Thursday, April 24, 2014

Milestones on the Road

It’s been over five years now that I’ve been making photographs for the Seattle-area Tibetan community, and, though five years does not seem to me to be a particularly long period of time,  I have witnessed some of life’s greatest moments of transition: The birth of children, wedding celebrations, and deaths.

A couple of weeks ago I learned that a sweet, elderly Tibetan gentleman, a monk who by all accounts had lived a life of great kindness and compassion toward others, had passed away. The monk’s family invited me to a Shay-gu ceremony, a kind of memorial service, held at the Tibetan monastery in Seattle.

Above are pictures from my archives that I had done of the gentleman in recent years at two different Tibetan community events; and below are images from the Shay-gu ceremony.

There’s a James Taylor song that I like very much, “Enough To Be On Your Way,” and the song’s lyrics have been in my head recently:

“So the sun shines on a funeral just the same as on a birth, the way it shines on everything that happens here on Earth...”

Only a few days after the Shay-gu ceremony, I did pictures for a young Tibetan couple at their wedding. It was a simple, sweet event, and the only people in attendance were the bride and groom, a few of the celebrants from the monastery, and me.

Five years ago when I began to do pictures for the Tibetans, I of course had no idea how my photographic undertaking would evolve -- no sense that the work would become a labor of love,  or that I’d wind up with an entire community of new friends.  At the time, I just kind of raised my hand and said “I volunteer.”

In hindsight, as Sweet Baby James might say,  I was “on my way.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Three Hikes

Back in early January one of my hiking buddies sent me an email recapping the facts and figures for the mountain adventures we had done in 2013.

“If baseball is nothing but a game of statistics,” he wrote,  “why can't hiking be, too?”

I understood that my friend was joking, because the reality is that we don’t do hikes so that later we can brag about how many miles we have traveled, or how high we have climbed on a peak. Our trips are more about breathing clean air, taking in the beauty of nature, recharging our spirits.

Still, the numbers were kind of fun to know. According to my friend’s journal, we did 42 hikes in 2013; traveled 391 miles, for an average of 9.3 miles per hike;  and gained 105,404 feet (19.96 miles) of elevation, for an average of 2,510 feet per hike.

“If nothing else,” my friend concluded, “doing this calculation demonstrates that I have way, way too much idle time on my hands.”

Today I thought I’d post sets of pictures I’ve shot on hikes my friends and I have done the past three weekends.

The image above is one that a friend shot of me, laying in the high country snow and using a compact camera to make snaps of the others who were on the trip (I also carry a larger camera to use for more "serious" pictures.)

That hike was on the Icicle Ridge Trail in the Central Cascades, a route that begins down low in warm, spring sunshine,  but climbs 4800-feet into snow.

A week later we decided to head to the dry, sagebrush country in the Yakima River Canyon. Meadowlarks sang to us as we made the several-hour trek up, up, up to the top of Umtanum Ridge.  Colorful, sunburned lichens decorated the rocks of the canyon.

And last weekend a friend and I headed to Mt. Rainier to make the long, snowy trek to Camp Muir at 10,200 feet, the spot where most climbers spend their first night when making the 2-day trip to the 14, 409-foot summit.  We were in snow every step of the way that day but there was not a cloud in the sky. Most of the day it was warm enough that we hiked in just our base layer clothing, not needing jackets.

At day’s end we lingered on Rainier to watch evening light paint nearby Pyramid Peak a red-gold color, and a nearly-full moon rose to complete the picture.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rite of Spring

So here’s something nice:

We keep an old golf umbrella on our front porch and we use it for rainy-day trips out to the barn to feed the chickens.

Come springtime the past several years,  we have opened the umbrella and found a tiny tree frog camped-out inside.

We carefully close the umbrella and put it back in its place, so as not to scare the camper.

Could this be the same frog, year after year,  returning to his snug,  blue campsite?  We have no idea.  But I opened the umbrella one rainy morning earlier this week and, sure enough, a green visitor was inside.  I took the picture you see above, then carefully refolded the umbrella.

I walked to the barn, minus the raincover.

I also made a recording of the frog's brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, singing down at our pond.  Click on the link to hear their full-throated, fortissimo,  rite-of-spring chorus:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Oso Mudslide

One of the things I try to do when I go on hiking and photo trips here in the Pacific Northwest is to patronize mom-’n-pop grocery stores or pubs in the small mountain towns where I’m hiking or making photographs. By doing this, I put my money into that local economy, plus I get to hang out with nice folks,  and maybe even  hear stories about what it’s like to live in Ashford, Washington, at the foot of Mt. Rainier, or in Ellensburg, in Central Washington’s dry,  sagebrush country.

Some of those mountain towns have come to feel almost  like second homes to me. A trip is not “official” for me if I haven’t stopped to buy a hunk of locally-made cheese at Everybody’s Store in Van Zandt, or had a beer at the historic Brick Tavern in Roslyn.

Thus, my heart is heavy this week as I have followed the terrible news about the recent, deadly  mudslide in Oso, Washington that killed 29 people, with 20 still missing. Oso is one of the mountain towns I have visited often when I’ve done hikes near Glacier Peak; and, in fact, my hiking friends and I had considered a trip near there the weekend of the slide. It turned out that a weather forecast of better weather in Central Washington took us in that direction instead.

The mudslide in Oso is one of those events that I’m sure reminds all of us that each day of life is a gift. I woke one morning this week and the first thing I saw, before I even got out of bed, was the scene above: Spring blossoms on the flowering plum trees in our back yard, and beautiful light on the bedroom curtains.  Another day presented the image you see below.  Two days.  Two gifts.

Several months ago when I photographed an address that the Dalai Lama gave to a crowd of several thousand in Oregon, he began his talk by saying: “Good morning brothers and sisters.”  He went on to talk about the many ways we human beings are similar, the things we have in common, and he said we should practice love and compassion for one-another.

“Human beings are social creatures,” the Dalai Lama has said. “A concern for each other is the very basis of our life together.”