2018 Visual Meditations with New Weekly Images

I have portfolios at  AWEgallery.com called weekly 2.  In this blog I offer you two/three new images each week with a little commentary from my soul and techniques used to create them. I consider my images  “visual meditations.”  ENJOY/share – and blessings for your journey.  SCROLL DOWN for older posts (including 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017). Blessed Be!

Posted in Weekly 2 | Comments Off on 2018 Visual Meditations with New Weekly Images

February Post 1 – Let’s build bridges not walls

I have always loved the phrase, “Build bridges not walls.”    A bridge is an archetypal image, a metaphor for communication, possibilities and human experiences.  As a metaphor, a bridge between people enables the passage of ideas; it connects those who are in different places; it transitions us from one frame of mind to another; it opens up the opportunity for people to be helped and empowered; and it reduces isolation.

Walking a bridge can be a spiritual experience. It enables a person to notice things from various vantage points not possible without it.  Many bridges span vast bodies of water or deep dark gorges, places ineffably beautiful but otherwise treacherous to cross.

I am fortunate to live in a area with multiple bridges of different designs that bring people to and from the city.  One of the most iconic, of course, is the Golden Gate Bridge.  Almost every time I cross it, I am doing more than just getting to the other side.

Sometimes the bridge is so lost in fog that I begin to meld with the liquid gray, causing the emotional noise in my life to fade into the background of that day’s journey.  At other times, when puffy clouds are serenely dancing around the towers,  a great sense of playfulness enters my veins and refuses to leave.  Try to get back to the reality of a workday after that!  Recently fog and puffy clouds, blue sky and sunrays merged around the south tower presenting what seemed a bridge to nirvana.  Boats sailed below. That beautiful orange icon did it again, taking me to places of peace, joy, challenge and adventure.

We need “bridges” between people right now in our country. We are becoming quite polarized and divided, unwilling to listen to those with different views than our own.  We need to cross over metaphorical bridges that hold out the possibility of connecting one place, idea, people to another place, idea, people.

The steel and concrete bridges around us can remind us of that, as can other types of bridges.  The internet, for example, is a kind of “cyber-bridge” which connects “real to virtual.”

May the concept of “bridging” as “bringing together” be lifted up in all our hearts with every bridge crossing!  Let’s build bridges with the environment, between those at both ends of the wealth gap, the diverse cultures of our world, and the broad range of human gender identities so that we live on a truly beautiful, equitable and sustainable home planet!

Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on February Post 1 – Let’s build bridges not walls

January post 1 – the earth is getting short-changed!

In the early winter months I enjoy photographing migratory birds, mushrooms and rain.  Until a few days ago the mushrooms and rain were very scarce.  But today I am able to sing a favorite song from my childhood:  “I saw raindrops on my window, joy is like the rain. Laughter runs across my pane, slips away and comes again, joy is like the rain.”  These words were penned and put to music by Miriam Teresa Winters, the Roman Catholic feminist who has called herself a “dissident in place.”

I think my palette, the earth, is getting short-changed these days, if not outright attacked.  I don’t think her dissident children can simply protest “in place.”  One new resolve for me is to contribute to the Environmental Defense Fund.  The EDF helps mitigate climate change, repair damaged ecosystems, restore wildlife habitat and protect us and our food sources from toxic chemicals.  In addition, it is advocating and litigating fiercely against attempts to roll back core environmental protections.

The Trump administration and Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt are championing 30 percent cuts to the EPA’s budget.  That would take its funding to its lowest level since the 1970s.  At the same time, industry insiders and lobbyists are being appointed to EPA leadership positions to oversee the polluting industries they come from.

Oyster Catcher – Bodega Bay

The EPA is facing the largest cut of any federal agency, and this will mean the dismissal of thousands of scientists, engineers and others who help states prevent and clean up waste and pollution.  The raindrops sliding across our windows these days have got to be tears of sorrow from Mother Earth.

“EDF doesn’t just talk about problems,” says Michael Bloomberg, an EDF supporter and founder of Bloomberg, L.P. “It helps design smart government policies, combines them with private sector know-how and creates solutions.”  The rains, the birds and the mushrooms, just to mention a few, are depending on us.

Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on January post 1 – the earth is getting short-changed!

December Post 1 – We are in the Season of Darkness

Today, on my early morning walk, I noticed an eerie silence. Our mayor had died, and it seemed as though a pall of grieving was blanketing the city of St. Francis.  Although I did not always agree with the choices he made for our city, I appreciated Mayor Ed Lee who seemed to be guided by a deep wisdom and compassion for every San Franciscan.  He was a committed servant of the people, an advocate for civil rights and a champion for the poor, the working folks and the future of our city.

We are in the Season of Darkness, the time of “Advent,” which signals waiting, watching and anticipating with hope that something to come will change our lives and regenerate our world.  Much of our northern hemisphere is guided by the natural seasonal switch to a grayer and colder time.  It is the onset of winter, but here in central California the otherwise wet season continues to be dry and sunny with mildly warm temperatures.  Our skies are glowing orange because smoke particles from the wildfires of southern California are reflecting the setting sun.  The intensity of the wildfires is exacerbated by the warming climate, and, in turn, the smoke and heat that is produced accelerates climate change.  We need a societal change of heart and the hope that would bring.

Yet, in the midst of our spiritual and seasonal darkness and perhaps as a prayer for the world’s future, we turn on decorative lights and listen to seasonal music.  But we aren’t the only ones singing.  The creatures around us have their own choirs.  A little walk along our coastal areas provides a cacophony of sacred sounds.

Perhaps the most boisterous are the California Sea Lions which are known for their intelligence, playfulness, and noisy barking. They are very social animals, and groups often rest closely packed together at favored haul-out sites on land or float together on the ocean’s surface in living “rafts.”  Sometimes they can be seen “porpoising,” or jumping out of the water, presumably to add speed to their swimming.

At a recent encounter with hundreds of sea lions hauled out on a beach near Elk Horn Slough, I was convinced they were barking out the tune to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  So I joined in with the beautiful lyrics that Jann Aldredge-Clanton has married with that traditional tune:

O Holy Darkness, loving womb, who nurtures and creates,
Sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates.
We move inside to mystery that in our center dwells,
Where streams of richest beauty flows from sacred living wells.

Unfortunately our presidential administration is taking us into an even more intense night of regression.  May our prayers, songs and actions sustain us and empower us to open gates of justice and care for people and creatures, including Mother Earth herself.

O Holy Christ-Sophia, your image black and fair,
Stirs us to end injustice and the wounds of Earth repair.
The treasures of your darkness and riches of your grace
inspire us to fulfill our call, our sacredness embrace.

Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on December Post 1 – We are in the Season of Darkness

Nov. post 1 – the bridge between the heavens and the earth

Perhaps it’s because of their looks, a combination of the homely and comedic, that one expects pelicans to be more clumsy than charming. But it isn’t so! If you stand on one of our beaches and look out at the ocean, especially in fall and winter, you see pelicans flying low in lines, gliding just above the waves.  When at rest, they often love to perch on docks and railings in fishing harbors and wharves as if they were part of the daily flock of visitors.

In the 1960s and ’70s, the Brown Pelican became a rare sight along the U.S. coastlines.  The pelican decline was the result of the use of pesticides such as DDT which caused pelican eggshells to thin beyond the shells’ ability to hold and incubate their offspring. With the banning of DDT, the Brown Pelican populations have recovered.

Long before I learned that pelicans were a symbol of the Divine Feminine and the Mother Jesus of the medieval church, I loved them. Their wings seemed be the bridge between the heavens and the earth as they turned gracefully to descend to the waters or beaches below.

In the Middle Ages, Saint Gertrude of Helfta had a vision of Christ as a pelican. Inspired by Psalm 102, the church interpreted the female pelican as a symbol of Christ, believing this magnificent bird was able to give her life-restoring blood to her dead offspring. This metaphor was based on a popular fallacy, yet the imagery of the mother pelican returning to her brood to restore them to life continues to spark my spiritual imagination.

It has been more than 25 years since Virginia Ramey Mollenkott reclaimed the biblical imagery of God as female. Of the pelican she has written, “The dream that the male pelican kills its offspring, while the female pelican bestows new life upon them, turns out to presage a reality for many of us in the contemporary faith community.”

She continues: “Exclusively male images of God are killing our spirit by distorting our understanding of masculinity, femininity, and mutuality. The recognition of biblical images of God as female, the infusion of positive female images into the language of faith, the achievement of balance between male and female references, will do a lot to bring us renewed health.” The Divine Feminine, page 47.

Watching the brown pelicans gliding, flying, landing, diving and taking off along the California coastal beaches is a spiritual activity worth returning to on a regular basis. Even if the imagery of the divine feminine is not a part of your vision, the pelicans’ incredible grace offers you soul-renewing energy. For me, and perhaps for you, tracking and photographing them in flight is both a challenge and discipline to be pursued religiously!

I love the Brown Pelican’s feathers! Like all other birds, their feathers define them and are unique to each.  As the Brown Pelican matures its plumage will change.  In addition, its plumage changes from season to season. No other animal has feathers.  The feather itself is a complex product of the bird’s skin, and its structure is one of nature’s greatest wonders.  “My heart in hiding stirred for a bird, — the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!” – Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), English poet.

Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nov. post 1 – the bridge between the heavens and the earth

Alaska 5 – Out of the belly of the earth

If I had to choose one word besides “awesome” to describe Alaska, it would be the word “vast.”  Alaska is over one-third the size of the lower 48, and a great deal of it is unreachable by either the road system or the Alaska Marine Ferry.  Journeys to many villages, wilderness cabins, national park trails and off-the-grid adventures require a drop-off by a bush pilot.

If you want to get away from it all, try traveling through the vastness of Alaska in your own vehicle.  The few roads that exist have long stretches between cities and towns.  Although there may be hundreds of cars on the same highway, you still might not be passed by another car for hours. And then there are the less traveled, rugged roads like the Dalton Highway, Top of the World Highway, the Denali Highway and the McCarthy Road.  For me, solo venturing on these roads was truly following a spiritual “road less traveled,” and I rejoiced being absorbed into the scenery dotted by wildlife, tundra, glaciated mountain slopes and braided rivers. My spirit soared with the eagles and sang with the trumpeter swans.

I entered the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park via the unpaved, rough and rocky 60 mile McCarthy Road from Chitina to the Kennicott river foot bridge, the foot bridge that leads to  the towns of McCarthy and Kennecott.  Stopping for pot holes and the beauty along the way made for an all-day trip.  At one point, the surface of the road disappeared into mud produced by a flash flood the previous day.  While photographing the patterns made by the cracked and drying mud I noticed fresh bear prints.  Perhaps the bear, most likely a black bear, was watching me from the woods.

The road follows the route of the now non-existent CRNW Railroad. Five miles from where the road ends is the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark where history still comes alive.  A nation hungry for copper went to incredible lengths to extract it from this formidable terrain and climate (think winter). Copper was needed especially for conducting electricity.

Boiler room for mining operations

The Kennicott Valley lies along an extensive ore stream where generations of Ahtna people collected native copper, working it into art, utensils, and arrowheads.  I learned that, though the mine’s name is spelled with an “e,” the names of the town, glacier and river are spelled with an “i” after naturalist Robert Kennicott.

Developing the rich body of ore required tremendous effort, ingenuity and money.  In the early 1900’s one could not find any more wealthy backers than the Havemeyer, Guggenheim, and J. P. Morgan families, and, as today, the rich became richer.

In its short life, Kennecott Mine produced 200-300 million dollars worth of copper and silver.  By the time of its closure in 1938, when the copper ore went dry, there were 100 buildings in the now abandoned camp. Today over thirty structures remain in various conditions. The rules say that you can take home as much rock and ore as you wish, but you may not take a rusty nut or bolt or sliver of wood because they are “historical artifacts.”  This includes the piles of what we would consider garbage.

Kennecott Mine Litter

At the historic landmark you will find lots of graphic shapes in the decaying details of the mine buildings and enjoy incredible, vast vistas, the latter best viewed from a plane (image above).  Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest U.S. national park.  It is the size of six Yellowstones, with peaks upon peaks and glacier after glacier.  I kept singing Mountain Mother (Ancient Mother) here. I did not find any copper ore but visually realized, “She is everywhere!”

At 10 PM, I walked to a viewpoint overlooking the Kennicott Glacier and sang the grandmother invocation.  I stopped when I got to the stanza, “Grandmother, I see you sitting in earth,” and I made a small circle of rocks, stood in it, and finished singing. — And still I sing, “Grandmother, I feel you sitting in my heart, you are sacred, and you are looking at me …”  The stones, the ‘ebens’ that came out of the belly of the earth surrounding copper ore and memories of times before humans dug them up, are still a memorial to your everlasting love.

Tundra ponds on the McCarthy Rd.

Posted in Uncategorized, Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alaska 5 – Out of the belly of the earth

Alaska Reflection 4 – Mother I feel you under my feet.

I can’t forget an exhibit I saw on my first journey to Alaska in 2008.  It was produced by the Calista Elders Council and the Anchorage Museum, and it included items that represented the traditional ways of life and technology used by the Yup’ik people.

The Yup’iks live on Alaska’s western coast, a coast that is part of the vast area of Alaska that cannot be reached by the road system.

In this permanent collection of the Anchorage Museum one can find Yup’ik clothing made of hand-stitched sealskin and fur, and hand-made drums of various marine mammal hides. Yup’ik spirituality centers around building and nurturing relationships between people, animals, communities and the land.

“Mother, I Feel You under My Feet” is a chant I sang often this past summer while traveling highways and back roads between Prince William Sound and the Arctic Ocean.  The chant is by Windsong Dianne Martin, and it rhythmically presents opportunities for communal circle-dancing:  “Mother, I feel you under my feet.  Mother, I hear your heart beat…”

Stopping at the Native Alaskan Heritage Center just north of Anchorage, I enjoyed the Yup’ik dancers themselves.  By mid-August the young women and men dancers have started returning to high school and college, leaving the elders and pre-schoolers to make the presentations.  Many of the dances show the activities of their traditional life, like seal hunting and whaling, but, as they explained, new songs are also being created to show the Yup’ik way of life in the modern world. With smiles from cheek to cheek, the grandmothers danced to a song about playing basketball.

Kanuti River – Arctic Tundra

Yup’ik wisdom proclaims, “Things are not always what they seem … many possibilities exist, and we are not to be indifferent to other people’s needs.  Everything on Earth deserves recognition, care and respect.”  The Yup’ik continue to embrace their cultural dances and feasting with great enthusiasm.

While driving the Dalton Highway, the image of Yup’ik grandmothers dancing to the basketball song graced my long hours with laughter and new appreciation of the “Mother” whom I consciously recognized, with every step, as under my feet.

Bucket list item #5 is now checked off – drive the Dalton Highway! The James W. Dalton Highway, which slices through the wildest and northernmost portions of Alaska, is nothing if not remote. Chiefly made of loose-packed dirt and gravel, it rambles over 414 miles from the tiny town of Livengood (population 13) to the bleak industrial oil fields that mar the frigid shores of Prudhoe Bay.

Hewed from the permafrost over five brief months in 1974, the highway originally served as an access road for the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which itself was built from 1975 to 1977 after oil was discovered on Alaska’s North Slope. Opened to the public in 1994, today’s Dalton continues primarily as a haul road for the speeding eighteen-wheelers transporting everything from apple sauce to Therma-steel panels for the oil-field workers living with the scarcities of Deadhorse.

The highway boasts the longest stretch of unserviced road on the North American continent. Just three gas stations: Mile 54 (Yukon River Crossing – at left), Mile 175 (Coldfoot) and mile 414 at Deadhorse.

I made many stops to take photos and short walks on the spongy tundra singing, “Mother I feel you under my feet.” On each walk I chose a plot of ground where I could securely plant my feet, avoiding the experience of hiking boots quickly sinking ankle deep in water — all in order that I might breath in the beauty, sing, and photograph.

Alaska’s permafrost is no longer permanent; it is starting to melt.  The always-frozen ground that underlies much of the state is turning to mush. By 2050, it is estimated, much of Alaska’s frozen ground, a storehouse of ancient carbon, could be gone.  Much more is at stake than the necessity of repairing buckling roads and bypassing a growing number of tundra ponds.

We need the ancient Yup’ik wisdom of reverence for the earth and care for the future to help us choose our steps into the future, discerning which practices and policies will sustain the earth, and which will devastate it.

Atigun Pass – Brooks Range


Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alaska Reflection 4 – Mother I feel you under my feet.

Alaska 3 – Let’s fly with the birds!

Within moments of stepping outside our doors we hear and see birds, and it’s true anywhere in the world, in city or country, in deserts or jungles.  For me, birds represent a spirit of freedom and joy that lifts my soul and brings me to song.  They are the most mobile of all of the creatures on our planet – they can fly, in principle, to anywhere they please.

Presently we are surrounded by devastating wildfires, mass shootings, the dismantling of EPA policies, and regression to a time that attacks women’s health and reproductive rights as well as the civil rights and protection of transgender persons, immigrants, and those racially profiled. To face each day we need our souls uplifted and a joyous song in our heart.  Let’s fly with the birds!

Of the 10,000 species of birds in the world, my favorites are the puffin species found in Alaska.  Both Alaska’s Tufted Puffins and Horned Puffins are monomorphic; the male and female exhibit the same plumage coloration. I observed them recently at their breeding colonies in Alaska – on Duck Island, in Cook Inlet, and in Prince William Sound.

Puffins spend their entire lives at sea, coming ashore only to raise their young. They often gorge themselves on small fish to the point that they become too heavy to lift themselves from the ground. Both the male and female adults brood the egg. Upon hatching, both parents take turns providing the young chick with a steady diet of fish. When the puffin chicks fledge, they leave the nest at night in order to avoid predators, fluttering down to the water’s edge alone and heading for the open sea. They won’t return to land again for two to three years when they become breeding adults at the rookery.

A breeding pair of puffins puts its entire energy into just one egg. This strategy aims for a very high success rate, one that must consider annual changes in food availability. In studies conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the overall successful fledging of chicks for Tufted Puffins (above) is 65 percent and for Horned Puffins, 60 percent.

Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons prey on puffins. To protect themselves from airborne attack, puffins form distinct flight patterns between nesting areas and feeding areas, flying in large groups and in patterns that resemble a circling web, making it hard for a bird of prey to find and attack an individual.

The Inuit people of Alaska used puffin skins to make feather-lined parkas. Beak plates were collected and strung together to form rattles used by the shaman in rituals, and the Aleuts and the Inuits sewed beak plates for decoration on the outside of their garments.

The Horned Puffin is a beautiful bird that is always high on a birder’s spotting list. They have distinctive black backs, white undersides, yellow and red bills, orange feet and the flashy “horn” feathers that stand above their eyes. You’ll find them during the summer in colonies on the coastline and islands of Alaska after which they depart for the high seas where they spend the remainder of the year.

The Tufted Puffin also has white facial feathers and colorful beak plates, but a black body with the addition of two tufts of yellow feathers atop its head distinguishes this species. While both puffins stand 15 inches tall, the Tufted Puffin is heavier at an average of 1.7 pounds, and the Horned Puffin weighs in at an average of 1.4 pounds. The weight difference seems minimal, but for a bird that must beat its wings 400 times a minute to stay aloft, every ounce is crucial.  The swift flight of both puffin species makes it difficult to photograph them airborne.  But it is well worth the try.

Ready for relief? – let your soul soar (and swim) with the birds and you will find yourself joining in their joyous songs!

Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alaska 3 – Let’s fly with the birds!

Alaska 2 – Mother Nature has her favorites: Valdez

It is said that Mother Nature has her favorites and Valdez is near the top of the list.  Even the drive into Valdez is spectacular.  Proclaimed as one of “America’s Most Scenic Roads” and known to Alaskans as the “Adventure Corridor,” the drive provides breathtaking views of incredible scenery – glaciers, waterfalls, and towering mountains.  Once in Valdez, however, the views of the majestic awe and wonder surrounding the bay are not guaranteed, for they are often lost in heavy fog.

Wildlife is abundant in Valdez and the surrounding area. Both black and brown bears live here and are frequently seen wandering about or eating their fill of fish and berries. Eagles, terns, kittiwakes, ptarmigan, puffins and many other birds are easy to spot as well. The Prince William Sound, the large ocean inlet adjoining Valdez, is a never-ending display of wildlife and natural beauty. Seals, stellar sea lions and sea otters are commonly seen playing and swimming in the cold water. Dall porpoise, humpback and orca whales can also be spotted.

My favorite way to cut through the fog (and ice) of Prince William Sound is via the Lulu Belle.  Captain Fred Rodolf gently guides his boat along the coastline and into the open ocean waters to get to the terminus of the mighty Columbia Glacier some forty miles out of port.

Captain Fred has been at the helm of the Lulu Belle making this journey every day from May through September for nearly 40 years, so his observations and skilled sailing give his passengers optimum wildlife and glacier viewing.

The Lulu Belle is in a class by itself.  She sports a plush atmosphere, including teak and mahogany paneling and oriental rugs.  The warmth of the cabin and the crew make this the “Limousine of Prince William Sound.”  The sea otters relaxing on ice bergs seem to be waiting specifically to welcome the Lulu Belle to their part of Mother Nature’s chilly paradise.

The Columbia Glacier, the second largest tide water glacier in North America, descends from an ice field 10,000 feet above sea level, down the flanks of the Chugach Mountains and into a narrow inlet that leads into Prince William Sound. It is one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world.

My aerial views, with VS Helicopter pilot Sara, were incredible, but the retreating wall and rivers of ice were notably changed since my last flyover just four years ago.

When our helicopter landed on the shore by the Columbia, there were many chunks of ice and small icebergs – some clear ice, blue ice and milky white ice with black stripes from the terrain that the glacier scraped as it moved.  I licked 7 small icebergs, tasting the hundreds or thousands of years captured within. A bit salty.

When British explorers first surveyed the glacier in 1794, its nose – or terminus, extended south to the northern edge of Heather Island, a small island near the mouth of Columbia Bay. The glacier held that position until 1980, when it began a rapid retreat that continues today. Over the past three decades, the terminus has retreated more than 12 miles to the north.

Scientific studies have determined that climate change isn’t the only cause of this melting glacier but has forced it to accelerate.  For undetermined reasons, computer-generated calculations are predicting that the Columbia will stop retreating in 2020, but, by then, it will be radically different than it is today.

Sometimes we have a hard time seeing through the personal fog that clouds our vision – our fears, insecurities, misunderstandings, learned behaviors.

But, like Valdez, there will be thin places that open up windows into the beauty and blessings both in ourselves and others.  Surprisingly enough, there will also be days of sunshine when every mountain peak is visible.  We can take advantage of these moments to celebrate and move forward in hope, knowing that each of us is one of Mother Nature’s favorites!

images:  Valdez Reflection, Bridal Veil Falls, Otters on Iceberg, Eagle in Tree, Columbia’s Main Terminus, Icebergs and section of Columbia Glacier, Stellar Sea Lion Catches Pink Salmon, Valdez Harbor Fishing Boats  Waiting for the Go Ahead  (below)

Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alaska 2 – Mother Nature has her favorites: Valdez

Alaska Reflection 1 – Bear Wisdom: Protect, Nurture, Empower

With a handful of other photographers, I stood on the banks of the Silver Salmon River at Lake Clark National Park in Alaska, tracking a grizzly sow and her two cubs through my camera’s viewfinder.  The cubs, with relentless, whining cries that were almost symphonic, were telling their mother that they were hungry.  Finally, mom gave in and lay down in the sand to nurse them.  The whining turned to contented slurping grunts accompanied by “purring” which is nothing short of a constant loud motor like sound.

The whole time she was nursing, the sow was listening and watching the movements in the river.  When a Silver Salmon flashed in the current, her eyes followed its path.  Suddenly she rolled the cubs off her, milk still squirting from her like geysers, and jumped into the shallow river.

Darting back and forth, splashing water as high as her head, she dove in and out of the river. Most often she resurfaced without a fish, so she repeated the ritual many times until she either tired, the fish ended up in deeper water or she scored. It was quite a show of power and determination, and it seemed as though she actually enjoyed the chase.

Grizzly bears (part of the brown bear family) are known for their fishing abilities, especially in Alaska.  Bear medicine is a powerful totem for creating abundance and bountiful provisions.  The bear cub symbolizes being fiercely loved and protected.  Knowing this gives the cubs confidence, tremendous courage and carefree playfulness.

Before the fish arrive in this location the bears munch on sedge (marsh grass), nibble berries and dig up razor clams in the mud flats exposed by low tides, seemingly expending a lot of energy for a few bites.  Every action of the sow is a lesson for the cubs.  During these times the male bruins stay away, and with good reason: mothers are fierce.

I am convinced that my personal life-guiding totem animal is the bear.  In addition to being drawn to photograph them, I often feel like taking up residence in their fur.  The grizzly sows show me the divine attributes that protect, nurture and empower.

These are also the attributes I believe should be most prominent in a caring social fabric.

Policies like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) support young people who are Making America Great!   To rescind it and leave 800,000 young people, most of whom are in college or established jobs, in a chaotic fear of an uncertain future or deportation is contrary to the spirit and wisdom of bear!

You are being guided into a leadership role. You must be fearless in defending your beliefs. -Bear

Native beliefs explain that a totem animal is one that is with you for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Though we receive lessons and directions from many different animal guides throughout out our lifetime, specific totem animals will remain our main guardian spirits. I am grateful that the bear is the central symbol on the California flag, and I pray for success as our government officials challenge the rescinding of DACA and the too many other mean and destructive actions coming from our “WHITE” House!

My bear images were captured in Lake Clark National Park at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge owned and operated by David and Joanne Coray.  I spent 5 days on a Bear Photography expedition led by Photographer Brenda Tharp.  Her instructional tours and workshops are the perfect combination of inspiration, photo opportunities, fun and in-depth learning.

Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alaska Reflection 1 – Bear Wisdom: Protect, Nurture, Empower

July Post 1 – Change and transformation makes us beautiful.

    A love for butterflies leads many people to invest in the beautiful Pipevine plant. This plant with its large heart-shaped leaves serves as a host to California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies in all their life stages. Most Caterpillars rely on specific host plants. As the caterpillars munch away at the leaves they get the nutrients they need to become gorgeous butterflies.

The eggs, the caterpillar, the chrysalis and the butterflies themselves are all found on a patch of the Pipevine in the Golden Gate Park Arboretum, in the California Natives section.  It was my hope to find all these stages of the swallowtail to photograph for you, but the butterflies moved too quickly, the eggs were too small, and the chrysalises, which resemble dried leaves, are too well camouflaged. But I will keep trying.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) is an ambitious effort to collect, store, and share species information and occurrence data. You can participate by taking and submitting photographs of butterflies, moths, and caterpillars, and your sightings will be posted at BAMONA . It’s a very cool site.

I hope my caterpillar images will entice you to go to the Pipevine patch and look for yourself.  As well, I hope that my images draw you into the experience I had with my subject and move you to your own adventure with something in the natural world close to you.

As I was fine-tuning my composition, sprawled out on the dirt path with elbows firmly grounded, I felt the earth tremble a bit.  It was caused, not by an earth quake, but a group of 2nd graders running toward the Pipevine patch ready to count the caterpillars as one of their summer day camp projects.

One of the students blurted out, “These bugs are ugly.”  Not wanting to butt into the group leaders’ plans, I simply starting singing, “How could anyone ever tell you, you are anything less than beautiful?  How could anyone ever tell you, you are less than whole…”  a song by Libby Roderick.  I learned it from the herchurch choir directed by Katie Ketchum.

The butterfly is primarily associated with the symbolism of change and transformation.  This animal totem could be guiding you to be sensitive to your personal need for development and growth as well as seeing unfolding beauty in your life. The spirit of butterfly reminds us that we have the ability to go through important changes with grace and lightness.

We are each butterflies. The universe, womb of the Goddess, is our chrysalis.

We are each butterflies… nothing less than beautiful!

Posted in Weekly 2 | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on July Post 1 – Change and transformation makes us beautiful.