Shrine Side Trip

A shrine in Hokane, Japan

While on our trip to Hokane to view Mt Fuji we spotted this shrine next to one of the train stops.  We couldn’t resist getting off to explore on our way home.  It was a bit scary getting off the train, not knowing when the last train went by or where exactly we even were on the mountain side.  The shrine was fascinating.  It was so different from the shrines in Thailand, though I saw some similar themes.  The sun was setting and the woods around the area was getting quite dark, giving the whole area a mystical feel.  It made me wonder if some of the demons and spirits always seen in occult animme were watching from trees.

Elephants of Thailand

A baby elephant in a viewing corral in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

When vacationing in Thailand the province of Chiang Mai is popular choice for both tourists and Thai alike, all looking for one thing, elephants.  Elephants have long been one of my favorite animals so my stay in Thailand just wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to Chiang Mai.

The baby pictured above is chained to it’s mother in front of the loading area for the elephant rides.  The rides were much more exciting than what you normally see in the US.  Instead of just going around a loop while someone guides the elephant from the ground, a handler rides on the front of the elephants head and guides the elephant around the scenic park.  At one point we even got to ride through a river.

My dad like’s to tell me how Thai children find the English word elephant very amusing because it is so complex.  In Thai the word for elephant is “chang”, a very simple word in Thai and one of the first words babies often learn.  For Thai culture the elephant is more than just a native animal it is a symbol and a deep part of their culture so “chang” is and important word.   (I find it a bit amusing that it is now also the name of a popular beer.)  Recently the first fully computer animated film made in Thailand came out, called Khan Khluay, about a famous war elephant owned by one of Thailand’s great kings.  It had a huge toy market while I was there and I really wanted one of those stuffed animals for myself but for packing purposes had to be content with just bringing a copy of the movie home.

Writing Art

image

Asian forms of writing are so different from the Germanic & Latin based lavished most of us in America are use to that it is easy to see them as purely images of art.  I must admit that’s how I felt when I first saw this scene at Bodha Gaya, India.  I feel a bit guilty because when I see this image I think of a call for peace and harmony, but in since I can’t read Hindi, I have no idea what the sign says.  I always like to wonder what it would be like to view English with out the background of knowledge of meaning.  Do our letters take on the same beauty as Asian characters do?  The seem so plain and boring to me sometimes that I wonder if that would be possible, or is it just my familiarization with them that makes them seems so dull to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love typography and think that it can make beautiful art out of letters, but can the letters become so beautiful that they are art even without meaning?

 

St Patricks

Outside St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.

This picture was taken on the lawn outside of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  I’ve had a some requests for more pictures from Ireland so here is you go.  I believe that you just can’t go to Dublin and without visiting this historical and beautiful building, even if it is just to picnic out on the lawn.  When this picture was taken we were actually waiting for the afternoon service to start.  That was a beautiful experience.  While neither of us regularly practice these days, we were raised going to protestant churches.  Seeing a service in an old and beautiful cathedral brought back all the wonder and fascination I felt as a child being in the giant building of our church.  Perhaps because as a grown up the cathedral is more in proportion to feel so giant and magnificent, like the church did too a child.

A word of warning, be careful of your wording when you are in religious places in Ireland, the tension is still a bit high.  I accidentally called the service a mass and got pretty fiercely chewed out by one of the church workers.  Apparently a mass is a Catholic term, and St Patrick’s is Protestant!

Power

Killiney Folly

This is one of my favorite images from Ireland.  Which is only natural since our trip to Killiney was one of my favorite experiences on our trip.  It was such an exciting and romantic adventure, hiking up the hill through a beautiful and quaint village surrounded by mansions.  This image captured how I was feeling that day.  It also always makes gives me a feeling of power.  The folly is on the top of a very huge hill and adds the the power the biker must have had.  Viewing this image always makes me feel a desire to be stronger and keep pushing forward.

Lions & Tigers & Orangutans Oh My!

Life has sure been busy here in Milwaukee, but these day’s I feel a lot like the tiger in this image from the Milwaukee County Zoo, on the prowl for adventure.  In these incredibly tight financial times being able to go zipping around the world is a bit unrealistic.  Yet there are still new adventures to be had here in Wisconsin.  I recently took a trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo, just a few minutes from my house.  For seeming like such a small town most of the time Milwaukee really does have all the big metropolis features.  The Milwaukee Zoo easily has as much variety as the giant zoo I went to in Thailand.  And even though I worked there for years, I always manage to find new surprises when I go.  Like last time when I learned that seals actually have toenails!

Now I have to plan another trip to the Zoo this fall.  On July 24th, three adorable lion cubs were born!  You can see them at the Milwaukee County Zoo website or by watching a video of them with their mother on YouTube.  We’ve already been lucky enough to enjoy the a youthful bundle of joy in Mahal, the young orangutan sent to our zoo after his mother rejected him, and adopted by our adult female orangutan.  And now we will be getting even more baby fun!

 

Mind’s Garden

The Mind's Garden

This is one of my favorite black and white photos.  The way the lines become almost abstract just moves me.  It’s also one of my entries for a “Dreams” show.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  I’m really trying to hold to that resolution this year and try to get my work out into galleries.  And while that isn’t as much about traveling the world it is about traveling through life and following the wings of adventure in another way.

The photo was taken in a temple garden in Northern India.

Reminders of Home

Hollyhocks in a Thai temple garden in India.

When I was India I got so excited to see the tall stalks of hollyhocks growing in the temple garden.  I was surprised at how many flowers I knew from home were in the garden, I never associated India and Wisconsin with climates compatible with the same vegetation.  It really starts the mind thinking on how the plants around us come to be there.  What are truly native and what are the ones that are just so loved that we can’t imagine a garden without them?  Hollyhocks will always remind me of home, especially my Grandma.  Every year when the hollyhocks bloom my Grandma would make me hollyhock dolls, something her mother taught her to do and her mother before her taught her.  When I saw these in India I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone ever figured out how to make hollyhock dolls there too.  I love hollyhock dolls because they remind me of fairies.  Now that they are blooming in my Grandmother’s yard too I can’t resist making one, after all it’s a tradition 🙂

The Naga of the Night

The Naga at night.

The picture above is a common temple decoration in Thailand.  The large green dragon creature is called a Makara, and the serpents coming out of his mouth are the Naga.  It’s really quite amazing how religious mythology travels around Asia, borrowing and reinventing.  The makara and the naga are both Hindu originally but like many items from Hindu mythology can be seen making guest appearances in Buddhist practices in other countries.  It’s always a humbling experience standing at the steps of a temple looking up at the beasts.  It is also a very empowering feeling standing at the top of a temple looking down on the twisting body of such a creature.

Kanchantaburi Temple at Night

The temple in Kanchantaburi

The temple in Kanchantaburi, Thailand at night.

I can’t stress enough how beautiful Kanchantaburi was.  We were there during Songkran so I did not feel comfortable going to the temple service for a holy event I didn’t understand, so instead I waited outside and took photographs.  It was amazing how many stars were out so far away from the cities.  I often go out to the country or the state parks in Wisconsin.  Yet up in the mountains I felt even more removed from the influences of the city.  I was amazed how many stars I was able to pick up on film, the image is a bit grainy but still captures the stillness of the night.