Prayer flagsFor Tibetan Buddhists in western China, delivering prayers and requests to heaven is a physical act. By climbing to altitudes above 10,000 ft., they believe they have gained a proximity to heaven which will allow their entreaties to be heard. Tibetans will throw prayer cards to the skies and construct stands of prayer flags on or near mountain summits as more permanent messages. Even as the bright colors of the flags fade, their contrast to the sweeping skies and mountainous terrain is striking.
What a cake hole!! On a photo safari in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania, we spent hours fifty feet or closer to several prides of lions. The order of the day was lots of rest and sleep, to be followed by lounging in the sun or shade, as the temperature dictated. The lions were thoroughly unconcerned with our presence, only occasionally raising their heads to check us out. I found it most refreshing to be greeted with such indifference by these carnivorous animals.
These exuberant, beautiful ladies welcomed us when we arrived at their village, Nyhinila, in the central highlands of Tanzania. After two days of travel by plane, bus, and land cruiser, to be greeted by dancing, singing, and celebration by the entire village was simply an overwhelmingly emotional experience. Their joy was the launching pad for the work we did to repair and repaint their school during our week’s stay.
40 minutes by ferry out from the west coast of Ireland and Galway Bay lie three slabs of limestone, known as the Aran Islands. Worlds of stone, these islands illustrate the desolate, stark beauty of windswept shores. We spent the night on Inishmor, the largest of the islands, and after dinner went for a walk to enjoy a truly spectacular sunset. Small cemeteries dotted fields limned by limestone walls, and at one, the combination of a songbird, a Celtic cross headstone, and the end of the day offered a fitting benediction to the day.
The sun sets early in New Hampshire in December. By 3:30 pm, it’s time to be heading home to get warm. As we trudged across Squam Lake, passable due to an early freeze, I noticed that plates of ice expanding across the lake in convergence with others had collided and been forced up into the air. This wall of frozen water lay between us and the sunset, and a photo op was born. I flopped on my belly to shoot a close up of the wall backlit by the sun, and the physical impact was literally breathtaking. Though I could manage only a few shots of this gorgeous and mysterious sight before the cold forced me to rise, the results were most gratifying.
Jackson Peak, the Winds
The Wind River Range sits southeast of Yellowstone and the Tetons, relatively unknown and untraveled. I spent ten days camping with a guide in the Winds at Island Lake, taking day hikes to glaciers, other high alpine lakes, and fishing for rainbow trout. Each afternoon, we returned to the foot of Jackson Peak, commanding the surrounding landscape with an altitude of over 13,500 feet. Each sunset was a spectacular gift, but this one had an otherworldly quality to it that I find unforgettable. Is it the effect of altitude on light, the special properties of fluffy clouds, or just an incredible stroke of good fortune to be present at the end of this day?
Friends in the Woods
There is no better gift than walking in the woods with good friends. I find a sense of fulfillment and of peace on the trail, amplified immeasurably by the company of others. Add in a path next to a roaring West Virginia river, the morning mist that renders the surroundings mysterious and mystical, and the shimmering pools and puddles underfoot after a hard night’s rain, and you have a recipe for a wonderland that is quite real and quite magical at the same time.
Our trek on the Long March route in Sichuan took us past a number of lamaseries. The monks were invariably welcoming, happy to show us their places of worship, living quarters, and in two instances, arcades of prayer wheels. The golden cylinders pictured here are large prayer wheels, each carrying religious inscriptions. The walkway is part of a two-kilometer long arcade, each section featuring its own set of prayer wheels. One of the monks suggested that I walk the arcade, taking care to proceed at a tempo that would allow me to turn each of the wheels as I went by. Before long, I was successfully walking and turning wheels. Then it hit me – the combination of steps and turns was mesmerizing, creating a strong sense of calm and reflection. I imagined how it would feel to follow this path for hours at a time, to be drawn into a world apart from that of daily life.