Sunset musings

I’m here in Berkeley, California to get my Master of Divinity degree. A sweet irony for me is that I don’t have to be enrolled in any school to find divinity. It’s on stark display daily in this beautiful place.

Tonight as I walked west from campus toward home, I was watching this spectacular sunset unfold in front of me so instead of heading to the apartment, I headed straight to the rooftop deck area.

I can’t afford an apartment with a rooftop deck, but then again, plenty of shitty things have happened to me over the years that I also didn’t deserve, so yeah… I’ve got a rooftop deck…

This sunset even smelled good.

Check out these pictures and then turn off your computer and go hug someone or call someone and say “I love you.” or “I’m sorry.”

That, my friend, is the best advice a first-year divinity student can give you about how to find the Divine.

Tonight’s sunset was epic


I couldn’t decide whether to shoot the sky or the bay or the bridge.


Being here in Berkeley studying divinity, don’t think I’m not struck when I see divinity in person. Wow.


Oh right… there are three other directions here besides west. This was looking south.


The Golden Gate in front of a golden sky.


The under-lit clouds were spectacular.

You go rest. I’ll wait here for you.

I've lit this candle to do the work. You rest awhile.
I’ve lit this candle to do the work. You rest awhile.

Sometimes I want someone to do this for me.


Goodnight beautiful Sun. Rest.

Your body must ache from all that work.

Day after day you burn,

always shining, never asking anything from me.

Day after day, you show up

Day after day, you move

Day after day, you lie down knowing

Tomorrow must come and so you

Cheerfully plunge

Into darkness.

For me.

Tonight, you rest though.
I’ve lit this candle to help share the load.

Thank you for what you do. I see you. I appreciate you.

You rest.

I’ll wait here with this candle until you return.

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

Photography: Walk with me through a labyrinth

These photos are from a recent trip I took to an amazing conference. Rethinking Everything is equal parts Burning Man, SXSW, and TED – with the central theme being children (specifically, most attendees are Unschooling families).

Weird enough for you? It was freaking AWESOME.

Click on the  photos to enjoy them full size.

Anyway, enjoy…

Mama & Daughter connect lakeside


This is the Ferncliff labyrinth at the CA Vines 4H Center near Little Rock. You can read the moving story behind its creation here.  Suffice it to say that it’s nearly impossible to complete this journey without feeling something powerful.



This is one of my favorite pics–it captures well the reverent feeling that lives in the air here around the labyrinth. (click on it to view full size. Back arrow will bring you back here)DSC03518


The original (temporary) labyrinth was part of a healing retreat for victims of the 1998 Jonesboro, Arkansas school shootings.



The Columbine H.S. shootings happened the following year.



Students from the first retreat asked Ferncliff if they could reach out to the victims at Columbine to help them heal.



The following summer, students and alumni came together to complete the permanent labyrinth.



Stones were brought from each school, as well as other sites affected by violence, including Bosnia.



The stones are still here. They remain – Physical symbols of the grief the victims left behind them.

Healing begun, the children laid their burdens down and left this place.



The stories, grief, and beautiful healing are still here too. Soft whispers and cool wafts of human spirit and emotion are actually alive in the labyrinth.



You can feel all of this in the air. All you have to do is walk this path…



Quiet.      Calm.      Serene.



What grief do you carry like a stone?



What difficult path do you walk?



What healing do you need?



This oasis of comfort in the Arkansas woods spoke to me. I left a stone too.



The CA Vines 4H Center waiting for you when you finish…


From Malaysia to Vietnam

It’s been a bit since I posted. Turns out that travel is a couple of things that I forgot:

  1. Hard Work
  2. Fascinating. In fact, I’ve been so busy immersing myself in all the richness and wonder that is Southeast Asia that I’ve done very little in the way of writing about it.

It’s now the end of April, 2014 and we’ve been on the road since April 1. We’ve been to Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia, Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An, Vietnam.

A couple of observations: It’s hot here – but not unbearably so. Temps range anywhere from 80’s to upper 90’s F. We love the omnipresent sunshine and the warmth that soaks into bones long-used to being cold. The sun brightens our spirits more than I thought it would and the lush greenery everywhere has a similar effect.

In general, people are friendlier than I expected. Some countries or cities more than others, but we found that, just like everywhere else we’ve been, if you are genuine, sincere, and willing to try something, people want to help you. (We found it also helps to learn ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and maybe a few other words (beer, and bathroom are my other go-to’s).

As we have moved from southwest (Malaysia) to northeast (Vietnam), signs of Western influence have been everywhere. In Malaysia they were British. Cars drive on the left side of the road, English words have British spellings (like “colour” instead of “color” for example). The farther east you go, the more French influence there is. Many of the mid – to large cities were laid out by French planners. Phnom Penh and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) feel distinctly like Washington DC or Paris in places (yes, D.C. was designed by a Frenchman)- with those broad tree-lined boulevards connected in a latticework joined by large traffic circles with monuments or fountains in the center.

The cuisine gets increasingly French-influenced as you head east as well. Headed east from Bangkok, starting in Cambodia, the ever-present street cart vendors switched were selling Banh mi – a delicious sandwich, often with pâté, head cheese, or chicken on honest-to-god white baguettes (and damn good ones too). The coffee also gets more French in look and taste. Tiny cups of darkly roasted stuff. The local twist is unfortunately instant and is combined with syrupy sweetened condensed milk. After a few weeks without 16 ounce mugs of the great stuff from Coffee Emporium in Cincinnati, though, I’ve become somewhat of a convert.

Scooters are everywhere – thousands millions of them. Bicycles too, but not so much as 30 years ago, I’m told. As in many developing countries, people learn to make do with very little – hence the common sight of families of 4, 5, or even 6 on a tiny scooter. Saigon has been the most hectic city so far, with the scooter traffic so thick, it almost had a pulse of its own. Learning to cross the street was intimidating, but once we got the hang of it, was akin to snorkeling through a school of fish. As long as you set a straight and predictable course – and didn’t make any sudden changes (meaning once you start, for god’s sake DON’T STOP!) – they literally schooled around you and you weren’t given a second thought.

Enough babbling, here are some pictures I’ve taken.


The night market in Penang, Malaysia…






Bangkok train station…



Taken from the Thai train: Running out to wave hello



Some things that happen in Cambodia on scooters…

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From the beautiful Royal gardens in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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Our workspace in Siem Reap at the lovely Rosy Guesthouse.


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Vietnam. It just doesn’t get any greener. This is what rice paddies look like. I’ve heard about them since I was a kid. For some reason, seeing them in person was captivating.



Ho Chi Minh City is an odd mixture of hectic and go-go-go, along with being loaded with lovely green park space like this. We were unexpectedly fans of this town.


More pics later…. Until then, do something that makes you uncomfortable. It’s a good thing.

The Leap…



When you’re in Cincinnati, Ohio, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Devou Park.

Located just across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky, it offers my favorite view of downtown.

Be sure to get there early in the day if you’re taking pictures, as late morning light can be unkind, and the pretty view of the city sometimes gets dulled by haze.

Sunset is also a good time as the lights come on the buildings downtown and the sun sets over your left shoulder.

We visited for one last time before leaving Cincinnati and I was able to capture some shots of the girls. Here’s one I like.IMG_0935-Edit

Good light and bad weather



The best light for outdoor landscape and architecture photography  happens just before sunrise. Despite temperatures of 5 degrees Fahrenheit this morning and gusty winds, I was rewarded for going out.

We’ve had gray, overcast skies for quite awhile now, so when I saw the forecast for some sun, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity.


Here are a few samples.
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Homeschooling, Photography, and Surviving the cold

The DIY photography class has gone viral (at least in our family). My daughters and I are all three doing a module that will end up being at least a few months long.

Right now, we’re using Karl Taylor Photography’s Masterclass series. We basically sit and watch a segment of the training and then go get hands-on and down & dirty with the subject matter.

I’m going to write about this in more detail at our new homeschooling website, but this really is homeschooling at its best. We’re each interested in the subject, and are doing a deep dive into it just because we can.

At the moment, it’s brutally cold, snowy and icy here in Cincinnati. The many trips to Xela’s Sound of Music production have had the side benefit of putting me outside at the same time and in the same places each evening — something that makes a great environment to study about how light and changing environments affect photo composition.

Here are a few samples:

A warm pub on a cold night
A warm pub on a cold night
Glossy frozen business district
Glossy frozen business district
Mexican restaurant is a beacon in the cold & dark.
Mexican restaurant is a beacon in the cold & dark.
Moon through ice clouds
Moon through ice clouds