Amish Buggies For Sale

Each year in Lancaster, Pa. the bond between the Amish, the locals and the firemen can be witnessed. Starting on the last Saturday of February, each township holds sales and auctions in order to raise the much needed money for the local fire company. It is community caring at its best. These events run into April and with weeks of spring precipitation, the mud follows and hence the name “Mud Sale”!

Hand in Hand

The Amish live very simply without technology and electricity. They are a very close, traditionalist Christian based community. Their dress is very plain and they travel by horse and buggy, trains and boats but never planes. The children attend school until the age of 14 when their education is complete and Rumspringa begins allowing the teens to experience technology and fashion. After two years, if they decide to get baptized they return to the simple living and begin a family. Many come from all over the world to attend these sales and be a part of a unique gathering of cultures and life styles all in the name of supporting the local fire companies.

Waiting for the Sale
Home Goods at Auction
Planning and Anticipating
Fold and Sold
Girl Huddle
Potty Seat for $2.00
The Name Fits

Conrad Louis Charles, In Memoriam

As photographers, we attempt to freeze moments in time…to try to hold on and connect with the people, the places and the feelings forever. We fight hard against the inevitable fate of endings and goodbyes. We constantly seek the light and examine the way it kisses everything on earth. I am writing this today with tears in my eyes and such sadness in my heart because I wasn’t able to stop time for a great friend and photographer and the light has dimmed. Conrad Louis Charles died suddenly last night due to complications from a surgical procedure.

Conrad and I met after I saw his work featured on Tewfic El-Sawy’s blog The Travel Photographer. I was so impressed and knowing we were both from the same area, I contacted him and we quickly became fast friends, living only minutes from each other. Conrad was the gentle giant. He had quite the presence in stature but was quiet by nature. He was deeply introspective which led to his unique and profound vision. This master photographer was always thinking about interactions and
interplays of life and Conrad could tell me every spec on the cameras and what would work for what. We would spend hours lusting over the latest gear and the places we could travel to with it. I would see the big picture while he could see the small details. We worked so well together. Conrad was moving into film making. That was his dream and everything he did was to learn more and to be more. We talked about the projects that took hold of his heart. He hoped to travel to Brazil for a few months, live with the local people and travel with them on their pilgrimages, documenting their faith and rituals which would add another component to his beautiful and sacred still images. I always was in awe of how he was able to take his 6 foot plus self and get so close to people to capture with intense intimacy their deepest moments in prayer without in anyway being an intrusion. I will never be able to do what he did even though he kept trying to teach me! I remember telling him how I was trying so hard to emulate him by photographing a couple at a restaurant but all I got was a hand signal recognizable around the world and it wasn’t good! Conrad truly just had a way and a style that was uniquely his. Hours would go by and we would consistently close our favorite restaurant as he shared his vision of documenting the events at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Both places were home. With ancient roots stirring the rhythms of connectedness there, he felt a deep calling to tell the stories of the people and the politics. Dreams are those intangible life/light giving graces. Conrad may not have seen the completion but he put the spirit of his dreams into the universe for another to hold it close and carry it on.

Conrad was such a compassionate, gifted and sensitive visionary. He first touched my life with his images and then grew to profoundly impact me with his supportive friendship and mentoring. The space between us had been blessed. I will forever miss that wonderful deep voice calling me “Frances” rather than Francie. When he spoke, he honored. His curiosity and adventurous spirit led him to travel the world and come home with fascinating stories of other cultures that I could sit and listen to forever. He would do anything for the photograph. In Antarctica, the seas were thrashing and crashing. Many on board were sick. Conrad was just not happy that he didn’t get the type of shot he wanted so he asked to stay on the ship and go back again despite the horrible conditions. The second time was a charm.

He regretted not being a doctor at times, but he healed with his presence. Conrad deeply loved his family and I will hold close the rosary that he brought back for me from Fatima recently. He was so excited to take his mother there for her birthday with his sisters.

Pilgrim holding photographs of Francisco and Jacinta, children of Fatima, Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil

Pilgrimages always fascinated him…what was it that drew people to leave home and go on a journey with such deep faith… to enter into the unknown in search of mysteries and miracles that lie beyond us.

Pilgrim Praying. Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil

Conrad, may the pilgrimage you are now on bring you to a place where there is no more mystery. May you feel the welcome of perfect peace, light and love.
I am not able to stop time for you, but you will forever live in my heart. With the words we always spoke when parting, “Go gently my friend! I love you!”

To see more of Conrad’s work and legacy: Conrad Louis Charles Photography

Travel Like I Have Never Experienced Before

A fairy tale village

One may never know the many people touched by a life well lived. The rippling effects can be far reaching into the future. In 1973, Hal Taussig gave his car to a hitchhiker and from that time on, he rode his bike to work. He was a giant of a man focused on living simply and forging connections across continents. He received a doctorate in education from the University of Penn. During the last phase of his teaching career, he traveled with his wife and youngest daughter to Europe for a sabbatical. He was able to stretch the family’s extremely tight budget by renting apartments in small villages in Switzerland, Germany, and France. At home in rural mountainside communities, he became an avid hiker, learned German, and made lifelong friendships that altered his worldview. By traveling close to the ground, taking local trains, shopping in the markets and getting to know a series of friendly hosts, he found what he considered a more meaningful and enlightening mode of travel. This cross-cultural connection prompted him to write his book “Shoestring Sabbatical” hoping to inspire others to travel this way. Before the “one click find it on the internet” and Air B&B, Hal being a true visionary, started “Untours” with his wife Norma in the 70″s. A company to offer a mode of travel that Hal pioneered: apartment stays in local communities in Europe that give travelers a more genuine experience and understanding of a place, its people, and its culture. This man from Media, Pa who died in 2016 and who I never have had the privilege to meet has opened new worlds for me.

I have been traveling since I was 18. Seems like only yesterday! I have traveled with groups and I have jaunted out into the world alone. There is very little thinking and leg work involved when with a group. All is set in place – times of arrival and return are given, sights to see or not see. When alone, it can be at times somewhat nerve wracking maneuvering through new worlds with much time spent researching and making reservations. Happily, now I have found the perfect blend of the two with Untours. This was my first time traveling with them and I am so excited to share my experience with those who may have that wanderlust spirit but like to be grounded securely.

Lunch with Vivianne

Alsace Dessert

My recent trip was to Alsace, France. Dodge Amaral, ( ) was wonderful in setting the stage, sharing his vast experience and knowledge of the area, putting all the logistics in place and I went off with all tickets in hand. I received such a valuable guide book to the area covering everything from cultural etiquette, suggestions for things to do, how to handle tips etc. that we referred to many days. Untours provides that best of both worlds travel package. A representative in France is ready to meet the arriving traveler, “hold their hands” while obtaining the rental car and driving to the apartment “home away from home”. Rather than staying in a hotel, with hundreds of people, here in the beautiful town of Ribeauvillé, we had our own spacious apartment within a local villa all to ourselves. Marie Lauth and Dominique were our hosts. They greeted us with their own homemade apple cider, a bottle of wine and much kindness. There was so much attention to beautiful detail for us. Dominique was an architect and Marie Lauth is a talented artist with her work hanging on the walls. Beautiful drapes and table linens came from the very famous Beauville Linens (so much more on that to follow). Travel books were there for us to read each evening in our lovely living room. The kitchen had all the amenities we needed when we would return home each day with fresh baked bread, cheese, local wines and fresh fruit from the market. Towel warmers and huge down comforters easily took away the chill of the day and each morning we looked out to their lovely garden and vineyard awaiting the birthing of spring. They were there for us if we had any questions and we felt so comfortable coming and going at our own pace. We shared lives, countries, photographs in frames and photographs on the phone with this wonderful couple who fast became our friends. Vivianne Beller was the UnTours representative in France. We met with her over lunch and thank heaven the French take two hours for this meal because she was a fascinating companion. She was an American living in France after marrying her husband and she related and conversed so easily, guiding us along with suggestions to make the most out of our trip. She is there for all Untours travelers and will plan a lunch meet up to help everyone in that same way. I loved the freedom of planning where we would go each day and doing it our own time. If we got lost on a country road or took several hours to totally enjoy the French cuisine, no one was waiting on a bus for us. We set our itinerary. We meandered through the beautiful and quaint towns in the Alsace region in our own way and knew wonderful locals were just a phone call away if needed.

One of the oldest family run vineyards in Ribeauville, France

At the time of Hal’s death, he was an accomplished businessman, a fervent booster of Fair Trade, an activist for socially responsible business, and an early micro-enterprise investor before micro loans were really even thought of. His Untours Foundation, created with the profits of his successful tour company, has lent over 7 million dollars to small startups and businesses around the world to create jobs and economic opportunities for those most in need. In 1999, Paul Newman and John F. Kennedy Jr. awarded Untours with the title “Most Generous Company in America.” He was given the Spirit of Philadelphia Award in 2007 and at the following year’s Philadelphia Sustainability Awards, Hal was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his ongoing commitment to social justice. I never met Hal Taussig but this man’s vision, ideas and ideals have very much touched my life and now the way I travel. Thank you so much Hal!

Home in Colmar, France

Chants, Lamentations and Veneration

From darkness into light…from monochrome into vibrant color… from winter into spring, an emerging opening and flow rather than a fighting. There is a gentle stirring of one’s spirit with words like hope, light and resurrection because they emerge from a dying. Intertwined within this are rituals and traditions which ground us, give meaning and create bonds of friendships and identity.

Good Friday Service

In the Greek Orthodox religion, the Easter season is one of the most profound and holiest times of the year so I decided to experience and get a glimpse into the rituals and symbolism of the Good Friday service. First, when I walked into the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Elkins Park, PA, the 6th oldest Greek Orthodox community in the US, established in 1901, I was struck by the hospitality and warmth of the women who welcomed me. I was a stranger and they wanted to make sure I felt comfortable, giving up a front row seat for me, explaining what would be happening. This hospitality was as beautiful as the gold Byzantine icons surrounding me. There was a sacred richness mixed with that Greek love for life and I was totally caught up in it! A key for me was when I couldn’t tell which child belonged to which mother…all the women there were their mothers, hugging, kissing and tugging on clothes and fixing hair. I need more Greek friends!

A Mother and Her Son

In the front of the church was a richly decorated and elaborately carved canopy called a Kouvouklion which represents the tomb of Jesus. The women had spent over 3 hours that morning decorating it with spring flowers of white, red and purple. The ceremony began with readings from the bible, ethereal chanting from the cantors and incense flowing freely to remind everyone that their prayers flow freely to God. Then, gathering around the image of Christ on the cross, the men reached up to take away the nails while young girls (representing the women at the feet of the cross) held the white cloth waiting to receive the wooden representation of Jesus in death. It was then taken behind one of the three doors separating the nave from the sanctuary and referred to as the Iconostosis. An elaborately decorated tapestry with the image of Christ prepared for burial, referred to as the Epitafio, was then brought out and carried around the church as all present bow in veneration.

It Is Done

Venerating the Body of Christ

Woman bowed in prayer

Prayer by the Kouvouklion

After it was placed on the Kouvouklion, people young and old then began to line up with gestures symbolizing a deep and abiding faith. The sign of the cross was made followed by bowing to kiss either the feet or hands of the icon. The priest stated the generally, one does not kiss the face of the icon. Once again, the sign of the cross was made and then many people got down on their hands and knees and crawled through the bottom of the Kouvouklion to symbolize their willingness to enter unto death with Christ.

Man approaching the Kouvouklion

Entering into the death of Christ

Man Joining With Christ

Someone is Always There

Light in Darkness

These rituals become the pathway to enter into a mystery of God and visibly show a faith and belief. Even though there are many paths, an abiding commonality is that there is hope in the face of fear, that there is life in the face of death and that love holds us, heals us and carries us forth to ignite the world with kindness. I am so glad that I stepped into this new experience and am so grateful to all the women who so graciously gathered around me and made me feel at home and to Fontina Moller who first taught me the meaning of Opa, I held you in my heart as I walked through your church. Now on to Easter!

Philadelphia Streets: Feeling the Love

Valentine's Gift

Valentine's Day Gift

Valentine's Day Gift

Valentine's Day Gift

Valentine's Day Gift

Valentine's Day Gift

Valentine's Day Gift

Valentine's Day Gift

Valentine's Day Gift

Today the temperatures dropped to single digits and snow dotted the streets of downtown Philadelphia. Gray and bitter cold. Yet, it was one of the most invigorating and enlivening Valentine’s Day I have ever had. “Love”, “Connections”, “Heart to Heart”, “Meaning in Life”… all words on thousands of Hallmark cards but this past month, they were reality.

Students, staff, parents and grandparents at Sandy Run Middle School all came together to knit almost 200 scarves for the homeless. Bright colors, dark colors, multi-colored…all so very warm with a heart shaped message attached to each one. People were knitting during every free moment so that these harbingers of caring warmth could be delivered today, Valentine’s Day.

Sean, sitting on the street, was so grateful and asked for one for his girlfriend. One woman began to cry saying that it was so very cold today and the colors made her feel better. As the scarves were passed out, people who never met were now connected. Good wishes exchanged. The givers received and the receivers gave.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, located at 25 S. 11th Street has recently received attention from the Ellen Show and NBC Nightly News. Mason, the owner, left a job on Wall Street to open a pizza shop in Philadelphia. It has become the epitome of “Pay it Forward”. Customers buy a slice and donate $1.00 for someone who is homeless. The walls are covered with messages of love and thanks. Today, those who came in were given something to eat and a hand made scarf to lessen the biting cold. In Gwanko’s words on Rosa’s wall, “I’m so happy to get to see people coming together and really making a difference in the community!” What a wonderful Valentine’s Day today has been!

Communal Living: Twin Oaks and Little Acorn

Southern Exposure Seed Exhchange

Farming the land
Farming the land

This week in the mail, I received my annual copy of “Southern Exposure“.
Snow is forecasted. Super Bowl festivities are underway and I am remembering a time 2 very hot summers ago. I met a woman who was weaving hammocks at the Kutztown Folk Festival. While I was photographing her art, I was curious about her background. She related that she lived at Twin Oaks Intentional Community (modern name for a commune) in rural Louisa County, Virginia. I was intrigued – what would make people choose this lifestyle? After several phone calls back and forth, Paxus Calta (Earl Schuyler Flansburg) invited us into this lifestyle. I travelled down with my friend Ann Lauder who is an excellent writer. I would photograph and she would tell the story.

Twin Oaks is referred to by the 100 residents as an ecovillage and intentional community. It was started in 1967 by psychology students studying “Walden Two”. Homes can have up to 26 members and possessions are shared to promote the greater good of the society. Clothes, underwear and shoes can be found in “Commy Clothes”. There was definitely a musty odor but certainly variety! Clothing can also be optional. Each member, whether married or not, has their own room. Bathrooms are open to all, locking doors is frowned upon. Unconventional and alternative lifestyles are as readily supported as conventional lifestyles. This is not a religious community and all denominations are welcomed.

Home at Twin Oaks
Home at Twin Oaks

Commy Clothes
Commy Clothes

Car Sharing

Weekly Work Chart

There is car sharing and chore sharing, all very organized. Each member is asked to give 42 hours of service each week. A few examples are: washing dishes, child care, gardening or working in one of the three multi-million dollar companies the community owns. Twin Oaks sells hammocks, tofu, and heirloom seeds. For the work, a monthly stipend of $80 is provided. Residents are provided with all the basic necessities of food, shelter, health care, child care and education. Decisions must be made by the entire community, even as far as deciding if someone can get pregnant and bring a child into the community.

Waste from Tofu


Hammocks For Sale

Paxus and the Hammocks

Organic Farming

Heirloom Tomato
Heirloom Tomato

Seed Collecting
Seed Collecting

Southern Exposure Seeds

As much as possible is recycled. There are areas that appear to be filled with junk, but the items are just waiting for that creative touch. Even fecal matter is recycled into green energy. More and more, members are trying to live off of the grid and rely on solar energy. The majority of what is eaten is grown or raised right there. Cows, chickens and gardens supply members with a variety of food.


Human Waste Recycled

Breakfast and Dinner

Some members left Twin Oaks and began “Little Acorn”. It has fewer members and decisions are made by the majority rather than the entire body. The focus of this community is on harvesting heirloom seeds for their “Southern Exposure” company. Gardens are totally organic and they make sure that the quality of the soil is preserved with absolutely no genetic engineering.

Grow It to Eat It

What are the positives of this lifestyle choice? In this economy, people do not have to worry about bills, shelter/food and loneliness. There is individual freedom in choosing how to spend time and what to work on. Residents can take pride in decreasing their carbon footprint. The negatives expressed had to deal with the lack of funds limiting the freedom to travel and the difficulties which can arise when relationships do not work out in such close quarters. While television is not allowed, access to the internet is. New members are now coming with lap tops and spending more time on their own rather than in community as it was before this technology arrival. While older members have been there for decades, younger members seem to stay only a few years and move on. Some said they came to learn entrepreneurial skills with the hope of leaving to start their own organic farms or small businesses.

We met a son of a former CIA agent, a former buddhist monk, teachers, artists, true hippies, political activists and those so very concerned about what is happening to our environment. In the rural hills of Louisa, Virginia one may definitely come across that “road less travelled”.

Philly Aids Walk


I Am With You
I Am With You

Cheering On
Cheering On

Honoring A Life
Honoring A Life

Days Gone By
Days Gone By

This time last Sunday, I was returning home from the Philly AIDS Walk. I am working on a long term project which required me to photograph this event. It was the first time I attended and was totally impressed by the number of people who joined together to walk and run in order to support those touched by HIV and to help fund further research. I could have easily spent the majority of my time photographing this expansive sea of humanity but I chose to photograph from a different perspective.

Those with cancer may say, “I have cancer.”

While AIDS seems to consume one’s identity. When asked, most respond with “I am HIV positive.” As if they are the disease. So I decided to forego the larger picture and honor the individual. I walked through the crowd to capture the moments of strength, support and reflection.

Reading Terminal Market: One of the Top Ten Public Spaces in America

Reading Terminal Market

The Reading Terminal Market, located in the center of Philadelphia, was just recognized as one of the “10 Great Public Spaces in America”. With over 6 1/2 million visitors a year to this historic and diverse landmark, The American Planning Association felt it worthy of this honor. There are 76 independently owned retailers all under one roof. This would be the epitome of “one stop shopping”! One can buy homemade cannolis, taste cheeses from around the world, dine on the culinary delights of the Amish, buy a good book and take home a beautiful bouquet of flowers to name just a few of the offerings. It is a feast for the senses and this was home for me and where I grew up!

My great grandfather (pictured second from left) was one of the first vendors at the Reading Terminal Market when it opened in 1892. My grandfather (on the left) and great uncle worked side by side with him. When my grandfather died suddenly during the depression, my grandmother had no money to bury him so the vendors took up a collection and came to her aid. This story was passed down from generation to generation so that we would realize the importance of working together and giving back. My grandmother was eternally grateful to all those around her. My father was only 13 at the time and had to drop out of school to take over the business with his older brother and of course, it doesn’t end there…when the cousins all turned 14, going to work at the market was our right of passage! My one older cousin and I drooled over Mr. Bassett’s son (the ice cream king) who worked directly across from us. Pearl had the very best fried chicken and I would always wonder how the Amish women dressed using only pins and hook and eye closures, thinking zippers and buttons would be so much easier! As a teenager, getting up at 5 o’clock on a Saturday and going to the slaughter house to pick up the meat for the day and not getting home until 9 was not my idea of fun to say the least. My mother would try to extol all the life lessons I would learn which I would of course appreciate when I got older… one being that I would meet so many many different people, personalities and cultures. (I will always remember the gaunt man who always wanted a quart of sauerkraut juice without the sauerkraut, only to find out later that it was a potent laxative…great for dinner party conversations but I digress!) Even though I didn’t want to hear it then, I have to say that she was right! One of the 10 top public spaces in America was the nucleus for my family. The place I grew up working side by side with siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. The Reading Terminal Market was also the spot that first stoked my curiosity about people and my love for travel. It was my spot of “Roots and Wings”.

Wandering Along The Back Streets in Florence

Florence, Italy

Florence, Santa Maria Novella



Florence, Santa Maria Novella


A city bathed in the warm colors of rust and amber, A city where the artists Michelangelo, DaVinci, Donatello, Botticelli and Brunelleschi (just to mention a few) brought forth a collective body of the greatest works of art the world has ever known.  A city where artists attempted to capture the beauty, order and harmony of the human body as a way to glorify God and they excelled at this glorification. Florence is known as the heart of the Renaissance and in many ways the foundation of our modern world lifting us out of the dark ages. It is a city I go back to time and time again as it continually amazes me.

On a recent trip, I walked the far back streets where I had never been before.  There I discovered Farmaceutica Di Santa Maria Novellaone.  The Dominican Friars founded this center in 1221 as a location to make herbal remedies and potions to use in the monastery. “Their reputation became world renowned and the pharmacy, sponsored by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, opened to the public in 1612.”

Many of the Farmaceutica Di Santa Maria Novella’s products have become a part of history: the world famous pot-pourri is still hand crafted in large terra cotta vats using local essences and plants as has been the tradition since the 1200’s. The first “Eau de Cologne” has been attributed to the pharmacy’s creation in the 1500’s of Catherine de Medeci’s “Water of the Queen.” She used the citrus and bergamot scented water and shared it with all her closest friends during her reign as the Queen of France and one can still purchase this fragrance today.  There is  a quiet reverence which envelopes the visitor.  Vaulted ceilings, ornately carved dark wood and low lighting that somehow makes each vintage bottle glow as if holding a rich treasure.  Creams, soaps and perfumes all provide a glimpse into the past practices of the monks who were so attuned to the healing benefits found in nature.  Their original recipe ledgers can still be seen. While knowing that Santa Maria Novella has opened in Chevy Chase, Dallas, Los Angels and New York,  I was very happy to leave this special surprise discovery at Via della Scala, 16, 50123 with a small, beautifully wrapped “Angels of Florence”. Now the scent of white flowers from a far off place lifts my spirits  and I am transported  to a place I love and reminded to wander through the small, back streets.

The New York Times Travel Show, 2014


Dance in China
Dance in China

Joseph Rosendo
Joseph Rosendo

Guide Please
Guide Please

Malaysian Welcome
Malaysian Welcome


Have I mentioned lately how much I love what I do?  ‘Tis the time of year when I received one of my most coveted press passes…a pass that leads to planes, trains and automobiles (river boats and luxury cruise ships) as well as every continent on earth.  The New York Times Travel Show consistently satiates my wanderlust!  It is a three day feast with photography of the most beautiful sites on earth, music, art, dance, cuisine and some of the best travel adventures offered at discounted prices.

Walking through the exhibit floor, I tasted bubble tea, learned how to salsa with Danza Fiesta, heard the spiritual sounds of the Himalayas from Sonam Adventures and received a sample of a new product, “LiveLeaf Traveler Protect and LiveLeaf Traveler Rescue” which provides “fast, natural relief from digestive distress”. Christmas came early! Seriously though, this company has also developed a program called “Lifedrops” dedicated to saving children’s lives by reducing the burden of diarrhea in developing third world countries and have very interesting technology behind their products. I will let you know if it is yea or nay on my upcoming trip abroad.

Some people speed date, I speed travel! Delving into  intimate details,  one exhibit to the next, I gathered every brochure, postcard and pen in site.  This time around, the Asian continent won my heart.  I want to walk (and dance) along the Great Wall of China, photograph the world’s oldest and most historically important trade routes known as The Silk Road and not just watch the wonderful PBS documentary entitled, “In the Footsteps of Marco Polo”.  I want to explore Malaysia with a video camera showcasing  their healthcare and be one of the many tourists now allowed into Myanmar.  If exotic and far off places are calling to you but a fear to explore on your own is holding you back or if you realized that some of the most memorable moments of travel are when one goes off the beaten path with the locals then Tours by  should be your next click on Google!

Armed with the maps and collages of my dreams, I then spent the afternoon in the travel seminars taking in the sage advice of experts in the travel field.  The Frommer’s revealed their top destinations for 2014.  Joseph Rosendo, award-winning travel journalist and Emmy-winning director, had an eloquence that wove together philosophy, mysticism, reality and a La Joie de Vivre! Joseph captured the soul of many beautiful places around the world. Having been in India, I sat in full agreement with him when he described this land in the following way: “India is waiting to grab you with its color and humanity. It shakes you up and delivers gifts. It is a constant invitation to live with joyous , unexpected life changing experiences around every bend.” Andrew Evans , National Geographic’s Digital Nomad,  detoured from the common held creation of a “bucket list” but rather suggested that, “Travel shouldn’t be a list we are working through but rather it should be a constant surprise!” “Spontaneous moments occur when we put ourselves out there and let things happen!”  He spent 300 days on the road last year and had amazing stories about moments…still, adventurous, scary and beautiful.  These moments are creating a life so well lived.

Mr. Rosendo began his talk with something I will use to end this piece.  “If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” (Thoreau).  The New York Times Travel Show establishes the path of beginnings; beginnings of dreams to travel, to gain wisdom and insights about the world  and in my case, to photograph. If held close, then I think we will live a life far greater than we could have ever imagined.


Kutztown Folk Festival: Video Alert!

The Preacher
The Preacher

The Expert Quilter
The Expert Quilter

I could travel with a camera 24/7 and feel as if I died and went to heaven! I have been so fortunate that so many people graciously allow me to enter their world and generously share different aspects of their lives with me so freely. It was like that when I attended the Kutztown Folk Festival celebrating the Pennsylvania Dutch Culture …a truly fascinating study. So many people shared story upon story of the traditions, medicinal practices, foods and crafts with me.

The term Pennsylvania Dutch refers to those who left Alsace, Southwestern Germany and Switzerland and settled in Pennsylvania during the 17th and 18th century. The dialect is a combination of Palatinate German and English. However less than 5% of the words are English and it is spoken by nearly 500,000 Pa. Dutch Americans, mostly the Plain Dutch. According to the tradition signs posted: “This is the cussingest language on earth! Here are just some of the compounds of the best known cuss word: Dunnerwedder:
(since I have no idea exactly what I am saying, I will only pass along one!) Himmel-Dunnerwedder!” (go on, get it out and feel better!)

The culture is divided into two completely different ways of life. The Amish and Mennonites represent a minority known as “Plain Dutch” and they separate themselves from the rest of the world in matters of dress. They are biblicists and strictly conform to the bible. Their approach to worship is very simple. They avoid revelry, waste and “worldly ways” with the goal being to be little and unknown, loved by God alone. The majority of PA. Dutch are Lutherans and reformed denominations and are known as “Gay or Fancy Dutch”. These members do not wear plain clothing nor do they refuse to fight in wars. Much of the folklore is derived from this group. Some of that folklore would be: Raisin pie is known as the funeral pie and was rarely served at any other time. Dinners after the funeral were known as “Sees-Koocha Schpree” (sweet cake spree). The camp meeting was known as the bush meeting. Bush to the PA. Dutch is wooded land. A small grove was cleared, a preaching stand or bush arbor was erected with rows of benches and since participants camped in the woods, the bush meeting was both a religious and social experience. It was believed that if it didn’t rain on May 1st, there would be little hay that year. Rain on Whitsunday (Pentecost) means few chestnuts and if there is rain on that day, there will be rain on the next seven Sundays…and it goes on and on and on!
National Geographic covered this festival twice, USA Today named it one of America’s Top Celebrations and The Washington Post called it a “Must See”! The festival runs from June 29th – July 7th, (2013) 9am – 6pm. Come to join in the celebration of the oldest folk festival in the US!

Honduras: A Return Visit

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Snow, rain, ice today and later this week, 102 degrees! Life is amazing. Happy to say that I will be back in Honduras to photograph/video all the progress that has been made at the orphanage over the past few years. Hopefully, with all that I have learned about video and upgraded equipment, I will be able to do them proud. I am so looking forward to seeing how these young men have grown and meet the girls and babies who are now also thriving on the grounds of Amigos de Jesus.