Zion

Two carefully chosen words Merriam-Webster Dictionary uses to define Zion are “Heaven and Utopia.” Although, these references represent more of a symbolic idealism based from Judaism, after hiking for the second time through the grand cathedrals of colored sandstone walls, I think it is safe to say, this reference can easily be shared amongst many faiths.

Morning greeted us with shades of blue in the sky we simply don’t get in Los Angeles. With the absence of clouds, thoughts of flash floods quickly evaporate in the 110 degree heat as did the residual stiffness left from the seven or so hour long drive from Los Angeles.zion

Another colorful greeting came to us riding the warm current of air above the river on the wings of Monarch Butterfly’s as they fluttered about through out the hike. They lead us down into the winding torrent of small rapids, springs, waterfalls and golden reflected pools of surrounded by hanging gardens of shooting stars, evening primrose, larkspurs, monkey flowers even orchids to name a few which sprung from seeping water from the confluence of the canyon walls. The contrast is stunning for an otherwise hot and arid desert terrain and is highlighted with colorful oasis blooms throughout the canyon.

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Entering the shade provided by the Narrows combined by soaking in the cool Virgin River away from the dry, skin cracking heat of the surrounding Valley, was very much Heaven. In fact, it was the word that popped into my mind first as the temperature dropped immediately. The word utopia was not far behind it either. In an instant, sore legs and toes began to tingle with life once again. Suddenly I’m prepared to continue through the next leg of the 16 mile journey as the chilled water swirls around my calves in a soft massage easing the burden of the pack pulling from my shoulders as well.

The river leads us into the cool cover of shadows cast by breathtaking walls as high as 2000 feet and with widths of only 20 feet in some parts. It becomes increasingly hard to move swiftly into the winding corridor as the footings is anything but sure with moss covered rocks underwater and the views that are mostly above.

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It is truly a feast for the senses and the eyes are continually seduced away from the next footprint I will leave as they are constantly scanning the expansive rock formations etched by flash floods, runoff and snowmelt.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 12.40.52 PMSpring fed waterfalls, outlined with local flowers

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It’s easy to look around and see how millions of years shaped this place into what it is, but the canyon is still being sculpted as I walk through it even today. The river carries sediment and large rocks as well as small grains of sand which make their way down the river, grinding and carving new formations all the time. Add wind, ice and rain to the mixture and the result is a living, evolving creation which goes straight through your eyes into the depths of your soul.

Below, ghost like formations serve as a reminder of what the elements and father time does to us all. In this case though, turns solid rock into an art form.

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No matter what journey brings you to Zion or how you feel before you enter the Narrows, one thing for sure; you will feel closer to whatever your particular notion of Heaven or Utopia is long before you leave it.

To me Zion is a slice of Heaven

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Thanks to my Three Amigos for enhancing this experience as it is always better to share paradise amongst the special ones in our lives.

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Insignificant; or NOT

From a scribbling I put together a few yrs back with a few small changes. But the spirit of thankfulness, perspective and inspiration remains. I thank God every day for the gifts I have to use at my disposal and why perspective, inspiration and gratitude will always be a theme that dominates my writing.

Like most of my longer training rides on the bike, the goals are simple. Ride until eventually my body learns to the art of minimizing my muscles demands for oxygen to metabolize an increase in blood lactate and increase overall aerobic thresholds. Usually my journey begins with pain in the legs but usually ends up taxing everything from between one ear to the next and back. Tonight’s ride should be no exception.

As turmoil has been a steady companion of late I guess I should have known better. After 2 hours plus of burning the quads with several climbs, I suddenly noticed one of my favorite things in life. The sky was turning all shades of red and blue and the South Bay was preparing for a spectacular show as the sun fell behind the sea. I glided to the end of Hermosa Beach pier and just sat there in a now cold sweat, watching the sky and the water try to outdo each other as if it were a duel of master painters. It was chilly and I was wearing nothing more than swim-bike shots, lycra form fitting vest and arm warmers. But the cold never affected me as I stared at the show like a kid at a first circus waiting for the next thing to happen.

Then the inevitable began to happen….I began to think…Shit; too late now as this ball had already started to roll. For those who can’t sleep at night due to a restless mind know what I am talking about. I stared deep into and beyond the swirls of color mixing the waters currents and then upwards beyond the colors of the sky until the colors were all but gone. Suddenly I could see a star shining over the horizon and it did not appear to be a planet. My astrology is lacking so I can’t tell which star it was, but it caused me to do what most of us have done one time or another; feel really, really small..

I began to think about time and space and my place in it. And in the end how do my problems even matter? How could they? But to me they freeze me in my tracks; every time.

A “first down” in football is ten yards. It takes light to travel that far in about 30 nano-seconds and light can go 300 million yards (or 30 million first downs) in ONE second.

The same little beam of misguided light would take 1 1/4 seconds to get to the moon and to the sun (which is BTW 109 times the size of the Earth) and would take little Mr light beam 8 minutes to arrive.. Hang with me, there is a point.

Jupiter is further out and would take 40 light-minutes to feel the love and Pluto is a whopping 5 ½ hours away for the train to reach its station and far too many first downs for me to figure out.

Now for the amazing part.. That twinkling and insignificant wobble in the sky is no less than 4 ½ years away for that wayward beam of light to arrive. Beyond that, my head just really begins to hurt. It must be from slamming it into that brick wall they built at the very end of the Universe back when the UFO’s also build the Pyramids of Ghiza. It’s enough to imagine our little hub of insignificance in all of this expanse too large to wrap my mind fully around.

But if I were to try…..

The nearest cluster of Galaxy (the Virgo Cluster~only remembered because I am one) is
50 million light years away and to totally blow the top of your head off, the visible edge of the universe is 13,700,000,000 (yes, billion) light years away. Or as Cal Sagan would have said “beillionn.”

So back to our little flickering and dim light in an otherwise endless forest full of Sequoia Christmas trees we have to ask ourselves the same question. Do we count? Do we matter at all in the end?

From events unfolding form warring nations, all the way down to even the little kid crying because Santa’s gift this year wasn’t what was wished for and everything else in between, it’s just a pimple on a pimples ass in the end of a flea no less. That is if fleas actually could get a pimple of course. One day it will be dead silent here and really dark and cold. Somewhere zillions of first downs away and even more zillions of years something will be crawling out of the mud to choke on it’s first breath. Or two overzealous leaf bearing zealots will hook it up again,…But life will come to be. Somewhere out there..

Whatever happens, will they eventually stand at the end of a pier one year and look out to the sky and begin to feel just as small and even insignificant?

As I turned my bike around to ride several, but not too many first downs back to my home, a father and son ( I presumed he was his son) approached me for a picture. I said sure and suggested we use the faded light of the ocean for the background as I reached for the camera. The father said no, it was his son who wanted the picture with me. I just stood there and didn’t know what to say. I was sure they thought I was someone else. It’s happened plenty of times before. So I kept on saying nothing and smiled for the photo with my arm around the kid.

The smile on the teen aged kid was enough to answer my question with out a word being spoken. I was not about to discourage that amazing smile.

Hell yes, I mattered, I mumbled to myself under my breath.. Or at least the guy they thought I was did…It really didn’t matter. I connected with someone the very second I asked this silent question and it was evident.

If this was not significant in any big pictures and about my place in it, then what does that say about me?

I glided back down the pier with my bike toward home.

He glided back down the pier in his wheelchair..

Sunset for Allison

 

This is a bit old, but keeps me focussed on why I love what I do so much..Every once in a while it’s helps to read how we once were and thought..This one I will read from time to time jut to keep me on track..

 

 

Dec 12, 2006

 

My legs were somewhat sore from a rather ambitiously paced 13 mile run earlier in the day. The couch felt so good as I propped them up and settled to watch the MLB playoffs and curse the Yankees even before the first pitch was thrown. I was in no hurry to go anywhere fast.. The late afternoon is also the favorite time in my house as the low sun glows through the front windows and throws long golden rays of warmth across the wood floor and catching all the glitters from miscellaneous shiny object in its way. It’s the warmest my house is all day from ambient light and the living room is my favorite place to be.

 

Something though kept telling me to keep a watchful eye on the sky as there may be a special sunset due to light cloud cover. I also had some other things on my mind and the beach at night is a good place to see them for what they are worth a little clearer. As the sun sank and the streaks of filtered light crawled deeper in to the dining room I began to get real fidgety. My legs were happily off the ground but the rest of me was unsettled…I said screw it, “it’s only the Yankees” and grabbed my camera and hoped in the car. Besides I knew it would be my last chance to catch the ocean sunset before my trip to the Netherlands the next day.

 

There are a few places I like to go to shoot pictures of the sunset here in the South Bay, but for some reason, also beyond me I took a drive through a never ending stream of stop lights and signs to get to South Redondo vs the straight shot I had to Manhattan Beach Pier…I also parked up on the ocean side of Catalina Ave. and the only significance there was that just on the other side of the street it was free parking and I would not have needed to dump several quarters in the meter for the time I would need.. For some reason tonight I could not be bothered with the few extra steps even though the shots I wanted were down the long set of stairs and down the beach a way. 

 

The air was clear and there were enough low clouds to give me the colors I look for on the really good nights for shots that are a bit more than special. I was able to corral a few images I liked down below at ocean level and the melted into the horizon. A sailboat even gave me the prototypical sailboat in the sun shot. I decided to head back up top to watch the glow change the colors from a higher perspective and shoot until the light was gone.

 

After the sky was relegated to the very last whispers of red veins across an otherwise lifeless sky, I began to slowly walk to my car. It was at this time a car pulled up behind me. There was a woman driving and she looked panicked and began to ask me something through a half opened window. She proceeded to park right where I was walking so I stuck my head in the window as I could not hear her, but could see that she was visibly upset. There were no tears, but there was something wrong.

 

She asked if I had seen the sunset and took pictures of it. She proceeded to tell me how she had tried to get down here on time but just couldn’t make it. I slowed her down and told her I had her covered and that I got a few decent shots. She went onto tell me that I must think she’s really strange and I told her she had no idea who I have in my life already and that strange is a relative term. She half smiled and went on to tell me that her daughter’s favorite thing was the sunset at the beach.

 

A chill went down my spine as the word  “was” the only one that suddenly mattered here. 

 

She proceeded to tell me “today’s her birthday” and she died seven months ago. If there was anyway I could send her a few shots….  I stopped her mid sentence and told her she could have all of them if she wanted and that I’d send them to her before I left for Europe in a low-res format and the hi-res images would be ready for her when I got back on a disk.

 

She continued to thank me and I had to almost stop her again so I could thank her. However exactly it was I got to this exact spot to be available for her, was truly an honor and the reason life keeps me feeling like there is so much more going on than we know. 

 

Photography has already given me so many gifts back that I can never truly put into words. To be able to help memorialize a person I have never met and help keep Allison’s spirit alive in this way is the truly the pinnacle for me. To whatever degree I make it as a photographer in my life, I am pretty sure the few simple shots I took tonight will be the ones I am most thankful for.

 

As she drove away, I walked up the car and took one last look at the sky…There was one last streak of pink all alone across the horizonImage

 

Call me crazy, but I couldn’t help but wonder….

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