The Wolf You Feed ~ A Native American Story

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Crawling out of the teepee at first light, my spirit is buoyed with excitement of the salmon run on the Big River (the Columbia). The echoing roar of Celilo Falls in the background is a symphony, welcoming back the tribes once again.

Rubbing my eyes and taking a cool breath of morning air, there is a light laugh beside me followed by several pieces of salmon pemmican pushed into my hand reminding me while I may not have been born into the Umatilla tribe, I am treated as family.

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I spot a friend from the Nimi’ipuu (Nez Perce) tribe across the way, and remember the spring day long ago in 1838 sitting down with Chief Tuekakas (Joseph the Elder) and a group of men from the Hudson’s Bay Company out of Fort Vancouver.

I was a young kid responsible for translation, fascinated by these leaders discussing the impact of the first party of Cherokees to resist removal to a reservation, not yet knowing their brave march westward would one day be known as the Trail of Tears.

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The impact of Chief Tuekakas’ words that day led me to take the opportunity to travel with his people, the Nimi’ipuu.

The wisdom I collected over those years I hold with gratitude, but my most cherished moment came the day when we stumbled onto a camp of the Umatilla people at the base of the Blue Mountains. All it took was one look and I realized I had found the destiny I had been searching.

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Over the past 20 years since those early days, I have lived with the Walla Walla, rode with the Cayuse and shared many a meal with the Palouse, Tenino and Chinook – learning a culture and a land far removed from my birth home in Scotland.

My memory is faint, but I understand while the climate, terrain and traditions of my homeland are quite different; the love of Mother Earth is the same.

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It is with this thought I can rest my head, my mind drifting off to dreams of the past. Crossing the Atlantic with family and friends in the year 1828 to reach the New World only to watch in horror as disease ripped through our cramped tenement housing, wiping out everything I held dear.

Broke and alone by the end of the year, I snuck aboard a wagon train with a dream to arrive in the Oregon Country to make my destiny. Discovered by the wagon master early on the trail, my skills as a fisherman and hunter proved valuable, and at a young age I had my first job.

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The journey through the free country of the west taught me the land, accepting the beauty it offered. The berries and roots kept us fed. The buffalo, elk and deer honored us with their great bravery as we matched them with our hunting skills.

Not a day goes by where I do not thank the animals, plants and spirit of this land for all they provide, and acknowledge the tacit agreement where we will take care of Mother Earth in return.

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Sitting here today along the banks of the Big River, the current mood of the Umatilla people is of sorrow. During the previous night, a tense meeting with the tribal leaders signaled the inevitable signing of a treaty with Washington D.C. to give up 6.4 million acres of land.

A treaty threatening to strangle the freedom and culture built over thousands of years. When the tribes sign the Treaty of 1855 they will receive in exchange, land designated at the Umatilla Indian Reservation to become a permanent homeland.

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My mind clears as I gaze off into the distant waters of Celilo Falls. My wife Awendela silently sings as she ponders the future of her people, repairing the fishing nets needed for another day’s work.

Biting into my pemmican, I retell an old folktale from the past, drawing a parallel with the clash of cultures we are experiencing today, an emphasis to remain strong and positive.

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An old man spoke to his grandson. “My child,” he said. “Inside everyone there is a battle between two wolves. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”

The boy thought for a moment. Then he asked, “Which wolf wins?”

A moment of silence passed before the old man replied, “The one you feed…”  

Native American Proverb

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Thinking of the world today, I wonder, which wolf is winning?

With the endless cycle of greed that sweeps through men and their politics, I fear the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I feel for the children of this land. The change in lifestyle will be difficult and clashes of culture will create an opportunity for the Evil Wolf to gain traction in the minds of the young.

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Turing around, I watch the children of the Cayuse with their ponies teaching the other kids the essence of the magnificent Cayuse horse dominating the plateau. I smile. We can learn much from the children, for their hearts are pure.

Succeed in educating children well and we ensure a way of life and culture forever.

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Teach as well as learn the way of the world, and we can all sleep better at night listening to the howling of the Good Wolf, sharing its “joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth” with us all.

Yes, feed the Good Wolf. I sigh and take another bite of pemmican…even with the sadness, I believe this shall be a very good season indeed.

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NOTE: The photos above are from the Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon pageant taking place every September in Pendleton, Oregon. A communion of sorts for the farmers and ranchers of the area along with the gathering of Native American Indian tribes of the Northwest, with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation hosting a teepee village of over 300 teepees.

A weeklong experience every one should experience once in life ~ Let’er Buck ~

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Arches ~ Temptation of the Exotic

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She sits there quietly with the glow of the morning sun reflecting everything a beautiful day should contain. I pace around in search for the perfect angle to enjoy her, and as I look on with eyes filled with desire I set my camera and capture my first sunrise at Arches.

A thought enters my mind…have I just fallen in love?

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Stretching out, I close my eyes and sigh.  Relaxing under her arch, comfortable with the idea I am experiencing something amazingly new; I consider the gnawing question of “why am I here?”

This thought wriggles around a bit in the back of my mind, but fades as the warmth of the sun and the soft whispers and laughter of the wind allows me to drift off to dream.

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Somewhere up north nestled in the Olympic National Forest lies Ellinor, waiting for me and whose love I’ve professed many times. I’ve grown up with her.  Shared many summers and winters wrestling with her, the magnificence of her peaks as well as her wicked sense of humor.

Well, her wicked sense of humor will be something I will have to be wary of from this point forward, as news will eventually leak of this tremendous one-night stand I’ve had here in Arches.

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Looking down on me now are the eyes of Mother Nature taking stock of her beautiful daughters scattered throughout this land, and the foolish men who try to take them as their own.

Admittedly, I wonder if Mother Nature is planning her revenge, annoyed at me stealthily working my way into another of her daughter’s dreams.

Then again love is never meant to be easy.

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While there is something special returning from a journey or simply escaping life to find Ellinor waiting for me arms open, there is also something special in diving into something new, a sense of freedom speckled with risk and danger.

Mother Nature knows this fact well, within hearts is a desire to pursue. Bravery to chase an undefined destiny and embrace a new challenge. She has admired such and with this thought I beg for her understanding.

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Instead of racing up to embrace Ellinor and run my fingers over her once again, I stole out of Seattle and roared down south listening to the inviting whispers of Arches, one of Ellinor’s magnificent cousins.

Leaving behind my steady girl in search for another I am guessing has annoyed Mother Nature, but I figure this is something she has faced since the beginning of time. People running roughshod over her, with appreciation for her beauty and little else.

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The thrill of the pursuit never gets old, and Arches has shown me the risk I take is well worthwhile.

With the evening fading, I rise up and rest against a boulder glancing at her boldness once again, where the glow of her skin shifting from the soft light of the morning sun to darkness as starlight now basks upon her; the night air tangling up around her, taking her to bed for the night.

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As with Ellinor, the awe and excitement of Arches is naturally breathtaking, with added electricity generated by the unusual and striking differences between the two.

Her feel is different.  Her smell.  Her sounds.

She ignites freshness from the very core of my soul, lighting a fire of new ideas and dreams.  One taste, and it is impossible not to reach for the unknown and hold her forever.

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Strangely, the exotic and unknown is something people often fear and avoid. A veil of fear hiding the joys of what life can offer. A veil for sleepwalking through life, afraid of what is different.

Instead, look at the exotic as a gift. The lure of the mysterious is a catalyst for discovery, where new ideas, growth and innovation begins.

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As I lay on the ground staring up into the peaceful sky, Arches brings out this curiosity and the lure of possibilities. What is out there?

I hear her words floating around, softly within my dreams and as whispers within the wind. Sweetly telling me to ignore the drone of modern life and wrap myself up into her inviting arms.

Traveling from the temperate rain forest of Ellinor, where new shades of green highlight every visit, to the extreme of the high-desert of Arches, where stunning shades of color seize the senses.

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Last night, under a midnight-black sky a perfect song flicked on the radio, the words of Ellinor lighting up the road ahead:

“Go on and close your eyes, go on imagine me there.  She’s got similar features with longer hair, and if that’s what it takes to get you through ~ Go on and close your eyes, it shouldn’t bother you…”

–  Melissa Etheridge, “Similar Features 

Her words a bit harsh, but I had to find her so I closed my eyes and hit the gas.  If all turned out the way I dreamt it to be, my reward would be witnessing the arching of her back in delight as she accepted me as one who was worthy.

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Arches brings to me the diverse look of Mother Earth, one to be embraced: an attraction from deep in the heart, full of uncertainty. Something new, similar to the excitement found around the world: a new culture, a different shade of skin or an intriguing philosophy of life.

Nothing can break the strong bonds I hold for Ellinor, she is family and I’ve shared my deepest and greatest secrets with her. However, life is not all a temperate rain forest and Arches has seen to that…

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Extremes exist and instead of lashing out in fear at differences, life is more interesting when embracing the mystery. Ellinor may be upset as I continue my courtship with Arches, but it is while she blushes as new hikers arrive to test her slopes, biting her lip as she feels their exotic touch.

Inspiration is one gift nature gives daily, without thought of creed or race, creating one family respectful and caring for the beauty of Mother Nature and her daughters.

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Arches.  The allure of colors and your perfume floating in the wind are what makes this land great and keeps us coming back for more.

My return to Ellinor will be fueled by the intense feelings we shared this summer.  Your bite of inspiration and temptation towards the exotic heightens the meaning of love.

As I again rest my head on my earthen pillow, I hear Ellinor softly whispering to me again: “Go on and close your eyes, go on imagine me there…”

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Perspectives of Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka.  No doubt a beautiful country.  The lowlands are surrounded by the blue waters of the Indian Ocean rhythmically rolling onto white sandy beaches of the island.

The central highlands, a jungle of green where a cool temperate climate offers a perfect environment for Sri Lanka’s billion-dollar-a-year tea industry. Lush tea plantations scattered throughout the picturesque scenery.

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Nestled within the highlands is the city of Nuwara Eliya, one of the premium tea growing areas of the world. High above the clamor of the lowlands, the verdant landscape feels as if time has stood still.

In many ways it has, as for centuries the tea plantations have counted on the quiet exploitation of the Tamil minority group, members of the lowest caste system in Sri Lanka, to pick tea leaves. Isolated in the remote mountainous areas of Sri Lanka, it is the Tamil women who make up the work force that keep this industry flowing.

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The life of a tea picker is hard, long days combined with squalor living conditions make it clear why Tamil Indian laborers were imported into the country so long ago to fill such jobs. Jobs locals refused to take.

Upon a wall of a dilapidated shack in a plantation housing project, eight simple words summarizes generations of thought for tea pickers here in Nuwara Eliya: “Life is a pain…endure is the answer.”

A place with little hope, yet the little hope of today is more than they imagined a decade ago.

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She looks down at her calloused hands.  Her day picking tea leaves having just ended, she winces at the pain as she lifts her bag of leaves and gives them to the field manager.  

Ahead is a hard hour hike home over the hill where she will busy herself with chores, fetch water, cook dinner for her family and then spend what little time remains with her reason for living: her beautiful baby daughter.  

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Tears well up in her eyes as she honestly wonders if this is as good as it gets. 

Every day is the same bad dream, the same hell. Day in. Day out.  She wakes up prior to dawn and sets out to the tea fields, plucking tea until dusk and then takes the long hike home. Praying for no harassment, praying for a peaceful night. She understands this is the fate of a Tamil woman on a tea plantation: a woman with little power, a woman with little control of her life.

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Sadness hits when she realizes if her young daughter is lucky enough, she may have at best a similar fate. “If she is lucky…” Quickly she erases any such negative thought from her mind.

As a member of the Tamil minority group working in a male dominated culture, there simply are few options available for her, her daughter or their future.  

This thought breaks her heart. 

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She looks out her doorway at a group of Save the Children workers and dreams the impossible dream for her daughter.  

Could the promise of a safe environment for children; a school for her daughter to attend and learn the wonders of the world become a reality?

She allows herself to smile inwardly at such hope, but understands Sri Lanka and the history and culture of her people all to well to put such faith into the future.  

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Standing in the doorway, she ponders the stories and rumors of Save the Children, the hope this organization has brought to neighboring tea plantations. It is a glint of a possibility, the chance of future happiness for her daughter.

She steps closer to listen to the voices of the workers as supplies are dropped off, and before she is noticed she quickly slips back into her tiny shack.

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As she begins to prepare dinner she senses a tingling of awareness, the freedom the human soul needs to dream and pursue experiences.

Tonight she is happy. She reflects back on the stories of suffering and repression told by her grandmother and mother, as well as the horrible experiences she’s had herself, but instead of defeat she sees hope. The hope the vicious cycle of oppression will end.

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Generations upon generation of young women are born into servitude in the tea industry, forever working the tea fields of Sri Lankan tea plantations.

The high country of Nuwara Eliya, far removed from the large cities and their economic successes, has remained stuck in the dark ages. Business corruption and ancient ideas thousands of years old keep the Tamil people of this area stuck in purgatory.

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The Tamils give their life and blood to the tea industry, making up 2% of the country’s GDP, a commitment spanning centuries. It is a hard life, and while the industry is trying to find a way to give back, there are conflicts of interest.

Business is business, and tea plantation owners are currently undergoing a deteriorating market for Ceylon Tea. In addition to the fear of further decreases in sales and higher costs of providing benefits to the field workers, plantation owners are also terrified of losing a cheap workforce by allowing freedoms and opportunities to the Tamil women and children.

Economics of the modern-day meets the politics of the dark ages.

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Save the Children as well as other relief organizations have been working to break this relentless and cruel cycle robbing the potential of these children. It is difficult to not shudder while looking into their eyes understanding the future ~ their fate determined at birth.

Change is not easy, especially given the tension between gender and class struggle seeped in cultural beliefs spanning millenniums. The Tamil women and children face daily battles in this quagmire of repression.

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A Sri Lankan worker at Save the Children discussed the value the organization brings to the people of Nuwara Eliya, mentioning a quote from Swami Vivekananda, “Dare to be free, dare to go as far as your thought leads, and dare to carry that out in your life.

This piece of Hindu philosophy, an important part of their culture, rings hollow to them. It is difficult for them to grasp the idea of freedom not to mention the courage to act on such thoughts.

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The people of Sri Lanka are the ones stepping up to make a difference. Sri Lankans with the wisdom to understand the value women and children have to their country and their efforts within the Save the Children system brings real change via the following programs:

  • Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD)
  • Education
  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

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Such programs provide the base to empower the women of Nuwara Eliya and of Sri Lanka. When hope is instilled in a group, confidence soon follows giving strength to tackle issues. Real change begins to take place.

The Tea Association of Sri Lanka is working with Save the Children on an updated branding model for Fair Trade Tea, a platform of reform for all large tea estates to provide specific and permanent benefits for women and children within their plantation.

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In the past, salaries of women from the tea estates were transferred directly to the “man of the house” with the result of wages often wasted on alcohol or gambling.

No longer is this the case. Women now receive salaries directly so the money can be used to buy food and necessary items for childcare. This is empowerment. Step-by-step, change is happening. The dreams of children are beginning to form.

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She again stands in the doorway, this time watching her grown daughter go off to work. Her daughter, as with past generations of her family continues the tradition of working on the tea estates…but here is a twist to the tale. Instead of picking leaves in a field far away, she is wearing a white blouse and has entered a nurse-in-training program at the local clinic.

Her daughter looks back and gives a quick smile before disappearing into the plantation’s maternity clinic.

Her eyes well up with tears once again as they had every evening in the past when she worked in the fields. This time, however, the tears of sadness are absent instead flowing down her cheeks are tears of pure happiness…  

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Save the Children and other aid groups such as World Vision are working in Sri Lanka to break the cycle of repression.  To provide hope for children and their mothers, an opportunity to achieve what once was unimaginable: an education and a dream of advancement.

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If you are interested in learning more about Save the Children please click on a site listed below:

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Ellinor, The Year of the Goat, and Quantum Entanglement

Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-1 From the moment I awake, I lie silently and listen to the calling of the universe to determine the type of day ahead, because every day has its own personality. Some mornings are overwhelming, blasting with the sound of horns and a declaration of chaos. A day that can zap the life out of the soul, and the only bright spot is thinking of the good tomorrow may bring. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-2 Other mornings, the universe whispers and the day arrives quiet and serene. I am able to spend the day deep in thought, piecing together ideas and by night my life resembles some type of order. Then there are mornings like today, when the universe offers a connection that seems very personal. A feeling of confidence floating between secrets and knowledge: an invitation for adventure and a day to push the envelope. Hood Canal - Potlatch-22 I roll out of bed as the sun breaks, brew a fresh pot of coffee and wander down to the water. Breathing in the morning air and looking up at the mountains, it is impossible not to wonder about Ellinor. There is nowhere else in the world my troubles melt away than here on Hood Canal and the Skokomish wilderness. It is here my consciousness pervades a deeper level of reality, a connectedness to nature. Many people have such a place ~ a place of solitude that brings out an instinctive feeling of inspiration.  Perhaps it is love. A need for a deep association with the world etched into who we are as individuals. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-4 I cannot help but smile as I think back to a quote The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” – Carl Sagan (Cosmos) My smile turns into laughter, as Sagan’s words reaffirm the relationship I have with Ellinor. She belongs to me as I belong to her. At the quantum level we are one. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-5 Nature holds something true and intrinsic within our souls; a beauty that burns deep within our cells. Writers and poets have long written sonnets about their affairs with nature, and recently leading physicists have joined in with new theories and experiments to show we have relationships far beyond what our minds can fathom. At the quantum level we are made up of subatomic particles, and what a story these particles have to tell. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-6 Physicists are uncovering the magic of these subatomic particles and their incredible gift: their connectedness and ability to communicate with other particles instantaneously and over unimaginable distances (spanning our universe). This phenomenon, called quantum entanglement, is not new – but recent experiments and theories have cracked open this door even wider, which is as exciting as it is mysterious. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-7 Quantum entanglement quite possibly wraps all of us together where everything in the universe is connected to everything else. Scientists contemplating a spiritual side of nature, and theorists spinning their minds trying to comprehend what this all could mean.

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”  ― Carl Sagan

For me, I imagine within my heart is an electron connected to every Roosevelt Elk walking through the wilderness, every salmon swimming in the Skokomish River and every foothold leading up to the summit of Mt. Ellinor. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-8 So on this beautiful day, how can I possibly be thinking of quantum entanglement, especially while standing here on the shores of Hood Canal looking at Ellinor only thirty-miles away? I am here because I believe Ellinor has reached out to me to visit her once again. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-9 Once a year, I take a pilgrimage to her peaks to rejuvenate my soul and recharge my spirit. It sets my mind right; the rush of the climb, the beauty along every step is the easy answer why. I am aware of the Unrequited Love of Ellinor, which makes my return perhaps even more special. No expectations, no great planning, just a great hike that in the end leaves me speechless. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-10 I’ve been hiking Ellinor as far back as I can remember, summiting her and exploring the peaks of her neighbors. Each time, on my descent I felt both spiritually complete and physically spent. I must admit that even prior to my hike today the jealousy of never seeing a mountain goat, somewhat common around this part of the Skokomish wilderness, flickers in me every now and then, but my faith holds true. Ellinor will grant me this moment when the time is right. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-11 Standing here, three days into the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Goat, I have the idea that Ellinor has brought me to her to make this year special. The weather is perfect. The summit is easily accessible this early in the year due to light winter snowfall, and I am ready to strengthen my relationship with her and all that is around me. Waking this morning to Ellinor’s subsonic whispers of the day’s possibilities was perfect. I drink the last of my coffee and walk along the waters of Hood Canal, content in the solace she has offered. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-12 Being out in nature makes it easier for me to imagine we are all just bags of stardust, particles billions of years old cognizant of everything in the universe. The idea of these particles able to communicate over billions of miles instantaneously, though, is tough to grasp but fun to dream about.

  • Does a form of consciousness exist at the quantum level?
  • Does intuition receive information via quantum entanglement?
  • Do the strange results in quantum physics in regards to observation link us to Eastern philosophy and deeper levels of consciousness and illusion?

Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-13 Looking up, I see a familiar set of eyes for the first time. These incredible mountain goats seem surprised to have me hanging around the summit, but they share Ellinor with me. Feeling a rush of adrenaline amid the setting sun, I ponder at what the universe and Ellinor is teaching me. I suppose it is just the simple thought to enjoy life and keep listening to nature. Hear the words of the universe and begin to think of “we” instead of “I”. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-14 Everything is “we”. We are interconnected in a way that is obvious, made up of the same material: stardust. The difficulty of this connectedness lies in the depths of the links and attachments we have to the universe and to each other. It is a bit overwhelming. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-15 Jumping around the boulders, following these impressive mountain goats I am thrilled this day has finally come. A day I expected, and perhaps that is why it is here. Why I am here. The majestic confidence these goats have, somehow clinging onto the face of a cliff with their hooves when all looks lost is impressive. I feel a bit foolish thinking that finding these mountain goats on today’s climb within the first week of the Year of the Goat has some significance, but then who is to say it doesn’t. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-16 The universe works in mysterious ways, and as with the secrets of Ellinor, the secrets of quantum physics are many as well.  It is exciting to hear of physicists discussing the results of the same particle, appearing in different places at the same time and opening the possibilities of the manipulation of space-time. The mysteries of quantum entanglement, these connections possibly holding information we can only dream to uncover. The déjà vu we feel, possibly a flash of past experience or emotion from the subatomic level. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-17 Perhaps most important to me as I put on my headlamp, pack up my gear and prepare to descend the mountain, is the idea that we never truly die. Pieces of me will carry over. The connectedness throughout the universe gives me confidence, and perhaps some state of consciousness imbedded in my subatomic particles will keep my spirit alive. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-18

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”  ― Carl Sagan

Consciousness, I imagine, is a vital part of the universe.  Perhaps not in the way we understand human consciousness today, but in a different form.  I suppose when my time comes, I will find out. The world of physics is a world of magic with so much to learn. Accompanying physics is the magic of philosophy.  One of the tenets of both Buddhist and Hindu philosophy is the idea that everything is energy, dancing in form ~ a dance with the continuous weaving of the form and the formless. Mt. Ellinor and Skokomish Mountain Goats-3 Such a poetic description can double as a definition of quantum entanglement as well. A description physicists today are telling us very well may be reality. Until then, it is good to be with Ellinor. It is good to accept that we may all be a part of a scary-large family. Work hard, play hard and be good. And listen to what the universe has to say.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

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The Fishermen’s Lore: What Lies Beneath?

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As with the morning sun, slowly I rise out of bed and slip on a new day without a sound.

The scents of algae, spices and humidity rise above the fading dreams of last night and I savor the moment.  Looking out at the pre-dawn sky I prepare my coffee, anxious for the day to begin.

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Wandering down a path, I climb into a thin, carved out teak boat and push-off from the dock. The silence of the morning respected by all.  The soft whisper of the breeze is music as I work my way over to the west side of the lake, and under the morning light the fishermen come to life.

Rare are the mornings when it seems as if I’ve stepped back in time, so when such moments arrive I relish the feeling.

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To be a part of a culture, even if only for a short moment along the periphery, I drink in the lore of the ancient art of fishing here in Myanmar.

Gone is the clamor of modern society, replaced with the soft millennial sounds of water lapping against the hull and the rhythmic stroke of oars. Breathing in the morning air, my lungs fill with the earthy aromas floating around the life of a fisherman.

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Mesmerized by the beauty and rhythm fishermen around the globe seem to share, thoughts drift to my home town and the benefit of growing up in a rural area with the abundance of nature.

Mountain lakes, streams and rivers feed the imagination at all times, none perhaps more potent as when having a line cast into the magical world below the surface of the water.

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Mysterious forces lay beneath the water capturing the imagination, matched by the tranquil calmness above.

Dipping a hand in the water as the teak boat glides into the morning fog, my mind wavers between questions of the depths of oceans and the cosmos, to the more enrapturing thought of her smile and what possible future could be in store for us.

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There is something about being on the water. Trying to understand the aquatic world beneath while untangling the knots of life above.

The great leviathan lurking beneath, the one we chase every time we go out on the water.  Does it even exist?

Perhaps it is a kindred spirit, there to help and straighten out the kinks in our lives so as to set our minds at ease as we enjoy and celebrate this thing called life.

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The Fishermen’s Lore ~ there are many sayings and stories, most involve the idea of chasing one’s own “white whale” to the dismay of others.  The unique decision to pursue, when hope is lost and those around shake their head perplexed as the angler once again heads off to be on the water.

The lore of the fishermen, off to chase the elusive is a common thread we all share in the everyday pursuit of our own unique dreams.

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In a place such as Inle Lake, located in the Shan State of Myanmar, it is easy to connect with the philosophies of the east and their own interpretation of what lies beneath?

How the ancient sages used the art of angling to explain the art of life: “fishing without catching any fish” is how one should live.  Learn, contemplate and develop patience.

Immediately this has me thinking of Santiago, the protagonist in Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, who went months without a catch until the day he met his leviathan: the marlin he battles, respects and in the end calls a brother.

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The fishermen’s life can be a salty, tough and a poor existence…but still a life I cannot help but romanticize.

The life of fishermen is anything but simple; wishes for a greater life for their children along with the increased burden society places on their craft can make for difficult days.

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Yet the artistic solitude of the craft must be admired, especially for those who fish in an “effortless way” reflecting a life we all chase. An artist always alert, thus able to refine their art of angling: through practice, contemplation and patience.

A recipe to perfect any craft and pursue any dream.

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As the morning passes, I see hardness in the work but a companionship as well. It is the echo of words from ancient sages who discuss the purity of understanding both yourself and what you do.  A mix of understanding, when combined makes a life complete.

The beauty of such philosophy is to become a master of yourself and thus your craft.

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When the art is slowly mastered, hope evolves into confidence and creativity ~ allowing the mind to flow.

Modern philosophers and educators believe the same; sprouting the idea that 10,000 hours of practice is necessary for anyone to become a master in one’s craft.  An idea worth building a life around.

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The late afternoon sun burns away many of the hopes and dreams of catching the elusive white whale we were chasing today, but all is not wasted.

We find enough to make the day a success and while there is no other choice for these fishermen but to head out tomorrow, there is another night to dream and to imagine what may become.

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To fishermen around the world, who live according to their own code and accept the cycle of life: to struggle, to endure and then redeem their existence through the art of angling.

Watching them mine the value out of life, passing their knowledge from a lifetime of work. The angler is the everyman, the archetypal representation of who we are and who we wish to be.

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Taking the narrow, rickety plank leading back to my room, I drag my gear and listen to the crackling call of the eastern great egret echoing through the trees and over the water.  This small room sitting on stilts over the lake; another place of solitude allowing me to wash away a bit of the day ~ just enough to welcome in the evening.

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Looking into a cracked mirror, exhausted I turn on the tap and splash cold water over my head and breathe a sigh of relief as dinner and a cold beer lie ahead. Hearing the laughter from the dining hall, I let out a small chuckle as well, I am at peace.

I smile knowing that soon a perfect shade of darkness will engulf the lake, ensuring that the night once again will loosen more knots as I drift off to dream.

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The Endurance of Tacloban: Heart of the Philippines

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Violent winds swirl the dark, ominous thunderclouds overhead. The pounding waves crash onto the rocky shore and the roar of the Pacific Ocean makes its intention clear: thrash anything in its path.

With electricity in the air, I am oblivious to everything except the power coming my way as rain beats against my face, sucking me into the depths of the storm.

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Ever since I was young, the powerful forces of storms, especially on the Oregon Coast, have held a rare type of electricity for me.  Electricity that excites my soul and eliminates any trace of fear I may have.

Chasing the idea of becoming one with the storm.  Not just to see the power unravel in front of me, but to physically feel this rare electricity.

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The past three days I’ve experienced a different type of feeling.

Walking along the Tacloban city coastline watching the sunrise, I am beginning to understand the other side of this “rare electricity” I feel when Mother Nature unleashes her fury ~ the distress and chaos she creates.

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Understanding why hearts quicken to a point of exhaustion when thunder clasps and wind and rain fill the sky.

Understanding why there is no glint of excitement in the eyes as a storm brews, instead only an endless sadness: a mix of memories and dread.

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The eyes of the children of Tacloban carry terrifying memories and fear from last year; introduced to them on November 8, 2013.

This was the day when super-typhoon Yolanda unleashed her fury on the quiet city of Tacloban in the Philippines. On that dark day, more than 6,000 people died. 11 million lives were directly affected, 5.9 million of those children.

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As I stand here this morning on a beach outside the city, surrounded by a special kind of darkness found only within the hour of dawn, my mind drifts back to that day one year ago.

Thoughts drift to a stunned family, who sat in their makeshift home as the seawater entered and refused to retreat.

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My mind trying to imagine the panic in the eyes of every family member, as the power of the current made the threat of the rising sea even more terrifying.

And as the hours passed, the surge of water would rise to over six feet, easily destroying homes and buildings… and well before then, the family would have been swept away by the sea.

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These are the eyes that are now teaching me.  Allowing me to see a side of nature that can bring the strongest spirit down to its knees.

These eyes also inspire. Having seen what the people of Tacloban have done over the past year brings to life the words of William Barclay:

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, 

but to turn it into glory”

The people here have endured…

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On this December morning, I find myself in Tacloban with Save the Children on one of those rare, magical experiences that life offers.

The visit has shown the devastation typhoon Yolanda brought upon this area and the great effort that Save the Children has made in rebuilding lives.

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Trying to wrap my mind around what has happened here is almost futile, but I am learning.

The goal of this trip was to witness not just the rebuilding of structures, but also understand the post-recovery training programs.  Programs to ensure lifelong change for the children, their families and communities.

  • Training teachers and leaders of communities
  • Supporting access to quality child care and development

And most important: teaching skills that can turn the hopes and dreams of children into reality.

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The genuine smiles have tugged at the heartstrings throughout the past three days and seeing the recovery program has been brilliant. There is something special here, apart from the shared tragedy there is a kindred spirit that mirrors the beauty of the land ~ the people here are creating a paradise.

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What has been done is incredible and with continued support it will become a miracle.  I walk away from Tacloban inspired.  The memory of sitting down and talking to these beautiful, young minds full of dreams is unforgettable.

This beautiful city along with Save the Children has made me believe there are such things as guardian angels.

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Looking out toward the sea, I feel a touch of sadness as the sun rises on my last day in Tacloban.  Turning and walking along the shore, I watch a man sitting in the bow of his boat working on a repair.

He gives me a nod along with a faint smile as I bring my camera up for a shot. He pauses, looks out into the distance and his lighthearted expression seems to take on a sense of melancholy.

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I’ve learned that along this small section of the coast, everyone lost someone in the typhoon last year. Hunkering down in flimsy shelters with the belief that the waters that gave life would never be cruel enough to turn on them; to reach out and take life as it did.

Walking through town, there are heart-wrenching and strong memories everywhere.

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Throughout Tacloban are gutted buildings, piles of rubble and stark reminders for all to see.

What is most painful and can seize the heart, are the small things that at first seem insignificant ~ until its significance hits.  Another reminder of the lives lost during that dark day.

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I try not to let my imagination and emotions get the best of me, but fail. I’ve read accounts of the struggles of the Tacloban community; families with wounds that will never be fully healed.  Local photographer Orlando Uy captures many emotions of his city in his photo-blog “A Walk With My Camera”.

These memories are everywhere: pain multiplied by thousands, as loved ones were swept away. My admiration and respect goes out to the people here who live with these daily reminders.

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The trauma and helplessness created by Yolanda now takes a back seat to the rebuilding of communities.  The creation of a future for themselves and for their children.

It is stirring to see the locals understand the opportunity they have. To embrace organizations like Save the Children, helping lay the framework for a lifelong investment into their future.

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The future of Tacloban is similar to the future of cities scattered all over the globe: it lies with the children.

During my stay, I learned the motto of Save the Children in times of emergency: “children can’t wait” as children are the one part of the population that are most vulnerable in times of turmoil.

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Seeing the ability of both the people of Tacloban and the workers at Save the Children, there is no doubt that this area will quickly bloom with laughter and happiness.

Witnessing the effective use of donations, my faith in human compassion and spirit has grown even further. I’ve long believed that the greatest gift an adult can give a child is happiness.

In return, the greatest gift a child can give us all is a smile.

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A special thanks to Save the Children ~ Hong Kong:

  • Debe Cheung
  • Queenie Mak

And Save the Children of the Eastern Leyte office in the Philippines:

  • Joanna Watson
  • Heidi Anicete
  • Cielito Barceló

And to all the volunteers and field staff that took the time to accompany and review all of the work done in the Tacloban area over the past year.

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If you are interested in learning more about Save the Children please click on one of the three sites listen below:

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Being Time in Kenya with Heidegger

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The concept of time is fascinating. From physics to philosophy, the notion of time is difficult to define.

From our normal existence in the world, we often define time as ‘fleeting’ in the sense there is never enough. Frustration builds as the majority of time is spent catching up on work…work that is always running further and further away.

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The more worry about time, the less there is.

This has been the script for me this year.  Just as I am ready to celebrate and enjoy autumn, this great season is fading fast.

Back in September, I noticed the leaves turning color. But instead of picking up my coat and heading out, I dropped my head for a quick analysis of work and business only to look up a couple of months later to find winter staring me in the face.

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Pushing open the window, a gust of cold wind sends my work flying and a bunch of dry leaves swirling at my feet.

Where did time go?

With my work and leaves lying scattered at my feet, I realized I lost the best season of the year.

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Autumn is usually the season when time slows down.  Time to take in nature, people and the simple appreciation of life.

Hunting, fishing, football, photography, cycling or spending time on Hood Canal with family and friends; not existing in time, but actually “being time”.

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The thought of “being time” is refreshing: to reflect on memories, create new memories and actively live and project our expectations of the future in ‘the now’ the moment when time stands still. This is what autumn has always provided.

To be with somebody, to be somewhere, to be doing something you love…these are the moments, a perfect understanding of our place in time, space and the universe.

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Being Time, this is a feeling I envy right now. Sitting on the floor, sorting my papers…seeing nothing but incoherent words and riddles on these sheets of white reflecting past months of work, my eyes fall to a wooden carving I picked up in Kenya many years ago.

Autumn. Kenya. The trip when I first began defining time in a different manner.

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Prior to leaving for the Kenyan city of Nairobi, I was out with friends and they all talked about the culture shock that I would experience, jumping from the modern city of Hong Kong to the much less developed world of the Maasai Mara.

There was some truth to that, jumping into the life of Nairobi was something different, but once into the countryside 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.

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As it turned out, I did experience culture shock, but it happened upon returning from Kenya to the modern world.

Back in the USA, amid the muck of company politics, petty jealousies and listening to the linear definition of time: the loud tick-tock of the clock signaling life is growing shorter.

Fortunately, I kept the rhythm I had found in Kenya and fell into a groove back in Seattle and later Hong Kong. Good friends, good work and listening to how time flowed naturally, rather than how it was measured on the clock made the days mine.

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This ‘Kenyan groove’ took me back to my college days where my roommate, who was a brilliant philosophy major, introduced me to the works of German philosopher, Martin Heidegger.

It took Kenya for me to fully ‘get’ what Heidegger was saying, but he was correct: “we do not exist inside time, we are time.”

The only time we have is now, this nano-second of the present to live, where all we were and will be is defined within this perfect moment to shine. As Heidegger called it: “the moment of vision”

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This concept of time is one of many theories, and helps me define the idea of being lost in a moment and having time stand still. Time is not this one-way sequential path to the end: a tick-tock of doom.

Time, instead, allows us to relive memories, actively experience and create expectations and dreams with which we float between the past, present and future. As silly as it sounds, time becomes what we want to be.

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When I am lost in a daydream…or when a beautiful girl shyly smiles and nods her head, a sensation is created that alters time. It brings into play another dimension I could not begin to define, other than a perfect, subjective component of time that I would not change for the world.

Everything stops and goes, and I want to embrace all that I can get my arms around. Time simply does not exist in linear terms at these moments. It is emotional; the mind can run free, open up memories and take me places I can only dream. In a sense, I am manipulating time. I can do no wrong.

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-23Kenya provided an important piece in defining time and its place in nature for me. Time is what you make of it and it only blooms with loyalty and honesty to yourself, to family, to friends and to your work. In this sense, it is the simple philosophy of nature.

There may not be a better place to appreciate time, autumn or nature than in my hometown of Pendleton, Oregon.

Autumn in Pendleton means the end of the harvest season, the beauty of putting in a hard day’s work. You look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day, and see the dirt and character: badges of honor, to be worn proudly.

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-10Pendleton, too, reminds me of Kenya…a place where standing out on the plains as the morning breaks, time stands still. Silence along with the electricity of the day that makes me aware I am flowing as one with time.

Time waits for no one, so to understand its value and embrace it for the potential it holds is key: the “moment of vision”.

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-5And as I continue to stare out my window, smiling with my thoughts of Kenya, Pendleton and Heidegger, I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Dr. Seuss:

“How did it get so late so soon?  It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

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Pre-Dawn Coffee ~ Best Campsite I've Experienced :-)

Pre-Dawn Coffee ~ Best Campsite I’ve Experienced 🙂

 

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