Friday, February 24, 2012

No Celebrations

Wednesday was Losar, Tibetan New Year, and I spent the day with my friends from the Seattle-area Tibetan community. It’s been over four years now that I’ve been hanging out with and photographing the local Tibetans, so one might suspect that I'd go into the day with some what-we-did-in-the-past preconceptions of how my friends would celebrate the New Year. There would be morning prayers at the Tibetan monastery, followed by singing, dancing, and eating, eating, and more eating that would last into the night.

For months now I’ve been looking forward to Losar, if only because it is one Tibetan event when, though I do take photographs, I also kind of force myself to put down my cameras and participate. Losar to me has come to feel like a day when my community-minded friends celebrate the simple joy of being together, and I honor that spirit by talking and laughing more, and perhaps photographing less.

As Losar approached, however, it became clear to me that my friends were in no mood to party, because, with each passing day, the news out of Tibet has become more and more grim. Over 20 monks and nuns have died in the past year by setting themselves on fire in protest of Chinese repression and crackdowns, and, in the end, Tibetans-in-exile throughout the world decided that this New Year would be marked, not by celebration, but by prayers and peaceful protest.

I made the two pictures posted above on Wednesday at the Tibetan monastery in Seattle. One of the images below was shot recently at a candlelight vigil in downtown Seattle, and the other at a rally and protest held outside the Chinese embassy in Vancouver, BC.

If you are interested in more information on current events inside Tibet, here is a link to an NPR story that aired Tuesday:

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Leah’s conversations with her dad, whether in person or over the telephone, often began with gentle, back-and-forth teasing that went something like this:

Leah: “Hey there, Pop!”
Bill: “Hey there, you Rascal!”
Leah: “You’re the RASCAL!”

Their talk would then ramble on, Leah filling her dad in on what was growing in our garden, or what produce she was canning, or the bread she’d just baked. Bill would talk about his golf game, or a trip that he and Leah’s mom had recently made with the senior citizens' group, or what he and the other members of the church choir were going to sing on Sunday.

In the 38 years that Leah and I have been married, I have been the fortunate eavesdropper, observing or listening in on the loving conversations Leah has had with both her parents. But it was her talks with her dad that gave me, as a male, reason to notice the way my father-in-law, a strong, tough guy, former Navy man, turned to Mister Softy when talking with one of his little girls.

Bill’s health has not been good for the past year or more, and two weeks ago the 83-year-old husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather passed away. Leah immediately caught a flight to be with her mom, and I joined them this past weekend.

Family and friends filled the church in our small, Ohio hometown where Bill had sung in the choir, and where his memorial service was held Saturday. Many pictures of my father-in-law’s life were on display: His high school days as a strapping and handsome young athlete; his Navy days; his days with a growing family.

Also on display was a funny picture that I took years ago of Bill, grinning impishly while posing with several Seattle Seahawks “Sea Gal” cheerleaders. Bill had come along with me on the field as I photographed a Seahawks game for Seattle’s morning newspaper. I remember that it took very little prodding on my part to get my father-in-law to pose with the cheerleaders.

Such a Rascal!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sad News

Leah’s father passed away last Thursday, and Leah immediately flew to Ohio to be with her mother. I stayed behind to take care of our small farm and critters, but will join the family tomorrow for a memorial service.

I’m posting the above image today, not because it somehow visually says something about passing seasons -- though it might...I leave the interpretation to you -- but because the scene is one I happened to encounter this week.

Please keep Leah’s family in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Seeing Winter

I’ve visited a lot of parts of this country -- the East Coast, the Midwest, the South, the Plains States -- where I have heard folks make pretty much the same joke about their local weather: “Hell, if you don’t like it, just wait five minutes.”

Here in the mountainous Pacific Northwest, we might offer a slightly different wisecrack: “If you don’t like the weather, just go up a ways.”

The elevation of the small harbor town where I live on Puget Sound is only 69 feet above sea level, but my neighbors and I can look west, crane our necks up a bit toward the Olympic Mountains, and see a range of peaks that reach nearly eight thousand feet into the sky. Or we can turn southeast and take in the view of Mt. Rainier, a massive volcano 14, 411 feet in elevation and the highest summit in the Cascades.

As a photographer, I can report that all this up-and-down topography is appealing to the eye, though the differences in altitude make for climatic conditions that are boggling to the mind. Consider the photographs I’m posting today, for example. They are from my two most recent, winter-season hiking outings, and yet the look and feel of the scenes is so very different. The above image is a reflecting pond in a forest near sea level, where, even in winter, the air temperature was in the mid-40’s and the plants growing in the pond were as happy as little green clams. Below is a picture of ice on a decidedly chilly creek in the Olympic Mountains, elevation about 4500 feet. The temperature was 14-degrees.

Like other areas of the country, the five-minute-rule applies here in Washington too, and a clear, sunny day can turn stormy and foul in no time. I have explored amazing places, low and high, for 35 years now. Each unpredictable trail has taken me, not to Lake-This, or Mount-That, but rather to a place of humility.

The more I experience, the less I “know.”