It seemed like I’d been walking for hours. I couldn’t tell. I lost track of time, long ago. There were signs that others had been here before me, tracks in the salt, but I was alone.
I thought I heard something and stopped to listen. Were my ears playing tricks on me, inventing sounds in the stillness that weren’t there? I couldn’t tell.
My pounding heart was the only sound. All else was stillness. Oppressive, silence.
I was alone.
I began again, and the muffled shuffle of my shoes in the salt beat eighth notes to the sixteenth notes of my heart.
I was thirsty. I needed water.
I had run out . Yet, I could see it on the surface of the salt, shimmering, teasing, taunting. The closer I got the farther it seemed to be.
If I could just make it to the mountains.
Splashes, suddenly. The sound was refreshing. My steps disturbed a sea of glass. The mirage had not retreated. It was real. The surface stretched for miles. My footsteps sent expanding ripples across the glassy mirror, distorting the sky below me.
I took two more steps and stumbled. The salt gave way to mud beneath it and my shoes remained behind. I fell to my knees and my pants sucked up water, wet coolness, rising slowly up my thighs. I watched the khaki darken with curiosity, as if my clothes were trying to suck waning life back into my body.
Somewhere inside my head I sensed, maybe even knew, I should not drink this water. It renewed these salt plains. But it was so blue, so clear, and the need was so great. My lips were cracked and my tongue was dry.
I could not resist.
I cupped my hands and scooped up the water. It felt cool on my skin, wet. I opened my mouth and slurped it in. Again, in my head, I knew. I should not have done this.
I was consumed by greed and the reaction was violent. I sputtered and spit. My throat burned. When the brine reached my stomach I retched.
Falling forward, my body pushed a large wave across the glass and I broke the surface. The water was not deep. Just enough to cover my face. Salt surrounded me and I looked upon my body, reflecting through the glassy side of a mirror.
When these waters withdraw, others will find evidence that I have been, preserved by salt.
The Bonneville Salt Flats near the Bonneville Speedway as seen from the air.
Wind blown lifeless vegetation hints at soil beneath the Bonneville Salt Flats.
A thin sheet of glass like water mirrors the surrounding mountains of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The setting sun turns the white salt golden on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Tire tracks mar the salt near the Bonneville Speedway. Drive at your own risk.
In many areas of the Bonneville Salt Flats, the layer of salt covering the earth is very thin and in need of replenishing.
A thin sheet of water covers the Bonneville Salt Flats, replenishing the layer or salt for which the speedway is famous.
In spite of harsh conditions, life will not be denied to the salty plants of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Turning donuts in the salt is the perfect circular activity on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Seasonal water covers the Bonneville Salt Flats replenishing the salty surface.
The setting sun glistens on the water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats forms a near perfect mirror for the surrounding mountains.
A distant rocky mountain reflects on water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.
It can be difficult to determine where the earth ends and the sky begins in the perfect reflections of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Water covering miles and miles of the Bonneville Salt Flats is only a few inches deep.
Baked by sun and blasted salt, the road surface leading to Bonneville Speedway is in constant need of repair.
Mountains rise out of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Windstorms, dust storms, sand storms and salt storms can be common occurrences in Western Utah hear the Bonneville Salt Flats.
A lonely road leading to the Bonneville Speedway crosses the submerged salt flats.
The setting sun turns the white salt golden on the Bonneville Salt Flats, as seen from above.
The Bonneville Speedway on the Bonneville Salt Flats used to be thirteen miles long. Now it is only seven. It is not known if the cause of the shrinking salt is due to the depletion of the aquifer as a result of nearby mining, or, from seasonal heavy rains. Nevertheless, the land speed records which have been set in years past must now be accomplished in shorter distances, as time may be running out on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
I enjoy watching the Olympics. I’m especially pleased to see the Olympics in Brazil. I was able to visit Brazil just prior to World Cup. It was a crazy, cultural and colorful experience. I witnessed strikes, mobs, gunfire and incredibly beautiful and colorful scenery. The food was amazing. I ate things I had never heard of. I met friendly people and heard styles of music that were filled with life and celebration. My experience in Brazil was amazing.
My friends in Brazil would not take me to the Favelas. They said it was too dangerous. They didn’t want me to get hurt, or robbed. They didn’t want me to see the poverty, overcrowding, pollution and social problems associated with the Favelas.
Nevertheless, the problems were there. I could feel it in the city. I could feel it in the tension among people. It was present in the bus strikes, the police strikes, the metro strikes. It was seeping out of the Favelas.
We were eating lunch at a restaurant near the harbor. Suddenly the lights in the restaurant went out. The restaurant owner told us we had to leave. They were closing. The mobs were coming. The police were on strike and the mobs were looting and robbing.
We had to go.
Now, the Olympics are in Rio and the world celebrates the games. However, many Brazilians, proud of their country and culture, are excluded from the celebration. They can’t afford it.
Hopefully, these games will be a celebration of the the Olympic spirit which inspires all of us, regardless of country and culture. And, hopefully, that same spirit will help to elevate the quality of life in Brazil and shed light on problems which afflict us all, not just those in Brazil. Perhaps these games will move an immensely complicated people to search for answers to the growing social ills that color the lives of a very colorful country.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Recife, Brazil Temple
The sun sets on a broadcast radio tower in Recife, Brazil.
A bright red leaf in Recife, Brazil.
Bright colors are a part of the Brazilian landscape, ever for graffiti taggers.
A Brazilian Voegol Airlines 737 sits in the rain while we wait for the storm to clear.
At 35,000 feet, the rising sun strikes our aircraft wing before lighting the Amazon rainforest.
Don’t miss seeing the beautiful gardens and arboretum in Curitiba, Brazil.
Even bus stops offer a bit of high-tech refuge from the elements in Curitiba, Brazil.
In downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil, classic architecture mixes with modern contemporary, even with streetlights.
Is it a warning or a reminder?
Sao Paulo high rises illustrate the modernity of contemporary Brazil.
The the phone booths in Brazil are colorful.
Surrounded by the wealth and design of Sao Paulo, Favelas represent the contrast of incredible poverty in the modern world.
Over crowded and polluted, this Sao Paulo Favela is one of the most dangerous places in Brazil.
This 19th century light house welcomes sailors to the Recife, Brazil harbor.
While beautiful, and colorful, Brazilian bays, beaches and rivers are dangerously polluted.
The setting Brazilian sun glistens on the waters of recife, harbor.
A father and son fish the waters of Recife, Brazil.
The setting sun illuminates the clouds over Atlantic Ocean near Recife, Brazil.
Colorful riverfront shops and apartments grace the shores of Recife, Brazil.
Net fisherman ply their trade in the bay of Recife, Brazil.
Recife, Brazil sunset.
Recife, Brazil sunset.
Recife, Brazil sunset.
Sao Paulo Brazil has a colorful mix of ethnicities.
This indigenous street vendor is happy to make a sale in Olinda, Brazil.
Product placement? Or just an ad for Adidas?
Brazilian boys wait for the right moment to jump in to the Beberibe River, in Recife, Brazil.
Watch out for sharks and don’t go in the water in Brazil.
Even though the beaches in Brazil are beautiful, they are extremely dangerous.
The quaint and colorful main street of Olinda, Brazil.
The marketplace of Olinda, Brazil is a quaint and colorful experience.
Airboats are really loud. If the alligators we were searching for couldn’t hear us coming, they couldn’t hear.
As I put on my sound dampening ear protection, I was pretty sure any, or all, wildlife on Boggy Creek would be gone, scared away by the sounds of a giant airplane prop spinning at a million rpms. When our boat pilot punched it, the airboat jumped, skipping across the water.
We skimmed across sawgrass marsh and into Boggy Creek where the vegetation was thick. The airboat glided over lily pads, grasses and anything else as if it were sliding on ice. Occasionally the undergrowth would part and reveal that we were, actually, on water.
Certain parts of the vegetation were thicker. It looked like dense growths of mangroves, vines, lily pads, grasses, cat tails and other greenish, brownish, orangish stuff had coalesced to form floating islands. As we glided deeper and deeper into the swamp, the vegetation and the floating islands grew thicker.
When our boat pilot cut the engine and the props spun out, the stillness was deafening.
“Look there,” someone on the boat whispered.
A small alligator, maybe 2-and-a-half feet long, scurried over and under branches, and brushes and bushes, then froze. He seemed to know we were watching. Perhaps by not moving he thought we would get bored and go away.
We did–go away. The pilot fired up the engine and we roared off in search of other dragons.
Flying through boggy creek on an airboat is great fun, but the real excitement comes when you stop. In the stillness of the bog and the quiet of a stilled motor, a marvelous world unfolds. The bog is teeming with wildlife. Rare birds, exquisite bugs, unique vegetation, and alligators all share a wetlands eco-system of tremendous diversity.
Boggy Creek flows into Lake Tohopekaliga, at the very north end of the Kissimmee River, with its system of interconnecting lakes. Not actually within Everglades National Park, Lake Toho and the marshes of Boggy Creek share many commonalities with the Florida wetlands park, including alligators and crocodiles.
Within Everglades National Park numerous rare and endangered species share a protected habitat relatively free from urban encroachment and environmental neglect. Outside the park, just miles from the entrance, no such protections exist. The iconic wetlands outside the park are threatened by over-development and pollution. The eco-system, both inside and outside the Glades, is intimately connected. Unfortunately for wetlands wildlife, there are no doors at the park entrance.
As we returned to the dock, storm clouds gathered above the lake. Lightning flashed, thunder cracked, the skies broke and the rains poured out. The downpour lasted for only a few minutes, but was powerfully cleansing.
When the rains stopped, the air cooled, the sun broke through clouds, calm returned and blue skies once again reflected on the mirror-like waters of Lake Toho. And, for a moment, the airboats were quiet.
This alligator is about a year old. Where there are small gators, the big ones are out there too.
Reeds, marsh and wetlands line Boggy Creek and Lake Toho.
Many exotic and rare birds find refuge in the wetlands of Lake Tohopekaliga and Boggy Creek.
The sawgrass marshes of Lake Toho are filled with beautiful colors.
Colorful vegetation of Boggy Creek.
This baby alligator hides among the lily pads of Lake Toho.
The lily pads surrounding Lake Toho act like floating islands for vegetation and wildlife.
Lilies in bloom in the marshes of Boggy Creek.
Raindrops and flowers on Boggy Creek.
Raindrops beed on fluorescent green leaves.
Raindrops on lily pads.
Boggy Creek Airboats–they’re fast, and fun.
Boggy Creek flows into Lake Tohopekaliga, near Kissimmee, Florida.
On assignment, I flew in to Rabat, Morocco, on a private jet. As our team proceeded through customs, the agents held us up.
What were we planning to do?
What were we planning to film?
Where would we be going?
Moroccan media is tightly controlled and monitored by the Government. King Mohammed VI takes a personal interest in the message of his country. Foreigners can’t be trusted to portray an accurate or truthful picture of life in Morocco.
Rabat is the capitol city of The Kingdom of Morocco. Casablanca, made famous by the movie, is the country’s largest city. For more than a thousand years, the Western Kingdom of Morocco, or Marrakesh, was a powerful African dynasty.
Morocco is one of only three countries which have both a Mediterranean and Atlantic coast. From the 16th through 19th centuries, Barbary Pirates attacked ships and traded slaves along the Berber Coasts of Morocco, Algiers, Tunisia and Libya. In 1805, the United States executed a marginally successful military action against members of the Ottoman Empire in an effort to destroy the pirates and free American slaves. With European colonialism seeking to dominate much of Africa, political and economic tensions grew during the latter part of the 19th century. Moroccan independence essentially ended when France signed a treaty designating Morocco as a French protectorate in 1912. The French governed Morocco until 1956 when Sultan Mohammed V successfully negotiated Moroccan independence.
With Mohammed V’s succession to the throne, the spirit of independence and the power of the Monarchy re-emerged in Morocco. Mohammed V ruled for just 5 years. His son, Hassan II, became king upon his father’s death. Hassan II died in 1999 and his son, Mohammed VI, ascended to the throne.
As King, Mohammed VI has implemented progressive changes in Morocco, adopting a new constitution reducing the overall powers of the Monarchy while implementing a Parliamentary government with an appointed Prime Minister. Yet, Mohammed VI still wields tremendous power and controls much of the country’s resources. He personally owns the country’s phosphate mines, which account for 75% of the world’s reserves and he has a net worth greater than the Queen of England.
According to the World Health Organization, poverty remains high in Morocco. While Mohammed VI has placed modest emphasis on reducing the widening gap between rich and poor, civil rights abuses, government corruption and economic distress account for an increasingly disaffected populous. On the world stage, The United Nations has criticized Morocco for military action and occupation of a Western Saharan region populated by the indigenous Sahwari people who claim Western Sahara belongs to them.
As we stood in the customs office, the agents explained that we could not bring our equipment into their country. We must return our equipment to the airplane or we would not be allowed to enter. So, we shlepped our heavy black pelican cases back out on to the tarmac and stowed them on the plane.
I keep a camera in my backpack.
Politics and customs agents aside, a highlight of my visit to Morocco was eating lunch at a traditional restaurant which required ritual hand washing before eating. I held my hands over a beautiful ceramic basin as the Maitre d’ poured warm water from a hand painted glazed pitcher. Another waiter provided a warm towel to dry with. I don’t remember much about the food, but, as we were leaving the restaurant, the Maitre d’ repeated the washing experience by pouring warm rose water over our hands. The scent was strong and pleasing and stayed with me throughout the day.
Now, when I catch the scent of roses, I am transported back to that tiny restaurant in Rabat. I hear the call to prayer echoing across the ancient city and I want to reach in my backpack and check to see if my camera is still there.
Two women pause for a moment of reflection on the banks of the Bou Regreg River in Rabat, Morocco.
In the 10th century, guards of the Almohads could look out over the mouth of the River Bou Regreg from the parapets of the Kasbah of the Udayas and watch for invading armies.
In Rabat, Morocco, beautiful gardens have been restored to their former ancient beauty inside the Kasbah of the Udayas.
There are several ways out of the Kasbah of the Udayas in Rabat, Morocco.
The Moroccan flag flies over the palace grounds of Mohammed VI, King of Morocco.
Back alley shops are common in Rabat, Morocco, where Mom and Pop wait for customers.
Built in the 10th Century A.D.,cannons of the Kasbah of the Udayas in Rabat, Morocco would fire on Barbary pirates as they sailed up the Bou Regreg River.
An alley market in Rabat, Morocco boasts a wide variety of merchandise.
A lone man watches the waters of Bou Regreg river for signs of fish, while empty boats rest on the opposite shore.
The town of Salé rises across the river Bou Regreg from the capitol of Rabat, Morocco.
Military police guard the palace of King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
Birds carve out ideal homes in the ancient Hassan Tower of Rabat, Morocco.
Imperial symbols adorn the marble floors of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat, Morocco.
Friends? Brothers? Men of Morocco.
Moslem women rest on stone benches outside the Palace of Mohammed VI in Rabat, Morocco.
A Moroccan woman rests on the painted iron grate overlooking the tower of Hassan in Rabat, Morocco.
Two Moroccan men discuss the matters of state, outside the palace of Mohammed VI in Rabat, Morocco.
10th century Moslem influences inform the architecture and staff of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and the Palace of Mohammed VI.
The official flag of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Built of red sandstone in the 10th century, Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco, was intended to be the tallest minaret in the world.
Signs and flags everywhere indicate that the official name of the country is The Kingdom of Morocco.
The official flag of Morocco flies over stone pillars, remnants of the walls of Hassan Tower, in the palace court of Mohammed VI, King of Morocco.
The 10th century minaret of Hassan Tower rises above stone pillar remnants in Rabat, Morocco.
The Mausoleum of Mohammed V is the resting place of the late King of Morocco, along with his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah.
An official Palace Guard on horseback in traditional costume guards the official residence of King Mohammed VI.
An aged Moroccan woman conducts business by cell phone in Rabat, Morocco.
Ceremonial Palace Guards in traditional costume, stand watch on horseback over the official residence of King Mohammed VI.
The air was dry–bone-dust drifting on a desert draft. A storm was coming, you just couldn’t see it yet.
I could hear an engine–distant but closing. The angry sound broke a stillness the desert was reluctant to give up.
A Border Patrol agent looked like he was cruising main on Saturday night, one hand on the wheel and one arm out the window–low and slow, The mud caked SUV stopped rolling and a red dust cloud wafted across the sun.
“What you boys doin’ out here?”
Grit ground in my teeth and I spat. “Taking pictures.” I held up my camera.
“Nice night for it,” he said. The sun was setting, but it wasn’t night yet. “Best be careful.”
The way he said it, I wondered if I should call my attorney. I nodded, not agreeing, just nodding.
“Ghosts,” he said, shaking his head like I knew what he was talking about, “don’t leave no tracks.” He looked down at the dirt and I couldn’t see his eyes. “They like to cross the border after dark.”
He continued to study the sandy ground for a long moment. Then he looked up. Our eyes met.
“Watch yourselves,” he said.
A coyote howled in the distance.
“Ghosts,” he said again. He tipped his hat and the SUV lurched forward. Tire tracks appeared where tires used to be and a new dust cloud buried their trail.
As the SUV disappeared into the desert, the sun touched a mountain and set the sky on fire. Quiet fell on falling dust.
My friend came out of the brush with his camera and tripod.
“What was that about?”
I thought I knew, but I wasn’t sure. I could hear movement in the brush. Footsteps, maybe.
“Ghosts.” I Pressed the cable release on my camera. The mirror popped up and the shutter opened. The sound was louder than I remembered. “They like to cross the border after dark.”
Lightning flashed on the horizon. The sound of a distant jet called from above. The coyote howled again.
We stayed there taking pictures until long after the light was gone.
Desert grasses and rock monuments catch the late afternoon in the Arizona desert not far from the Salt River.
The painted Arizona desert.
Arizona sunset near Marana, Arizona.
A crescent moon rises after sunset over the Arizona desert.
The sun sets over a cilantro farm on the Pima-Maricopa reservation.
Evening breezes waft the aromatic scents of cilantro across the valley as the sunsets on the Pima-Maricopa reservation.
Arizona highway? Jost a dirt road in the desert.
Painted mountain sunset in the Arizona desert near Marana.
Saguaro lake on the Salt River, Arizona.
Saguaro lake on the Salt River, Arizona.
A saguaro cactus stands tall in the Arizona desert.
Saguaro cactus populate the painted Arizona desert.
A saguaro cactus stands tall in the Arizona desert.
I lived in New England for two years. My first winter was spent in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, my second winter in Maine. Both winters were brutal. I was cold all the time. Nor’easters or down’easters were common. I survived the blizzard of ’78. One storm was so bad we couldn’t open our apartment door because the snow drifts were too high. We had to climb out the window and dig out the snow so we could open the door. Another time, we lost power for days because the ice storms had stripped the power lines and trees. The damage was horrific. But the world was sparklingly beautiful. It was during this time that I fell in love with the poetry of Robert Frost. His words evoke imagery and meaning with powerful poetic device which transcends place.
I no longer live in the east. Yet the seemingly simple home spun lessons of the New England poet stay with me. The words resonate in my western surroundings in spite of their New England sensibilities. Frost’s poetic imagery transcends time and place. The inspiration I found in the New England woods is also to be found in the Wasatch Mountains.
STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
by Robert Frost (an extract)
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow…
…The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
by Robert Frost (an extract)
…He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours”…
I try to live in the moment, as much as possible; yet, many of the moments I live in become memories and the moments are gone. I would like to hold some of those moments and return to them often. Other moments, I am glad, have become memories. Some memories I would like to fade, except that I learned much in those moments and the experience shaped my life. Still other moments have faded and only return with sense memory–the smell of baking bread, the metallic taste of anesthesia, a favorite song, a familiar breeze, a majestic sunset or the troubled sleep of repeated dreams.
I haven’t been good at capturing them. Often, when I try, the moment is lost.
Nevertheless, I thought I would share my top ten list of Moments from 2015, at least, the ones I captured. Be sure and check out the hyper-links to past blogs.
10. Western Caribbean Cruise
Anytime my wife and I can get away, it’s a good moment.
In January we went on a Western Caribbean cruise–Mexico, Belize and Honduras.
I never thought I would enjoy cruising; however, I was pleasantly surprised. The food was good. The company was friendly. The entertainment was fun. The weather was great. The water was warm. The snorkeling was incredible. And, we explored ancient Mayan ruins. Cool.
I grew up in Seattle. I love the city. I love the scenery. I don’t like the rain.
When I was growing up, my parents used to tell people who were coming to visit that if you wanted to see the sun you should come to the city during the last week of July or the first week of August. It rains the rest of the year. Now, my son and his wife live in Seattle. We came for a visit–the last week of July, along with everyone else. It was fun and crowded.
Seafair week is amazing. It took us three days to get home flying standby. Next time we’ll buy tickets.
Located in South-central Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is a geologic wonder. We spent a night and a day in the park this summer. It was transformative. It would be hard to visit the park and not be changed in some way. However, the change may be so subtle that you won’t notice it for a millennium.
Anne and I spent a week in Aruba. It wasn’t enough. I now know why the Beach Boys sing about it. If you have a chance to visit the friendly Friendly Island, don’t miss it. You will create some amazing moments.
In August, my first full-length novel, Death Comes at Night, was published by Black Rose Writing. It was a challenging and rewarding process. I would get up early and write from 5:30 am to 6:30 am. My goal was to write at least one page per day. It took me about a year-and-a-half to write the book. It took longer to get it published.
You can buy the book online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Check out my book Facebook page. Buy my book, PLEASE. If you do, I’ll sign your copy next time we meet. And, if you like it, I will write more 🙂
My daughter Carrie graduated from the University of LaVerne with her bachelor’s degree. I am so proud of her effort and accomplishment. She finished her degree while working full-time, getting married and having a baby. Congratulations, Carrie.
3. Chloe Graduates from High School and goes to College
My youngest daughter Chloe graduated from Lone Peak High School this year. She is a bright and talented young woman. I’m so proud of her. She started college at Brigham Young University this fall with a scholarship.
The downside is that she no longer lives at home. The upside is that she often comes home to eat and do laundry.
My son Ryan, the one who lives in Seattle, was married in the Portland, Oregon LDS Temple in the spring of this year to Sheri Dougall. We are thrilled for them both. They are a wonderful couple. We love Sheri and welcome her to our family.
I have been an athlete all my life. I make an effort to stay in shape. So, when I started getting light headed during cardio workouts, I went in for a physical. The doctors thought I may have a clogged artery. They ran some tests. My arteries were clear and my heart was strong, it just wasn’t beating right. They thought they could fix it.
No such luck. Instead, they installed a cardioverter defibrillator. It’s kinda like having a combination insurance policy and time bomb in my chest all the time. It keeps my heart from going too slow. If my heart beats too fast, and out of sync for too long I get shocked.
I have to admit, I don’t like it. I can feel it all the time. I went to the heart Doc last week for a checkup. It is doing it’s job. I’m not. I need to change my lifestyle. I don’t want too, but I guess my life depends on it.
So, my number one moment of 2015 has to be my heart surgery, even though I was asleep for it. I do remember the before, and I look forward to living the after.
I believe we are brothers and sisters, all of us, sons and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven. I have not yet been to every country, but, I have been to every continent. I have found that kindness, love and compassion unite us regardless of political or religious belief. We are, all of us, one family.
So, when events transpire like that which took place in Paris last week, the ground beneath our feet quakes with the shaking of our collective faith. Anger burns, like bile, in the back of our throats and we want to do something, anything to stop the violence.
I acknowledge the existence of evil. There are those who would take without giving, lie without conscience, hurt without reason, compel without care and kill without remorse. Their numbers are growing.
The events of Paris are repeated regularly in places of less visibility, and we do not notice, except when these events touch the outskirts of our neighborhoods or reach the screens of our mobile devices.
Evil thrives when our faith in God and each other is diminished. Mistrust increases when our differences, rather than our similarities are emphasized. Fear takes root when acts of violence claim the lives of our friends and our children.
Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters give away their rights to make a difference as leaders of small and large countries tell us tales we should not believe. We do not build a better world when we ignore an approaching tsunami of self-interest.
September 11 should remind us of lessons taught, though not yet learned. The same God who made us all will not take from us the agency to choose our own paths. Our condemnation will grow from our reluctance to use this agency to bless the lives of our brothers and sisters. Evil grows in the cracks and crags of our own cowardice when we do not rise up to condemn and combat its growing influence.
And they suffer most who are not able to comprehend a world of cruel intent–the children. Yet, it is in the eyes of the children that I see hope. It is in the hearts of the children that I find love, and compassion, and the courage to be good.
I believe God loves us and that he has a plan for us. For some, this plan includes great deeds. For most of us, this plan includes simple acts of kindness. Wherever and whenever I travel, I see evidence of His plan in the eyes of our children.
While his little sister shyly watches, this African boy stands proud in his Adidas.
I met this girl in a little town in the mountains of Guatemala, near lake Atitlan. She wanted me to buy some fruit from her stand. How could I resist?
In the village of Yamoransah, Ghana, this little boy with the penetrating eyes followed us everywhere we went.
I met this little girl in a little village high the Peruvian Andes. The burdens she carries haunt me still.
Talofa lava–a young boy waves in greeting.
With bright eyes and a knowing look, this Sierra Leonean girl lets me take her picture.
It’s a big wide world outside the yurt near Ulan Bataar.
I know how he feels.
Three children snack on the way home from school in Hong Kong.
My daughter Rachel has strong opinions, bright ideas and a desire to change the world for the better.
The water tastes sweeter when the drinking fountain is 500 years old.
When I tried to take her picture, she would hide her face and then laugh. When I showed her pictures of her friends, she opened up enough to let take this photo.
Playing in the sand outside the Palace of Versailles
A wandering child returns as his mother waits patiently just outside Paris.
This teenager enjoys a field trip to the Plaza in Lima, Peru.
Sack lunches and school uniforms for this class in Lima, Peru.
I turned off the engine and got out of my car. The first thing I noticed was the quiet. My footsteps crunched. The sound shattered the quiet so I stopped moving.
Not even a breath of air disturbed the stillness.
I strained to hear something, anything. A distant bird cry, found my ears. A hawk floated on invisible air currents above a mountain meadow. It had seen me first. Its screech brought relief. I had not lost my hearing, rather, I had lost the noise of cities and people when I drove beyond the paved road. It would take some time for my brain to adjust to the back country silence.
Heavy footsteps echoed against the mountains, coming closer. A father and son lumbered past, walking a nearby trail with rifles and backpacks. Deer hunters. They were not quiet. The deer would hear them coming.
I turned from my overlook and hiked into the Aspens. The stillness of open land evaporated amidst the stand of trees. It was not that it wasn’t quiet. It was more that the trees were aware of my passing and were whispering among themselves. I could hear them, but I could not understand the words. I was not unwelcome, but I was watched.
Fall had come to the high mountains. The calendar did not yet speak of winter, but the nearly barren branches spoke of cold nights and shortened days. Fall colors still glowed beneath the trees, holding on to their end-of-life color. There must be an inherent knowledge in nature that life will come again in order to celebrate death with such brilliance.
In the distance I could hear the soughing of water. In a few minutes I found the stream. It wasn’t a big stream but it had been raining and the gentle babble was swelling to a rush. A persistent drizzle suggested more rain was coming. Perhaps the stream had river aspirations.
I would not stay long in these mountains, this day. My journey was meant only as a reminder of peace and place and permanence in Mother Nature’s cycles.
I would touch the earth to quiet my soul and take with me a portion of stillness.
Deer Creek Overlook, Wasatch Back.
The leaves are mostly gone from this aspen grove behind Mt. Timpanogos, although fall colors remain.
Moss grows rich and thick and green near a small stream in American Fork Canyon.
Berries brightly accent the fall colors of American Fork Canyon.
Berries remain, perhaps as bear food for the coming winter in American Fork Canyon.
Water drops bead on forest floor foliage in American Fork Canyon.
Although many leaves have fallen at high elevations, some fall colors remain along this stream in American Fork Canyon.
Mountain stream in American Fork Canyon.
Slowing time on a mountain stream in American Fork Canyon.
Moss grows on all sides of these woods in American Fork Canyon.
Late fall colors behind Mt. Timpanogos.
Fall colors reamin in an aspen grove near Mt. Timpanogos.
Rays of light penetrate the clouds just before sunset in American Fork Canyon behind Mount Timpanogos.
The air was heavy, oppressive. Dark clouds rose above a steel horizon. The humid air made it hard to breathe. I took a shower that morning, but never dried off, still dripping. The clear ocean called to me, but a storm was coming. I could feel it in the quiet slowness. No one was in the water. Most of the locals were resting on mats in their fales. A Samoan home, or fale, is mostly built with bamboo and thatch, allowing maximum airflow. The air was not moving.
I watched them come, the dark clouds. The weight of wet-hot weather pushing, pushing down on my chest, holding me in place as I watched them grow, the clouds. I wanted to lie down and not move, sleep until the dark dream dispersed.
When the rains came, it was sudden, as if the ocean moved onshore. The sky was water. The air was liquid. The drops were waves, crashing to earth. The sound rose and swelled, drowning all other sounds.
The rains ceased. Clouds moved on, a pleasant breeze chasing them. The sun emerged from hiding. Children were the first to awaken, laughing and playing in streams winding back to sea. Steam rose above fluorescent flora. The world sparkled with brilliant color.
I witnessed a transformation of the island, Samoa, sea, sky, land. What I didn’t see, couldn’t see then, was the change Samoa wrought in my heart, not until I left that place.
I have not been back, yet, I long to return, to reconcile the man I am with man I hope to be, in paradise.
Namu’a Island, Samoa, just a short swim away.
Gentle breezes blow through swaying palms in Samoan paradise.
Rain and mountains make for spectacular waterfalls in Samoa.
A woman walks home on a rural Samoan road.
Waterfalls and rain are never far away on Upolu, Samoa.
Giant electric green ferns thrive in the Samoan forests.
Lush vegetation of many colors grow in the Samoan jungle.
Lush vegetation of many colors grow in the Samoan jungle.
Tapa cloth designs create a homey warmth in the Samoan fale.
Rain drops bead on leafy green vegetation in Samoa.
Beautiful flowers grow wild in Samoa.
Coconuts grow wild on Upolu, Samoa.
A boy watches warily, before taking a swim in the ocean.
Samoan children pose for the camera.
Fresh from a swim in the sea, a Samoan boy leans against his house.
Talofa lava–a young boy waves in greeting.
Coral reefs protect palm-lined sandy beaches on the island of Upolu, Samoa.
Lava flows bear witness to Samoa’s violent geological past.
Drift wood and lava adorn many Samoan beaches.
Put your feet in Samoan sand. You may not want to take them out.
Perhaps in need of paint, the wooden canoe is still seaworthy.
Hand carved canoes point the way for Samoan mariners.
Palm trees protect aging canoes from the sun and rain.
Known for centuries as great mariners, Samoan still navigate the seas in wooden canoes.
Peaceful bay in Upolu, Samoa.
Lava Lavas and sandals are formal attire in Samoa.
Storm clouds bloom over Upolu Island, Samoa.
Trade winds push fluffy clouds over coconut palms in Samoa.
A calm before the storm settles over the bay on Upolu, Samoa.