The Unconditional Love of Family

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~  The Oregon Coast at Lincoln City  ~

Among the different definitions of love (puppy, unrequited, conditional, to name a few), unconditional love stands uncontested as the most reliable and harmonious to our hearts.

Sure, folks may question whether any love is unconditional, but I am willing to bet that in the eyes of a child and mother together in laughter, you will find nothing but the purest form of this love.


“People like to say love is unconditional, but it’s not, and even if it was unconditional, it’s still never free. There’s always an expectation attached…. I just don’t want that responsibility.”  (from the book The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay)

Responsibility is never easy.  To throw out a cliché: the hardest thing to do is often the correct thing to do.  Being responsible in love takes effort.  If you see unconditional love for its purity, respect and admiration for another, then the responsibility of this love becomes second nature.


Yes, there are times when people do not want to take responsibility in their lives…we have all experienced this, but when it comes to love ‘taking responsibility’ is necessary.

Love is not always a beautiful sonnet.  Anger, passionate frustrations and questioning life are all apart of love.  Fortunately, unconditional love will never go away.  It will be there when you least expect it and need it most.

Steel and glass, tempered amid flames, becomes stronger.  Love, tempered over time, will become unbreakable.


Every time I return to the States, I am buoyed by the incredible spirit and strength of unconditional love.  Not a day goes by without giving thanks for such wonderful magic in my life.

This trip back to the States, I visited the Oregon Coast to see my sister Julie, her husband Greg and their kids Taylor and Riley.  An added bonus was to have another sister and her husband (Sandi & Russ) as well as my niece Lauren (from my twin sister Kim and her husband Steve) join us for the weekend as well.


We stayed in their house on Devil’s Lake in Lincoln City, and it was one of those vacations that will always be remembered because of the simple, honest love within my family.  While missing my parents, Kim, Steve and niece Ellie and nephew Lane, their spirits were with us on the Oregon Coast.

The main goal for the weekend was to enjoy and celebrate life: to be with each other and take full advantage of our time together.  We succeeded in achieving these goals.


  • Greg took me to the beach to shoot the sunset…and with my getting carried away in the magnificent sunset, we missed dinner.  Of course this upset the sisters a bit…but in their hearts they’re happy knowing we enjoyed our time.



  • The kids (Taylor, Riley and Lauren) enjoyed the Oregon Coast – and learned more about photography.


  • Riley continued his mastery of water-skiing.




  • Taylor kayaked, took care of us and also showed us the proper way to ride the tube.




  • Lauren showed us her expert wake-boarding skills (no photos of her crashes…).




  • Sandi showed off her amazing skiing skills, after not being on skis in roughly a decade…the magic was still there.




  • Russ fished for trout…and had success after success (after my mom, maybe the best fisherman in the family).  Smoked trout is on the menu next week.



  • Julie & Greg were the perfect hosts.  Greg in the boat and Julie on the kayak.



While I never planned to write such a personal post on my blog, the unconditional love with my family inspires me.  It is from my dad I became intrigued by photography, and something we all share (both Sandi and Lauren providing most of the shots in this post).  The philosophy side has been built up with my mom, through our many talks over the decades.

Unconditional love is about sharing, not a better method to learn.


It is unconditional love that allows the mind to focus on the bigger picture of life.  Personally, it has allowed me to take chances in life and pursue opportunities that I otherwise may not have attempted.

I have forged a different path in life, a large part because I viewed risk differently.  I knew if I failed I’d have the unconditional love of my family to fall back upon, so I was encouraged to push the envelope.


The expectations of my family have largely made me who I am…provided support to strive for success in my career and fulfillment in life.  There is much yet to do, and ahead is a jungle and a long path to forge as I continue in life, but my family & friends and the unconditional love I find there is the pillow where I lay my head every night.

This love allows me to recover and wake at dawn with energy, love and conviction to create a day like no other.

Without them, without this unconditional love, I do not know…



The Unrequited Love of Ellinor

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Dear Ellinor,

Never do I feel more alive, than when I am with you.  You take me from the mundane and offer me a simple taste of glory.  Our affair spans more than a decade, but each time with you feels like we have just met.

Knowing that I am one of many does not change my feeling, for what we have is special.

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Every time I come back to the Olympic National Forest, my mind goes back to the first time we met: I stood breathless, in awe of your beauty.  When I tackled your slopes, you offered me views that I could never imagine.

While you belong to Mother Earth, I will always consider you mine.

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It is with my hat in hand, that I come again to share time with you…to find peace in the solace of nature.

It is with this same hat I give a tip to the men and women who make you accessible.  Building up the trails, making what would be an extremely difficult climb into something less strenuous, giving me more time to rest in your brilliance.

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The workers of the US National Forest Service (and Mt. Rose Volunteer Trail Crew), give their working life to you, so you can give yourself to me.

You give yourself to all, but forever you will remain free.

A dash of folklore has it that Chief Seattle wrote a letter to the President of the USA, in reply to the government’s offer to purchase the remaining Salish lands.  Within the letter are some of the wisest words ever written:

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“The President in Washington sends word that

He wishes to buy our land.

But how can you buy or sell the sky?   The land?

The idea is strange to us.

 If we do not own the freshness of the air and the

Sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?…”

Respect the wilderness and Mother Nature will in turn respect us.

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Ellinor, looking back on our time together, whether under the heat of the sun or huddled in the icy & snowy depths of winter, every time we part I leave a better man.

When the chaos of this international zoo begins to spin out of control, no matter how long we’ve been apart, inevitably I come crawling back and you always take me in.

I am grateful for your unconditional support of this restless wanderer.  Your gift of courage to take that extra step into the unknown.  To achieve greater heights.

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Above: Mt. Rainier in the distance.  Below: Descending in the Dark

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My knees ache more today than they did when we first met decades ago, and there will inevitably come a day when all I can do is stare up at your grand magnificence.

Jealousy may arouse in my heart while I watch younger generations march proudly up your slopes, but it will be in the guise of pride.  While impossible, I will always consider you mine.

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I will shed a tear when this day comes, not in sadness or envy of those you welcome to your peaks, but a tear of grace for the time we spent together.  I love you and your brothers and sisters who surround you.

The Skokomish Wilderness and Puget Sound that form your front door, will always be there to welcome.

I simply love the life we have shared together.

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You share.  You support.  You inspire.  But you do not love.

Unrequited love.  Such love holds no significance to me, for if I love you, I am happy.  With this I am secure.

It is true that you are difficult, cold, and as moody as the unpredictable weather, but when you shine you are the essence of life.  Mt. Ellinor, there are so many incredible places in the world but only in your house do I feel I am home.

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On the topic of ‘unrequited love’ the philosopher Nietzsche had this to say: “indispensable…to the lover is his unrequited love, which he would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference.”

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A Path of Adventure in Guilin, China

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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

This ancient wisdom by Lao-zi is one of the most famous pieces of advice from the Dao de Jing.  No matter where you are in life or what difficulties you face, the philosophy is simple: begin resolving the issue by taking that first step.

The smallest of efforts, if consistently taken over time, can have unimaginable results, just as a tiny seed of rice can one day become a great field of grain able to feed a village.

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As someone who would rather stay at home and read a good book versus going out to a club or party, I could easily spend my days sitting back over a cup of coffee to contemplate and dream.

Taking that first ‘single step’ is easy in dreams.  To actually make an effort is another story.  It is easier to keep the dreams internalized, until one day they vanish and are replaced by regret.  That is the danger.

Not fun.  I’m guessing everyone has experienced such moments to some extent.

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Prior to my first trip to China, I received a journal from my sister that had a quote from Joseph Campbell:

“You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path.

You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential.” 

Words that are a perfect complement to Lao-zi’s advice at the beginning of this post.

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Forging your way through a dense, dark forest has many similarities with forging your way through life: bugs and mosquitoes buzzing around all the time, the occasional leech taking more than they give, but the reward of the adventure is the discovery of beauties that unfold and make life shine.

Creating a path will bring fear and uncertainty, but without those spices of life, is life really worth living?

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These quotes of Lao-zi and Campbell rang true during my continued travel in Guilin, where I met people who lived life through those very words.

The previous days along the Li River, reliving the past with the mystical ‘Chinese Fisherman of Folklore’ had me in a reflective mood of the past and the present.  Entering the Li River valley and agricultural lands, I began to see people who looked as though they were simply making it day-by-day.

Part of the population left behind during China’s rapid ascension to modernity and wealth.  Hearing their stories was the highlight of the trip.

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The stories all involved some description of their hardships in one manner or another and all ended with some variation of “we all must keep moving forward – each day, life’s journey begins with the first step.”

While I enjoyed these discussions, as with most older Chinese, it was impossible not to see in their eyes something they were holding back: dark times of the Cultural Revolution.  Times I have never heard discussed.

Today is where they are, and in their control.

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One strength of people I admire, is the ability to react and thrive in a crisis.  No false bravado or panic, but their ability to find the opportunity imbedded in the crisis and move forward.

When John F. Kennedy was asked about his heroism in World War II, he simply said: “It was involuntary, they sank my boat.”  He had to find a way to save both himself and his crew; to understand the crisis and take the necessary action to achieve the best resolution possible.

Every crisis brings stress and danger and, while cliché,  it also provides opportunity.

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The Chinese character for crisis is 危机 (Wei-Ji).  It is made up of two characters: ‘wei’ (危) which means danger and ‘ji’ (机) which makes up the word for opportunity.

As my friends have told me, focus only on ‘wei’ (危), and you will miss the ‘ji’ (机), and the crisis can begin a downward spiral.

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The people I met in the Guilin countryside seem to understand this concept of crisis quite well, and adhere to its philosophy.  They can control “the now”, and therefore shut-off the worry of what has happened so they can take that fresh first step in their journey through life.

Often it is fear of this first step that is hardest to conquer.  To forge ahead knowing you are facing the unknown.  Much like finding a place in the forest, where it is most mysterious and dark, but the perfect spot to forge your own path.

There will be danger, yet take that first step and find the opportunities.

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