Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

On Hallowe'en the thing you must do
Is pretend that nothing can frighten you
And if somethin' scares you and you want to run
Just let on like it's Hallowe'en fun.
Author Unknown

Happy Halloween.
Hoping the day is full of fun and treats.
May no tricks or nightmares follow upon the path of your feet.

Since I couldn't decide which one I liked better, 2 musical treats.

Alice Cooper, "Welcome to My Nightmare":

Michael Jackson, "Thriller"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sweeping Around

Today is life-the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.
Dale Carnegie

It's cold and gray today. The leaves are finally beginning their descent off the trees where I live. You would think I could just relax and curl up with a book, but I've been busy already. A long walk with Bella, trip to the farmer's market and library. Home to make the Midwestern version of goulash and share it with a few hungry people. Final plans for going back to Michigan (I'm flying instead) in December. Ordering the final pieces of my fall wardrobe. Later a harp lesson and time with a special someone. Boredom isn't a word I have in my vocabulary....I'm busy sweeping around with life.

This was all brought on by talking with a friend from childhood about how we cannot believe where we are at in life i.e. changes wrought in the last year. We talked about how we've coped. The answer is to try and take a lesson from the willow tree and bend with the winds that sweep through your life so you don't break. Or it could be we're still the crazy kids we were even after all these years and it keeps letting us make it....

Paul Simon, "Still Crazy After All These Years":

Monday, October 25, 2010


A precipice in front, wolves behind
Latin Saying

Perspective really is how one sees things and there is no better teacher for this lately then my camera. I had hoped I was shooting an series of interesting rock formations in a certain light this past week in the Alabama Hills. When I was finally looked at this today, I was stunned the contrast was even more then I had hoped for in the light that existed. Either I'm seeing more from the camera's perspective or I'm finally getting to see more from mine. I'm not sure sure which, but it was a good lesson for today.

I've spent the last couple of weeks not spending much time on Mom issues, but they came back today. It was a good deal of feeling like I was riding a wild horse of emotion until I was able to gain better control of my perspective. And gaining perspective is everything if you can find a positive frame to put it in.

Rolling Stones, "Wild Horses":

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Looking into the Past 3

Ghost towns, ghost people. The whole place has the air of obsolescence about it.
Jean Braudrillard

In all the times I've photographed in Bodie, I've never had a ghost encounter or "ghostly photos". This past visit though I became intrigued with the reflections hitting the windows combined with the objects I've was trying to capture. I ended up with almost a "ghostly" montage effect that I liked.

Others however claim to have had experiences. I went to and found a few of those stories. Urban tales or truth....who knows, but they do make for some delicious shivers this close to Halloween....

In addition to being a ghost town, Bodie has quite a few ghost stories associated with it. Perhaps the most famous haunted house in Bodie is the Cain house. Jim Cain was a shrewd businessman who made a fortune bringing lumber to the treeless town of Bodie. Nearly everything was made from wood in Bodie, homes were heated with it, and the mills used enormous quantities for their steam engines. Mr. Cain built himself a home in central Bodie at the corner of Green and Park Streets and hired a Chinese woman to be the family maid. Soon after, rumors floated through the town that Mr. Cain was having an affair with the maid and Mrs. Cain promptly fired her. Disgraced and unable to find honest work the former maid committed suicide.

It has been reported that her ghost haunts the remains of the Cain House. Over the years the house has served as park ranger housing and has been open to visitors. Children have reported seeing the maid's ghostly face in the upstairs bedroom. Visitors have reported hearing the sound of music coming from the same unoccupied upstairs bedroom. Several park rangers and their families have reported unnerving experiences in the house. In one famous case the wife of a park ranger said:

"I was lying in bed with my husband in the lower bedroom and I felt a pressure on me, as though someone was on top of me. I began fighting. I fought so hard I ended up on the floor. It really frightened me. Another ranger who had lived there, Gary Walters, had the same experience, in the same room, except that he also saw the door open and felt a presence and a kind of suffocation."

A daughter of a park ranger had a less extreme yet no less bizarre experience. One night she went to bed in the upstairs bedroom. She turned off the lights and got in bed. The lights promptly turned back on. She got up, turned off the lights, and tried again to get in bed only to have the lights turn on by themselves. This happened several more times before the child screamed for the ghosts to leave her alone and fled the room in tears.

Strange sounds and noises have been reported emanating from in or around many of the buildings in Bodie. An unsettling experience in a ghost town noted for its absolute quiet. One house, the Mendocini house, has had reports of children laughing outside, as well as a report from one ranger who, while sitting quietly inside reading, began to hear the sounds of a party. He left the building to investigate, assuming the sounds were coming from outside, only to discover that they were coming from inside the house and even louder than before. He thanked the ghosts for trying to throw him a party but insisted that he had a lot of reading to do. The sounds stopped.

The ghosts of the Mendocini house must like cooking as much as they like a lively party. It's rumored that sometimes when the house is opened up after a long winter it smells of Italian cooking.

In other buildings, visitors have reported seeing objects move on their own or have feelings that they are being followed or watched from the windows.

Perhaps the most famous supernatural aspect of Bodie isn't a particular ghost or haunted house but a curse. The infamous curse of Bodie. According to the legend, the spirits of former residents protect the town from all those who would remove parts of it. Anyone who removes something, regardless of size, from Bodie is cursed with bad luck and misfortune until the removed items are returned. According to park rangers, every year they receive objects in the mail taken from Bodie. Sometimes these objects are received with anonymous letters of apology to both the town and its guardian spirits.

So you can see Bodie has quite a history and reputation. It is what keeps me coming back. It's too interesting not to.

Ghost Town: Bodie, Part 2:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Looking into the Past 2

If history were a photograph of the past it would be flat and uninspiring. Happily, it is a painting; and, like all works of art, it fails of the highest truth unless imagination and ideas are mixed with the paints.
Allen Nevins

A bit of change of pace, because it is so interesting I am going to let Michael H. Piatt's words tell about Bodie:

In 1859 four prospectorsdiscovered gold in a shallow California valley north of Mono Lake, where tales of riches had drawn them from their homes in the Mother Lode region. Joined by other gold hunters they mined briefly, until an unexpected November blizzard overtook the remote mining outpost and killed one of the discoverers. W.S. Bodey's wintry death gave the diggings its name. The spelling changed when a painter in the nearest town lettered a sign "Bodie Stables," and area residents thought it looked so much better than other phonetic variations that by 1862 "Bodie" had become the district's accepted name.1

Several financially backed companies acquired claims at Bodie, but by 1868 they had abandoned their mines along with the district's first two stamp mills.

Bleak terrain and meager returns prevented even the glimmer of gold from attracting much interest, and Bodie District languished for the next seven years, yielding only enough yellow metal to tempt a few hopeful prospectors and sustain a scattering of destitute miners. Some steadfast inhabitants washed placer gravel, while the most hearty drove tunnels or sunk shafts to follow low-grade quartz veins into the earth. Then in 1875, a mine called the Bunker Hill caved, exposing an ore body that attracted San Francisco speculators. One group of capitalists purchased the claim and organized a company that set up industrial-scale mining. Their gamble paid off. The Standard Company produced $784,523 in gold and silver bullion during 1877 and rewarded stockholders with four consecutive monthly dividends.

The company's good luck sent shock waves through the mining world and attracted hundreds of fortune seekers. The newcomers built a scruffy, ramshackle town while distant speculators organized companies and sold stock to eager investors. Two bonanza veins in the Bodie Mine, followed by the discovery of the incredibly rich Fortuna Lode and the vast Main Standard Ledge, convinced stockholders and hopeful arrivals that opportunity awaited. Based on overoptimistic reporting, everybody believed that Bodie's ore sprang from a colossal vein, similar to the Comstock's Big Bonanza. This lode, experts theorized, stretched two miles from Bodie Bluff, passed through High Peak and Silver Hill, then pinched out somewhere below Queen Bee Hill. Although most Bodie mines had yet to produce profitable ore, investors from San Francisco to New York City poured money into companies that spent with abandon to reach greater depths. By late 1878, twenty-two mines sported expensive steam-powered hoisting machinery to bring riches to the surface, and the booming town's startup newspaper cried: "Ho for Bodie!"

People of all descriptions poured in to Bodie, each hoping to find a fortune. Their excitement gave rise to one of the West's wildest boomtowns, earning the nascent community a reputation for frontier violence that rivaled Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City. "Saloons and gambling hells abound," reported San Francisco's Daily Alta California in June 1879. "There are at least sixty saloons in the place and not a single church."

Tall tales about "The Bad Man from Bodie" entertained readers nationwide, while seemingly daily stories of stagecoach holdups, shootouts, saloon brawls and other forms of deadly mayhem almost eclipsed reports of developments in the mines. "Goodbye, God; we are going to Bodie ..." was the bedtime prayer of a sweet little San Jose 3-year-old after she learned her family was moving to Bodie. An annoyed Bodie editor retorted that the girl had been misquoted. What she really said was "GOOD. By God we are going to Bodie ..."4Miners, tradesmen, businessmen, wives and others, some desperate, all hopeful, flooded into the booming town until mid-1880, when residents estimated the population had grown to 7,000 or 8,000 and Main Street stretched more than a mile. Bodie also boasted a brass band, two banks, a Chinatown and a red-light district.

So Bodie has a rich history. Supposedly some it's residents are still hanging out there. Since we're so close to Halloween I'll share those stories next.

Here's another piece of history instead of music, a 50 year old documentary on Bodie.

Ghost Town: Bodie, Part 1 of 2:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Looking Into the Past

If one could make alive again for other people some cobwebbed skein of old dead intrigues and breathe breath and character into dead names and stiff portraits. That is history to me!
George Macaulay Trevelyan

What is it that fascinates us about the past and its events? Bodie is an especially intriguing place because it is a piece of the history that still retains the feel of the people who lived there. It has not been "prettied up" to the detail of a museum or reenactment village. It contains the very real pieces of what is once was.

You can look through many windows and find those pieces. Certainly they have had a bit of nudging from the State Parks employees, but for the most part what you see is what was. It's one of my favorite things and I'll share a few pictures over the next nights about that history.

This was one of the most startling. Perhaps because a famous face is peering back as you peer in. A bit unexpected and an eerie feeling...

Weekend, "Past Meets Present":

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mountain Amour

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
John Muir

I don't know what it is about the Eastern Sierra Nevada's, but I'm in love. Every time I go up to them, I find it hard to come down. It feels like home to me. I figured after two days back in the Valley, I'd be content. I'm not. My heart is straining towards the East.

Why these? I went to graduate school not that far from the Rockies and I loved them, but not with the passion of the Sierra Nevadas. The Owens Valley area where I often spend time at the base of this particular range of the Sierras has extremes of weather, but I embrace them. Perhaps it's the freedom to just be. That I feel the piece of me that is eternal....

All I know is that I'm counting the days till I go back again...I've got it bad and is that good?

Clint Eastwood, "Sierra Nevada":

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Manzanar Revisited

And it seems to me important for a country, for a nation to certainly know about its glorious achievements but also to know where its ideals failed, in order to keep that from happening again.
George Takei

This year there was a certain poignancy in my visit to Manzanar. One of my newer patient's and his wife had been in internment camps during World War II. They weren't at Manzanar, but had relatives who were. We have talked at length about it and he commented, "as I a result I no longer trust the American Constitution." With his experience who can blame him. It's essential to know that in a country that takes great pride in its achievements, we have also had colossal failures. Perhaps due to the emergence of a homeland security in the last several years, we again sit on a knifes edge of letting our ideals be submerged again.

There is now a mess hall and barracks at Manzanar. I sat in them taking photographs and could hear the groan of the building as the wind moved it. I could feel the bitterness of the cold as it whipped the edges of windows and doors. And I thought, how would it have felt to me if suddenly I was placed here as a perceived enemy of the United States simply because I bore a certain ancestral heritage. It was sobering and frightening.

Yet many people accepted this, not fighting much (there were outbreaks here and there at this and other internment camps). The phrase "shikata ga nai" or "it can't be helped" indicated cultural norms over which one had little control and was used to explain why there wasn't much fighting about the placement directly. It is hard for Westerners or people from today's era to understand, but it was how many were able to keep face in great adversity and survive.
I continue to learn on every visit I make to Manzanar and try to use my voice to help see it never happens again.

Kitaro, "Heaven and Earth":

Monday, October 18, 2010

Strength, Courage and Wisdom

Inside my head there lives a dream that I want to see in the sun
Behind my eyes there lives a me that I've been hiding for much too long
'Cause I've been, too afraid to let it show

I ended up staying in the Sierra Nevada's for an extra day. It's been a few days of re-realization. I've sat on the rocks and felt the wind blow through my hair, have been revitalized and renewed. The scent of sage and the desert surrounded me. I've been there watching the sun come up and the sun go down. After a year of frantic activity (all with good reason in family and work), I found the simple sound of silence. I think that's why I love this area in the Sierras. I've found a hotel where I can set up base and there are tons of areas to hike in, photograph and just be.

On today, my last day, I finally slowed down enough that I'm spending some time in my room, reading and working on photos. It has been raining off and on. The strange thing is that every time I've been out in the last couple of days, I've been able to tell by the wind changes that rain was just about to start and would make it back to the Jeep before the torrents arrived. So it seems like being back in nature has reawakened my wisdom of the experience of being in it.

Wednesday I'll return to work. Then in about 6 weeks I'll journey to Michigan to stay with my Mom for the holidays. After that I don't know. I do know that I've gained strength in the last year. My Mom's journey has taught me to let my dreams live and to take chances more before it's too late.

I have one more thing to do here tomorrow morning. It may be positive or it may be negative, but thanks to the last few days, I've found the strength, courage and wisdom to do the task. We'll see how it goes.

India.Arie, "Strength, Courage and Wisdom":

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ghost Town Flamingos

One shouldn't put all their flamingos in a basket.

As inferred, I've started my trip to the mountains. One of my first stops was Bodie. I got there early to shoot, but by noon swarms of people had arrived including some photography workshoppers. When you cannot turn around without tripping over a tripod it is time to leave. Before I left though I found these flamingos. I'm not sure if they were set up for the workshops or just a joke. I would like to think it for a joke as I certainly was chortling.

I also ran across some sheepherders with a mule beginning to push their herd across a major highway. This came complete with 2 men in safety jackets with slow signs beginning to set up to stop traffic. Unfortunately there was no place to pull over and catch it on camera, so as more then one person has said, I had to take a mental picture. But again I was grinning at the slight bizzareness as I sped on my way to my next stop.

It's been a great day, just what the doctor prescribed for stress relief. But I have to ask who knew that pink flamingos lived in ghost towns?

Talk Talk, "It's My Life":

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blessed Be

It only takes one smile to offer welcome...and blessed be the person who will share it. It only takes one moment to be helpful...and blessed be the person who will spare it. It only takes one joy to lift a spirit...and blessed be the person who will give it. It only takes one life to make a difference...and blessed be the person who will live it.
Amanda Bradley

Blessed be the friend who opens your eyes to the necessity of a rest and provides the means. That is the friend recognizes the fact that you need to take a break to go to your church of nature and who makes it possible for it to happen. And so I will be taking a mini-break from Saturday to Monday to go to my beloved mountains, take some photos and get some perspective.

Blessed be the patient who doesn't speak English, but brings you a brownie to say thank you because you were the one to give her a balloon, a card and sang happy birthday to her chair side, as this is what we do in our clinic. Blessed be her shy smile as she gives it to you and makes the crazy things that happen in your job worthwhile and worth doing.

Blessed be the beauty of the journey and what it brings every day that I have on this Earth.

Loreena McKennitt, "The Mystic's Dream":

Monday, October 11, 2010


I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.
Richard Wright

Right now I realize that my blog is echoing the exterior events of my life and the resulting feelings more then the process around my photography. That is okay. My photography is still there, it's just more muted right now.

I spoke with my mother this evening. She tried to speak casually of what her day was like, but I could hear an echo of pain and perhaps fear. She tried to attribute the pain to her arthritis. But the echo of fear I mentioned earlier resounded clearly. On an other day I might have ignored it, but tonight tired from a hard day and knowing that my own fear was rising of things changing too rapidly, I asked her if she felt it could be attributed to the cancer. After a couple of minutes, she answered possibly. She then said she wished I was there now. And again I heard echoes. My mom isn't so much afraid of the cancer itself as being alone with it in the wee hours of the night. For me this is the hardest thing of all right now. Wanting to be there for more time then I can give due to my life restrictions.

Most of us wish for more time when we are faced with limitations. I can only hope that the time we want for her will happen. I know there is life still, but the echo of death is becoming a real voice and it will sound it's call whether we want to hear it or not.

Pink Floyd, "Echoes":

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Bit Blue

“Have you got any soul?" a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I've got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can't seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn't be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.”

Nick Hornby

It's been a bit over a week since I've gotten back to California. I've found today, sitting in a lake of quiet at home, a bit of the blues. It was a year ago today I met John and had an intensive few months before it broke apart. Then there is the issue of Mom. There is a plan afoot to drive to Michigan for the holidays the first week of December if there are no changes the next 8-9 weeks. Usually a road trip would excite me, but I'm tired and it feels like life is at an impasse.

I know things will improve again, but today my soul is tired, it senses change is coming, but that this change is coming with some pain. People keep asking me about my that most famous of blues men, Robert Johnson sang:

"....I got the crossroads blues..."

I'm at a crossroads of events in life, a bit of the blues is just natural....

Rory Block, "Crossroad Blues":

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