Featured Photographer: Randall Collis

One of my favorite photographers, Indah Susanti, interviewed me earlier this month and her talent with a camera is matched by her talent as an interviewer. Her questions required me to think about both my history of photography and why I write. Very much enjoyed myself, and wish to thank Indah for the opportunity to learn a bit more about each other. The full interview can be found on her site “INDAHS: Dive, Travel & Photography”

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Featured PhotographerWelcome to the 12th edition of the Featured Photographer monthly post. Please meet Randall Collis, also known with artist name as Dalo Collis. I have been following his blog for years and admiring his photography and writing. I am sure some of readers have been familiar with Randall’s photography at Global Sojurn Photography. But, do you know what has inspired his works? Let’s find out through my interview with him on the following post.

Returning from a morning shoot of the sunrise in Myanmar, a found this peaceful and quiet scene. ~ Randall Collis

If there were one thing you would want the readers to know about you, what would it be?

The one thing would be the best advice I could ever give in addition to working hard: contemplate everything around you and dream.

I daydream all the time, not random daydreams, but dreams with a purpose.  About…

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Absinthe ~ Sojourn with the Green Goddess

My glass of absinthe arrives accompanied by an Oscar Wilde quote: “A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world. What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?”

The hues reflecting into the window, while a sunrise instead of a sunset, agree with this claim: beauty, wrapped within inspiration. I make a silent toast and close my eyes.  Exhaustion slowly working its way through my body.

The fog of last night makes it difficult to remember how we met, but from the first touch, the first sip, I saw the world through a different lens. Light became particles dancing in front of me ~ waves of color never seen before, flowing and carrying me to my next destination.

I snap my eyes open part in fear of becoming sucked back into the night and disappointed to find she has not returned to sweep me away.  La fée verte.

Yesterday, late afternoon, I felt as if I was in the late 19th century, at the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans watching the world zoom past.  Picking out colors from the blur.

A beautiful blend of cultures, each offering a gift of inspiration and ingenuity to make this New World a better place.  Within a life full of pressure, the peaceful dance between us all relaxes me and I’m without a care.

It is here she reveals herself to me, a penetrating gaze.  Eyes with a story to tell, I look away.

She haunts me all day, her aura evolving with my mood: a day full of dreary work highlighted by a blinding beacon of light.  The sultry air accentuating her smile before slowly dissipating.

She, unknown, has taken a hold of me.

The falling rain mirrors both the loneliness and need for a new reality. I look down at my glass, artistically placed. The enlightenment begins, for to reach the glass I inevitability must brush ever so lightly against her.  Electricity.

A single drop of her potion, is it truth I seek?

Each sip, the world takes on a different meaning.  Her eyes reflect the cloud of green in my glass, twisting around me with a promise, “an experience, forever remembered…”  And she pours herself into my mouth and soul.

Absinthe.  This psychedelic myth, a catalyst for adventures from which many never return, and I suppose, never regret.

Rubbing my eyes, I am tired but in no way sleepy, and begin to play with excuses for my faulty memory and actions of last night.

“A curious soul has no choice but to wander this path…while a courageous soul owns this path.”  This is the rationale I replay continuously in my head. Experiences I’ve long desired, making the question of any regret irrelevant.

Inhale. Exhale.

Her eyes are the invitation. Her warm breath is the distant echo of summer and with a slight tilt of her shoulder, the light dress of summer falls to the floor.

A crisp chill of an autumn breeze hypnotizes me.  A season of change sweeps in and the Green Goddess begins the introduction into my soul; a quick read while hers, conversely, descends back millennia.  Impossible to comprehend.

I have no control and enjoy this feeling of helplessness. Hand in mine she leads me to new places, to realities never imagined and in doing so removes decades of stress from my psyche.

The golden hour of sunset has long since given way into the depths of the blue hour, slowly taking on a yellowish hue as the wicked green hour swallows me whole.

Her invitation had long ago been accepted.

Absinthe, on the rocks with a 3:1 water ratio and a mind open to change and acceptance.  My adventure begins around my third glass… along with another Oscar Wilde quote:

“After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were.  After the second, you see things as they are not.  Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”

“Seeing things as they really are…” Politics of fear shuts borders while diversity fuels bold ideas.  Cowards hoard power while the courageous share.  And evil only exists as a contrast to good.

“Why are there such extremes not only around the globe,” I ask, “but within myself as well?”

The Green Goddess watches as I try to make sense of the world, letting her poison soothe me before adding, “there are people with so much, yet they are completely miserable. And there are people with so little, yet they are incredibly happy.”

Why?

Lightly she pushes me down on the sofa, beads of rain glistening off her skin. “It’s because those in power fear change.  Fear to lose their power to those who dream.  Who fantasize.  Who achieve.  Frozen in the past, unchallenged, they create a barren reality where escape is impossible.”

There’s an empty sadness in her voice.  “Be part of the answer.”  She rises and before walking away, leaves a quote hanging in the air. “In the words of John Milton from Paradise Lost,” she exhales, tears running down her cheeks, “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

Disappearing from the doorway, I hear her faint response blend with the slamming of the door, “Choose heaven…”

Yes.   Life is what we make of it.

Experience it.  Let go of fear.  Embrace differences.  Pursue.  And understand a little absinthe can go a long way…

“… artistic discovery is a never-ending journey where we see both the best and worst of ourselves.”  For appreciation of an artist, a recent post by the Holistic Wayfarer,  Writing: A Hermit’s Journey

A Lifetime in Eight Seconds

Breathe.  

Pray.

Please let me make it through these next eight seconds.  

…just one more time.  

0.0″

Pure silence, then the vacuum of space explodes.

The rustic crack of the gate breathes fire into the beast below.

Stillness in the air is replaced by a typhoon.

With a jolt, my life begins again.

1.0″

Taunt but forgiving, I lay back as my world rockets forward and just as quick plunges off a cliff.

Amped up, fear begins its transition into a rush of adrenalin.

I revel in the high… “do not lose focus” I repeat to myself.

 

This trickling wave of confidence brings panic as well, “f  o  c  u  s”

2.0″

The whiplash spin shoots me to the left before I get blindsided by a gyration to the right.

Contradictory twists: the head floats one way, the hips another…

My spine begins to cry, impossibly trying to center itself.  Trying to center life.

Within this chaos, I feel at home.

3.0″ 

I rise, and for a moment I feel like a little kid being tossed in the air by my parents…

A smile breaks on my face ~ although buoyancy with a bull is never a good thing.

A coppery, metallic taste fills my head as I wonder, “am I flying, or am I dreaming?”

4.0″

The growing expanse of space between the bull and I no longer matters.

Even apart, I feel connected.

We share the fear and anger; our will to survive.

 

My hand and arm is a coil of steel, pulsating life throughout my body.  I will not give in nor will he.

All of time melds into the present. “I have no past, I have no future.” I love this beast I am riding; our moment to define freedom and strength, while bound by our fate.

5.0″

“F o c u s ” ~ My mind cuts back to previous failures, too many to count ~ matched by my broken bones.

Each failure preparing me for the next ride…each ride more expensive than the last.

Life is a game of inches, of missed opportunities, but this time I shall not lose…

6.0″

In a split second, my mind shifts to the crowd and just as quickly my point of balance ceases to exists.

 

Forces pull at me from every direction.  Gravity becomes a myth.

 

Chaos erupts and my mind chases to catch the moment.  My grip tightens further ~ a negligible pop in my wrist brings a searing pain and snaps my attention.

 

All falls quiet.  I listen…

7.0″

“…the sound of the wind, this violent wind is sweetened by the distant roar of a crowd.”

My arm is on fire, holding onto a knot of fury ~ hand clenched with a vow never to surrender.

“We are still one my friend, I’m not going anywhere…”  My heart explodes as I dance along the razor’s edge of survival.

8.0″ 

The howl of my voice matches the cadence of my heart.

My grip unravels.  I slide back and meet a timely swing of the bull’s hip, escorting me free into the air.

 

Embraced by the sweet calm of the night, dust fills my lungs as I hit and roll off to the side.  Hand cramping, wrist afire, I scan the crowd with hungry eyes of hope.

 

To see her smile, her eyes, her accepting me as the cowboy I am, but there is no one. Emptiness.

There are no words to match this pain.

~ DQ ~

She too becomes a myth.  This dream of a perfect ride.

Breathe.  

Pray.

Please let me make it through to the next rodeo.

…just one more time.  

Time is Fleeting, Never Stop

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Unfamiliar territory, the uncertainty paralyzes. A surge of panic fills my head and heart, only to be soothed by the perfect amber of a freshly poured Czech beer.

“Here I go again…”

Lost.

Around me is a language I do not understand. Spreadsheets in front of me I cannot comprehend. A feeling of being exactly where I should be. I relax, surprised by the comfort of the chaos.

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The color refreshes a memory when I was lost in the more familiar surroundings of the Skokomish Wilderness.

The sky still black, I anticipate the amber sunrise when we summit…rather if we summit, as of right now, I have no idea where we are.

“Shit…” I mutter to myself, louder than I had wanted, waiting only seconds before the echo returns with her reply. “Oh my God, I can’t believe it. You are lost again aren’t you?”

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I ignore the question, wishing it away, but the echo continues, “Why did I agree to go on this climb?” She lets out an exasperated sigh, hidden within, a tint of laughter.

Unpredictability in life is the one thing I’ve found to be a constant.

A sharp blow of her hiking pole on my butt is her protest to my stifled laughter, “It’s not funny…” she declares and we continue up the mountain.

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“Why is it so difficult to stay on the path laid out in front of me?” I wonder and reach for my beer. Standing in the middle of uncertainty, again where every step I take leads me away from where I expect to be.

Would I want it any other way? Perhaps on some days…

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Uncertainty has become a friend of mine. Things change around me quickly and if I do not flow and evolve along with it, I’ll suffocate. Be miserable.

It is cliché, but there is truth in Maya Angelou’s quote, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Without change, we rob ourselves of beauty. We rot.

“Remaining at status quo stagnates the soul,” I think to myself, and kicking back with my beer I wonder if that’s such a bad thing?

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Yes, change can suck.

Albert Einstein once said, “Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”

Ah yes, is there anything more destructive than unfulfilled expectations? I suppose this is the catalyst for change, to get lost in the world and explore ~ anything to avoid the poison of expectations.

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The chaos of setting out on a new path, getting lost, is part of the process. From the moment we are born, adventure turns fear into wisdom, sparking curiosity to discover.

I think back to standing on the precipice between mountain and sky… the abyss speaking to me, and I glance towards my beer, her amber words ringing clear as I empty my mug, “balance, my friend…there’s a time for adventure and a time to reflect on adventure.” I nod to the waitress for another.

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The echo breaks the stillness of the dark while my headlamp scans the trees and boulders ahead.

“Why, again, are we doing this?”

The only words I can think of are 时间不多,从不停 ~ Time is fleeting, never stop.”

Eight characters a friend of mine, Eric Moen, shared with me last year. Words to provide added incentive to spark change when comfort begins to lead to stagnation.

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Those eight characters take me back when I stood along Hood Canal admiring a pre-dawn sky, sparking a childhood dream to climb Mt. Ellinor and watch this land come alive with the sunrise. Yet, in all these years never taking the time to do so. Why?

“Why?” I add to my reply back to the echo, “To see magic. This is why we are here.”

“And… just exactly where is here?!?”

I begin to answer and then begin to question why I invited her. “A very good question…” and continue ahead to what I hope will become an opening.  

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There is nothing quite like the childlike curiosity we hold inside. The anxiety of pushing forward with new ideas, until that moment arrives ~ our heart rate slows and we unearth something new, something enchanting.

“I’m beginning to understand you never have a plan do you?” another question rings back my way.

Shuffling of hooves on the rocks above remind us we are not alone.

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“Not real sure any plan worked out the way I had imagined, so why bother…” is my quick reply, seconds ahead of another sting of a hiking pole on my backside.

I scramble up and around a set of boulders and come face to face with a familiar friend.

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Nature never ceases in its pursuit of change; never fears a new challenge change may bring. The sky and the sunshine call out to us all, “You are not alone, the universe is with you the whole way.”

A breathless gasp comes from behind, and her arm wraps around me along with a whisper “this place is so beautiful…”

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Take away expectations, lose the fear of change and get lost in the world. There is no greater truth: time is fleeting, never stop.

“Be the change.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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Musings of my Quantum World

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The verdict: a decision to affect and disrupt a life. My choice to veer off the comfortable path, abandon the current state of happiness and venture into the unknown.

Why? To chase down a mysterious, obscure sensation I cannot explain.

Inhale. Exhale. Breathe in the fresh air flowing off Hood Canal and let the peacefulness of the surroundings make the decision for me.

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The Olympic Mountain range is wrapped around by the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound. Nestled in-between, a small cabin on the water rests within the gaze of Mt. Ellinor.

I’ve come to her to help reach this verdict.

Asia or Central Europe? Retreat to the familiarity bred from a commitment to Asia spanning decades or leap into the chaos of the unknown and invent a new life in Bohemia?

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The creation of two different lives, a divergence of my universe the moment the decision is made.

In one universe, I sleep for a few more hours and then rise, make a pot of coffee and with mug in hand, walk down to the shore of Hood Canal and watch the sunrise.

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In another universe, I look at the clock barely able to focus on the time of ‪2:30am and roll out of bed.  Throw on some clothes; grab a mug of yesterday’s coffee, pick up my camera gear and head out to trek up to the top of Mt. Ellinor.

A trek in the dark to meet the rising sun. To meet a new tomorrow.  

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My brain whispers “sleep.” My heart screams “get out of bed.”

Quietly I lie, listening to the blood course through my veins. I feel myself fading toward the sound of laughter and I fall deep, searching for its origin. Thoughts and visions vivid enough to swallow me whole as I happily drift off to dream.

The silence pulses throughout my body; my senses heightened and a restless surge of energy melds my dream into reality. It pushes me out of bed, I go searching for its origin: I must see what lies out there…

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A feeling of a divergence begins to form, and I open my eyes to the cold, quiet darkness around me. She whispers to me, her words soft, “Come join me in nirvana…” her sweet fragrance caressing me, and I close my eyes.

The cold, quiet darkness is calling out.  An inviting whisper, “Join the beauty of my dreams, the silence of reaching the summit as the morning sun breaks.”  My heart begins to beat rapidly, ahead lies a trek up the steep slopes.

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Years ago, contemplating my future, I was asked a simple question, “When in Asia do I miss the USA?” My answer was quick, “Yes.” It was then followed by another question, “When I am in the USA, do I miss Asia?” and again I quickly answered, “Yes.”

Then came the advice I’ve followed ever since: “When the answer to either one of these questions change, you know what you should do…create something new.”

Inhale. Exhale.
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The beauty of silence.

The smell of fresh coffee soothes, and I look out at the changing sky.  The glow of the morning sun breaks through enough to highlight an image of a fishing boat heading out to explore.

There is peace listening to the water, the sounds drifting away as I wake from my dream, enjoying the start of another day.

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The beauty of silence.

Low-lying clouds shimmer around Mt. Rainier off in the distance. The morning sun breaks over the horizon and the electricity of possibilities fill the air.  A brand new day arrives and a brave new world awaits.  

How does one describe the fragrance of a sunrise?

With the verdict rendered, an old friend shows up.  A welcome interruption to the sanctity of the morning, and she glances towards me as if to bid me farewell.  

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The Thin Gauze of Doubt and The Multiverse

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The scene is one I can imagine centuries ago. A young man overlooking his homeland, within his reach a promise of a career to ensure him of a great life. A “normal life” both he and his family have dreamt about since he was a kid.

His dream at his fingertips, he does not move. He sits there perplexed at the struggle within his soul. A piece of him desires something very different, something unknown. He can taste the adrenalin of this uncertainty.

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Two thoughts tangle, tearing him up. A decision has to be made. A divergence of his universe, in one he will stand up, walk back to the village and accept his career to settle into a normal life, while in the other he’ll look over his land one last time and accept adventure as his new destiny.

The divergence was instantaneous.

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He sits motionless, wondering which spirit remains. The shadow of a setting sun shifts the appearance of his surroundings and over the horizon, a faint sound calls out catching his attention. He draws a breath and looks over his land.

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“How did you end up doing what you’re doing?” her question snapped my head up from the photograph in front of me. “You had a freshly minted MBA, a simple plan of embracing the American Dream working with a Fortune 500 and somehow you fell into this crazy global existence.” She looked at me half-mockingly.

“The American Dream rejected me…and I panicked,” I laughed. “Once the seed of doubt entered my thinking, there was no looking back.”

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I look back at the photo. Wonder what life would have been like if I’d hung around the States instead of taking a flyer of adventure in Asia?

Enjoying this contradiction, I review the photo and the stack of journals in front of me, searching to find a trace of a young man who disappeared so long ago.

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She holds out a piece of paper, and reads from it:

“Invincibility.  The youthful feeling of blind confidence where anything imagined can be achieved.  Memories of flying down a mountain, one foot barely touching down on a boulder before confidently taking flight again, suspending life as the other foot searches and touches down lightly only to set off once more.  Freedom.  Repeat until exhausted.”  

“Zero fear,” she says after reading the passage. “All of his senses meshing perfectly with nature and in total confidence.  No thought of failure.  Bliss.”

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“I can understand this feeling,” I add, “youthful invincibility is one of the best stages of life where everything seems possible…running through it all, never believing it will end.”

“Then one day, a faint touch of doubt enters the mind mid-stride and the peaceful invincibility begins to fade. Strained by the thinnest gauze of doubt, the confidence of the immortal mind of youth vanishes forever.  And life begins…”

She reads to me, handing me a yellowed piece of parchment as she finishes, dated a day before the young man disappeared.

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“The stage of life where we all find ourselves lost at some point…” she says aloud while carefully turning a page of a journal.

“The time between the youthful invincibility of blind confidence where everything will work out as dreamed, and the age of reason where experience brings an understanding that it’s alright if it doesn’t…”

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I smile at this thought. The Gauze of Doubt introduced itself to me when my version of the American Dream faded right out of school along with the myth of a normal life. My favorite quote, Doc Holliday from the movie Tombstone still rings clear, “there’s no such thing as a normal life, there’s just life…”

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The photo and journals date back to the mid-1800’s, a young man with a lust for life imprinted on his character, a man who spun his own destiny. Words of wisdom in his thoughts, words that hold strength because they’re backed by his actions.

Experience matters. Friendship matters. Integrity matters. After his disappearance, his journals and stories focus on the lives he touched and his new surroundings.

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Veering off the well-worn road to success, he chose the path of adventure. He traveled. He learned. He traveled some more.

He never forgot the moment the gauze of doubt covered his eyes, unexpectedly sending him hurtling into a divergent universe. A universe he created.

There is a sense of envy I have reading his words, my wish to experience and see the pieces of life he lived.

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Three stages of life formed his writing, at each stage an opportunity to accede into a new reality:

  • The Invincibility of Youth, where dreams are created and the mind believes anything is possible.
  • The chaos of the Thin Gauze of Doubt, where adjusting to reality and creating a life becomes the new truth.
  • The wisdom of The Age of Reason, where a life pursued is a life well lived ~ experiences forming the answers.

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“There is a bit of Thoreau in his philosophy, his writing reminds me of the quote “…not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves...[Henry David Thoreau, Walden]” she looks back at me while taking a sip of her coffee. “The thin gauze of doubt he talks about may dissolve the confidence of youth, but in doing so it ramps up the adrenaline of reality.”

“Almost two hundred years separate you two, but yes, you do have your great, great grandfather’s mind, half stuck in reality and half elsewhere,” her eyes giggle, meeting mine.

And doubt seizes the day. Will I ever find out what happened to him?

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It is intriguing to look back in time, to dream of changing the unchangeable, but the past pales in anticipation of tomorrow’s opportunities.

I do not move. I sit there perplexed at the struggle within my soul. A piece of me desiring something very different, something unknown, and I can taste the adrenalin of this uncertainty.

The divergence was instantaneous…

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Side Note: The Multiverse theory, of which there are many, is widely considered to be fact, with top physicists leading the way. Imagine, a conscious decision (taken or ignored) where you diverge from your universe and begin a new adventure.

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Also, thanks to Timothy Price for insights into B&W photography, a new venture for me and it’s a brave new world…

Women of the American West: Pursuing Excellence

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The glint in her eyes mixed with the afternoon sun lulls us in before a quick shift in the saddle flaunts her message: a woman with a Cowgirl Spirit can stretch, bend, and break the rules society lays at her feet.

The whisper of the wind matches the cadence of her gallop.  Her light laughter trails off, leaving us cowboys choking in a cloud of dust. Nothing can get our hearts beating faster.

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The power of the Women of the American West is no myth, it is a beautiful reality and I pity any man who believes otherwise.

There is an old cowboy saying, “polishing your pants on saddle leather don’t make you a rider…” with its roots in the notion expertise comes from putting in quality time to master an art.  Pursuing excellence to shine above the rest describes the Cowgirl Spirit of these women; the confidence and humility are traits rarely discovered together.

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The Cowgirl Spirit is found around the globe. A woman who utilizes her strengths with the confidence to pursue life, and the admiration of men who are secure enough to understand embracing the power of such women will move them up to a higher level.

Equality. The quality of two beings, untapped potential when repressed, becoming a powerful, united force when free.

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Freedom for women around the world, the Cowgirl Spirit has a long ride ahead, but the excellence in which they ride ensures their success.

Watching the grace of these cowgirls competing on horseback is a perfect analogy to how a woman’s power does not diminish a man’s. Rather when embraced, it magnifies them both. Barrel racing at the Pendleton Round-Up is one of the most popular and watched events, making a great rodeo even better.

The eyes of every cowboy and the world are glued to such poetry in motion…

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There is strength in equality, strength in balance, strength in the men who recognize the importance of a spirited woman by their side. True cowboys who understand such a woman opens up aspects of a man’s character that he alone is unable to grasp.

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A secure man will pursue the true quality of a woman, one with a Cowgirl Spirit, giving her room to grow as he is confident enough to understand the balance of equality will make him a better man, make his surroundings a better place.

“Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity….”   – Joss Whedon

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Equality of women creates vibrancy in life. Sharing strengths without insecurities, both men and women evolve and new ideas and freedoms are generated. Society thrives.

Inequality of women stifles creativity. Insecure and weak men develop brash and destructive egos. Stunted growth rots the potential of a community. There are places around the world that echo such imbalance; stagnant, repressive societies with paralyzed minds and a paralyzed future for their children.

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The desire lies in the Cowgirl Spirit, and the worthy men who seek such women to create unity. Balanced individuals grow and progress, triggering society to follow suit as well. This is the hope for the world.

It is possible, the myth of the ‘weaker sex’ was created by the innate skill women have in ciphering through the bullshit of man’s ego and pride. Lesser men fear these resilient women, exploding with ego as their insecurities grow, overcompensating and crippling those around them.

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One of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had is being half-a-world away, yet still able to draw strength from the important women in my life. Women, past and present, have helped form part of my character. Character incomplete without learning and accepting the power of equality, unlocking the heart of potential.

These women act as a mirror, reflecting strength in areas men lack. The Cowgirl Spirit brings perspective, a different view when listened to, and greater results when put into action.

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Acknowledging someone’s ability does not diminish your own, instead it can strengthen. This is achieving balance. Do not fear the power of women, instead embrace it, and embrace her.

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Women with the Cowgirl Spirit have a sensuality that is second to none.  Their confidence to give as good as they get, show an authenticity seldom seen.  An authentic woman creates the authentic man, allowing evolution to continue.

Without such women, men will never be able to grasp all life can offer. It is important to realize, in many ways, us men would remain our basic, cavemen selves.

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The silent confidence of a Woman of the West never ceases to impress and humble me. It is a supreme confidence.

Time is short. Never Stop. Never stop pursuing excellence.

The Cowgirl Spirit balances the secure, authentic Cowboy Spirit. Strength added to strength, creating opportunities that otherwise would remain hidden. Such spirit is present every year in September at the Pendleton Round-Up. Keep up the pursuit.

Let’er Buck!

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