In my storied explorations and adventures with a camera, I’ve experienced a lot.
Once, an Icelandic leprechaun in the form of David Spade came down off Green Mountain after taking selfies with Luke Skywalker, gave me a shot of the best vodka on the planet, and then led me up a stony mountain of Icelandic green. After being in country five days I could finally sleep again!
I also discovered from the children of the Diné, that Tonto was a pussy on a horse, and I was a little surprised to hear that about Johnny Depp. I was thankful to hear however from the old sheep herder going by with his flock, that Clint Eastwood is a real man. Who wouldn’t agree? Oddly though, two years later, that bastard crashed my wedding in Hawaii, and didn’t even leave a damn gift! So, the jury is still out on Clint for me.
Another time, buzzed on frostbite in the middle of a sub-zero night, I vented expletives at Old Faithful so much that when it vented back at me, the force caused the giant boulders in front of me at the base of it to move. I stared dismayed with gaping mouth, because one boulder laid down, another didn’t move at all, a third one turned sideways to show me its profile, and a fourth boulder walked right into my frame out of nowhere, then turned to look at me and said, “Take a picture, it lasts longer!” I’ve not been the same since!
Let’s see, what else? Well, there was the frustrated coyote that gave up chasing the roadrunner…he wanted to know if that barking bitch dog of mine laughing at him ever shuts up…I shrugged and pretended I couldn’t hear him over the noise. Or how about that Jackle in the Kalahari who dragged my backpack off into the desert one night, only to eat the batteries it found and then pee on my food? When I caught it in the act, it yipped at me “I’m what Willis was talking about!”.
Oh yeah, I could never forget the night I waltzed with bats as they flew in and out of the pit toilet I desperately needed to use, immediately preceded by doing a zig-zag in a hunched-over, limping, poopy, Jim Carey-style run through a herd of water buffalo chewing their cud, between my tent and that hole in the ground! If there were lions or hyenas ready to pounce, they were too busy laughing at my zig-zagging and waltzing the Serengeti Fandango, while my rear-end sounded off like a giggling hippopotamus on a first date.
Nothing beats though that Christmas in Death Valley, where Santa gave me stones that sail around an endless flat racetrack without rolling! To get home after, I hitchhiked with my Spirit at my side 282’ below sea level, through a basin of Badwater moods.
And don’t even get me started about getting the exclusive media coverage on that busy beaver from Tempe, apprehended while overseeing a dam construction project, because he didn’t wear a helmet – he was later deported to the Verde Valley for resisting arrest with a blunt weapon!
I even experienced traveling in a time machine fed by pumpkin seed hulls and corncobs back 700 years, to hike grains and water up into high-perched cliff-dwellings, learning to forage and farm the river delta below and plan for tomorrow; yet life would await them, like the sea awaits the end of the river.
From there I rubbed a lucky charm, and went back to 1000 years ago, to an island in nearly freezing temperatures and gale-force winds, tending a wild band of Viking horses for an hour or so. The horses, feistier than their ancient riders, haven’t changed genetically in 1000 years, but those giant Norse warriors riding them sure did, as they were a lot smaller then. By modern day standards, the riding mounted warrior was actually the size of…or smaller than…Tom Cruise bouncing up and down on a couch!
While amusing myself about that, I got kicked in the head by a pony that looked like Rod Stewart, and suddenly found myself transported further on to 72,000 years ago, when a waterfall of lava poured into a forming Grand Canyon, almost as large as my troubled soul. Flowing over the lava falls, I found that way too hot and messy for me; I’ve got enough of that already in my life!
I washed ashore to a billion years ago in the land of the blue-green waters, then did a snappy little ‘tapeats-dance’ that swept me back searching hard between 1.2 – 1.6 billion years ago, looking for conformity in my layers of existence to measure and comprehend, but I only found the greatest unconformity of no conformity! Wondering, like John Wesley Powell, where nearly a half a billion years of real estate went, I thought to myself “I could live here, if I only knew where it was”.
And then after reciting the magic words ‘Vishnu Shist Zoroaster Pegmatite’, a floating elevator drifted me back to nearly two billion years into the basement of Earth-time, to a chasm full of very ‘gneiss’ elves, who informed me that the flow of water and magic are actually the same thing…if you have enough time that is!
And then, with the only currency I had left – humility, humbleness, and insignificance – I tugged the plunger and released the ball, shooting me to new timeless heights of cosmic awe and universal connection, bouncing around a pinball machine of stars discovering the feeling of collapse and expansion, followed by doing laps around Polaris for a while. Then drifting off on a galactic and milky river sparking like infinite diamonds on a wedding band, I realized that if choose to go its way, then it’s really going mine, and so I got married to that idea – until it voted me off the island!
On the way home, I stopped off at 70 million years ago – before humans – where two alien races fighting over petrified resources, the Bisti and the De-Na-Zin, were striking a tenuous truce to rid themselves of the “Bisti Beast”, a certain species of tyrannosaur giving them trouble; and I was their impartial imaginative negotiator. As Ambassador, I flew in on the mightiest ship, called the ‘King of Wing’, and joined an alien caravan the next day to the queen’s court, where we waited a while in the throne room for the queen to return from the egg garden. Weary from the journey, I dozed off for a moment and when I awoke, I found myself back in present day with a weird pain in my chest and a hearty appetite, living a new life getting my kicks on historic route 66!
If that is all I got out of my adventures, I think I’d be a pretty worldly man. But something else happened along the way, and I experienced, discovered, and learned quite a bit more than that. Adventures and experiences blurred into a higher dimension of sorts – as pilgrimages and lessons – which began to shape and evolve the relationship I had towards my subjects, myself, and my world. I slowed down and began living my experiences and the insights provided to deeper levels of connection with all.
I learned to embrace that we are born into a realm of constant change, full of the vitality of emergence and reproduction like the Anna’s Hummingbird taught me, balanced with the unfraught glory of decay taught by aging leaves and ragged butterflies, and discovered landscaped treasure chests full of wild and weathered gems, where erosion and character reigns supreme. I wondered within these wonders if my own path to decay would be lined with Nature's lessons about acceptance and understanding so gracefully, and hoped as I advance without fear into the Autumn of my life, that my character would age so ruggedly beautiful as the landscapes I stand within. Really though, it was pretty epic when that wolf pack in the Lamar Valley taught me to face the icy grip of fear in moments of uncertainty, while I gave last-rites communion to the 6 pt. bull elk that they were waiting for to give up on life.
I experienced, while paying closer attention to the patterns of my physical and social surroundings and relating them to my present life, that nurturing access towards examining my soul’s purpose was available if I looked for the messages offered. Turkeys told me to embrace and share my earthly blessings, while red-tailed hawks – protectors of visionaries – lifted me to higher levels of consciousness to awaken a creative life-purpose. And my good friend, that wily coyote, demonstrated how in certain parts of my life wisdom and folly go hand in hand, and showed me how seeking out my own foolishness allows me to discover and grow from my mistakes.
The good luck bird, ‘bien viaje‘, a vermilion flycatcher symbolic 'of the little things in life’, told me to make my own luck and good travels, by being aware of everything going on in my surroundings no matter how small or insignificant they might seem, and that everything that’s happening to me is part of a bigger plan, so I should dismiss nothing as trivial. Indeed, I found that each such observation is part of a larger pattern I may not know yet, but if I pay attention to everything, and stitch enough seemingly random and trivial observations together about something, I will find a pattern and intuitive understanding about things to my benefit – and I think that is what people often confuse with luck.
Then one day after days of being down on myself and losing my mojo, Bullwinkle and the Rockies gave me a crash course on how to move with confident wisdom. Looking me in the eyes, while sharing his medicine of self-esteem, I learned to find the evidence of my greatness with recognition that when wisdom has been used in a situation, that recognition or a pat on the back is deserved…and with that, Johnny and his own self-pat, got his mojo back.
If you think all of my storied biography may seem an exaggeratively grand and overly imaginative soup, you’d be right. And yet there is a strong base of truth to every bit of this stewing roux, often with solid lessons that shaped my life and artistic palette of expression. My photography has evolved into more than just a renewal activity to exercise my right brain. It is a transformational window into the experience of my soul, as I express from my mind’s eye the moments of beauty that constantly surround us, but often go unnoticed in such a fast-paced world. When I am in those moments, I become more related to the world around me, and thus my experience of life and my place in it is enriched. Photography has become the perfect expression for me, as it satisfies my creative side while simultaneously honoring the process-driven side that I used to slave to. It is the artistic channel that allows me to continue to learn about myself, gives me access to power, and allows me to share my soul with the world in the hopes of positively affecting it. If you are interested in my professional biography, please see ‘Artist Biography’.
Anyway, where did that artistic imaginative Self come from? Troubled childhood of course! My response to isolation, loneliness, and feeling misplaced throughout childhood under eccentric parental and strict parochial structures, was to escape using imagination to fabricate adventure and companionship. Living daily exploits outside the house and myself, I avoided the uncomfortable confinement I felt within those other realms; roaming the acres turning chatty squirrels, creaking trees, and babbling brooks into imaginary companions! The healing I found then and rediscovered later in life is why I create art. If you would like to know more about the Jerry Springer-esque, deep, nitty-gritty story behind why I create, please see my ‘Why I Create Art’ statement.
Not much has changed other than the new connection I found within when I explored. I discovered an inexplicable Spirit out there, and also within Self, as I went questing from nature’s grandest and iconic cathedrals, to its most remote and unassuming chapels – each dedicated to the secular rites of nature, inviting all to stop with reverence – offering souls quiet permission to stir and opening conduits between us and Spirit! With new presence, I took a new journey to look within, and at, the colors of the sky and how the light falls upon my landscape inside and out. To feel how the earth under my barefoot and bare-heart is soft and breathing, while life-giving waters whisper by with worldly wisdoms only I could whet. To know in my soul how every moment and step matters just as much as where the path may lead through Nature’s humbling and spiritual conduit to Self. As an evolving artist, this Spirit is what I express in my recent “Realizations of Contemplation and Self-Discovery” collections, representing ways realizations are manifested in my life and art, and builds upon my earlier 'Monumental Icons Inspiration' and 'Nature's Timeless Tones in Monochrome' collections. If you would like to know more about the art I create, please see my artist statement ‘About My Art’.
While all the above is a grateful gift to myself, in my light-hearted and mending liberation I recognize others as confined or stuck the way I used to be, or avoiding their own inner conflicts and personas; ones I know well, and that were once my only company! Sharing my art and soul with you, the reactions I intend to elicit are to stimulate you to take your own journeys into Nature, feeling what is possible for you and the emotional needs you could scratch; learning about yourself, while also taking stewardship of our natural world. I also feel it preferential in my writings to lead you to a deeper level-of-thought, permitting your own mindful sides to vulnerably stir with your own lives and realizations in mind.
Believing the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, I desire each viewer’s unique self-response, yet I also desire behind the proverbial pen to aid towards that end. When I write about what is going on for me in these moments, attempting to draw simple lessons from nature and seeing how they measure against my own evolving life, if I don’t make myself vulnerable and share what is occurring for me, then I am robbing the world of knowing what is possible for themselves by getting out into the beauty and sometimes the harshness of nature. This is where I learn about myself in ways hardly available to me in the concrete-wireless-hustle!
These connections to the Spirit of Nature, and the experience of our realizations within and as part of it, are integrated inside us when we slow down, making the time and space to reflect upon them. We must protect the environments outside and within us, to heal and grow beyond our wounds, fears, and disconnections – as individuals and society. Join me, would you?