Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pumpkin's Passing

Several days ago I went out to the barn to do morning chores and, as soon as I opened the barn door,  I knew that what I was seeing was not good.  Our old lady goat Pumpkin was lying on her side in the straw, but, rather than getting up and bleating at me to demand her breakfast this instant! as is her way, it seemed that Pumpkin could not move.  I got down on the floor with her and she whimpered a little.  I tried to help her to her feet but she was too weak to get up.

I guessed that maybe Pumpkin had had a stroke.

I pulled my phone from my pocket and called the vet, who said she’d be over in 20 minutes.  I stayed on the floor with Pumpkin, stroking her face.  I told her what a good old goat she was.

The vet arrived and checked Pumpkin but told me what I already suspected: There was nothing that could be done, and that the poor creature was probably in some pain.  She gave Pumpkin an injection of a painkiller-tranquilizer, then another injection to euthanize her.  All the while I continued to stroke Pumpkin’s face and talk quietly to her.

That afternoon Leah and I buried Pumpkin at pretty spot on our property. 

The image above is the last picture I took of Pumpkin, a snap I made with my phone on the first day of May. It happens that I also shot a video,  and today I posted that on YouTube. You can view it by clicking this link:

It was  a warm, summer-like day when I shot the video, the kind of day Pumpkin seemed to love because she'd perfected the laze-about-in-the sun routine. You’ll see Pumpkin yawn, then purr contentedly as she munches hay (without bothering to get up from her nap nest.)  I think you’ll agree that that old gal had a good life. Several weeks from now I’ll pick strawberries and I know I’ll miss having Pumpkin nearby, begging treats.

Leah and I were concerned how our sheep, Smokey, would do alone, without his pasture-mate Pumpkin, but a neighbor kindly brought over a loaner sheep to keep Smokey company.  I shot the photo below as the two creatures tentatively got to know one-another.

And so it goes...

Friday, May 24, 2013


It was a week and a half ago that I returned home from a trip to Oregon where I spent four days photographing appearances by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet.

Life moves on, and,  even as amazing and profound as the Dalai Lama’s lectures were for the thousands in attendance -- and certainly for me personally -- the days do pass and things change. This week I flew to the Midwest to spend several days visiting my mom;  and today I’m back at my home near Puget Sound, packing photo gear and charging camera and strobe batteries in preparation for a wedding I’m shooting this evening.

Yes, life does move on.  I have new photographs I’ve made in the days since my Dalai Lama experience, and those images are sized and sitting on my computer desktop, ready to post here.  But before I can file Dalai Lama pictures in my archive or mentally consider the Dalai Lama experiences to be "memories,"  there are a number of images from the Oregon trip that simply need to be shared. The newer stuff will just have to wait its turn.  

Here are the backstories of what I want to share with you today:

There is the image above of His Holiness, waving to a crowd of Tibetans who had gathered to hear him speak in Portland.  The backdrop of the picture is a mural of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, where the Dalai Lama lived until 1959 when the Chinese army invaded Tibet and His Holiness fled to India. 

And there are photos, below, of some of the faces I saw in the crowds -- Tibetans who waited in lines for hours and hours to pass through security checkpoints to enter venues where the Dalai Lama would speak.  The US State Department’s security measures are tight for a visit here by the Dalai Lama, whose life has been threatened (odd and perverse, isn’t it,  that there are individuals who would try to do harm to a man whose message is kindness, compassion, and peace?) Children often fell asleep in their parents laps as the elders waited to hear their spiritual leader.

Excitement, joy, reverence, and even fatigue:  Those days I followed the Dalai Lama were full, and looking at these pictures makes me smile.  I don't use the word lightly when I say that, for me,  the experience was "unforgettable."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Four Days with the Dalai Lama

The last time I wrote,  I was about to head off to Oregon for four days to photograph lectures and teachings given by the man my Tibetan friends refer to as “His Holiness,”  the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. 

Though it has always been my preference to visually document the lives of  the average Joe or Josephine -- farmers, factory workers, grade school teachers,  and kids on Little League teams -- editors nevertheless occasionally assigned me to make pictures of individuals you and I tend to think of as being “famous,” or “idols.”  Sometimes it was my job to get up close and fairly personal to make images of heads of state, artists, rock bands, and world-class athletes.

As we all know -- but too often seem to forget -- fame is a surface kind of thing.  A political leader might look and sound good when up on a podium addressing a crowd; and a professional baseball player might have the freakish ability to throw a hardball, on one hop, from deep right field to third base.  But neither of those individuals, when it comes to personal conduct,  is necessarily someone you'd want your kid to adopt as a hero.

The Dalai Lama, though...well, I’m pretty sure he is the Real Deal.

A frail Tibetan nun can approach the Dalai Lama, ask for a blessing,  and the comforting compassion he offers is palpable. 

The Dalai Lama enters a room and Tibetans offer him white, ceremonial scarves, which he accepts, then gives back -- a gesture of humility.  "I am just a simple monk," he says.

And at the end of every speech the Dalai Lama gives, an organizer steps to the microphone and tells the crowd how much money was collected through ticket sales and says that, per instructions from the Office of the Dalai Lama, all money will go to charity.

“My religion is kindness,” the Dalai Lama said to one of the crowds in Oregon, adding:  “Try to do good for others, and, if you cannot do good, at least do no harm.”


Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Big Week

For my Tibetan friends, these are days that must be similar to the way I felt when I was five-years-old and it was the night before Christmas.

Two days ago my friends gathered in their monastery in Seattle and received a teaching from Sakya Trizin Rinpoche (above,) one of the most revered spiritual leaders of Tibetan Buddhist culture. And tomorrow,  most of the 300 Tibetans from Seattle will make the three hour drive to Portland, Oregon, where they will have an audience with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

Even for an American like me, this is an exciting week.  Since 2007 when Leah and I traveled to Nepal and camped for a few days among Tibetan refugees who had fled their homeland, I’ve been doing volunteer photography for the Tibetan community in Seattle.  Leah and I have attended dances and dinners, we’ve eaten momos, and learned to love Tibetan butter tea. Better still, we have felt welcomed, embraced, maybe even adopted by our friends' community.

I too will make the trip to Portland to hang with this Nobel Prize-winning man of peace, the Dalai Lama.

Stay tuned.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Beachboys: NOT!

We started up the Fourth of July Creek Trail Sunday in shirtsleeves,  and I kind of wished I’d been wearing shorts rather than long pants.  My friends and I guessed that the temperature must have been close to 70 and we were LOVING the warmth...but it was not to last because the path was steep and in a matter of just a few hours we gained nearly five thousand feet in elevation and found ourselves in deep snow.

We were on Icicle Ridge in Central Washington at an elevation of about seven thousand feet, and my two hiking companions and I agreed that the place was appropriately named because it was cold-cold-COLD up there;  and, as it seems has been the case on most of our hikes for the past 10 months, we were back in the land of Winter.

No Hawaiian shirts or lazing around on beach towels up on Icicle Ridge, baby.  It was time once again to pull down jackets and stocking caps out of our packs. Eat lunch fast, then head back down to where it is warm.

Not that my friends and I mind snow, you understand, but I found myself thinking: "Next weekend, if someone in the group suggests a hike with “Icicle” in its name, we need to come up with another plan.”