Context For The Scenes We See

DSC_1750_edited-2Sol Wachtler (former chief judge of New York) believed the grand jury system should be abolished. He famously said: prosecutors have so much control over grand juries that they could convince them to indict a ham sandwich.” Or not. A grand jury in Missouri decided to authorize no indictments against a white policeman in the killing of Michael Brown.


Michael Brown [via Democracy Now!]

Way back in 1857 the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote this in the case of Dred Scott, an American slave who sued for his freedom:

all blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

Dred Scott [via Wikipedia]

More recently… The southern state of Florida has a law known as “stand your ground”, which legally inoculates people defending themselves against possible violence.  Marissa Alexander (a black woman) invoked that law in her defense, when she fired a shot into the air to warn off her abusive husband and his two sons. Her jury deliberated 12 minutes. She was convicted and sentenced to 20 years. Her conviction was overturned and charges were re-filed. In the face of a possible 60-year prison sentence, she took a plea deal of 3 years. Also in Florida, George Zimmerman (a white man) was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin.


Trayvon Martin [via Wikipedia]

There are fires and looting in Ferguson, Missouri. There is outrage America. Will we be more outraged over property crimes, or about the pattern of injustice in America? The words of Martin Luther King Jr. are wise:

Riots are the voices of the unheard.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Posted in Opinion, photography | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Seeing In The Dark

DSCN0120_edited-2I’ve been blessed over the years with many realizations that what I used to think, I no long think. In small matters of “data” I realize I was mistaken. In large matters of “belief” I no longer believe.  Clutching my treasure map of reality, one day the wind rips it from my grasp. I chase it, and finally catch it lying on its other side, only to  discover an entirely different and perfectly valid reality map on the reverse. Sometimes that’s a long and painful process. Sometimes it is instantaneous and liberating.

We experience different kinds of seeing. That which comes from painstaking thought is entirely different from that sudden illumination of knowing. One is a map subject to debate. The other is the compass within. In my experience those long, painful changes in seeing are invariably related to the reality maps of my own creation. The instantaneous knowing is invariably joyous.  In my day-to-day life it’s the choice between noisy self and still Self.




Posted in photography, spirit | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Keep The Light On

DSC_4177_edited-1This weekend’s adventure was the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.

DSC_4370_edited-2The place had more kids than an elementary school playground. Bravo, parents!

DSC_0611_edited-1I find it quite difficult to take decent pictures in aquariums. I mean, how do you know if that jellyfish is the size of a Volkswagen or a loaf of bread?

SAMSUNGHow do you provide a sense of scale without a human in the frame?

DSC_4308_edited-1My personal preference is for the critters that light up.

SAMSUNG“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
― Leonard Cohen


Posted in Animals, California, photography | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Formidable Flowering Fence

DSC_0525_edited-2I had a 9:00am appointment this morning with my dentist. I walked the two blocks to her office, and on the way I happened to notice this beautiful little seed and flower lying on the sidewalk. Nearby I found another, with the seeds still hidden inside.  I realized that these were bougainvillea flowers! When dry they are as thin and delicate as tissue paper.

DSC_0531_edited-1How can I have lived in Southern California for nearly 50 years and never seen a bougainvillea seed?  This plant is everywhere in Los Angeles. Its like… ocean, cars, palm trees, bougainvillea.

Bougainvillea is used for its extravagant color.


between me and my uphill neighbor

Its used for privacy landscaping.

DSC_4123_edited-2It forms an extremely formidable barrier. It drapes my driveway fence line, and must be trimmed at least once a month–using leather gloves of course.

Bougainvillea at the gardens of the Getty Museum has been planted inside a giant rebar umbrella to make shade on hot summer days.


Posted in California, photography, Plants | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

The Chamois Tree

DSCN3046_edited-2If it looks like chamois, and feels like chamois, does that make it a chamois tree?

DSCN3051_edited-2It will turn anyone into a tree hugger.

DSCN3046_edited-1I’m not sure, but I think this is a Cajeput tree.


Posted in photography, Plants | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist


From the shade of the bamboo grove to the brightness of the palm grove. (Huntington Botanical Gardens)

Sometimes pictures have so much going on that I wonder “what is this picture about?”. It seems to be about everything. And nothing. In better photos, it’s clear what the subject is.

Minimalist photography is characterized by a large portion of negative space, a fairly monochromatic color palette with good contrast, and an interesting subject that is able to stand on its own to capture the interest of the viewer. … In this week’s challenge, show us your minimalist photos. Find an interesting texture, color, or silhouette. Maybe there is a story that you can tell with your minimalist photo.

This week’s photo challenge seems to coincide with a subject I’ve been musing about this morning: impure thoughts.  Impure thoughts is a fun way to encapsulate this notion: when I have mixed motives, I am leading myself astray.  It seems to be a function of that tiny but ferocious ogre known as My Ego. Instead of just seeing, Tiny Ogre busily assesses and judges.

Posted in California, photography, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

The Soothing Sound Of Falling Water

DSCN2768_edited-1All of Southern California so grateful — it finally rained! Water started falling late Halloween evening, abruptly terminating our trick-or-treat count at 80 kids.

We celebrated the rain by visiting the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens both Saturday and Sunday. The art collection alone is worthy of several all day visits. But since I live just 7 miles away, I make frequent half-day pilgrimages. There’s a fine collection of European and American art, including the famous “Pinky” and “Blue Boy” paintings which are displayed in the former Huntington residence.

My entire house could fit easily in the Huntington house entry hall. Several times.

My entire house could fit easily in the Huntington house entry hall. Several times.

View from 2nd floor landing.

View from 2nd floor entry landing.

The galleries are an option if rain falls (rarely) or if it’s too hot (frequently), but our visits usually focus on the botanical gardens. Upon entering the estate one walks through the camellia garden, shaded by huge old oak trees and populated by many happy squirrels.   After walking past the house, a rose-draped pergola is announced by the sound of falling water.


DSC_0297_edited-1The Huntington’s gardens cover 120 of the estate’s 207 acres. There’s a desert garden, a Japanese garden, a Chinese garden, a subtropical garden, an herb garden, a jungle, and a palm garden. Water features and water sound-scapes are found throughout.

DSCN3033_edited-1DSC_0482_edited-1DSCN3035_edited-1Visitors are soothed by the sound of tiny waterfalls everywhere, gently flowing water, and ponds inhabited by beasties of the lagoon.


DSC_3970_edited-1DSC_0414_edited-2DSCN2942_edited-1A tiny drop of water balanced on the edge of a tiny pond plant gave us a special treat.


Posted in California, photography | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments