fire and ice photo: Blog en-us (C) fire and ice photo [email protected] (fire and ice photo) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:01:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:01:00 GMT fire and ice photo: Blog 120 90 The Outer Banks, October 6, 2016 (Hurricane Matthew approaches) Standing in the surf,

in the pale gray light of dawn,

the tide is coming in,

the most primordial of timekeepers.


Water rushes past.

As they return to the sea, wave after wave

begins to eat away

at the loose liquid sand below.


Balance is required,

as grain by grain,

my foundation is eroded away.

I begin to sink under my own pressing weight.


Stay too long in one place,

And be buried, or drowned,

or carried out to sea

against your will.


It should be just physics, really.

The gravity of the moon and sun,

the turbulence of wind and waves,

and the geomorphology of the earth.


But in the miniature maelstrom of life,

Chaos theory reigns.

Each wave crashing, every ripple swirling,

interacts in ways that confound prediction,

propagating out in space and time,

toward an uncertain future.


To know the future would be to stand in place, unmoving,

ankle-deep in the thick soup of ancient earth.

To move, to adapt, is to survive,

to live to see another beautiful daybreak.

Another chance to chart a course

across the great pewter green sea,

somewhere beyond the visible horizon.


And yet, someone drowned yesterday.

A savior briefly held his hand,

but opposing forces separated them,

and the man was never seen again.


You can drown if you stay too long in one place,

And you can drown if you venture too far.


A hurricane is approaching.

Stay put, ride it out, take your chances,

Or heed the red flag warnings, pull your feet out of the sand,

And head for higher ground.


My internal compass spins erratically.

North or south?

Stay or leave?

Sink or swim?


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) hurricane hurricane poem hurricane poetry nature poetry new poetry north carolina north carolina poetry poetry Mon, 31 Oct 2016 23:10:19 GMT
The Man I've always been taken with Thoreau's quote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."  I thought I would try to update it for modern times. There is also a reference in this poem to Bruce Springsteen's line, "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?"


The Man


The man backs out of his driveway,

early, to catch the train. He passes the

garbage man, whistling while hefting barrels.

“Is he happier than I?” the man wonders.


At lunch on the corner, the server

pleasantly hands him his food.

“Are his dreams alive, are they simply lies,

or are they something worse?” the man asks.


On the evening train, he steals

glimpses of fellow travelers.

“Do their smiles mask

quiet desperation?” the man ponders.


Late at night the man listens

to his wife breathing beside him,

far away in dreams. He stares at dark shadows

falling on the floor.

[email protected] (fire and ice photo) blog desperation journal modern poetry new poetry poem poetry springsteen thoreau Mon, 13 Jun 2016 18:19:50 GMT
Seeds In the high plains and parks of Colorado,

seeds, as if snow, release from their Cottonwood canopy,

drifting down through lush leaves that

bow, sway, and quake under gentle summer breezes.


Back-lit by a white sun,

the glowing seeds come in waves,

crossing the ocean of blue above me,

seeking to grab hold,

to hang on,

to gain purchase,

on some new plot of land.


Most will not survive,

the air too hot, the soil too dry,

the spot already taken

by another established tree.


Some drift into raging creeks,

waters bank-full of snow melt from the high country.

Some drift east, some drift west,

their fate decided by the continental divide.


Riding currents of air or water with little control,

they hope to come to rest in some

beautiful patch of organic detritus,

where they can establish roots and grow.


Ancient DNA compels us all to find

our place in this world,

a place to call home,

a place to continue to be.

[email protected] (fire and ice photo) blog colorado cottonwood journal poem poetry Sat, 11 Jun 2016 18:05:25 GMT
Night The night is no less perfect

absolute need so obvious

live     watch     feel


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) blog journal night poem poetry Sun, 24 Jan 2016 14:32:11 GMT
Driftless Driftless


I wander the Wisconsin Driftless Area,

a land unscathed from

the advance of glaciers,

but not the advance of time.


The Mississippi flows inevitably downhill,

carving the continent below buff-colored bluffs.

As I walk this path I leave only footprints,

an ephemeral trace of my existence.


Maple leaves drift to the ground,

no strength left to hang on to their limbs

under blustery winds from the north.

Scarlet snowflakes of autumn.


As new mountains rise from the ashes of old,

these fragile limestone bluffs

will erode and be forgotten,

save for the genealogical record of the earth.


As the last rays of golden light reflect across this river of glass,

I know from whence it came, and I know its final fate.

But I sit and watch the river drift below me,

for its time is now.


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) blog driftless area landscape poem poetry wisconsin Tue, 17 Nov 2015 00:53:00 GMT
Cayman Blues Cayman Blues


Cobalt coast

Cerulean sea

Indigo ocean

They beckon me


What dreams may come

on a rising tide

Follow me down

with you by my side


Floating, flying,

finally free

of the iron shore anchor

that drowns me


Cayman blues

beneath my wings

My return to the sea

one day will bring


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) blog blue cayman destination island journal poem poetry scuba travel Tue, 12 May 2015 15:02:10 GMT
A Sense of Place A Sense of Place, by Mark Dornblaser

(originally published in the Cape Cod Times, September 15, 1991)


            One evening not too long ago I went outside and stared up at the heavens with my binoculars.  I hadn’t done that in quite some time.  But Mars, Venus and Jupiter just happened to be in alignment.  This is an event that hadn’t happened for several hundred years.  It won’t happen again for several hundred more.  “So what,” I could hear a lot of people saying.  “You look up and there are three points of light next to each other, two a little brighter and one a little redder than your average star.  What’s the big deal?”

            On the surface I could see their point.  I looked up at the planets, and even with powerful binoculars I was hard pressed to say anything more than they were bright, or red, and they were relatively close together.  But what I felt was more than that.  I could feel those planets out there.  I could feel myself looking down on the solar system, drawing a line nearly straight through from planet to planet.  It was like one of those T-shirts you see, with the Milky Way galaxy and an arrow that points to an imperceptible spot halfway between the center and the edge.  “You are here,” it says.

            For some reason there is some comfort in that, some comfort in knowing where we are in the grand scheme of things, in the big picture.  Actually, it’s not just the big picture, but the little picture as well.  A few weeks ago I came back from spending two months in Australia and New Zealand.  They were places I’ve always wanted to see.  Spectacular scenery, friendly people.  And something else.  Before I began my adventure I picked up a globe.  I put one index finger on Cape Cod and I put the other as far away on the globe as I could.  When I turned the globe over I discovered my second finger would up in the ocean near Perth, Australia.  On my trip I visited Perth.  And when I got home I was able to say I was as far away from home as I could get while remaining on the planet.  And there was comfort in that.  The world shrunk drastically on that trip.  No longer was Australia a mysterious continent about the size of the United States located somewhere “Down Under.”  I traveled 11.000 miles in Australia, and I feel like I know it.  And I now realize that any place on this earth is just a plane ride away, even if it is 18 hours.

            Earlier that evening, not too long ago, before it was dark enough to see the planets in alignment, I took a walk in my neighborhood.  I have lived here a year now, yet the streets I walked down that night I had never traveled before.  I walked past a farmer’s field, past a small airstrip hidden in the woods.  I walked past a house where a mother was scolding her son.

            You are here.

            Why is it that we need to establish our place on the map?  Map of the heavens, or map of the neighborhood, why do we feel better when we can say “X marks the spot?”  Perhaps it is because we feel insecure, because science has proved to us over the years how immense the universe is and how insignificant we are.

            We need a sense of place.  It shouldn’t matter to us that we’re not the center of the universe, as long as we can attach some sort of coordinates to ourselves and know where we are.  Why must we know?  Because otherwise we’d all be hanging out in the middle of space with nothing to break our fall.  When you wake up in the morning unsure of where you are, you panic (albeit briefly).

            I suppose it is an insecurity, but it is nothing to be worried about.  The aboriginals of Australia have incredibly profound ties to their land.  Way back in the Dreamtime, their ancestors rose out of the earth and created their country.  Every mountain, every tree, every kangaroo was “sung” into existence as the ancestors walked the earth.  It is incredible to realize that an aboriginal today, upon hearing these “songlines,” would be able to navigate his way across the entire country, even though most of the songlines would belong to tribes or clans other than his own.  Road maps of song, and of land.  Truly, the aboriginals have a sense of place.

            While looking through my binoculars that evening I stared at the moon as well as the planets.  It was easy to see the craters and the hills, the light and the dark.  Just think of the sense of place I could get if I could only hitch a ride up there...



[email protected] (fire and ice photo) australia blog cape cod essay journal map moon night of place planets poem poetry sense sense of place stars Thu, 06 Feb 2014 02:35:17 GMT
Hurricane I wrote this poem after Hurricane Bob swept across Cape Cod in August, 1991.




A hurricane wind

            rips across an August Cape.

The beast quickly passes...

            October shadows live on.


Brown, brittle leaves from salt spray;

Green, spring-like growth from warm winds.

Life, confused.


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) 1991 blog bob cape cod hurricane journal poem poetry Thu, 06 Feb 2014 02:03:53 GMT
Showdown A poem I wrote quite a while ago...




The mountain stands quiet in the distance.

I approach.

                    He stands his ground.

I climb, determined.

                                  He fears not.


Boots on shale clink like a cowboy’s spurs.

Anger, fatigue, self-doubt.


Gray skies surround, icy winds attack.


Face to face – no guns drawn.

Today the mountain yields.

[email protected] (fire and ice photo) blog boots challenge climb hike journal mountain poem poetry test wind Wed, 05 Feb 2014 02:45:13 GMT
Expedition Cruising in Antarctica Exploring Antarctica, by Mark Dornblaser

(Published in the Cape Cod Times, September 25, 1994)


“You’re going to Antarctica, aren’t you?”

I turned my head in the direction of the voice and saw an elderly couple wearing heavy red parkas.  They were standing in line next to me at the Aerolineas Argentinas counter at JFK airport in New York.

“Yes, I am,” I said grinning at them, wondering what had given me away.  We all glanced down at our bags, and noticed the identical luggage tags: they all said Blyth and Company Travel, Toronto.

Ben and Marge confirmed that they were going on the same trip I was: expedition cruising to the ice continent.  I had made two friends and hadn’t even gotten my seat assignment.

We met more fellow travelers in the departure lounge, still more on the plane that began its journey in Montreal.  The West coast group caught up with us in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  After an afternoon of exploring and a night of rest there, we were on our way to Ushuaia (pronounced oosh-WHY-a), the southernmost town in the world, where we would board our ship.

The rugged coast of Patagonia and the cobalt blue ocean looked beautiful from 30,000 feet.  We landed briefly in the small outpost of Rio Grande to change to a smaller plane.  I realized why when we dropped out of the sky over the snow-capped Le Martial mountains, skimmed the rooftops of Ushuaia, and came to a halting stop on the town’s short, single runway.

Tour guides dropped us in the center of town to shop while the ship prepared for our arrival, but it was impossible to contain our excitement.

Finally we boarded the Akademik Ioffe, a 383-foot ice-class Russian research ship built in Finland in 1987.  With the fall of the Soviet Union, and the collapse of the economy, the ship was leased to Blyth Travel and refitted for expedition cruising.

This was a rare opportunity, and I planned to make the most of it.

My room on the ship was much nicer than I expected, given that we were on a research ship rather than a luxury liner. The economy cabin included bunk beds, a sink, a desk, a sofa, an outside view, and more than ample storage space. Bathroom facilities were shared with a few other cabins.

After a cocktail reception in the dining room, it was time to explore the ship. There was a small library, weight room, sauna and an outdoor swimming pool.

One of the nicest treats on the ship was having unlimited, 24 hour access to the bridge.  It was odd to see navigation charts in Russian.

After a short briefing we all went out on deck to watch as we departed Ushuaia and headed down the Beagle Channel, named after Charles Darwin’s ship.  Then it was time for dinner.  Dining was casual – no formal dress and no assigned seating.  This added to the camaraderie, and gave us a chance to get to know everyone over the course of the trip.  Each night we were given a choice of two entrees, usually one fish and one meat dish.  They were hard choices, because everything I ate was excellent.

We woke up the next morning in the Drake Passage, some of the most treacherous waters in the world.  Sailors have reported waves here of 100 feet high, and hurricane force winds are common.  Fortunately for those prone to seasickness, the seas were calm, although some of us couldn’t help but feel a little cheated at not being tossed around.

It would take two days at cruising speed to cross the 600 miles of open water, but the days were filled with activity.  There were educational seminars given by our on-board naturalists about the geology and history of Antarctica and the biology of the penguins and whales we would see; there was a ship’s tour, which included the state-of-the-art engine room and scientific research facilities; there were bird watches from the aft deck, where we saw albatross, petrels and cape pigeons swoop and dart behind the ship in search of food churned up in our wake.

There were also safety briefings, including one on how we would conduct our landings in Zodiacs, inflatable boats made famous by Jacques Cousteau, and a discussion of the Antarctic traveler’s code, which instructs visitor on minimizing impacts on the animals and the landscape.  I was happy to see that safety and environmental concerns were taken seriously.

At the end of our first evening in the Drake Passage, some new friends and I went up to the bridge.  It was very quiet and dark, with only the glow from the radar and navigation equipment providing light.  My friend Chris spoke Russian, and soon we were all trying to converse with Valeri, a charming 32-year-old sailor with a twinkle in his eye and a gold tooth that was visible through his mischievous smile.

He asked if we would like to go below and see his quarters, and naturally we agreed.  Upon opening his door, Valeri introduced us to Leonid, his cabin mate.  Leonid was strong and stocky, slightly balding, and he had some gold teeth as well.  He said he used to be a Mig-23 pilot, and his sense of adventure and romance brought him on board the ship.

Their cabin was much like mine, except that it had a refrigerator.  There was a stuffed penguin on the shelf and a picture of a Mercedes on the wall.  They offered us chilled Stoli vodka, and sliced apples and grapes – how could we refuse?

Chris was a good translator, and I was able to ask how things were in the former Soviet Union.  Valeri said things were better now; communism had too much control over everything.  Wasn’t it harder now to find things, we asked? Still better, Valeri said.

We shared more ideas and stories, and a lot of laughter.  I found myself in amazement, thinking that five years ago none of this would have been possible.  When I found out later that Leonid had poured the last of their vodka into my glass, I realized how truly lucky I was.

The next day when we crossed the Antarctic Convergence, the line where cold Antarctic waters meet the warmer waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, I knew we were getting close.

The water temperature dropped by three degrees, the air became colder, and we saw dolphins and penguins playing in the waves.  Soon we spotted glacier-covered peaks in the distance, telling us we had reached the South Shetland Islands at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Before long we were maneuvering through Neptune’s Bellows, the narrow opening into the volcanic caldera at Deception Island.  The eight mile wide caldera was formed when the island volcano collapsed, forming a crater that sank far enough to allow the sea to flood the interior.

It was from Deception Island that whaler Nathaniel Palmer allegedly became the first American to sight the continent of Antarctica in 1820.  The island has been the site of whaling, and later research stations, although they were abandoned in 1969 when the still active volcano erupted, dropping fiery debris on the buildings

There are hot springs in the caldera where the water is warm enough for swimming, but on occasion it becomes so hot that it can peel the paint off the bottom of the boat.

The land looked like a moonscape when we went ashore.  Because of the recent volcanic activity there was no plant life – just hills of dark ash, and a wayward chinstrap penguin somehow separated from the rookeries on the outer edges of the island.  Together with the ring of snow-covered ridges, and the sheer yellow, black and red cliffs, it was an awesome sight.

I looked out of my porthole the next morning and grew excited at the vision of icebergs as we headed down the Gerlache Strait.

Our first stop was a small Argentinean research station in a place called Paradise Bay.  It is aptly named, for it is arguably one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world.  As I climbed a snow-covered hill in back of the station, the clouds lifted, the wind died, and the mountains ringing the bay were perfectly reflected in its surface.  Crabeater seals basked in the sun on icebergs that glowed an azure blue.

Penguins frolicked in the water, and cormorants nested in multicolored cliffs: blue-green from copper deposits, emerald green from mosses and orange from lichens.  A minke whale surfaced among the bergy bits. 

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did.  We headed into the majestic Lemaire Channel, a narrow fjord with glaciated peaks rising thousands of feet right out of the water on either side of the ship.  As the ship pushed its way through broken pack ice and bergy bits, and weaved in and out of icebergs the size of large buildings, I ran from one side of the ship to the other with my camera, barely able to control myself.

As if to break the “monotony” of this spectacular landscape, we landed at Peterman Island, where there was a penguin rookery.  The Gentoo and adelie penguins looked hopelessly clumsy as they waddles across the rocks, but watching them toboggan across the snow or swim effortlessly under water made me appreciate their evolutionary characteristics.

The noise from their squawking surrounded us, particularly when the predatory skua birds threatened their fuzzy little chicks. What also surrounded us was the odor of penguin guano.  While overpowering at first, we figured that if it didn’t bother the penguins, it shouldn’t bother us, and eventually we did get used to it.

Standing in the bow that night, I discovered that the bright white snow and shimmering blue water of midday had changed in the soft evening light to pastel blue ice and salmon-colored clouds; the sea glowed orange and violet looking toward the setting sun – the color slowly metamorphosed into a silvery slate as you turned toward the far horizon.  It was the perfect end of a perfect day.

We had two more days of adventures ahead of us, and they were just as full of wondrous sights and sounds as the first.  We saw thousands of penguins on Wiencke and Cuverville Islands.

We got to talk to British researchers there studying the effects of tourists on penguin behavior and reproduction.  A humpback whale surfaced not 15 feet in front of my eyes.  I saw Crabeater, leopard, weddell, elephant and Antarctic fur seals.

One night Valeri, Leonid, and their mate Alex made shish kabobs for the group of us who were in their cabin before.  Alex was an electronics/acoustics expert. (We all wondered whether this ship was originally built to hunt for U.S. submarines, but we never got any confirmation of this theory.)

Alex’s opinion of the situation in the republics was that not much would change until people were allowed to own land, and that might take years.  You could tell they all felt deeply about their country.

During our meal I found out that Alex had frequented the same drinking establishments that I have on Cape Cod, where I now live.  Here I was, closer to the South Pole than New York is to Denver, eating and drinking with Russian sailors who care as much about their country as I do about mine, and I realized how very small the world really is.

Finally our Russian friends had to return to their duties, so they toasted us and told us how glad they were to have met us. The feeling, we said, was mutual.

While we couldn’t make our last planned landing because of bad weather, we had made six out of seven.  We also had two days of sun.  Given that Antarctica may only get 30 days with sun in a year, we knew how fortunate we were.

The Drake Passage did not disappoint us on the trip back to South America.  Waves crashing against the bow sprayed the windows on the bridge, five decks above the water line.

While forced inside because of the elements, we still kept busy.  There was singing and guitar playing in the lounge, there was laughing and the exchanging of stories, there was a party for the ship’s anniversary.  The last night the captain hosted a Russian dinner complete with borscht, shish kabobs, stuffed cabbage, and of course vodka.

My vacation was not quite over. There was still the tour of the southernmost ranch in the world, a tour of the National Park of Tierra del Fuego, and more free time in Ushuaia and Buenos Aires.  All of which I enjoyed.

But I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I left the Akademik Ioffe, and said goodbye to the friends I had made.  The interactions with those people remain as much a treasured part of the experience as the icebergs, the whales, and the penguins.



[email protected] (fire and ice photo) antarctica article blog crab cruise deception eater glacier iceberg island journal leopard penguin photography published russian sea seal ship travel vacation vodka whale Sun, 02 Feb 2014 18:20:00 GMT
Trekking in Nepal This account is from my trek in Nepal in 1996.  I wrote it as a travel article, but never was able to get it published.  I was told at the time by newspaper editors (who had published me before) that travel articles had to be tied to advertising.  I assume it's just gotten worse...

Cheers, Mark

The Highs and Lows of Trekking Nepal


Mark Dornblaser


   We were sitting in the dining tent after dinner. We huddled in the cold, each breath visible as we exhaled. The dim light came from a lantern; hours earlier the mist had swallowed up the mountains, and darkness had enveloped us. Our soft-spoken Sherpa guide, Sona Hishe, was describing the last recorded attack by a yeti, or abominable snowman, back in 1963...

   “Startled, the woman spun around, and was terrified at what she saw. As she turned away, trying to protect herself, the yeti knocked her into the icy stream. When she awoke in the cold water, the yeti was attacking her yaks. It picked up one baby and threw it to the ground, killing it instantly. Another one it ripped in two pieces. The young woman was paralyzed with fear, and didn’t move. She didn’t know what the yeti was doing with the third yak, it’s powerful arms around the yak’s neck, until she realized the yeti was draining the large animal of its blood. The fourth yak was skinned alive as she watched, horrified. The fifth yak’s limbs were ripped off. The woman was certain she would be next, but the yeti disappeared into the forest.”

   Just as Sona finished telling us this chilling tale, the lid on the teapot slammed shut, making us all jump. Sona himself recalled hearing the wail of the yeti years ago as a teenager, and how “very scared” he had been. We all retired to our tents that night wide awake, ears tuned to every sound, listening for the wail of the yeti.

   We never heard one, but the next day in the village of Khumjung, we visited the gompa, or monastery, where we saw the scalp of a yeti in a locked glass case. I was skeptical of the scalp, as were my fiancé, Deb, and the other three westerners on our trek. At the same time, I was enchanted with this land, where mysticism and legend are such a part of daily life.

   At this point we were five days into our 19 day trek, and we seemed a world away from the hustle, noise, and smog of Kathmandu, our gateway to the Khumbu region of Nepal. While we enjoyed our brief visit to Kathmandu, strolling around the old Durbar, or Palace Square, exploring temples dating back to the 1600’s, it was the great Himalaya mountains we came to see, the “Abode of Snows.” The Himalayas were born 40 million years ago, when India slammed into Asia. The uplift of these mountains continues today, at a rate of 10 centimeters a year. For a country the size of Iowa, Nepal has the highest altitude range of any place on earth. Its lowland Terai region sits just 300 feet above sea level. A short distance away, Nepal has eight of the highest mountains in the world, capped off by the incredible Mount Everest, at 29,028 feet. While the views so far had been even more spectacular than I imagined, I knew I would be disappointed if views of the world’s tallest peak eluded us.

   To get those views requires a long trek up into the mountains, for there are no roads to take you there. We shortened the distance a great deal, by taking a Russian cargo helicopter from Kathmandu, at 4500 feet, to Lukla, at 9400 feet. Serious trekkers hike to Lukla from the village of Jiri, a ten hour bus ride from Kathmandu. While this helps the body acclimatize to the altitude and strengthen muscles, this hike adds at least another week to the trip. So we skipped ahead to Lukla, where we began our daily trekking routine.

   We adapted to the trekking life quickly, eager to rid ourselves of the trappings of civilization. The time of day and day of the week soon became irrelevant. We rose, ate, walked, and slept according to the sun’s clock. Typically, we’d hear our spry cook Jor Bahadur (JB for short) saying “tea ready,” at first light, as he passed the hot mugs into our tents. Hot wash water was left in a bowl just outside. After a light breakfast, we would hike for about three hours, and then leisurely enjoy a hot lunch while gazing at the surrounding peaks. When we stopped mid-afternoon, after another three hours on the trail, our camp was already set up, our down sleeping bags already unfurled in our North Face dome tents. Afternoon tea, then dinner, and an early bedtime usually rounded out the day.

   The steep ups and downs, and the altitude, took their toll the first few days - on our way through the villages of Phadking, Namche Bazaar, and Thame, our legs felt like stone, and we struggled to draw enough oxygen into our lungs. But by the time we arrived in Khumjung, at 12,600 feet, our bodies were adjusting. We occasionally suffered headaches (a typical symptom of mild altitude sickness), but our legs felt stronger, and we grew more excited the farther into the mountains we climbed.

   Day 6: Every step we take we are witness to a rich tapestry unfolding before us - spectacular mountain vistas, the warm smiles of the villagers, and the Buddhist shrines along the trail are all woven into the fabric of a hard, but spiritual life that we all greatly admire. Colorful prayer flags flutter along high ridges, the wind carrying the words of the prayers off to be shared by all. Stupas (Buddhist shrines) spring up frequently along the trail; out of respect we walk around them in a clockwise direction, as the locals do. Mani, or prayer stones, carved centuries ago, adorn the bases of the stupas by the hundreds. Many of these stones repeat the mantra, “Om mani padme hum,” or “Hail to the jewel of the lotus.”

   From Khumjung we hike down to the Dudh Kosi (Milk River) and the village of Phortse Tenga, then begin a long climb up towards Macherma at 14,600 feet. Both the altitude and the grand vistas take your breath away. The scenery changes more frequently than I would have imagined. Views of the peaks Cholotse and Taboche (both over 21,000 feet high) change constantly as we hike in front of their western faces. We pass through different vegetation zones at different altitudes - the birch, oak, maple, and rhododendron at lower altitudes give way to large pines on high ridges, their limbs twisted by the prevailing winds and draped in feathery green mosses, grown from the monsoons of summer. The Nepalese bird, the pheasant, with its brilliantly colored plumage, prances through the undergrowth. Higher still, scrub juniper is all that can survive the harsh environment. The Himalayan tahr (related to the goat), scampers sure-footed among the rocky crags. Finally, above 14,000 feet, the juniper disappears, leaving only rust-colored mosses and lichens clinging defiantly to the rocks.

   And always along the trail, the friendly villagers, porters, and sherpas. (Sherpa with a capital S refers to the Nepalese ethnic group that emigrated to the Khumbu region of Nepal from Tibet 500 years ago. With a lower case s, sherpa refers to a trek guide or mountaineer. Not all sherpas are Sherpas, but many are.) On most days, Nima, a 16 year old Sherpa, leads us up the trail. Nima speaks little English, but his mischievous smile, and good natured ribbing about our slow pace, speak volumes. With the villagers, too, we learn that a warm smile and a friendly “namaste,” or hello, is all that is needed to communicate. The porters we see on the trail carry incredible loads, often well over one hundred pounds, wearing only sandals or tennis shoes. A simple strap running across their foreheads bears the weight. As they pass us by, whistling, and seemingly without effort, we are duly impressed, and weakened at the same time. They shoulder everything from trekkers’ gear to stacks of long 2x8’s, used to build the hundreds of tea houses that have sprung up as a result of trekking’s popularity. Yaks carry even more gear, ours included. The bells around their thick necks warn of their approach; we hug the high side of the trail and let them pass, so as not to be bumped off the other side and sent tumbling for a thousand feet.

   In the villages, families spend unbelievable amounts of time and effort clearing rocks from the fields to grow barley, buckwheat, corn, and most importantly, potatoes, the staple of these once nomadic herders for the last 150 years. High stone walls separating the families’ plots are a testament to their labor. In schoolyards, young children, their faces dirty yet bright, sing joyously, their melodies carrying far up the valley. It is a sweet, sweet sound.

   Macherma is higher than I’ve ever been in my life. We spend two nights there to aid in the acclimatization process. We still have much higher to go. In addition to headaches that come and go, I notice a loss of appetite, another symptom of mild altitude sickness. I also have anxiety attacks at night, as my lungs struggle to take in more oxygen. These symptoms are cause for concern, but are not yet dangerous. I seem to be affected the most, although scientists have no idea why altitude affects some more than others, or why it can hit someone hard on one trip, but not on the next. One thing everyone agrees on is that you must consume a large amount of water each day to combat dehydration, which may play a large role in altitude sickness. Sona says we should drink four litres of water a day to replace the water we lose from perspiration and breathing the dry mountain air. At every meal, the staff provides us with ample supplies of boiled water that we use to fill our bottles. But while we all try diligently to comply with Sona’s recommendation, the amount seems enormous, and I know I am not reaching that target.

   Day 9: Our destination is the tiny summer village of Gokyo, at 15,700 feet. A steady climb, we push onwards and upwards following the Dudh Kosi, drawn by views of the glistening white Cho Oyu ahead of us, at 26,700 feet. We climb up and around the terminal moraine of the Lungsampa Glacier, a ten mile long river of ice, which flows down from the flanks of the towering Cho Oyu. Suddenly we come upon a series of breathtaking blue-green lakes, nestled between the lateral moraine of the glacier and Dragkya, a knife-edged ridge topping off at 20,000 feet. The deep blue color of the lakes is a shock to our senses, in this monochromatic alpine world of dark rock and white ice.

   The following morning we are scheduled to attempt the summit of Gokyo Peak, at 18,000 feet. Sitting just across the lake, it looks like a small hill, until we realize that the small specks we see are other trekkers, inching their way down the mountain following their own summit attempt. We go to bed anxious and excited. This is what we all had been dreaming about for a year. This is why we had been training hard for six months.

   I sleep fitfully, due to altitude and adrenaline. And it is cold. The down bags provided for us keep us warm, but each night requires at least one trip out of the tent due to the large volumes of water consumed. I stand outside in my long johns and hiking boots in the 20 degree cold. The night is calm. The combined light of a billion billion stars gently illuminates the landscape. I return to bed listening to the soothing sounds of water flowing by, and of chiming yak bells.

   In the morning we awaken to ice crystals on the inside of the tent. We get an early start, unsure of how long it will take to reach the summit, or whether it will happen at all. It is a tough slog, one foot in front of the other, switchback after switchback, breathing heavily the entire way. We stop frequently for water and rest, and I am afraid to look at my watch. But little by little we make progress. Eventually, the slope begins to level off, and we are able to see that the top is within reach. Deb and I reach it together, and embrace, tears streaming down our face. It is one of the most emotional moments of our lives. We turn and gaze in awe at our 360 degree view of the top of the world. Below us, the Gokyo lakes shine their brilliant blue. The Lungsampa Glacier stretches from one horizon to the other. Rising above us are half of the eight highest peaks in the world, standing starkly against a crystal blue sky: Cho Oyu, Makalu, Lhotse, and the one we all came to see, Everest. Known as Sagarmatha to the Nepalese, and Chomolongma to Tibetans, it is so high that it intersects the jet stream, which explains the bare rock appearance of the mountain and the plume of snow whipping off its summit. Given the struggle to get where we were at 18,000 feet, I could better understand the struggle it must be to summit Everest. While 200 climbers have reached the top since Sir Edmund Hillary and Norgay Tensing first did it in 1953, 100 climbers have died.

   Glued to the vision before me, I held even more respect for our Sherpa leader, Sona. A 44 year old veteran of four Everest expeditions, he had cheated death on at least one occasion, when he and three fellow Sherpas were trapped in an avalanche. Short and thin, but incredibly strong, he was able to dig himself out, and his friends, and lead them through chest-deep snow to safety. I turn to watch him string up a line of prayer flags between two rocky outcrops on the summit. This quiet reverence to his religion was ever more inspiring given the prominence of death in these mountains. Life expectancy here is only 52. Sherpas and porters can make good money assisting in expeditions, but often they pay the ultimate price. Monasteries in the region swell with young children, orphaned at an early age. Earlier we had seen a rescue helicopter flying up to Ama Dablam, trying to recover five dead climbers. Of the five dead, only one was a foreigner.

   After several glorious hours on the summit of Gokyo Peak, we regretfully descend. Back in camp, the clouds move in quickly and it begins to snow. We feel all the more fortunate for what we have just seen. Riding an emotional high, we set off the next day in high gear, crossing the rocky lower reach of the Lungsampa Glacier, a moonscape set off by a blinding sun. Later, rising up through Chugiema, I am struggling again. As good and varied as the food is on the trek, my lack of appetite has been causing me to lose weight, and along with that, strength. We were approaching what I knew would be a difficult part of the trek, a climb over the Cho La Pass. At 17,800 feet, I knew it would be a climb about as high as Gokyo Peak. What I didn’t realize until the day before was that our trusty yaks were leaving us and taking the long way around - the pass was too steep for them to climb.

   I am dizzy the next morning, staring up at the glacier-covered pass. We make our way slowly up the rock wall, sometimes hand over hand. At some point Ang Chuldim, our Sirdar (head of the trekking staff) notices my ragged condition and graciously takes my day pack. At this point I am not too proud to refuse help. This frees me up enough to finally reach the top of the pass. As I stare at the sea of ice surrounding me, I feel in the clear, realizing that most of the remainder of the trek is downhill from here. But on the way down the other side of the pass, I am still not feeling right. I try to eat something at camp in Dzongla, but I can’t keep it down. This puts me into a new category as far as altitude sickness is concerned. It is time for a very watchful eye, from Deb, Sona, and myself.

   Day 13: Our destination is the village of Lobuche. At 16,000 feet, Lobuche is no higher than our camp at Dzongla, or Gokyo. While feeling run down, I reason that I am not in too much danger as long as I don’t gain altitude again right away. We planned to spend two nights in Lobuche, and make an attempt on Kala Pattar, another 18,000 foot peak. I hoped that a night’s rest in Lobuche would do me a world of good. But this is our seventh day above 14,000 feet. And on what should be a very easy jaunt to Lobuche, my pace slows even more. In Lobuche we decide that I have had enough, and I should descend immediately. At least I am sensible enough not to put up too much of a fight. I am extremely disappointed at missing the attempt on Kala Pattar, a peak whose views are said to rival those of Gokyo. But as Deb and I descend with Sona and two porters, there is nothing I can do.

   Sona puts us up in a lodge in Pheriche, at 14,000 feet. Almost instantaneously, I feel 100% better. This is the one great thing about altitude sickness that I already knew - curing it is as simple as descend, descend, descend. We go to the Himalayan Rescue Station and listen to a doctor talk to trekkers about altitude sickness. He confirms for us the serious nature of my symptoms, proving that we had made the right decision. At night, I actually get a full night’s sleep, and my appetite returns. The following day, Sona takes us to his own lodge in Dingboche, also at 14,000 feet. We recoup here until the rest of our crew catches up with us. As it turns out, only one member of our crew, Carla, made the assault on Kala Pattar. She is beaming, recounting the stunning views, and I am honestly happy that she made it.

   Day 16: We all arrive in Tengboche, the cultural and religious center of the Khumbu region of Nepal. Now at 12,500 feet, every step we have descended has made the breathing easier. Perched on a ridgetop, we should see Everest from here, but the clouds finally catch up with us, and we miss our last final look at the great mountain.

   Instead we focus on the Tengboche monastery, not always by choice. At 5:00 am, we awaken to the cacophonous sounds of cymbals, drums, and horns that shatter the darkness. Monks of all ages, in their burgundy robes, chant and pray for four hours every morning, and four hours every evening. We quietly enter the monastery, and listen to the chanting for a long while. The monastery is lit by only a few bare bulbs, but the wall hangings and frescoes are brightly colored. Images of the Dalai Lama, made illegal in neighboring Tibet by the Chinese, are tacked up on wooden beams. The fragrant scent of juniper incense fills the monastery. A fifteen foot golden Buddha sits silently in the back of the chamber, katas (prayer shawls) draped across his lap, his clairvoyant eyes upon us all. We leave silently, agreeing that we prefer the peaceful chanting of the monks in prayer to the loud banging at 5:00 am.

   Day 18: We arrive in Syangboche on a sunny afternoon. It’s noticeably warmer at 12,000 feet than it was above 14,000. We are camped above the STOL (short take-off and landing) airstrip, where, with any luck, a helicopter will come to pick us up in the morning and take us back to Kathmandu, and flights home. We admit that we are all ready to return to civilization, ready to return to warm showers, flush toilets, and bedrooms where ice doesn’t grow on the ceiling. 

   On our last evening in the Himalayas, we wish to thank Sona, Ang Chuldim, JB, Nima, and the rest of the crew for taking such good care of us. So we take them to a little tea house near our camp for an end-of-trek celebration. In a little dark room, with a dirt floor and with walls black with soot, we exchange toasts, to a successful expedition and to friendship. While we drink San Miguel beer, our guides drink chang, a local rice beer that they themselves warn us away from. There is much singing and dancing. JB moves us deeply with a traditional Sherpa folk song. We do our best to respond in kind. It is a wonderful way to end the trek.

   The next morning, clouds threaten our departure. Sona, a gleam in his eye, tells us horror stories of people stranded here for two weeks, waiting for the weather to clear, so we are a little uneasy. When our helicopter finally makes it through a tiny break in the clouds, it is chaos as we race to leave. As we say our goodbyes to our friends, Sona drapes katas around our necks. His smiling face is the last thing Deb and I see before we lift into the clouds.



[email protected] (fire and ice photo) article blog hike journal nepal photo travel trek trekking Wed, 29 Jan 2014 03:01:42 GMT
Badlands Artist-in-Residence Journal, 1998 BADLANDS JOURNAL, 1998


March 8: I left Broomfield this morning just before 7am. It was hard to say goodbye to Deb - I wish she was coming with me. It was cold but clear, and I had wonderful views all up the front range as I headed up I-25. Longs Peak highly prominent; everything covered in a nice coat of white frosting from the storm yesterday. The rolling hills looked like larger versions of snow-covered dunes on the Cape. Every frost-covered blade of grass glistened in the sun, every speck of snow sparkled like mica. Horses and cattle huddled up to protect against the cold wind, their exhalations visible in the frosty air. Windmills and oil rigs stood starkly against the open plains. Ft. Collins passed quickly, as did Cheyenne. Then the Laramie Range paralleled me to the west. The wind whipped streamers of snow across the road. The occasional fog bank tucked in low against the mountains, their peaks rising above. When I finally made the turn east at Orin to head for SD, I crossed the North Platte River, billowing steam up into the frigid air, which then froze on the branches of the cottonwoods, creating a crystal palace.

     The Badlands were more amazing than I remembered. The castle ramparts and spires that greeted me were awesome, particularly as they were blanketed in snow, creating wonderful contrasts in color, texture, and light...

     ...After calling Deb, I took a night shot near the Wall below Cedar Pass. The landscape eerily bathed in 3/4 moonlight, I was standing in a field with badland walls nearly encircling me. The snow crunched underfoot, and sparkled in the moonlight. Dead silence. Spooky, but enchanting. A wonderful way to end the first day.


March 9: Slept fitfully, waiting for the alarm to go off. Got up beforehand at 5am. Had a granola bar, packed up my gear, and headed out into the dark and cold. Snowing lightly. Nothing stirring. I walked the Notch Trail in the growing light - somewhat hairy in the snow - walking a ledge over a deep ravine. The sun was slowing breaking through the clouds, slowly working its way down the sides of the canyons. Slippery to walk, and with drifting snow, can’t tell how far you’ll sink in. Lost my footing once and crashed in on my calf - no major damage. Great views out through the canyon and over the prairie - hazy sun, light snow, and frost shimmering in the cold like diamonds. On the return from the Notch, ran into Scott Lopez, Chief Ranger. He had seen my car parked on the road; wanted to make sure I hadn’t slipped, or gone out there to commit suicide. I think he thought I was a little crazy, but after finding out who I was, offered to show me around later...

     ...met Scott, and we took off driving the Loop Road. More staggering scenery. Saw two bison from a distance in the Sage Creek area. On the return, saw another on the prairie near where the park corrals them (they cull the herd every two years, and give them to the Natives). Scott headed off cross-country so I could get some closeups. Bison are amazingly big - up to 2000 lbs. Scott headed off towards the corral to show me the setup - humming across the prairie, bouncing hard, fish tailing, snow flying. We got close to the gate and had to slow down - I knew we wouldn’t make it through the huge drift. Had to dig the truck out and turn us around - no easy task. As the sun set, we freed ourselves, said so long to the bison as we passed, and screamed back towards the road a la “Mr. Majestyk.” It was quite a ride...


March 10: Up at 5:30. Already getting light. Looking out the Window Trail, the sky had some nice color, but a con-trail was right in the way. Drove out the Loop Road to see where the sun was hitting. The myriad colors of grasses, from rust red to bright yellow, emerge from a blanket of snow. Mule deer and rabbit tracks are everywhere. I stopped at every pullout, but the wind quickly picked up and it was bitterly cold, especially on top of the Wall. I found out later it was -3 degrees, not counting wind chill, which could have easily put it at -30. As bundled as I was, it was brutal on my face, and I didn’t wander far. Took some shots of the ice-covered grasses out the car window. The sky flattened with gray almost from the start of the Loop, making picture-taking difficult. Took some shots of some mule deer between Dillon Pass and Pinnacles Overlook, but they were skittish and I didn’t get too close...

     ...after lunch, still cold. But not wanting to sit, I drove out 44 to check out the turnoff for Sheep Mountain Table. It was covered in snow, so I’ll have to wait to get up there. Kind of a tricky drive back - high winds blowing sinews and blankets of snow across the road - hypnotic, mesmerizing, hard to focus. Snow falling as well as blowing, little visibility. Back at Cedar Pass, the pinnacles were half lost in falling snow. Still flat light, so I put on a warming filter and tried a few shots. Hard to keep the snow off the lens, and soon headed back to the apartment. At moments I feel guilty about not shooting every spare second, but also realize that I need to re-charge. Sun and wind have parched my face and wiped me out...


March 11: Up at 5:30am. Super cold this morning. Found out  later it was -21 degrees, which is not surprising, since my car had an absolute seizure when I tried to start it, rocking back and forth like the cylinders and rods were about to come through the hood. After a 15 minute warm-up, I was off. Saw a beautiful sunrise at the Window. Started to take pics along the Castle Trail (just across the road from the Window), and somehow just kept going, despite achingly frozen feet. It was just so beautiful with the bright sunshine on blinding white snow, jagged pinnacles rising 200 ft into a clear blue sky. Animal tracks everywhere. Grasses (56 species here) coated with frost and glistening in the sun, standing out starkly against deep blue shadows in the snow. It was calm again at sunrise, but the wind picked up with time (as usual). My feet would begin to warm and I trudged through the snow, but then I’d stop for photos and they’d freeze again. Hard to walk when you can’t tell how deep the snow is. I’d get surprised from time to time, sinking in to my hip. Walked out to the old Northeast Road, then back along the main road, taking pics, until I got back to the car. Had a frozen snickers and bagel while I cranked the heat. After that I did the Saddle Pass Trail up to the top of the Wall. Cool mushrooms (cap rock) along the way, and wind-blown cornices on top. Often I see mule deer footprints outlined in blown snow as if fossilized...

     ...left at 2pm to drive out to the Pinnacles Overlook for sunset. Sunny, but the wind was screaming, shaking the car. Snow was blowing up the cliff and over my car. In many spots in the distance I saw snow blowing up and over various ridges and pinnacles. Spotted two bison far away munching, oblivious, on a sod table. Amazing how the cold doesn’t seem to affect them. So well adapted. As usual, clouds screwed up the sunset at the last minute, so I returned home and played volleyball at the school in Interior.


March 12: It was much warmer when I walked out the door at 5:15 this morning than it was yesterday. Nice change. The near full moon was obscured by a bank of clouds, but the lower edge of the clouds was lit white by beautiful rim light as the moon began to appear from underneath. In the east, the sky hinted the approach of daylight. I drove out the old NE entrance road, and started out Castle Trail to the west, quickly trudging through the snow. I finally got into position to shoot the full yellow moon as it descended towards the snow-covered buttes. In the distance, the dark shapes of mule deer bounded away, like Pepe LePew, when they became aware of my presence, their white rumps visible before they disappeared behind a sod table. Around me, birds sang and trilled to bring in the new day. The prairie breeze hushed through the dormant grasses, bowed over to the south in submission from the incessant northerlies. Somewhere, a pack of coyotes let their voices be heard. They barked, howled, and screamed like banshees at the setting full moon. From another direction, a second pack answered these howls with their own, and the exchange between the packs lasted for some time. I continued on, shuffling through the knee-deep snow, so light and fluffy that it seemed to flow around me as I walked. Behind me, the sun was struggling to emerge from behind scattered clouds. It intermittently lit up sections of the Wall to the south, and added flickering bits of candle light to the high cirrus clouds above. The ramparts and spires to the west suddenly became bathed in yellow light. The mule deer that had earlier scattered before me stood in dark silhouette against the well-lit backdrop. Again, they bounded away at my approach. As the sun broke free, the sparkling snow turned from a pastel blue to a blinding white, dramatically setting off the clearest, deepest, sky-blue imaginable. It was a winter wonderland I had all to myself...


March 13, 10:30am: Took an easy afternoon yesterday, trying to nap, knowing I’d be out all last night with the biologists, spot-lighting the black-footed ferrets. (The most endangered mammal in North America, they are trying to re-introduce them here. They are nocturnal creatures, so in order to find them and see how they’re doing, you need to go out at night.) I went out to shoot the sunset, which wasn’t great, then met Doug, Craig, and Valerie, the “ferret people.” We drove out across the full moon landscape to the Pinnacles Ranger Station, where we met four Forest Service folks who were also on the project. They loaded up four trucks, and we left about 9pm, heading for the grasslands where the ferrets had been released. Saw a huge green meteorite along the way. I was with Craig and Valerie, who pointed spotlights out the open windows to catch the green eyes of the ferrets. We found one quickly, and Craig put a transponder over the prairie dog hole (ferrets eat prairie dogs, then take over their burrows). A chip under the skin of the ferret set off the transponder, and signaled who he was. I tried to take photos, but it was dark, even with the spotlights. It was a beautiful night, with a full moon, but cold (14 degrees), and long, just driving around the same area for hour after hour. I started to nod off around 3am. At 5am, we got stuck and had to be pulled out by the others. We returned to the Ranger Station as the sky was brightening in the east, Venus still highly visible. After unloading, we headed back to Cedar Pass. Craig was nice enough to stop at Pinnacles Overlook so I could get some moon-set shots, the moon sitting in the pink/blue light inversion, and the pink settling in on the snow-covered pinnacles below. Beautiful.  The sun broke out as we continued back, lighting up the giant wall, ablaze in yellow. Went straight to bed when we got back...


March 13, 7:20pm: Headed out in the afternoon, just around the bend past the Interior cutoff. I parked, and walked in along the base of the peaks and pinnacles. Nice erosional features - banding, mushrooms, channel sandstone, and tons of nodules, round smooth balls of rock somehow laid down with the rest of the sediment. Walking was ugly - mud city from the melting snow. The formerly dry creek beds and gullies are now running “amuck.” Another beautiful afternoon - crystal blue sky, highs in the 30’s, sun slowly sinking, changing the colors of the rock to darker, more saturated shades of red and creme. I headed up Norbeck Pass, hoping the clouds would light up after sunset, but the sun couldn’t get underneath them. Afterwards, I headed back over Cedar Pass to see what the full moon (plus one day) was doing. From the Window it came up bright yellow - gorgeous over the distant canyons!


March 14: Tough getting up at 5am. Almost went back to bed, but discipline kicked in. The clouds didn’t light up in Norbeck Pass, so I parked in the Fossil pullout and headed down the Castle Trail towards Saddle Pass. Found an interesting flat area with small rocks scattered everywhere on the hard pan (I learned later they were all washed down from the Black Hills millions of years ago). Some of the rocks were tiny toadstools themselves, balancing precariously on a minute amount of sediment underneath that had yet to be washed away. Very cool. No slopping through mud at this point, since it had all frozen overnight. I explored off the trail, investigating various fingers of a deep canyon system. Had to retreat back to the “hand” each time I wanted to explore another finger. The snow continues to hide holes - I dropped into one up to my thigh, bruising my knee. The canyon was beautiful, with a mud stream weaving its way sinuously out the bottom towards the prairie. Saw a cool “mudfall,” or “mudcicle,” where a muddy stream dropping over a ledge had frozen overnight. Also found some geodes. Clouds moved in, and I headed back. Flat light until 4pm, when I headed out to shoot the big mushroom at the base of Norbeck Pass. The sunset was clear, although no clouds to light up. Went to Scott’s for dinner.


March 15: Up at 5am, and out to Pinnacles Overlook. Waited for a sunrise that never materialized. Scouted locations on the way back. I want to shoot the yellow mounds, but they still have snow on them. At 10am, met Ranger Mark, Greg, and Casey, and we went up Saddle Pass to meet up with Bruce and Lee, who were searching for a dead bighorn (radio collar alarms go off when the collar doesn’t move for a period of time - suggests the animal has died). They found the dead bighorn, and we hauled it out to the road. It’ll be taken to Laramie for an autopsy.

     ...cold and overcast the entire day, despite forecast for 50 degrees and sunny. Stayed inside all afternoon.


March 16: Was supposed to go up in a plane with a biologist, but the flight was canceled. Beautiful, sunny, windy day (about 50 degrees). Walking would be sloppy, so I drove out to Robert’s Prairie Dog Town. Shot half a roll, although they’re skittish, chirping their alarms around the colony. Continued on to Sage Creek Campground, spotting 3 bison along the way (too far for pics). Walked along the river in some slop, but couldn’t cross over because of snow melt. Walked up a nearby hill - very sloppy, but good views of the area. Drove back slowly, taking pics along the way. Stopped at Pinnacles for sunset, but as usual, clouds swallowed the sun before it reached the horizon.


March 17: Went to Norbeck Pass for sunrise under overcast starless skies knowing the sun would never break. Overcast, flat light all day, with winter storm watch in effect. In the afternoon, the ceiling lowered and winds picked up to a low howl. I read most of the day.


March 18: Went to Norbeck Pass before sunrise. A light dusting of snow last night and deep fog - deep enough that you couldn’t see the formations. Headed back, figuring there wasn’t much to shoot, but ended up stopping several times. There were places I could get close enough to actually see the peaks. The fog caused a nice, even, moody light to fall on the landscape, giving me a much different look. It was sleeting and raw, but fun, and I hope the shots turn out.

     ...sat in on a class at the Interior School. I’ll be giving a talk to the kids next week. Then met and had a nice talk with the Park Superintendent. Nice guy. Bill Supernaugh. Handlebar mustache. Rides a Harley.

     ...overcast most of the day. Finally got some interesting light breaking through. Got a handful of shots from the Cliff Shelf before the hole closed. Headed out to Saddle Pass to wait and see if the sun would break out again. It didn’t. Volleyball again at Interior.


March 19: Up at 6am. Drove to the reservation to give talks to 6-8 graders at the school. Better looking school than Interior, probably from federal tax dollars. Most kids fairly distant and uninterested. Very noisy. Right before I started with the 7th graders, two girls nearly broke out in a fist fight. I realized I shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of interest - I’m showing slides of places they’ll never hope to see, talking about photography when they’ll probably never pick up a camera.

     ...headed out about 2:30 to take pics. Good sun, good cumulous clouds, good afternoon light. As usual, the sunset failed to materialize, the sun disappearing behind a cloud bank 20 minutes before setting. No cloud color.


March 20: Up at 6am. Beautiful sunny day breaking for the first day of Spring. Met Greg and Casey at the VC (Visitor’s Center), and we headed off on a field trip to Devil’s Tower. Still a lot of snow there, at 5000 ft. Impressive tower, with sheer, vertical columns, rising from a boulder field. We walked around the base, gazing up at the columns, giant turkey vultures circling on the thermals. Casey and I scrambled up to the base of the columns, and I had a sense of vertigo trying to take photos of the sheer rock.

     ...Deb arrived about 6:30. Great to see her! We went into Interior and had dinner at the A&M Cafe.


March 21: Beautiful warm clear day. Deb and I did the Door, Window, Notch, and Cliff Shelf Trails, then drove out to Sage Creek, stopping at every overlook and spotting bison along the way. I’m glad Deb could see them. Great light on the way back. Saw a coyote cross the road on the way to Norbeck Pass. Once again, the clouds wouldn’t light up for sunset.


March 22: Deb and I shuttled our cars to the Fossil and Door parking areas so we could walk the length of the Castle Trail. Overcast and 40’s. My first time on the trail with no snow. We took lots of shots of erosional details and stream closeups. Found some fossils along the way. Deb went crazy over the field of rocks I had seen before, brought down from the Black Hills. Showed Deb the deep canyon I had explored before, which she really enjoyed seeing. Overcast when we finished the trail.


March 23: Deb left this morning. Overcast all day today. Worked on a “How to Photograph the Badlands” pamphlet for the park.


March 24: Couldn’t sleep. Up at 4:15am. Headed out to the Air Quality Overlook, but again no sunrise.  Read in the car and waited for the sun to break through, which took a while. I stalked some pronghorn antelope across the prairie, getting some shots but losing my lens cap in the process. Spent some time in the yellow mounds area. It’s 60 today, and the snow is gone from the mounds.

     ...Met Rachel Benton (the park paleontologist) at 3pm, who took me and Mark Gorman on a little geology field trip. Rachel pointed out the Channel sandstone, the Rockyford Ash, clastic dikes, faults, nodules, and a rhino femur fossil up off the Castle Trail. Very cool! After the tour I drove out to Norbeck Pass, the sun casting great beams across the landscape as it appeared from under the clouds. The post-sunset light failed, but I did shoot a hoodoo in the blue light before I returned home.


March 25: The alarm went off at 4:45, but I stayed in bed until 6:30. Judging from the clouds, I didn’t miss much. I worked on my pamphlet until lunch, then gave my slide show at the Interior school. After the show we took them up to the Doors/Window area, and set them loose with disposable cameras to play with. They scattered immediately, and required a watchful eye. After they left, it started to rain, but passed over quickly. When I walked up to the Window I was greeted with a FULL DOUBLE RAINBOW, END TO END! Just incredible! Needless to say, I blew a lot of film on the rainbow, as well as the brightly lit buttes backed by the dark storm clouds.

     ...Ended up at Pinnacles Overlook for sunset. Some of the clouds lit up nicely, but that wasn’t the real show. Most of the heavens seemed ready to open up and pour down all around me. It started as fine streamers of rain pulled down from the brooding sky. The tempest quickly escalated. Soon the sky was like roiling smoke, in viscious shades of black, gray, and blue, rips and gashes tearing away at the fabric. The wind was suddenly sprung upon me, gusting out of nowhere, howling in rage. As the storm passed to the east, the giant head of the thundercloud was still visible in the fading blue light. Its dark underbelly had been ripped open, the insides spilling onto the prairie. It lashed out in pain with bolts of lightning that, for an instant, broke the black pall hanging over the landscape. I followed the lightning all the way back to Cedar Pass...


March 26: Up at 4:45am. Had a bagel, geared up, and headed out on foot across from the VC to see if I could climb up to the slump area where there’s a grove of juniper - and where I saw some bighorn through binoculars on my first day. I was able to climb up there, in the growing light, and eventually reached a saddle looking over the north side of the Wall. I sat and watched the sky brighten, and then watched as the tips of the buttes lit up, the warm yellow light slowly working its way down. After many shots, I considered the way back. It was steep, but doable the way I had come. I was more interested in whether I could find a way down the north side. Glad I headed the way I did. I found a beautiful window in the glowing yellow wall, the deep blue sky penetrating through. I took about a dozen shots, verticals and horizontals, bracketing, just to make sure I got it. It should be a winner if it turns out. I continued down the canyon, breaking out of cool shade into warm sunshine, and was greeted by a symphony of song, bouncing off the buttes in all directions, coming from the western meadowlarks. The songs are sweet and pure, unlike any I have ever heard, trilling up and down, complex, always changing. I sat down in the grass to listen...

     ...I followed the road back over Cedar Pass, but detoured off road on the way down, through another grove of sweet, incense-smelling juniper, past deep gullies, and back into the grasses below. Here I had the luck of having a meadowlark land not 30 feet away. Beautiful yellow breast and black V-neck. Such an incredible voice for such a small bird. Got to within 15 feet before she took off. Great morning! 4pm I went to get Scott, but he was still in a meeting. I was a little concerned about making it to Sheep Mountain Table while it was still light, and also worried about the forecast of rain. Scott didn’t appear until 4:30, then had to change clothes, let Bill’s dog in, get a phone number from the VC - finally under way about 5pm. Of course, doing 80mph gets us there in good time. The seven mile road up the table was dry, but very rough, and I’m not sure I’d take my car up there. Deep ruts, and no place to turn around. The edges of the table are very steep - five people, mostly drunk natives, have fallen off and died up there in the last year. We drove to the end of the table, and it was incredible. The walls of the canyon are shaped like the hoodoos of Bryce, but buff-colored. And more extreme. The drop-off takes your breath away. Scott walked out onto a fin where the canyon arced around you for 180 degrees, a meandering stream running through the bottom far below. The problem was, the fin was EXTREMELY NARROW. At one point, you have to step down a little dip, and the place where you put your foot was only about two inches wider than your foot! On either side it just dropped away, a couple hundred feet straight down. All this on crumbling rock. Carrying a camera and tripod. My legs were shaking. Deb would never have done it, but two things urged me on - the desire to get the shot, and fear of embarrassment from Scott. So I held my breath and did it. But even farther out, where it was “wider,” I still couldn’t spread out my tripod legs because they would have gone over the side. These shots BETTER turn out. There was a sliver of red light on the horizon below a bank of dark clouds, as the setting sun worked its way underneath. It did make it out briefly, turning the pinnacles far to the east an incredible glowing red/salmon color, and casting a soft warm glow on everything else. Then the clouds lit up, pink filling half the sky. Finally, some magnificent sunset color!


March 27: Up at 5:30am. Looked out the window and two mule deer were right outside. As soon as I opened my door, they bolted. Greg, Casey, Mark, and I left at 8am for Mt Rushmore. They’re spending millions on a new VC and parking garage. It’s pretty sick. It sprinkled while we were there, so no great shots. I drove us from Rushmore to Wind Cave, along a crazy winding road through beautiful pine forest. Driving through Custer State Park, we encountered a pack of wild burros, who, when we didn’t offer food, took to licking the car...

     ...Wind Cave was somewhat disappointing. It’s a dry cave, so no stalagmites or stalactites. And they don’t take you very far.

     ...The highlight of the day was driving back through Custer. We saw about 100 bison, some not 5 ft from the car. Very impressive animals. We also saw lots of pronghorn and mule deer, much less skittish than in the Badlands. Good photo ops.


March 28: Up at 5am. Grabbed a pop tart and climbed a small hill in back of the housing area. Breaking the silence was the wonderful warbling of the meadowlarks, along with the squawking of Canadian geese flying overhead. To the east, it was brightening behind the serrated, silhouetted pinnacles of the Wall. At their base was a low blanket of fog, slowly sweeping in from the prairie to the south. I could see the blanket thickening as it moved north and stacked up against the impenetrable Wall, obscuring the peaks one by one. Blocked to the north, the fog bank hugged the Wall and moved west, gradually consuming the rolling mounds in front of me before I, too, was overtaken. The bank silently rose up the sides and flowed around Angel Peak, just to my north. The valley just opposite the VC was completely consumed. Then, just as the high clouds over the pinnacles began to take on color, the fog bank gracefully surrendered to a stiffening breeze, allowing me to shoot the pinnacle peaks with fog below and the yellow/pink-colored clouds above. To cap the moment, a group of eight mule deer climbed a small hill in the foreground, mystical in foggy light, posing dramatically for my shot. Wonderful. Couldn’t have asked for a better setup. I took more shots as the sun itself rose above the peaks, its brilliant light doused by the fog, its outline still visible. Around Cedar Pass, the fog yielded to the wind and sun, receding back into the low-lying prairie. Part of me wanted to be everywhere at once, but I was more than content to stay where I was and watch the show unfold before me...

     ...I went back inside to have a shower, and emerged to find dark, overcast skies. The rain started soon after, and continued throughout the day, punctuated by bursts of hail, and some large wet snowflakes.


March 29: Up at 6:30am. Still raining. No point in getting up for sunrise. Turned quickly to wet snow. After lunch, when it really started accumulating, I went out across from the VC to shoot. It was a pretty world, every blade of grass white with snow, every stream, every creek, every rivulet running a light chocolate brown, like the chocolate rivers in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The tops of the peaks were faded in snow and clouds. Found a flowing mudfall, and took shots of that, along with the chocolate streams. Hard to keep the camera dry in wet snow, and hard to keep the snow off the lens. Somewhat frustrating. Came in to change film, and tried a little more out on the Cliff Shelf. Still frustrating.


March 30: Still snowing lightly this morning. 4-6 inches on the ground. Overcast, flat light. I went up to the grove of junipers opposite Cliff Shelf. They were beautiful, their green bows garnished with white snow. It was very peaceful in the midst of the grove - nature’s cathedral. While taking shots of the trees I spotted mule deer. I had a good time stalking various groups of them around the grove. They’re still skittish, and I didn’t get many shots, but had a good time anyway...

     ...flat light the rest of the day...


March 31: Up at 5am. Sunrise failed to materialize. Still overcast and flat. 45 degrees today. Snow disappearing. Read most of the day...

     ...Right after dinner the sun broke out of the clouds, and lit up the Wall to the east. Backed by a thin veil of dark clouds, the Wall glowed yellow, and revealed a wonderful soft texture. As the golden light moved slowly down the pinnacles, a pinkish glow moved up the veil above the Wall, first in the east, then gradually moving west towards the far horizon. I followed the color around the sky as it silhouetted pinnacle after pinnacle, the silence broken by a huge rockfall somewhere west of the pass. The pinnacles receded into the fading blue light until darkness consumed them...

     ...Greg and Casey and I watched a movie in the library after dinner. Walking back in the dark, I looked up to see a waning crescent moon slowly setting through a thin sheen of high cirrus in the west. Above me, the stars shone brilliantly, looking close enough to touch. I could just see the outline of the Wall. The breeze is cool, but the sting of winter is gone...


April 1: Up at 5am. Headed down Rt 44 towards Scenic as the sun came up behind me. A frosty morning turning into a beautiful day. Saw groups of mule deer alongside the road, and several owls lifting off from their fence post perches as I cruised by. Turned west on Rt 2, thinking I might try to get up on Stronghold Table, but still a lot of snow in this area - can’t drive the muddy jeep roads. Turned up Rt 41 to Red Shirt Table Overlook. One of the teachers I met said it was the best view around. It’s nice, but doesn’t hold a candle to Sheep Mountain Table. On the way back, drove the Loop Road for perhaps the last time (tomorrow I give a slide show to the park staff, and Friday is another road trip with Greg and Casey).

     ...A beautiful sunny afternoon, 55 degrees, not a cloud in the great expanse of sky. But frustrated by the inability to walk in the mud, I feel stuck in mud myself. I could get back in the car, but I’m burned out on that. I’ve put over 1000 miles on my car, and the main Loop Road is only about 22 miles out to the Pinnacles entrance. Back and forth, back and forth. There are endless buttes and pinnacles to shoot. The challenge becomes, how do you make a photo that is different from the 1000 shots you have already taken? Short-timer’s disease has set in. I can’t wait to see Deb again...

     ...In the late afternoon, I took my book and sat on top of the low rise just behind the apartments. Just to read, with no camera, and watch the changing light on the pinnacles, was a good thing to do. It refreshed me; reconnected me with the landscape. Sometimes the camera gear is a burden - with it I feel like I should always be shooting something, or at least be actively searching for the next “great shot.” By having such a singular purpose, its easy to lose “sight” of the landscape itself. I can get so tied up in the work (however enjoyable on some levels) that I miss the simple experience of “being” outside, of immersing myself in the environment, of being open to what it offers. While reading, I was surrounded by the chorus of meadowlarks, coming in from all directions, in stereo as the music bounced off the buttes. Two rabbits hopped along in the short grass. Playful, they squared off against each other, almost nose to nose. One would jump forward, the other springing backwards to stay just out of reach. Amazing what comes to life when you sit, quietly, rather than noisily tromping across the landscape...

     ...lovely wisps of cirrus lighting up in the southwest - yellow, pink, lavender...


April 2: Up at 6:30. No alarm, because I wanted to be rested for my talk this morning. A beautiful start to the day here so far. Blue sky, scattered cirrus.

     ...the slide show went well - everyone seemed to enjoy it. After lunch went for a walk east of the housing area. Still some muck, and I went down on my wrist once. The worst part was having to bypass a rancher’s barbed wire fence. I thought it was park land out there. The sky has hazed up with high cirrus...


April 3: Great day. Nice sunrise with bright pink clouds. The meadowlarks are singing. As for the magpies - a throaty single note spewed forth in staccato bursts. They should sound better, given how beautiful they look.

     ...Greg, Casey, Mark, and I went to Jewel Cave. Really spectacular. Blows Wind Cave out of the water. A two hour tour, walking through huge rooms, narrow passages, feeling like we were in a giant fish bowl, with walls of different colored coral all around us. Flowstone, geodes, soda straws, a wild 20 ft ribbon deposit coming off of a wall, some stalactites, stalagmites - all very cool.

     ...saw more bison as we returned through Custer State Park. Incredible warm light driving in through Cedar Pass at sunset.

     ...Shared some beers with Greg and Casey for my last night here. A nice way to end my stay. Tomorrow, the drive home.


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) art artist badlands dakota journal photo photography residence south Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:55:03 GMT
Cape Cod - Winter Spirit This is the introduction to a book idea I have, titled "Cape Cod - Winter Spirit."  We've all seen lots of Cape Cod summer photos, but no one has compiled a set of winter photos.  Winter has its own magic on the Cape, and I'd love to share these images with everyone.  As with my other great ideas, still waiting for a publisher ;)

Cheers, Mark

The strongest wind cannot stagger a Spirit;

it is a Spirit’s breath.


Henry David Thoreau, Cape Cod



     Cape Cod is in my blood.  I know it always will be.  That is the kind of hold that Cape Cod has over me.  Like sand in your shoes you can never quite get rid of it, and you don’t want to try.  There is an old saying that if you carry sand away from a distant shore, some day you will return.  Anyone who has ever spent any time here knows this to be true.

     I have lived on the Cape for ten years as an adult, and have been a frequent visitor since 1963, when I was one year old.  My family was living in Greenfield, Massachusetts in those early years, and every summer we would drive to Wellfleet to spend a week or two in a cabin at the Audubon Sanctuary.  It was a rustic, two room structure right on the marsh, complete with wooden bunk beds, a gas-powered stove and refrigerator, and an outhouse populated by toads and spiders.  There were no lights and no running water; kerosene lamps dangling from hooks held back the night, and a hand pump (primed every morning) provided water for cooking.  A second pump on top of the outhouse filled a tank for the outdoor shower.  Vacations there were like camping with a roof over your head.  We called our marsh cabin the “Dirty Dune Saloon.”

     For a kid there was no better backyard to play in.  Within the safe confines of the sanctuary, we were free to roam and explore the seemingly endless marsh and forest without worry to our parents.  The activities were endless.  Each morning began by checking out what treasures the tide had brought in.  Horseshoe crabs and fiddler crabs were our companions.  We would go birding in the marsh, digging for clams on the beach, and occasionally we would watch the sunrise on Nauset next to the lighthouse.  Kites flew all day long unattended, the lines strung through the door handles on the station wagon.  I once made the mistake of untying one and accidentally letting go; the image of my father racing across the marsh trying to stop the runaway kite is one I’ll always treasure.

     Cape Cod is a place that continuously lures the body, tugs at the mind, and stirs the depths of the soul.  There is nothing that quite gives you the feeling of freedom as waking up to the sound of the surf and walking down to the sea to greet the coming day.  Peaceful and unhurried.  The wristwatch is left on the bedside table.  No need for man’s measurement of time because nature takes care of that for you.  The rise and set of the sun and moon, the ebb and flood of the tide, the crashing and retreating of each wave.  As the sands drift so does the mind.  When you listen to nature’s rhythms you become closer to her.

     There are miles and miles of soft sandy beaches on Cape Cod.  There are quaint colonial towns with gray-shingled houses and manicured gardens.  There are lighthouses, windmills, cranberry bogs, and fishing boats.  But what sets the Cape apart from other beautiful coastal areas is its quality of light.  It is unlike anything else I have ever seen.  This special light is due to the latitude of the Cape, and the fact that this 120 mile long peninsula is surrounded by water.  Light is constantly bouncing off the ocean waves, bouncing off salt spray and water vapor in the air, bouncing off fog.  The light changes dramatically, not only from sunrise to sunset, but also from season to season.  From the bright white light of summer to the soft pastel glow of winter, watching the light is a wonderful way to chart the passing of time.

     Seeing the changing light is a treat unto itself.  But along with the changing light one is also able to feel the accompanying change in mood.  It is the mood you feel in the place as well as in yourself.  Playful, joyous, mischievous, mysterious, pensive, reflective.  Time spent on the Cape can be as emotional as it is visual.  Indeed, the two are often inextricably linked.



                             Sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;

                             And after summer evermore succeeds

                             Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold:

                             So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.


     Until recently, the “off-season” was not considered the best time for tourists to visit the Cape.  And for many residents, winter was something to ride out.  Even I have felt like a hibernating bear at times.  It is easy to curse days that grow dark by the middle of the afternoon, with gray, drizzling skies, and a damp cold that permeates your bones regardless of your efforts to bundle up.  There are days when the temperature drops below freezing, causing the rain that fell the previous day to turn into a dangerous sheet of ice.  The ever-present wind on the Cape sweeps in off the water with a vengeance, cutting through your skin and forcing you to bow your head in submission as you walk.  Even restaurants and pubs close down, giving you another excuse to stay indoors.

     But this is only one side of winter on the Cape.  For those who prefer solitude and quiet, this time of year is a welcome change from summer’s hustle and bustle.  Visitors can walk miles of beach without seeing a soul.  This is the perfect opportunity for personal reflection, for catching up on your reading, or for just escaping your busy 9 to 5 world.  For residents, it’s a great time to finish whatever projects that were held over from the previous winter.  Sewing, carving, tending to fishing equipment, taking classes - Cape residents are never at rest for very long.

     For me, winter’s draw is photography.  Though the days may be short and the skies may brood with threatening clouds, the soft, quiet light of winter seems to envelop me.  Dunes and grasses may glow even on overcast days, and the sea looks almost mercurial in appearance.  Even these gray days of winter can provide images that communicate the sense of place that belongs solely to Cape Cod.  It is the changing mood and light that I have tried to convey here in my photographs.  For those who are open to her charms, the Cape has many secrets to share.

     Yet one needn’t be a photographer to appreciate a Cape winter.  An afternoon stroll along the beach, in quiet times or in stormy times when giant waves thunder against the shore, can be quite romantic - particularly when you have a warm fire and a mug of hot chocolate waiting for your return.

     A special treat on the Cape in winter is the snowstorm.  In most years it is a rare event - typically, the rain/snow line passes along the Cape Cod Canal, and more often than not what the Cape receives is a cold, driving rain.  When it does snow, it’s pure magic.  There is nothing quite like snow on the beach, perhaps because sand and snow seem so immiscible.  They don’t appear as though they should co-exist, yet for a brief period they do.  Each is sculpted by the unforgiving wind, forming abstract worlds full of cliffs, ripples, bowls, and cornices.  Christmas trees bare of needles, planted in dunes to halt the destruction of relentless, whistling winds, contribute to the otherworldly nature of this place.

     There is also a warm sense of community on the Cape in winter.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are many ways to join your neighbors in the celebration of the season.  From Falmouth’s “Christmas by the Sea” weekend to the lighting of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, from the Hyannis Harbor Lighting Festival to the arrival of Santa Claus in Chatham by boat, the holidays on the Cape warm the heart.

     It is true that the winters can be long and cold, but the spirit of the landscape, and of the people, tide me over until the torch is passed, the cycle begins again, and winter gives way to spring.

[email protected] (fire and ice photo) book cape cape cod cod introduction photo photography spirit winter Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:50:00 GMT
Fire and Ice Proposal I wrote this as a proposal to conduct a photo essay on the juxtaposition between the desert southwest and Antarctica.  Check out my Fire and Ice gallery to see a few examples of a work in progress.  Still looking for funding ;)



Desert Landscapes of the American Southwest and Antarctica


     At first glance, it would seem a difficult task to place together two more disparate regions than the American Southwest and Antarctica.  Situated some 10,000 miles apart in different hemispheres of the earth, an immediate contrast is seen between the warm red rock of the Southwest and the cold blue ice of Antarctica.  One landscape seems completely devoid of water, while the other appears to be smothered by it. 

     And yet Antarctica, like the Southwest, is very much a desert.  While it is true that 98% of the world’s fresh water belongs to Antarctica, it is in the form of ice built up over millions of years.  Much of Antarctica receives less than two inches of precipitation annually.  Both the Southwest and Antarctica are biological deserts as well, supporting very few plant and animal species. 

     A striking connection between the two landscapes is that they are both sculpted to a large degree by water, even though running water is scarce.  The difference lies in the behavior of water as an erosional force.  In the Southwest, torrential rains and flash floods may act quickly to shape the hoodoos of Bryce National Park, or the sculpted walls of Antelope Canyon.  In Antarctica, the land is slowly ground down by the incredible weight of flowing glaciers and icecaps, some thousands of feet thick.  It is this strange combination of similarities and contrasts that has drawn me to this photographic comparison of these compelling landscapes.


                                                                                                                               Mark Dornblaser

[email protected] (fire and ice photo) antarctica desert fire ice photo photography proposal southwest Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:39:02 GMT
Ripples Ripples


Ripples in clouds, sand, and sea

Fluid, ephemeral emblems of earth, air, and water

Pass by me, in time and space


Ripples in life

Synergistic, intersecting rings of human interactions

Pass through me, disturbances testifying to unseen shores

I pass on in kind


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) earth human interaction new poem poetry ripples time Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:30:28 GMT
The Road The Road


The road makes me weary.

Mile after mile ticked off, like the ticking of a clock.

The rhythm of the road measured in the steady thumping of tires passing over seams in the concrete slabs, front wheels then rear in rapid succession, like a heartbeat on adrenaline.

Tired eyes, bloodshot and blind, from scanning the road ahead in setting sun and halogen headlights.

Fuel running low in both tanks, I pull over in search of sleep.

Yet sleep proves elusive, road shakes stirring me like unwanted caffeine.

Sodium light filters in through plastic curtains.

The A/C cycles on and off, the air cool but stale.

18-wheelers drone by on the highway.

Footsteps rumble down the hall, and a door clanks shut.

Where are they coming from?

Where are they going?


I could be anywhere.

Which chain I’m in I can’t remember.

I pad across the carpet, and splash cold water on my face.

Strangers coming and going, crossing paths in anonymity, with perhaps a nod or hello or good morning at the coffee pot at breakfast, the news in this distant town too loud on the TV up on the wall.

Then we go our separate ways, some towards the rising sun, some towards the waning moon.

We all return to the road.


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) car driving hotel poem poetry road Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:28:44 GMT
Redwoods Redwoods


There has been a war.

In the land of ancient giants, the warriors prefer to hide the front lines from view.

Yet the evidence is clear, as loud lumbering monsters thunder by in file,

the fallen stripped of their limbs and stacked in mobile mass graves.


On the field of battle, the slaughter is always without mercy.

The victims, cut off at their knees and ankles, do not litter the arena.

No prisoners taken, no women or children spared.

And we are all collateral damage.


From the air, the battleground is a patchwork,

a sickening quilt of devastation.

The selective extraction is a vision of politics and greed.

Shock and awe at the loss of the treasured.


The war continues, I fear victory is certain.

Rejuvenation of the vanquished is too slow.

Adaptation and migration are not viable routes of escape.

Scars in the land, and scars in my heart.



[email protected] (fire and ice photo) california forest logging new poem poetry redwood redwoods tree trees Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:24:56 GMT
Sounds Sounds


The stair boards creak under my father’s weight in the dark of early morning

The hum of the furnace rises from the basement

The radiators clank and ping, and he bleeds air from the ageing pipes,

            bringing heat once again to my bedroom over the garage

My bed sags, and the springs squeak,

            and muffled TV voices drift from behind the cracked door down the hall,

            but they never disturb

Sounds of safety and security echo through this old house.


A thousand miles away,

the stair boards creak under my weight in the dark of early morning...


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) dad father house poem poetry sound sounds stairs Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:21:50 GMT
Wisconsin Highlands Wisconsin Highlands


I long for the stillness of a Wisconsin Highlands early evening

No sound

but the occasional scamper of a chipmunk or squirrel

            across the crusty surface of late spring snowpack

            or the distant staccato tapping of a woodpecker

Night approaching

            my breath is frosty, though I can feel

            Winter has lost her edge

White tail deer tracks

            once distinct in the deep snow

            have begun to subside into random depressions from the mid-day sun

Down through the woods

            the lake is still frozen,

            though a sinuous moat is beginning to invade its shoreline perimeter

The sky in fading light

            turning a deeper, darker blue before my eyes

Leafless branches

            inky black etchings stand starkly against the sky

            then slowly fade from view, as a tapestry of stars appear

            expressing the vastness of the universe

[email protected] (fire and ice photo) deer highlands lake new poem poetry sky winter wisconsin woods Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:19:05 GMT
Scene From the Road Scene from the Road


The early snowmelt seeps into the low seams of the fields,

a sinuous sheen of slate blue weaving through a rolling sea of white

Islands of elm, oak, and birch, leafless, cast long shadows across the late winter snow

Cattle huddle around bales of hay, breath freezing into frost

A weathered, peeling barn is quiet, and a rusting combine lies idle

A silo stands watch over the outwash plains of east central Minnesota


A waning moon hangs low over the horizon,

and a distant white steeple is the first to catch the straw-colored light of dawn

Wisps of charcoal smoke rise straight and silent in the chill,

from a low-slung house at the end of the drive

Outside in the yard, the sodium light mounted on top of a wooden pole switches off,

and I wonder, what illumination comes from within?


[email protected] (fire and ice photo) best farm field minnesota new poem poetry road scene top Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:13:03 GMT
Tanzania Honeymoon- October 1997 Touched down at Kilimanjaro Airport about 8:30 pm Tuesday (last night). Very excited - my seventh continent! It was warm and muggy stepping onto the tarmac. Very tropical here on the equator.

We were met by Tobias, a game driver from Voyagers, who drove us to the Dik Dik hotel, close to Arusha National Park. Driving is on the left. Paved road, one of just a few. People walking in the dark alongside the road, some with flashlights. Coke and Pepsi signs are numerous, as everywhere in the world. Speed bumps mark the village borders, constructed in an effort to keep reckless African drivers from killing pedestrians. A police car on the side of the road makes doubly sure.

Deb notices that the crescent moon is tipped over more, here on the equator, than it was when we saw it two days ago in New York. We travel between Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru, but see neither in the darkness. The breeze coming through the land rover feels good. The air smells earthy, fragrant, and alive. Not like NY.

We turn down a dirt road, and a guard opens the gate to the Dik Dik Hotel. Even in the dark we can see that colorful bougainvillea line the drive. As we check into this posh place, they give us a welcome beer, and escort us to the dining area outside, where we meet David and Michelle from California, already arrived from Nairobi. A nice young couple, they run a consulting firm near San Francisco.

We are served a seven course meal: two appetizers,soup, salad, sherbet, entree, and dessert. Much more than we expected! Very good food, and somehow we manage to eat most of it. At 10:30 they showed us to our bungalows, complete with electricity, flush toilet, shower - again, more than we expected. The bed has a mosquito net around it, although we have yet to see one. No sheets, just a comforter. But we're tired, and drift off easily. I woke in the night for a few hours, in the blackness, not adjusted to the time change. Finally made it back to sleep.

[email protected] (fire and ice photo) africa blog journal photo photography safari serengeti tanzania Wed, 08 Oct 1997 22:51:00 GMT