Posted on October 16, 2019
Cool, quiet days in a small village in the middle of Bohemia come to life in a way I imagine they did centuries ago. The smell of wood stoves, sun rays making their way through the mist, and people preparing for a good day of hard work.
The work is exhausting but full of vitality. Energy created by the confidence of giving each day the best, a hallmark of a successful life. Faces of workers mapped with lines, each etched with a tale stretching back in time. One day falling into another, each story taking us to where we are now.
Days constructed with skill, hands crafting together a life of quality to stand the test of time. In the end, if everything goes right, life will be made a bit easier for those who carry on after we are gone.
Small miracles surround us daily, people who embrace the noble philosophy to strive for perfection. Whether a builder of factories, baker of bread, or a mother giving her life for her children ~ all understand while pure perfection is a myth, the pursuit of this mystery welds together a foundation of life.
It is the humble appreciation of hard work which makes it all possible: the key ingredient to ignite the body in the morning so to retire at night with gratitude.
Opposite are those where the thought of going to work tastes like poison. Every morning a heavy sigh, bleak thoughts sinking the mind into depression. A day ruined before it begins, a week sentencing the soul to five days of drudgery.
There is only the false glow of the weekend to offer a brief respite; yet with habits entrenched the weekend turns bitter as well. The mind swims in melancholy, a ruthless cycle. Rinse. Repeat.
For those who wake with wonder, with no certainty on how the day will evolve, there are possibilities… Find an idea, a goal, and take it to completion.
Build. Create. It is in these people to find not only admiration but inspiration.
Even when the inevitable day arrives where everything turns sour, there is truth in the old cliché: in every failure there are lessons to be learned.
This morning a thousand miles away from home, the surrounding scene holds a myriad of options, a feeling I’ve become accustom to. While I am never quite sure how the day will shine, there is one constant: good people blending with good people no matter the culture.
Open the mind to this simple piece of humanity and a better day lies ahead. Another piece of the riddle solved.
The feel of the earth, of steel, of the flame, all pieces of the puzzle when fused together form the backbone of who we are. Seeking an honest day’s work and the building of callouses, whether on the hands or character. Valuable protection justly earned when the inevitable turbulence of life makes its appearance.
On days like today, it seems easy. Hard work and dedication creates a good life. An effortless understanding where wealth is not the primary driver but instead a by-product, holding less value than imagined. Success is not defined by “greatness and wealth” instead it is about integrity. Dedication.
The experience of blood, sweat and tears reveals its importance when the world is thrown out of sync and stress converges from all angles. The world feels colorless.
However, the years of inexhaustible toil strengthens character, builds patience and when such dark and grey days come there is no panic. The mind is focused on living, on a new day to create.
The fire to define a day is what hard work ensures. Take away the unimaginativeness of mediocrity and the dullness transforms into a mysterious shimmer. Dark shadows of frustration are replaced by the spark of a purpose.
Growing. Building. Never resting, never stagnating.
There is no better feeling than walking home after a day’s work, warm sunlight refreshing the spirit and the colors shining on a day well executed. The fading daylight brings the laughter and smiles of the world to the forefront, enlightening the soul as it winds down into the solitude of night.
Within the darkness of sleep, a strong heartbeat keeps the blood flowing providing fuel for the dreams of the night and hopes of tomorrow. A step ahead are those who ceaselessly give it their all, for them tomorrow has already arrived.
Side note: At a young age, my parents instilled in me the idea of doing the best work possible, no matter the job. Every day my mom’s words echo in my mind ~ step back, take a look at your work and see if there is anything to be improved… and there is always something. I love this thought as it keeps me pursuing this myth of perfection.
Posted on March 21, 2019
Every morning the Amazon wakes me with a new symphony. One day the tempo of the rain, next day the pulsating sounds of howler monkeys, and today it’s the electric strain of sunrise matching the beat of my heart.
Even with little sleep, the rhythm of the day has me fired up with what lies ahead. Granted, a cup of coffee would help the process but the Amazon found a solution to this as well by placing a large spider and her web inside my bed netting to jolt me awake.
Hiking along the riverbank, I can’t get over how natural this place feels. The jungle and river give off energy – a rhythm – in tune with every movement of my body. I feel transformed, in sync with my surroundings.
All this beauty is not just seen through my eyes, but felt with all my senses. I’ve found my way back to nature.
Years ago, I wrote about my time in the Masai Mara. A place very foreign compared to where I was born and raised, but during my stay I felt at ease as if I was home “… jumping into the life of Kenya, time slowed down and I synchronized with the culture around me. It was as if I had returned to a forgotten home. Being where I should be. Feeling alive.”
The Amazon has created similar feelings; the rhythm of this foreign land matches my own.
“There is a curandero (shaman) in my village who has a very special relationship with this land.” Joaquin, our guide, tells us while showing a plant used in local medicine. “This shaman understands the energy of the plants, of the jungle, of life – and when we are not right, he helps us recover by harmonizing our energy with that of the Amazon.”
Logical. This philosophy follows the same thread of truth as the ancient Hindus who saw all matter in the universe as energy. The same logic physicists understand today, as Einstein, Tesla, and others state: all matter is energy. We are simply vibrations and frequencies at the atomic level.
The nervous laugh of our guide wakes me from my quantum daydream. “We have a small problem…” ahead lies what appears to be a lake but should be our trail. “We can circle around this, but it will add a few more hours… or if you are adventurous?” he asks with a nervous glint in his eyes.
My senses ignite. The idea of wading through Amazonian waters, uncertain where our next step will take us ~ now this is what I signed up for. To make the day more perfect, the skies open up and the downpour begins.
Nature should be surrendered to. Battling things beyond our control allows negativity to destroy the day. Amid chaos, find an interesting alternative and run with it. Resist the urge to try to conquer everything. There is an underlying rhythm and if noticed it will bring peace and a smile.
Everything at the atomic level generates a unique vibration, a rhythm, and getting “in tune” to your surroundings creates harmony and makes it easier to find balance. These are moments when life seems easier and “luck” takes over.
Rhythm ~ laughter from the group at my expense when I venture and forge my own route where, of course, there can only be one conclusion: water pouring over the top of my boot.
Rhythm ~ artistic patterns of life; from the extremes of the Amazon canopy stretching out to infinity, to the incredible micro-scenes that dot the floor of the jungle, I could stare at both the whole day.
“Everything is made up of energy, each giving off their vibrations,” Joaquin muses over a local beer our final night in the jungle. “If you wish to better understand the energy of the Amazon, I can make an appointment with a curandero for you next time if you wish.”
“There is a drink called ayahuasca, made from a mixture of an Amazonian vine known as Banisteriopsis caapi, a hallucinogenic drink which medicine men use to see the energy of those they heal.”
“With the help of the curandero, it is possible to connect more closely to the natural world.” Joaquin takes a final sip and adds, “This is where you can really understand the pulse of the Amazon.”
While I consider this option, this place alone is all I need to understand the sounds and feel of nature. The Amazon speaks directly to my instincts, the core of who I am.
“Vibrations and frequencies at the atomic level is how we communicate with the universe.” Never have I felt more comfortable with this theory.
Watching the river and jungle from above, I breathe in the fresh, humid air. I’ve no idea what fermented air smells or tastes like, but this is the most apt description I can give. The air both feeds and accentuates my hunger for the jungle.
On the boat heading home I wonder if I will be able to call on this connection to nature when needed. To find those moments when I flow with my surroundings, find the potential of the day and let go.
I’ve learned a lot here: the rhythm of life, the rhythm of the Amazon, the rhythm of Perú.
The Amazon is an amazing part of Perú, a great place to explore. A quote from my sister, Sandi: “Travel with you is not so much a vacation as it is an adventure.” I think it is a compliment…
Throughout our trip, one thing held true with all the great people we met along the way: one smile can spread into many smiles ~ and life becomes infinitely beautiful.
Posted on August 16, 2018
I’ve never welcomed the darkness as much as tonight. The isolation clears my head; this solitude of nothingness, paraphrasing the philosophy of the Dao de Jing, …holds everything.
Such silence is rare here on the streets of one of Europe’s oldest cities, where in the daytime each passing second arrives quicker than the last. At this hour, however, time essentially stands still.
The shadow of night creeps through my body, its blackness cloaking my soul to reveal a calmness lacking the past few months. The lights, blinding during the day, become relief at this hour. An hour of perception. An hour of contrast, of paradox.
All encasing a world I seldom visit; deep into the night where elegance and vulgarity sit side-by-side on a curb, fused together through their unique naïveté by the darkness that surrounds.
The grace and coarseness of their melody illuminates who I was, who I am, and who I could become. Joined with the ghosts of the night, wisdom blooms within the lyrics and by dawn, a new world is created.
These ghosts are to be experienced, neither seen nor touched. Only deep in the night can their harmonies be heard.
Midnight in Prague, sparkling after a rain, contains calm and chaos, energy and weariness, warmth and chill ~ a place where pixies of the light romance with trolls of the dark.
Simple contrasts scattered around life, demonstrate without one there is no other. Only through darkness can we understand the light.
Darkness fascinates with its intriguing dance with light. Either they embrace and find balance or scurry away deep into the recesses of life, waiting for another chance to become one.
There is joy in the depths of night. A thrill found in the blurred line between light and dark. Photography can enlighten the dark corners where most people avoid, revealing exceptional dimensions of everyday life. Understanding contrast allows the mind to accurately interpret the world around us.
Dark and light, good and evil, pain and pleasure, man and woman. Embracing these polarizations ensures a rich life. Be wary of those who pit one against another, their intent is to distort reality. There is great value in grasping the thread of similarities between extremes, all which bind humanity together.
Nothing is either good or bad. Churning within us all is something bright and noble dancing with something dark and dangerous. And as with the purity of light, the human soul can only be cleansed by the deep darkness of life.
Grainy memories of wandering the streets are encounters I treasure. I’ve enough experience to know within the darkness, flashes of illusions and imagination roam freely. It is often within the dankest quarters of life where the heart begins to beat with the energy to ignite dreams undiscovered.
Mastering this balance makes the transformation possible. Where to begin to discover this magical place?
The need, the want and the fear, along with virtuosity can plunge a soul deep into exploring the murky and hidden pieces of life. Unknown darkness, once recognized, reveals a glistening new view of life, a mystery uncovered.
History has long shown people in power pitting light against dark; exploiting the unfounded dangers within the contrasts of life. Exclaiming misconstrued extremes should be pushed into the depths of darkness, to be forgotten. This is the gravest error, for understanding differences expands the mind and creates value where before there was only fear.
Throughout the day, tweets of the irrelevant flood the brain. A thousand pieces of delicate chaos cuts away at reason. It is in the rare solitude of night when the mind is able to breathe. Those simple words: inhale, exhale. The moment when chaos and solitude overlap, lightness and darkness come together with the realization of their interdependence.
When life is in balance, inspiration flows. The conscious and unconscious weaves the thread of dependence between extremes and the blur of life slows. Words form, new ideas take root and soon the faint whispers of the old streets come to life and a new journey begins.
Easy to fall in love here. To fall for life. To fall for the darkness.
A soft rain adds to the ambiance and I take a long look across the river to the thousand-year-old Bohemian fortress and imagine the incredible stories it could tell ~ knowing too, within, I hold tales and secrets to match.
Solitude of a night in Prague is to be embraced, to be absorbed.
Posted on April 27, 2018
Echoes of a ghost? Of the future? Of the past?
There is a feeling of perplexity. I’m no longer standing in the conference room on the top floor of a skyscraper. There are no floor-to-ceiling windows with Hong Kong harbor far below. And my Armani suit? Transformed into what appears to be rags.
There is panic, but also familiarity. I look down at my hands holding huge buckets of supplies, filled to the brim; shocked to learn I can hold so much. My first instinct is to drop the buckets, must be too heavy but the weight is electric. My arms and shoulders are full of life.
I let out a lighthearted sigh. I’m not sure what I am doing but it feels right.
Beside me, the sea glimmers with life while the sun prepares for another colorful dive to end the day. I’d like nothing better than to sit peacefully and watch her. How is it I am here?
I recognize this world. This body. My blood, powered by a slow heartbeat flowing briskly with purpose. I lift a bucket up towards my face without effort, ignoring the pungent fish odor. The power of my arms makes me smile. Damn, I feel good. Am I dreaming?
The smell of the sea vanishes, replaced by the scent of the exotic. My heart races. Ms. Laura walks my way, pausing as she looks at my hands ~ ha, perhaps it’s my powerful arms? She blushes, smiles, and quickly looks away.
Her dress, beautiful and modest, does not belong here. We are a fishing village; well-worn clothes are all we own. It finally dawns on me. This is no dream. I am a man of the sea, she is not. I speak the Hakka dialect, a little Cantonese, and zero English.
“Did you enjoy class today?” Ms. Laura asks very slowly, enunciating every syllable, her British accent snaps me to attention.
My mind spins with answers. I understand her English words but my voice cannot be found. With a red face, I spew out a reply in my unintelligible Hakka dialect.
She laughs. “You need to study harder, or could it be you need a different teacher?!?” I look at her in fear, a little slow getting her joke before she reassures me and puts her hand on my shoulder, resting it longer than one would consider normal. I relax. Her touch transports me to another world.
A world where we are together, she’s my wife in total happiness. Quickly the dream fades with the chuckle from my fishing partner, Xiao Gao. He grabs a bucket and loads it onto our skiff and without skipping a beat says, in a rough Hakka tone, “Rui-de, you’ve attended her class all year, yet you cannot speak one word of English,” his infectious laughter inspires others to join in.
“She is so perfect…” my face still burning, I let my words trail.
Sometimes I’d like to just fly away, I think to myself. Escape into my dreams and chase the world. But then all I have to do is look around. Everything I want is here.
My mind begins doing battle with my memory. Somewhere, I know her. I’ve talked with her. I’ve been with her. But I catch a glimpse of myself in the reflection on the water and I laugh a bit at the thought.
Me. A simple Po Toi Island boy.
The blast of the horn signals the departure of the Po Toi ferry back to Hong Kong Island and the wealthy Stanley village. We are cut off again from the outside world until its return.
Three times a week this picturesque lady arrives in Po Toi to teach English to our dwindling population. Most of my friends have already left to seek a better life. For me, though, Po Toi is my home.
Well, the sea is my home, Po Toi the place where I have the greatest access.
Another great ending to the day. Ms. Laura takes her position alone at the stern of the ferry and our eyes lock, my favorite part of her visits.
With the sun gently reflecting off her golden hair, framing the picture of perfection, she looks over her shoulder to see if anyone is watching and then turns back and brings her fingers to her lips and waves me goodbye.
It is a goodbye with hope. Recognition of yuan-fen (缘分). The moment in time where our destinies align and we become what we are meant to be.
The changing reality of what “can be” sends my heart pounding to the beat of the surf. The world once again has meaning. I step onto the skiff and head out to the deeper waters to chase my living. Chase my dream.
The sea knows my soul. The sea is my soul. Nevertheless, it is possible there is something else out there for me as well. My mind and memory once again run wild to find her, to find our future.
Posted on March 29, 2018
Alone I walk. The bite of the winter chill does not let up, colors of the world fade into different shades of bleakness. The ache for youth pulsates strong although I’m acutely aware each passing second takes me further away from this dream.
A nondescript voice echoes in my head, “the closer to death you are, the closer to life you become…”
My turned-up collar does little to stifle the cold wind caressing my neck, motivation for the continued search of a spark to ignite another year of passion.
The winter’s silence is broken by a warm whisper, “so you’ve finally come to see me again…” I look to find a smile I’ve grown accustomed to when in a philosophical mood. She’s always walking beside me, but it’s been too long since I last heard her voice.
“This morning, I noticed you were preoccupied with a quote at the coffee shop. What did it say?” She asks.
“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” – Job 12:12
Reading this quote during breakfast was the trigger for my current philosophical fog.
“Experience and wisdom have shifted my life more than I could’ve imagined. Hard to believe life becomes richer as we grow older – the electricity of my 20’s pales in comparison to the beautiful aches of aging,” I pause to rub the crick in my neck. “Never gave it much thought until this morning.”
I open the door to a small roadside café ~ lured by the aroma of exotic foods.
I look around the café, the serene setting and lack of urgency capture the bliss of the moment.
A newly found paradox within my mind, within my life.
In my 20’s every day had an unlimited future. Every corner had something new to offer. The more active I was, the greater I felt. My goal was to secure enough adrenaline for the day and bold ideas for tomorrow.
A concept of my youth I held fast. A concept time erodes as years drift past.
“When we were young, life was a series of wild rapids, ridden without fear. We were unstoppable.” I pause to look at the roast duck in front of me and quickly finish my thought. “Then at some point, we began to have doubt in our invulnerability and our lives changed forever.”
“This gauze of doubt you have mentioned before, correct?” her laughter holds a touch of self-deprecation as she pours us a shot of the local spirit.
“Feeling untouchable, the definitions of youth and immortality are interchangeable.” She grabs a duck leg and continues, “then fear creeps in. The gauze of doubt begins to blur vision and time becomes finite. The recognition of death.”
“Ah yes, I think I’ve bored you with this before.” I smile and she points to a speck of spinach on my front tooth, I clean and go on. “We take risks when we’re young, devour the late hours of the night and soak up the knowledge around – ahead an unlimited amount of time.” I pause to think of the happiness I had growing up. Thanks I owe my parents and friends I could never begin to repay, knowing they would say the same in return.
“Then came the bittersweet moment in life, confronted by mortality I began to appreciate time. I evolved.” I lift my glass, our eyes lock and we chase our words.
“With age comes experience. With experience comes wisdom. A young mind is too busy absorbing life to contemplate deep meaning. The growth of wisdom is a gift, a gradual gift.” The stillness becomes magnified.
Which of us said those words? I am not sure, but their truth allows me to exhale and reflect. On the surface, responsibilities with my career and life seem to have increased, but my relaxed attitude is a sign of wisdom with the recognition being in the now holding undeniable freedom and a purer happiness.
This small town nestled in the northeastern part of Ukraine huddled against the cold shoulder of Russia is where today exists. Questions drift around and I enjoy the chase to find the answers.
There is a certain confidence in the freedom to pursue. Pursue happiness. Pursue dreams. Pursue wisdom and relish in age.
“The older I get, the freer I become. Accepting mortality sets me free.” Again, our eyes lock and we knock back another shot. She refills the glasses, gazes around the room without worry.
“It is called the Paradox of Life.” she smiles, looking younger than ever. “As people age, the body loses the vitality of youth but the mind…” her eyes light up as she moves forward as if to whisper the greatest secret of life, “the mind revels in emotions, in the happiness of the moment. People with wisdom forget the worries of tomorrow and focus on the positive pieces of reality in front of them. Studies show we find our greatest happiness as we grow older, thus the paradox.”
The walk back to the hotel is refreshing. The evening has faded into the night and while still below zero, the conversation warms the winter breeze.
“There’s a certain poignancy to life I never realized.” I look around at the scene deciding I could definitely be happy here. I look at her reflection in the snow and moonlight.
She pauses as we reach the intersection, shifts her weight and expands on my thought. “The world is dynamic, multidimensional, and there is always happiness to be found. It’s the gift of wisdom, the gift of youth.”
“Savor and appreciate the emotions of life.” She looks down the street at my hotel.
“When people believe time is unlimited, the focus is on knowledge, on possibilities, on the future. A perfect time for daydreamers.” She grabs my hand, putting emphasis on her words, “when you understand time is limited, the focus needs to be re-directed to the present…where serendipity happens.”
She looks at me inquisitively. “Not quite sure what this means for a daydreamer like yourself…” her flurry of words float in the air between us, separating me from her smile. I watch it all drift away with the gentle breeze, and before I can answer she is gone.
Posted on October 31, 2017
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”
Welcome 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.
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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Posted on September 27, 2017
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.
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.”
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…