Gateway Into the Wild

Many years ago, when my imagination ran wild, our family went to visit the beautiful home of our grandparents in Greenbay, Wisconsin. We would venture here once a year, zigzagging across the Midwest. I always looked forward to these trips out east. I don’t think I knew it then, but leaving the city was a feeling of great joy.

It was very hot in Wisconsin during the summer months, steadily becoming so throughout the day, lasting long into the night. Our grandparents had a pool, where we spent most of our days playing. But, when we grew tired of the splashing and chlorine, my sister and I ventured out to explore what was beyond the pool, beyond our grandparent’s property. Our grandparents lived out in the county; ranch land, where my grandfather raises horses.

I can remember hearing cicadas during the heat of the day, and frogs and toads chirping and croaking as evening settled into the night. My sister and I knew of a nearby creek, but never went to investigate. One day, an especially hot day, we snuck away from the eyes of our lounging parents to see if we could catch some toads by the creek.

We had to cross the main road, and hike down a steep slope before we could get to the creek. My sister and I liked to adventure together. We came for the toads, finding them almost immediately. We could catch them, look at them, throw them, and catch them again. The cruel hands of a curious child.

We soon grew tired of the toads, they could only offer so much to us with their slimy skin and blank stares. The sun grew high, and was beating down on us heavily. I motioned to my sister to start heading back to the house, but it looked like she had other plans of her own. The creek was shallow, with barely a current. We were standing on either end, trying to avoid getting our shoes wet. My sister however, started to take her shoes off. I watched her with curiosity, and asked her what she was doing. She told me she was getting in the creek, and asked if I was coming. I wasn’t sure. The water was dark, murky, and mysterious. My sister slipped her feet in and called out with exhilaration, “oh you have to try this, it feels really good!”

I soon found myself envying her joy, and without hesitation, flung off my shoes and followed her into the muddy creek. She was right , it did feel good, distracting me from the heat of the sun.

My sister was more of an adventure seeker than I was, and probably still is today. Her excitement over stepping into muddy water amped her up, and she began to move  up the stream. I followed behind, trying to keep up.
“Lets see how far up the creek we can go,” she dared. At first, I was just relieved to be out of the sweltering heat, for now we entered an understory  shade covering us all around. I looked behind us, and could barely make out the little chute we came down from the road. I hesitated and looked back. I could still hear the traffic not far behind. My sister continued on, looking back to see if I was still following. Her glance was like a command to follow. The creek grew deeper as we inched along. I was holding my shoes in my hands, and tried to keep my shorts from touching the water. As the creek grew deeper, so it broadened.

By now the sound of birds singing and insects buzzing drowned at any sign of cars. Before I knew it, we had left civilization behind, and were knee deep in the messy, mucky wild. I felt thrilled, pushing forward alongside my sister. It felt like hours had gone by. Maybe they had. The creek kept going and going. We had forgotten about where we had come from, only focused on what lay ahead. It felt as if we may have been  the first ones to ever explore this creek. We would seek out the farthest point we could see and trudge along, evermore curious about what may be around the corner. Where would this creek take us?

We naturally started to act the role of explorers on a dangerous safari into the unknown. I suppose this was not too far from the truth, except that the only equipment we had were the shoes on our hands. We had escaped from the world we once knew, and now existed somewhere magical. There was no turning back now. The farther we went, the wilder we became, the more we crouched, the wider our eyes grew, the more our ears perked up. Our breathing was heavy, as we helped each other over slippery snags and under protruding alder branches. We were adapting to our new environment. The adrenaline of a new and unfamiliar place had settled into our coursing bodies. I was no longer thinking, just acting through patterned motions, step by step, branch by branch.

Suddenly, my sister stopped, stooping low. She beckoned me to be silent. I stopped momentarily; holding my breath, then slowly waded over to her. She was listening, so I listened too. There were voices coming from ahead. Human voices. My hearted started to race. I sensed danger. I was swept back into reality. Where were we? How far had we come? Were we on someone’s property? Were we intruding? As we grew used to the voices, dim and muffled, I broke the silence by asking what we should do. Which could have been translated as, should we keep going? Neither of us wished to turn around, after making it so far. We wanted to find the end of the creek, or at least some sort of end, or change, or conclusion.

My sister crept forward, signaling me to follow. She whispered for me to go slowly and cautiously. I wadded alongside her as sneakily as possible. The voices were getting louder and clearer. It sounded like they were coming and going. Pulsing. Moving. I grew excited. What would be the result of this? Would we encounter others in the creek? Would we come up to someone’s home? Was there an opening? This whole time we had been in the thick alder brush, scratches across our bodies to prove it. We brushed away a few more branches and revealed in front of us was a bridge, a small bridge, with people walking across. Families walked across. My sister and I looked at each other, puzzled, and then looked back at the bridge. We clambered up the side, out of the creek for the first time since we entered. I noticed how muddy I was, but not caring too much. Where were we? The bridge looked familiar and as we made it up to the path, I realized we were standing in the park near my grandparent’s house. I had been here before! My sister realized it too, and we became excited together. We had found our destination, without knowing what it was, or where it was.

With shoes in hand, and mud up to my thighs, my sister and I walked back down to the familiar wetness and coolness of the shaded creek, our new way home.

To The Men In My Life

Men play such an important role in the lives of up and coming young adult males.The relationship is sacred, as the father figure initiates the rite of passage of boy into manhood. Throughout my life, I have encountered and come to know various men who have taught me a great deal about myself and what it means to be a man in this world. I’d like to dedicate a few words to these men; to the impact they have had on my life. This is to the men in my life.

To my father, who taught me to love the world, and it will always love me back.

To my step-father, who taught me to look at things for what they are, and to choose my words carefully.

To Hans, who taught me to be efficient with my time and effort – to challenge myself to do everything better than the time before.

To Greg, who taught me the zen of farming, and that every event in life is a lesson worth learning.

To Matt, who taught me to be grounded and firm, yet light and flexible, like the bamboo. Who taught me to always follow my heart.

To Scot, who taught me to be playful, for this is the best preparation for the future.

To Stan, who taught me the nature of writing, and in turn my own nature.

To Gene, who taught me the passion of learning, loving, and acting with nature and community.

To Nathan, Who taught me about ambition, and just how deep our connection to place can go.

The Nature of Photography

Photography is a statement. There’s no way to deny it. However, photography, like a painting, it’s beauty and message are in the eye of the beholder.  Words and language persuade, twist, and turn people’s thoughts and understanding, while a mere picture only offers a different view unto something – take it or leave it, but look at it, and see for yourself.  I offer my photography as a search into the truth and beauty. I strive to discover how people truly feel, to reveal and revitalize an ancient language, a keystone of what it means to be human.


People and Nature


people and cities




Forest in Motion


Family and Friends


People and Nature

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Photography and Art Photography is a statement. It is a perspective, there’s no way to deny it. Yet, it is a way for others to view one person’s perspective in a very pure form. Words and language persuade, twist, and turn people’s thoughts and understanding, while a mere picture only offers a different view unto … Continue reading


People and Cities

Photography and Art Humans lived in many environments, an incredibly adaptive species with the ability to move across vast distances, endure the harshness of nature, and master the rhythms of place. Only recently, in the grand scheme of things, did humans begin building our own environments: civilization. With this human development came the rest of … Continue reading

Waimanu Valley

Waimanu Valley-1049

Waimanu Valley

Saturday, Febuary 6th, 2010

            If you look down and focus on the ground where your stability lays, you can feel the whole earth shake and tremble, as it does, through age. I have grown for twenty rotations around the sun. My heart has beat in rhythmic cycles all the while. Small, rhythmic trembles, beating through age.

Last night it rained a good amount. I awoke to the sound of the river raging into the sea, clashing against huge waves. A violent battle of fresh and salt-water forces. The river’s width increased dramatically since the night before, and the speed at which the water flowed was menacing. I stood in awe, trapped on the beach, merciful and powerless. This tremendous force blocked our only way back out of the valley. I looked out where the river met the ocean imagining sharks stationed with their mouths wide open, waiting for fish and other critters as they helplessly poured in from the rushing river. I looked back into the valley to see new waterfalls appear that weren’t visible before. The amount of water coming down from the top of this valley, Waimanu, was unbelievable. How could it rain so much? It was a mesmerizing site watching new falls form slowly and subtly in the distance. 

This is the force that carved the valley into what it is now. A valley, which was used by Polynesians to nourish the growth of Taro, a staple food, which many subsisted off of and ensured food of plenty, even during terrible droughts and times of war and famine. It is a valley where people now come to live to get away from the modern human constructs of the world. It is a place of refuge, and serenity. It is a valley of time, ever-changing where all creatures may find food and stability. Yet it floods with tremendous volumes of  water, carving, shaping, and changing the landscape. I look down at my feet, where the roots of my Hapu’u are buried deep into the ground, stable and grounded. I feel the whole earth shake and tremble, changing, as it should through age.

In a few days I will return home, far away from this chain of islands. I will remember how rooted I felt in the stories of Hawaii, like the carved belly-buttons, how stable and healthy I felt waking up each day with slow and purposeful intention. I will always remember how I grew and fell, grew and fell like the waves, and the Hapu’u tree ferns. I will remember how I changed, like the Waimanu valley, carving deeper and deeper into the wholeness of this earth. We all come from somewhere, and I have learned through my passage through Hawaii, that only when I stop and listen to the stories being told around me, may I find home.

Previous Chapter – Mauna Kea

(you can read the whole essay here)

Mauna Kea


The Inversion Layer

Mauna Kea

            Mauna means mountain. Mauna Kea is the sacred mountain of Hawaii, the summit at an impressive 13,796 feet. Mauna Kea translates as White Mountain, also known as the mountain of Wakea. There is an ancient saying, Mauna Kea kuahiwi ku ha’o I ka malie, ‘the astonishing mountain that stands in the calm’. It comes from how the mountain’s summit rests above the cloud inversion line, and is one of the reasons it is such a  good site for the science of astronomy, the other reason being it is surrounded on all sides by water, so there is virtually no light pollution. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world, measured from its base down at the ocean floor. It last erupted 4,500 years ago and is long dormant.

We waited until the sun went down to view the awesome array of stars above. Every star seen with the naked eye is part of our galaxy, except for the Pleiades constellation, which consists of a cluster of stars from the Andromeda galaxy. The Hawaiians have their own name for Pleiades, Makali’I.

I watched Jupiter set, and Mars rise. I watched one of the arms of our galaxy, the Milky Way, stretch across the entire sky in a wavy length containing an estimate of 1 trillion stars. There are so many that you cannot see them individually.

January 11th, 2010

   The vegetation on Mauna Kea is extremely sparse, a characteristic of montane desert climate. Dry air, windy weather, and variable temperatures make if difficult for plants to thrive and are why so few are found here. A now rare, but highly special plant of Mauna Kea, the endemic Silverswoard, glistens with so much silver it looks as if spray-painted. When cattle and sheep ran free, as they did in the early 1900’s, these plants were particularly tasty to them, and soon the plant became endangered. It was thought to have gone extinct until a few were discovered growing on the edge of a cliff, where no sheep or cattle could reach.

   The summit of Mauna Kea is an Alpine-Tundra climatic region, consisting of only moss, lichen, grass, and ferns. Very little fauna can be found. The only insect found to be living at the summit is the Wakiu, because of an anti-freeze chemical it produces. This highly specialized bug is a perfect example of species adaptation. The bug flies around finding dead frozen insects that were unlucky enough to be caught in winds sweeping them up to the frozen summit. The only native land mammal of the Hawaiian Islands is located up on Mauna Kea: The Hori bat. Other animals of flight in this area are the Nene goose, which have evolved to have shorter wings and lesser-webbed feet in order to better suite their new environment on the Island. Obviously, they do not migrate, but have been hybridizing with introduced species of goose. A full breed Nene is a rare sighting. 

   The mountain itself is a sacred and holy place for the Polynesians, and only high priest have ventured to the peak, too sacred for any other class to be. The lake Wa’le on Mauna Kea is thought to have healing powers as is used often for medicinal purposes. Many believed the lake was bottomless because the water is able to collect instead of drain away through porous volcanic rock, but actually the floor is made of clay. The lake is colored a solid green from the amount of algae growing in it.

We travel up along the saddle in between the broad active volcano of Mauna Loa, and the steep dormant volcano of Mauna Kea. The van barely makes it up the road to the visitor center on Mauna Kea. We are ascending up towards a sacred place. After reading about all of the social, cultural, and political conflicts that still occur today concerning the volcano, I feel weary about approaching. Not only am I not a priest, I am not Hawaiian at all. This volcano is a site where very few people were allowed. Now it is littered with tourists and scientists alike, disturbing this holy peak. It does not seem right for me to hurl myself up the side of this mountain. I feel unwelcomed.

The visitor center is only at 9,000 feet, the peak at nearly 14,000 feet. The van cannot make the rest of the climb, which I am somewhat grateful for. I already feel like a disturbance of some force or deity. The air is thin and cool. We are sitting at just about the inversion line, a layer of clouds suspended just below us. It feels like we are floating on top of them. If I strain my eyes just right, I can see the vast blue of the ocean, thousands of feet below.

While we wait for nightfall, I spend my time meandering on nearby trails, observing the vegetation, what little of it there is. There is a small garden close by dedicated to restoring the Silversword plant populations, āhinahina,, a relative of the pineapple. Their silver color is an adaptation to their cold environment. The silver coloring are tiny shiny hairs covering the leaves, which are parabolic-shaped focusing the warm sun rays on to the plant’s growing point, raising the temperature of that point by 40 degrees. It is the same concept of a reflector or solar oven.  Silverswords live for about 10 to 50 years as a low, round bush. At the end of their life, they send up a flowering stalk that can grow over 6 feet tall within a few weeks, and produce up to 600 flower heads. It reminds me of the Great Pacific Octopus, which only lays eggs once, near death, thousands of them at once. She spends the last moments of her life guarding her eggs, keeping them hidden and safe. With a single death, comes a multitude of life.

Looking around, I take in the emptiness of vegetation, the scattered life that exists on this barren mountain. It seems that I am not the only one unwelcomed, for there are few who have actually been able to colonize this harsh environment and make a life of their own. The miraculous ability to adapt; to not only survive in places with little to no nutrients, oxygen and violent exposures of sun, wind and bitter coldness, but to thrive in this environment. I decide that I am not welcomed so long as I do not belong. Everything begins from somewhere else, and only those who find a way to survive and live in balance with their environment become a part of their environment. I stare back down at the Silversword and ponder what it means to be native. Where am I native to? What specialized adaptations have I evolved to have? If this mountain is thought to be sacred, are the plants and animals that live on it sacred as well? Perhaps there is some place where I will settle and become sacred myself. 

Previous Chapter - Petroglyphs

Next Chapter – Waimanu Valley

(you can read the whole essay here.)