Hong Kong: The Pulse of Life

Hunan China Performance Troupe-14

There are days where no matter how I get out of bed, every side is the wrong side.

Days where the dreary drone of jumbled words fill the mind and accompanies me as I sleep walk through the day.  A day, regardless of what my calendar tells me, is a week of  full of Monday mornings.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-2

Since returning to Hong Kong last week, my typical day has been where eyes half-closed and stumbling toward the bathroom, the corner of the bed is somehow sticking out a ½ inch further than it normally does…and bam.

The day has me defeated within the first minute of waking.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-10

Of course, when such days arrive, the first thought that comes to mind is that amused one we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another: “why even venture further, just turn around and go back to bed.”

But it is always the second thought that keeps me moving: “Coffee…”

Hunan China Performance Troupe-3

That first sip is usually what I need to get me out the door, and while I bumble and laugh myself through the day, I know such strangeness will be over when I crawl back in bed and travel to dreamland…

The minute I close my eyes, I consider it a start of a new day and there is nothing like a great dream for it to begin anew.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-9

“Who does not love wine, women and song
Remains a fool his whole life long.”  ~ Johann Voss

Now, if I had the power to control the plot of my dreams I would have to say the above quote comes pretty close to how I’d like mine to flow. A dream where I am a carefree spirit, loving the simple things and able to enjoy this realm where I can feel the pulse of life.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-13

My dream takes me to a place in Hunan Province…among the TuJia minority, people after my own heart as their focus is on music, dancing and their wine: a culture similar in many ways to the spirit of the West.  Relying on the trust and joy of friends and family, finding what is needed from the land and life so they can share their joy.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-11

While in Hunan, I met up with a group of friends who perform shows about their TuJia minority culture.  One night at dinner, among all the stories being passed around was the one where the leader of the troupe is given a hard time because he married “very late” at the age of 31 years old.

His reason was simple: “I couldn’t sing well enough…so no girl wanted me” and with his laughter he started the clashing of glasses of homemade moonshine…and looked at me smiling saying “really it is true!” beside him his wife smiling, nodded her head vigorously in agreement.

Nothing quite like Hunan spices and homemade firewater to wake-up the senses.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-15

Waking up the senses. Feeling the Pulse of Life. The remedy for this dreary feeling I’ve had since returning to Hong Kong is one I have used before: simply sit back, become entranced and Let The Show Begin

Watching the performance of my friends was simply mesmerizing. It is as if I stole a bit of their adrenaline in each act…and feel a bit guilty at this theft, but it is the good kind of guilt.  For their gift to us all is an abundance of adrenaline and inspiration out there for all to take.

The feeling, the dream and dance, it is brilliant and a bit addicting.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-8

There is a saying within the TuJia culture that goes something like this: “only through music and dance can one run away without leaving home.” Which perhaps explains why the people remain so close-knit, and why there is such incredible madness and passion when they perform.

Hunan, famous for their spices and hospitality, and the Tujia people whose culture encapsulates the carefree spirit of dreams and desires.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-6

As I exit the show within my dream, the cool, crisp air of the morning greets me and gives me a deserved slap in the face.  With the potential of the day ahead, and I’m ready to experience the best of Hong Kong and China.

My shorts and t-shirt once again have to be replaced with a more sensible business attire, but on the inside, the youthful spirit is back to see what else the world can bring.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-5

Dreams are what we need to re-energize and understand that we’d be foolish not to enjoy the good things life throws our way. “Wine, women and song” is the simple thought the spirit of life brings to remind us who we are.

Here in Hong Kong, the hard work and dedication of its population to build a great life is the focus, but every now and then it is necessary to reassess where we are and pursue the freedom that life beckons.  It is that jolt we sometimes need; a dream that jolts us awake as we fall, guaranteeing there will never be a dull moment.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-12

The unconscious performer, lost in dream and taking us along for the inspirational ride.

Youthful spirits taking up a cause only their idealistic minds can fully understand… and it is more than just a performance, it is the essence of life.

Creativity is at the core of us all, and it is the mind of the young which allow us to evolve and build a better place.

Better for ourselves, for our family and for our friends.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-1

There simply is not a better way to live than with happiness in our hearts, and when that inevitable day comes where it feels like nothing is going right, step inside a live performance and get lost.

Find again that fury which is the pulse of life.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-4

Sing a song of Beauty
Sing a song of Truth
Live the life of Liberty
Where Freedom will take root…
 
Hunan China Performance Troupe-7

 

Don’t Die Wondering…

Pacific Northwest Nature-5

Sitting along the shore of Elliott Bay, I often wonder what it would have been like centuries ago when Native Americans spent the summertime in Seattle.  The Seattle summer with its perfect weather is special, so I imagine it would have been heaven on earth to see the sun setting on this land so long ago when the wilderness ruled.

Pacific Northwest Nature-12

Back in those days, getting outside and involved was not much of a question as physical interaction with nature was a part of everyday life.  A hard life no doubt, but I would bet more satisfying too as everything you owned likely came from the things around you: animals, earth and community.

Animals and earth to feed and clothe, and a community to share, love, explore and work the land.

Pacific Northwest Nature-13Not quite the same scene we have today, where two minutes “on-line” results in the delivery of food, clothing and most importantly the latest tech-toy delivered right to the front door without having to leave the house.

Products produced by factories scattered all over the globe. A crazy concept even today, something unthinkable a couple hundred years ago. Most everything I own I have no real clue as to its true origin.

Pacific Northwest Nature-1Still, amid all this technology and social media shrill that drowns our senses from the calls of the real world, there are always reminders that take us out of this artificial shell and plop us down in the middle of life.  Something to makes us reassess our obsession with material possessions.

The nudge of a wet nose from Man’s Best Friend, or driving through a mountain pass with the sun dipping below the horizon is just what is needed for us to get back to the basics. Back to the feeling of living.

Pacific Northwest Nature-2

The past few weeks have had me traveling around the Pacific Northwest with work, and instead of flying I made a point to drive; taking the more scenic routes and allowing myself a few more days to take in the sights.

My mind spinning a bit as I would try to reconcile life today with how it was more than 100 years ago. Getting lost in how different things are today made me wonder what the next 100 years will bring…and how foreign our time today will appear to our future selves.

Pacific Northwest Nature-3Back to the early 90s, when I took off for China for the first time, I had this small sticker on my bag that read: Don’t Die Wondering.

The message the sticker represented fascinated me, as I loved to wonder…in fact, I was more often in dream than I was running around nature. The message reminded me that dreaming and wondering is just part of the formula, and moving forward by doing and experiencing is how we complete the circle and find a happy life.

Pacific Northwest Nature-8I still have this sticker and message, and more than ever realize how important this simple slogan is: to wonder, to dream and to go out and do.  To create a unique path in life. For the most part, I imagine that people in history also followed this same simple line of reasoning.

A reminder that it is a never-ending process.

Wonder. Dream. Do. Happiness.

Pacific Northwest Nature-11

Pacific Northwest Nature-4 I suppose that the message on this sticker was a simple warning that if we spend too much of our time wondering what could have been? With the mind spinning to answer the unanswerable, “what if?” It is easy to get lost in the irrelevant past while new opportunities slip by.

Why sit wondering what it would be like, when adventures and experiences lie right outside the door?

Pacific Northwest Nature-7It will be impossible to fully understand what Native Americans or frontiersmen of the past thought when they saw the dawn rise every day over Seattle hundreds of years ago, but I imagine it must have recharged them.

A perfect start to the day, a time to admire the land and contemplate what was to be explored and admired.  With no TV or Internet to tempt and waste hours of a day, I would think it must have been exciting to be immersed in nature as a part of daily life.  True, such a life would be hard, but in a sense also simple.

Pacific Northwest Nature-10As this great summer winds down, I am left thinking that we will continue to push ourselves further away from this great land of ours, with the result of losing touch with the physical nature of living.

As we load ourselves up with processed foods and mass-produced ’emotions’ emitting from our screens, at some point we will begin wondering what could have been ~ what if we had moved forward and taken the advice from a 30-year-old sticker: Don’t Die Wondering.

Pacific Northwest Nature-6

Looking forward to seeing my Special Ed friends this year at the Pendleton Round-Up, and to quote one of the happiest faces I have ever seen at the early morning Cowboy Breakfast “This is my favorite time of year…even better than Christmas!”

Looking forward to seeing my Special Ed friends this year at the Pendleton Round-Up, and to quote from one of the happiest smiles I have ever seen from them at the early morning Cowboy Breakfast: “This is my favorite time of year…even better than Christmas!”

 

 

 

Positive Envy

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-3

There is an old saying I think about every now and then: “the grass is always greener on the other side.”

Not so much for its meaning of someone desiring something they believe would improve his or her life, yet in reality would not.  Instead, it is because I think about where I am now, and the possibilities of what could be.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-7

To dream of being in a totally different situation, wondering how great life would be compared to the current situation is intriguing.  The mind is unrealistically focused on what could be gained, with little attention to what would be lost.

A poor example of this: my memory as a kid on a family vacation sitting at a restaurant for breakfast. I would always order the French toast and upon the arrival of the food, look on in envy as my twin sister’s stack of blueberry pancakes taunted me…those pancakes topped with whipped cream looked so much better than my wimpy French toast.

Nothing's Changed...

Nothing’s Changed…

Don't I have a GREAT Sister...

Don’t I have a GREAT Sister…

Didn’t matter that I loved French toast and it always tasted great, for I couldn’t think of anything else except my stomach growling with envy.

Fortunately, it never failed that my little sister would give me a small bite of her pancakes to make me happy (and also get a laugh at the whipped cream that would inevitably find its way to the tip of my nose), and life would be good again.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-17

Such a simple memory, but one of many that demonstrates to me the endless possibilities the mind creates. Hammering home the moral of being happy with what you have and how ridiculous it is to have petty envy.

When positive thinking fuels the mind, things tend to work themselves out.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-12

Over the years, I think most people come to understand it never pays to feel or act on petty-envy or the negatives that “the grass is always greener…” may inspire.  However, I think envy in itself is not bad, as there is still a piece of this feeling that is worth exploring further: “positive envy.”

Comparing a situation with one that is perceived to be better can create a sense of hope; triggering a new dream to inspire. I find inspiration in stories, movies and photographs from all over the world, where I have this feeling of “the grass is always greener…” but understand I can create something similar in my life.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-6

Positive Envy is the excitement at discovering something new from another source and creating a drive to move people up to a higher level (no matter how small).

My favorite definition of this feeling is this clip from the movie Vision Quest: seeing and experiencing something so spectacular, that it lifts the spirit to a higher level of existence. Once this emotion is felt, it is impossible not to develop a drive and try to achieve such a moment yourself.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-14

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-16

There are many such vision quests in life, and for me seeing places I may never visit ~ but through photographs, videos and stories, it becomes easy to imagine myself creating a life there. Positive envy of someone experiencing such a different way of life brings adventure into my day.

As mentioned in an earlier writing, Let The Show Begin…, photography, music and sports are just two examples where inspiration thrives.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-878

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-9

Recently, I traveled to Dongchuan, Yunnan in SW China and arranged a home stay; a perfect way to get a glimpse into the life of locals. There were a few older people I met who shared their stories, their struggles and mostly their simple brilliance of happiness that they had collected over their lifetime.

Sharing a part of their history, through their words I could imagine the very time/place/emotions to a point where it felt as if I had lived that life alongside them.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-13

A very powerful feeling, and while I imagined how great it would be to experience such a place in time; what I appreciated most was the glimpse at the scope of possibilities of people everywhere.

Positive Envy.

Humans have a pretty incredible stretch of capabilities, and while the ideal of accumulating great material wealth is an overriding dream for many…it is usually those who seek a simpler route that find a greater sense of happiness.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-5

A controlled environment tends to pull us all in one direction: “nose to the grindstone” seems to be its mantra, and it is usually led by a group of elitists restricting our freedoms.

To avoid this lunatic fringe that permeates politics and many parts of society, listen to the words of Joseph Campbell and enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path.  Avoid the well-worn path as the road often traveled tends to entice and then subdue the spirit.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-1

In all, I figure that while the “grass may seem greener elsewhere” we attach ourselves to where we are most comfortable.  It is good to explore, to get out and see what is out there…but in the end, it is tough to beat home.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-20

Even when things may look bleak, there is always a smile to brighten the day.  I sat one late afternoon watching the energy of this old man, amid a group of locals sharing his stories. “I can’t afford to be sad because right now is all I may have…and I’ve been saying this for more than 10 years!” and he laughed which made everyone laugh.

If the time ever comes when I am missing all my teeth, I’ll accept it…but until then I will make sure to enjoy the feel of biting into a crisp apple during a hot day.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-8

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-777

“The grass is always greener…” It is a difficult proverb to dissect, because there are so many ways to look at it. Here in Dongchuan, most of the people in this village dream of their children being able to live in Hong Kong (or any Chinese metropolis), as these cities have a higher standard of living.

I can understand this. These are significant dreams to have, and it can fuel positive envy: a flow of ideas that lead to a realm of unimaginable successes.  Wherever the dream flows, a happy child is the real goal.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-10

I suppose that is the magic of life. At some point in time, it is necessary for the soul to search and begin its own Vision Quest.  To lift those around you to a higher level of happiness.  What that quest is and where it flows varies greatly among us all.

With that said, sometimes the grass is actually greener, and if possible, worth checking out for yourself.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-19

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-4

Men in Management – Myanmar and Beyond

Myanmar - Yangon Men In Management-1

“Progress isn’t made by early risers.
It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” 
~Robert A. Heinlein

What more needs to be said?  This is a perfect quote.

For us men, we take to heart the point of “while appearing lazy, we actually accomplish a lot.”  A thought I toasted many a beer to during travels in Myanmar with our guide Mr. Thu.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-2

Conversely, my sister Sandi and our other guide in Myanmar, Ms. Kay-K, had the opposing view, and while they agreed with the first part of the assessment of “being lazy”, they vehemently disagreed with the last part where men actually accomplish anything.

In fact, if I remember correctly, Kay-K’s comment was simply “men accomplishing something?!?” before she broke out in laughter along with my sister.

Inle Lake Myanmar - Men In Management-3

It was at this point I realized this may be a long trip.  The banter began the first day during our drive out into the countryside and witnessing an endless amount of roadwork taking place.

The roadwork included strenuous labor; baskets and baskets of rocks being carried to-and-fro, digging, leveling and preparation of the road by pick and hand as the crew worked on repairs.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-4

It was a matter of time before my sister asked the logical question, “Thu, there are only women doing this road work… where are the men?”

With a start, Thu snapped out of his nap, looked outside the car window, and nonchalantly replied: “Oh, the men?  The men are in management…” and closed his eyes to go back to sleep.  I stifled my laughter.

Monks at Play Myanmar - Men In Management-5

I thought Thu’s response was perfect, even though over the past decades of tormenting my three sisters about the ‘wonders of being a man’ I should have known a storm was inevitably brewing.

Hiding my smile, I would have high-fived Mr. Thu if he wasn’t fading back to sleep and I didn’t have a beer in each hand…

Yangon Myanmar - Men In Management-6

“It sounds like the old boys network,” my sister said to Kay-K.  “Men in power, pretending to be significant while the rest of us do the real work that keeps us moving forward.”

“Of course, it is the same everywhere isn’t it?” cooed Kay-K, casting a wary eye my way.  “Dalo, were you part of the old men’s club with your work in the USA?”

“Well, yeah, I suppose I was…  I was part of a male upper-management team.” I quickly inhaled the last of my beer, a little worried at what I was getting myself into.  Mr. Thu just opened one eye looking back at me as if to say  “feign sleep, it’s your only way out…”

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-7

Yet before I could put my head back and close my eyes, Kay-K was quick to ask, “And was working with this company good for you?”

“Uh, yeah, it was nice.  I was able to buy a nice house, save some money and take such nice trips as this…” I added, wondering where this was going, although knowing it was not going to end well and too late to do anything about it…

“And how about the company now; the common employees?” she looked at me inquisitively.

Yangon Myanmar - Men In Management-8

“Uh, well, I left the company last year but I do know that the employees there are struggling a bit as there have been huge cuts within the company, but they did announce record profits last year.” I smiled, and decided now was the time to close my eyes and try Thu’s trick of feigning sleep.

“Making cuts?  Record profits?” Kay-K questioned, and laughed with a sharp tone, “and let me guess, the old men in the executive positions are walking away with big bonuses…”

With eyes closed, I let out a couple snores, hoping to dissolve the conversation.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-9

Not sure how much time passed in our conversation, but the ‘pop’ of a fresh beer opening gave me away as my hand shot-out instinctively and Kay-K replaced the one I was holding with a fresh one.

Slowly squinting, I opened my eyes, checking to see if all was well and turned to look outside.  Could not have been worse timing, as immediately we passed a group of women working the fields, and I felt Kay-K’s stare burning the back of my head.

Women of Bagan Myanmar - Men In Management-10

Cracking a meager smile, I turned and said, “If I have learned correctly, the men are in management, elsewhere, correct?!?”  Thu lifted up his beer in a silent toast as sarcastic jeers came from Kay-K and sis.

Inle Lake Myanmar - Men In Management-11

Ahead of us was Old Bagan, with some of the most beautiful landscapes one will ever see and I anxiously prepped my gear for a nice evening of shooting.  As we started walking to one of the temples, Kay-K flashed a smile and said, “so, you take photographs and drink beer…that is very nice.  You’d be a very good Myanmar man…”  And with a laugh she ran and caught up with my sister.

Pindaya Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-12

The evening shoot was magical, the spirit of the people incredible…peaceful and playful.  Mixed within these incredible archeological sites, Thu and Kay-K talked a lot about the history and culture of the land as well as the men and women.

“There is a saying that my Dad taught me and I take it to heart.”  Thu said, “For men who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, just remember that’s where the knives are kept.”

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-13

“Myanmar not too long ago was a matriarchal society, and women held all the right to inherit wealth and were leaders of villages…” Kay-K smiled.  “Most men hate to admit to it, but it was a very prosperous period for our country.”

Kay-K Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-14

“And when women were forced into the background, guess what happened to our country…” Kay-K added, “power struggles, egos of men creating chaos.  We lost generations of fresh minds and new ideas…it is sad.  Why are men so moronic when it comes to fighting?”

Monk and Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-15

I rubbed the small scar on my chin, a result of a long ago fight that even during the brawl I don’t think anyone knew what we were fighting for.  Hmmm, probably not the best time to tell that story.

“We’ve always had a feel for progress and for freedom, and the men know it…perhaps their knowing it makes them so lazy.” Kay-K sighed.

Myanmar - Men In Management-16

“Men know that we will cleanup their mess, so when things get tough ~ men turn to us, but hate to admit they need us.” With that she grabbed my sister’s hand and both of them tromped off to the market to find some exotic foods for dinner.

Inle Lake Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-17

I look at Thu who shook his head and smiled.  “She is a little troublesome…but it is true.  Men can either fear and repress women, and watch the world fall apart.  Or men can proudly promote women and enjoy their greatness and prosperity.”

As he popped open a couple of beers, Thu settled down underneath the shade of a tree with a newspaper in hand and added, “Me, I’d rather enjoy their greatness.”

Old Bagan Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-18

From the front page of the paper Thu was reading, the word “Hope” stood out followed by a discussions of two future elections.  Elections that may just see a change in the theory of ‘Men in Management.’

Myanmar 2015 Presidential Election:  Aung San Suu Kyi
United States 2016 Presidential Election: Hillary Clinton
 

Hope for the Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-19

 

Old Bagan Myanmar - Men In Management-24

“Say Romeo, what about your promise to the He-Man-Woman-Haters-Club?”
“I’m sorry, Spanky.  I’ve got to live my own life.”  – REO Speedwagon, Hi Infidelity Album

Dreams Between Dusk and Dawn

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-1

 “There is a road…between the dawn and the dark of night and if you go,
no one may follow, as that path is for your steps alone.”  ~ Jerry Garcia

The wisdom of Jerry Garcia resonates with me as the wrathful fingers of winter turn into the chilly, wet hands of spring.  I search for my path.  A place to watch and dream from afar; to quietly witness the darkness of winter transform into the dawn of spring.

Standing against an ancient wall, spread across the plains of Bagan is my first Myanmar sunrise.  With the break of dawn, my slate is washed clean and ready to be filled up again with dreams that come my way.

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-77

There is a saying, “Dreams die at dawn…” which I never cared for, as I believe dreams begin at dawn.  Then I saw a quote by Oscar Wilde, “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world”

Perfect. Dawn, a dialectical point in time where dreams may wither and die yet at the same time be realized; the dreamer is there to witness both the inspiration and sadness.  For me, this is the definition of dawn.

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-78

As a kid, I never gave much thought about the beauty of early morning.  I stayed in bed as long as possible…even though many of my dreams originated in books and folklore that romanticized this part of the day.

Mornings were written beautifully, where cowboys, explorers, Native American heroes and adventurers always touched upon the magic of dawn and daybreak.

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-4

Daybreak would be accompanied by the glow of an early morning fire, whether to bring warmth to the beginning of the day or to brew a cup of coffee.

While reading, I would dream of sitting alongside the men and women as they drank their coffee…quietly pondering the day of uncertainty that lay ahead.  To this day, I believe this is one reason I savor my morning cup of coffee.

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-79

Watching the early morning sky, I think of dreams drifting aimlessly like a balloon, its path relying on the wind.  The land below contradictorily familiar, yet exotic.

The pre-dawn moment where dreams either move forward to live another day, or silently drift into death…

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-80

I once wrote:  She poetically said: Dawn is the time where the air is freshest and the electricity of our dreams we had during the night are out there for us to see…and it is at dawn when our dreams sparkle in hope that today will be the day when the dreamer claims them…instead of once again being tossed aside.”

Dawn allows us a moment to see and grasp at these dreams before they disappear.

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-84

It is funny how vivid the mind can become in the quietness of dawn.  We can sense ourselves doing something extraordinary, just as we did when we were kids.  It seems when we were younger, dreams were more intense and crazy, and as an adult they become more serene, perhaps even mystical.

I suppose there is no comparison.  On one hand we have the younger mind of a rabid idealist versus an older mind of cynic: a cynic who realizes how much unclaimed potential we all leave out there.

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-8

It is this strange contradictory nature of dawn and maturity that makes life interesting.  In our youth, we revel in the late night/early morning hours.  Intrigued by the peace of a post-midnight sky and the eerily quietness of the streets and the wilderness.

Breathtaking to feel so alive with energy in the dead of night, as if this moment was created for the young: the world waiting to be explored.  All the action and chaos of the previous day and night comes to a crescendo and slowly unwinds in the peaceful stillness of darkness.

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-82

Come adulthood, for me this youthful fervor of post-midnight revelry has been replaced by an aching love for the early morning.

Being in a place like Myanmar, I feel the same wonderful spirit of daybreak that I have whether looking over wheat fields of Pendleton, pink rays breaking over Mt. Rainier in Seattle or the incredible Hong Kong harbor coming to life bathed in gold from the morning sun.

Dawn creates this state of bliss, a start of every beautiful day.

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-10

James Douglas wrote: “it is a good idea to be alone at dawn, so that all its shy presence may haunt you, possess you in a reverie of suspended thought.”

There is much truth to this saying, which is why I enjoy this time of peace and solitude alone.  However, it can be special sharing such moments with others; to occasionally open up this time to share dreams and thoughts…

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-88

The two weeks I spent traveling in Myanmar had endless moments of amazement, and I was so happy to be able to share it all with my sister, Sandi.  While we enjoyed our photography, the endless talks and creating adventures is what made the trip so eventful.

What good is the happiness of early morning dawn, the moment to wander among dreams, if you can never share it with others?

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-83

“For with each dawn, she found new hope that someday,
her dreams of happiness would come true.”  ~ Cinderella

Bagan Myanmar Golden Hour - Blue Hour-81Best wishes to Ajaytao 2010, for bringing inspiration to many…

A Vortex of Inspiration in the Depths of Winter

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-5

There are those who wake up each morning bathed in a glorious sunrise…steam rising off the hot springs outside their door as they gaze across the sky, admiring a rising sun and the beauty of nature.  A beauty whose only rival is the one they have laying across their chest as they rest in bed.

If this is you, then this post will likely not be of interest…

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-10

Instead, as the holiday season winds down and the bleak side of winter seeps in, this post is for those who feel the dark, deep cold of the season beginning to weigh on their spirit.

This post is for the person jogging down a mountain in twilight, hoping to make it to the car before the sky really opens up with snow and freezing rain…

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-12

While luck is on their side, as they make it to the car right before the sky opens, it is a short-lived moment of elation as they find out that once again “someone” left the dome light on in the car prior to the hike… and the only thing colder than the car battery is their sinking heart looking forward to a cold night before help arrives.

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-1

These are the moments that tend to define the depths of winter.  Early winter has the excitement of a change of seasons: the feeling of the first crisp chill in the air, the beauty of the first snowfall and perhaps a dark-haired girl in a sweater with eyes twinkling as she takes a sip of her coffee.

Yuanfen- Us Dancing

But then through the rush of the holiday season, reality begins to set in: the first snowfall is accompanied with closed roads and slush.  The crisp chill in the air is soon accompanied by a weekend cold, and the girl with the twinkling eyes…well, she keeps things fresh enough to make the winter blues worthwhile.

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-8

To most, the dead of winter is defined by crappy weather and long periods of time stuck indoors.  And while we remain trapped inside our hellish cells of purgatory, just outside our doors the Whooper Swans are living it up.  Frolicking and almost taunting us as they swim, soar and romance as we lay tucked up inside our homes.

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-6

Winter brings a strange mix.

While the winter landscape is incredible, the weather does not make it easy to jump out of bed and run around outside and enjoy the great scenes of sunshine and smiles.   Instead, we are faced with the joyless scene of the grey & blues of winter.

However, when inspiration strikes and we brave the wind and cold, we can shed the blues and get a spark of summer in the dead of winter.

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-2

This spark of summer in the dead of winter is what we need to search for as February looms ahead.  As after the initial thrill of a new winter season wears off, we are tested.  The abundance of patience in which we start the season with vanishes quickly during the holiday season, leaving us with a sense of dread.

As we slowly drive each other crazy with our pacing and longing for warm, sunny days…ahead is the worst month of the year.

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-3

We can either hide our heads and suffer, succumbing to the cold and curse it in our misery, or simply shake off the chills and celebrate winter.  A cup of Irish coffee, compatible friends and a great view from a frosted window looking out into the bleak, frozen glory of wintertime is a good start.

Somewhere there will be an opportunity to get out and enjoy what winter can offer.  With Chinese New Year just ahead and signaling a close to the holiday season, I look forward to venturing out and making a watery splash to the great Year of the Horse.

Cheers to all!

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-4

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan-13

NOTE: These photos were taken in Hokkaido, Japan between Lake Mashuko and Rausu.  As luck would have it, we had every type of weather making for a great shooting environment.  One of the best days was getting out to shoot in blizzard conditions as we were stranded with road closures (below photo is of John Shaw, one of the world’s best wildlife photographers).

Whooper Swan Hokkaido Lake Mashuko Japan John Shaw -11

Sexy Mother Nature Shows-off Her Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons2-67HDR

Mother Nature is proof that women rule the world.  Us men are mere toys: something to humor them when they are bored and someone to torment, yet love.  Every time I think I will be clever and try to outsmart the fairer sex…in the end I am humbled.

Understanding this is what made my late-summer plans ridiculous.

Jackson-Grand Tetons-308HDR

I thought I would spend the time romancing the daughters of Mother Nature.  The plan was pretty simple: visit my steady girl Ellinor (of Olympic National Park fame), have a wonderful time together, and then later sneak off to Wyoming to visit her sisters Teton and Yellowstone, to see if their rumored natural beauty was true.

A quick trip, a simple glance and then I would head back to Seattle to be closer to my girl.

Jackson-Grand Tetons-519

Now, I like to think that I am a one-woman man and Ellinor is the girl for me.  I have the approval of Mother Nature, who after some initial concerns, seems to have approved of this relationship.

Despite this good fortune of having such a great lady, it is also impossible to ignore the wisps of allure from across the “room” that can spark a man’s interest: beautiful eyes and generous peaks inviting a lucky soul to walk on the wild side.

Jackson-Grand Tetons-53HDR

Perhaps I mistook the twinkle of the stars in the night’s sky, for a twinkle in her eye, but before I could think, I was in my car speeding towards Wyoming, with a Johnny Cash CD blaring out the song “Jackson” and the infamous lyrics “I’m going to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around…”

Somewhere I’m sure I was thinking…“you’ve got it all with Ellinor and the Olympic National Park, can’t you be content?”  but Johnny pushed those thoughts into the back recesses of my mind.

Jackson-Grand Tetons-388HDR

The description of Jackson, Wyoming has been simply stated as “an oasis nestled between the Tetons and heaven.”  While I’ve question the idea of love at first sight, I think I have been proven wrong.  Let’s just say, after my arrival in Jackson, my mind was swimming as I began looking at houses in the area, preparing for a life-changing move.  Teton was that beautiful.

Grand Tetons2-164HDR

My flirtation with Teton was something I will never forget.  Sigh…  I could tell you story after story, but I know you would think it was something I stole out of Penthouse Letters so I will forego such details.

Perhaps the photographs of sunlight & reflections can paint a more accurate picture than my words ever could…

Grand Tetons2-117HDR

Jackson-Grand Tetons-231HDR

Little did I know while hiking trails in Teton, riding on the winds out of the north, came a waft of perfume…no mistaking it came from the home of Yellowstone.  The scent of another woman, and it broke the spell that Teton had cast on me.

It was with a heavy heart, yet with a spring in my step, I snuck back to my car as dusk settled on the day and barreled out-of-town, heading into Yellowstone to camp on her doorstep for the night.

Yellowstone GT-65HDR

Yellowstone.  Wow.  How could a man walk away from such a beauty without surrendering his soul?  As I heard thunder off in the distance…I realized that I had just been struck by a thunderbolt of beauty and passion.

Yellowstone, this could be a long and complicated relationship.

YellowstoneNP-2

As I dozed off to sleep, for a moment I felt as if I was floating in bliss with wet kisses of Yellowstone falling upon me.  With a shock, I woke within my sieve of a tent now acting as a small lake and the beating rain of Mother Nature’s fury ensuring me that my nightmare was just beginning.

Yellowstone GT-140HDR

Lusting after three beautiful daughters of Mother Nature, not a situation I had expected.  Each enchanting me like no other…putting on their best face, and waking me each morning with a kiss of sunshine.  They have shown me things I had never before thought possible…and feeling a high I never thought achievable.

Jackson-Grand Tetons-130HDR

It is often said you yearn more for what is unattainable, and this yearning clouds the mind.  I guess while I was singing along to “Jackson” on the way down, I missed the chorus of June Carter-Cash, “Yeah, go to Jackson, you big-talkin’ man…And I’ll be waiting in Jackson…”

With Mother Nature adding: “to hunt you down…”

Yellowstone GT-185HDR

My quick escape to Jackson was made with clothing for temperatures in the 70s, so with unexpected wind and rain, I guess you could say I was caught with my pants down when Mother Nature turned the table on me.

  • The winds pierced.
  • The cold penetrated.
  • The lightening blinded.

Rain coming on quicker than I could retreat to shelter, and on one hike when I found the ‘magical’ shot I had been waiting for, down came the hail, hard and swift.  Stinging me with a vengeance as I missed the shot, and made a long run back to the shelter of my car.

Grand Tetons-28

As the trip ended, I was heading home with my head down and tail between my legs.  Fooled and humbled, yet again.

My best lines and suave charm were powerless against these beauties (and for those who don’t know me, that is not saying too much).  I was nothing more than another disillusioned soul, captivated and toyed with the hope of eternal bliss with nature.

All the same, this dash of misery with cold and wet days was quickly forgotten, as my heart still pounded with blood warmed by my encounters.  I couldn’t help but smile.

YellowstoneNP-134

YellowstoneNP-103

Sure, I may be walking away with something close to pneumonia, but it was worth it.  Mother Nature seemed satisfied with my discomfort, believing I had learned my lesson.

The ride home through Montana, Idaho and Washington was beautiful…and I already had a story concocted for Ellinor and the Olympics, and I think Mother Nature is cool with it.

Grand Tetons2-192HDR

These beauties of nature, some may call them Sirens, mystical women who defeat and bring men to their knees.  Myself, I prefer to think of them as Muses providing inspiration to see what is possible and create bigger dreams to chase: reflecting what is hidden in our hearts, so we can recognize our good nature and bring the dreams to life.

Jackson-Grand Tetons-4

As for Mother Nature, she may feel a bit put off with the title of this post, but how could a woman not feel proud of the beauty of her daughters?

The only thing that concerns me, is that while in Jackson, I heard she has three other daughters: Bryce Canyon, Arches and the Grand Canyon in the neighborhood who are said to have beauty rarely seen.  Just my type…

Couldn’t hurt if I took the time one day to stroll down there for a look…could it?!?

Yellowstone GT-83HDR

YellowstoneNP-208

YellowstoneNP-58HDR

%d bloggers like this: