Showing posts with label Humanity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Humanity. Show all posts

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Gates of Awe


Every so often in life we have a profound experience that awakens our sleeping soul and opens the gates of awe. On November 4th, at the end of the annual Dia de Muerto, or Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, while Amy, her visiting sister Cari, and I were on our way home from Oaxaca we decided to stop at the cemetery in our village San Pedro Ixtlahuaca. The big gate was strewn with huge garlands of flowers as we walked into a sight that took my breath away. The entire graveyard had been cleaned and bouquets of flowers were everywhere⏤covering every grave. In all my life in the United States, I never saw anything like it. 

As I walked I was almost brought to tears noticing that all the graves had been commemorated with flowers. In death, all had been forgiven and redeemed and nobody forgotten; including those from the distant past. I intuitively knew that it goes beyond remembering only the illustrious or the well-known; here, every soul is embraced by the warmth of recollection. Even the graves of those who led troubled lives or are unknown to many, are not forgotten. 

By far, the most common flower is the marigold, known as “cempasĂșchil." In Mexico, they are not merely flowers; they are vibrant messengers bridging the gap between the living and departed. With golden hues seeming to echo the warmth of cherished memories, cempasĂșchil invite us to reflect on the interconnectedness of life and death. The air fills with their sweet aroma, supposedly to summon the spirits back to the world of the living. 

For someone from a culture where death is often treated with solemnity and separation, Dia de Muertos in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, serves as a gentle reminder that death, too, can be a celebration of life. A moment to acknowledge and honor those who came before us, recognizing the impact they had on our existence. 

In a world often quick to overlook the marginalized, I felt touched walking over the extensive grounds with graves spanning the centuries, witnessing universal remembrance.

A touching and humbling experience.

In the presence of the marigold-strewn graves, I realize that the Day of the Dead is not just about remembering the departed; it's about embracing the cycle of life with gratitude. San Pedro Ixtlahuaca has taught me that in remembrance, there is a timeless beauty that transcends borders—a beauty that invites us to celebrate the vast intricacies of the human experience, both in life and in death.

For an American like me, it's a privilege to witness the beauty of this tradition and be a part of it—a communal embrace of the past, a recognition of shared humanity, and a poignant reminder that, in the tapestry of life and death, every thread contributes to the richness of the whole.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Plants Communicate

Our little garden is teaching me. It talks and I listen and hear. Plants communicate.

For years I cultivated the earth where I lived. Then, after the death of my oldest daughter, Naomi, I lost interest in many things, divorced, and began years of traveling alone. I did not feel attached to places or things. 

Now, only in the last two years have I begun gardening again—albeit on a small scale. Amy and I share the enjoyment.

The goal in gardening is to bring a plant to fruition. That may be for flowers, vegetables or fruit. Some public gardens are decorative, with full time staff and entry fees, others are on family farms. 

I have begun longing for a life where most of my time is spent communing with nature. Cultivating, listening, then responding appropriately.

Unless native and wild, plants need tender care from beginning to end. The soil must be fertile and able to hold moisture and convey nutrients to the roots that feed the stems, shoots and leaves. Proper light is necessary for photosynthesis. Too much sunlight and heat can damage some plants. A gardener has to watch carefully . . . the plants show what they need by the way they grow. 

Pumpkin growing on a vine

People need similar loving care from beginning to end. 

Like plants, people need from the beginning shelter from storm and drought, loving nutrients to the roots, appropriate sunlight of guidance and education, space and training . . . states of being that promote growth and fruition. Contrast that to conditions too often seen in our world of humanity; barren circumstances, neglect, no “sunlight”, pests and attackers. 

Our problems are mostly of our own making. 

Lettuce and spinach under shade tent

When will our society become the beautiful garden it is meant to be?

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Tonight a Wind Will Come

A young man, Agostin, dreamed of discovering a new land. His thoughts so compelled him that he gathered his belongings, packed them into his sailboat and set out to sea. At last he was free, on his voyage of discovery. The broad, limitless ocean bolstered his ambitions and he felt certain to achieve great discoveries.
When night fell, he sailed under the starry heavens with a sliver of moon offering its beacon of light. After such an eventful and arduous beginning to his sojourn, Agostin tired and fixing his rudder to hold a straight course, bundled up, lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
The little boat sailed silently onward. Then, from the fathomless ocean came a wave that caught up the vessel and engulfed it, carrying it into timelessness. 
When Agostin woke he stood upon a broad shore, his boat resting high upon the sand. He had aged considerably and thought, surely I am an old man.
Gazing to his right and to his left, he grabbed his hat and through it in the air—thankful for his health and discovery. Then he set out walking. 
The land was rocky, with sparse shrubs and small trees. Occasionally he saw a butterfly, and a bird or two flew by. Soon Agostin came to a trail and began walking on it toward the western horizon. Reaching a hilltop he could see a village in the distance. As he followed the trail, a man with his wife and child appeared, coming toward him. They all held bundles and when they met, told Agostin not to go further. “There is a plague in that village! So many people dying . . . better if you turn around and go back to where you came from.”
Agostin knew he had to go forward, for this is where his fate took him. Soon, he came to the village walls, and knocked at the gate. The big door creaked open and young man stood gazing and asked “What do you want? Don’t you know strangers are not allowed here?” Agostin stood firm and said, “I have travelled from afar, I need somewhere to rest and eat. Perhaps I can help.” The young man, who looked feverish, said, “Go away old man!” and shut the gate. There was nothing to do but stand there. Agostin stood, praying to be shown a path forward, and also how to help the people. Suddenly the gate opened.  A girl looked intently into his eyes. Behind her was an old woman, her grey hair falling disheveled over her shoulders, gazing quizzically. The old woman spoke: “You came to me in my dream last night! The ancestors have sent you to help us. Come in!” 
From the moment Agostin stepped in the village , he could see clearly what had happened and what needed to be done. The streets were lined with poor dwellings. Further on, bodies were being loaded upon carts to be taken for burial. An eerie quiet permeated the air. Not an animal or even bird was to be seen. Above the hovels, stood a castle and gated homes. There too, bodies were being tossed upon death carts. 
Agostin saw in his minds eye a month of strong winds, carrying small particles of toxic red dust. He also saw how the kingdom had become lost, isolated, forgetting to thank the ancestors or make offerings to them. A drought had come—then the red winds.  
A crowd surrounded Agostin. “Tell us who you are!” shouted the young man who had opened the gate. Agostin knew the people had lost hope. “They must believe,” he thought. Grasping his cape with one hand, he twirled it over the ground. Lifting his arm and the cape, a blooming flower stood on the spot. Everyone gasped. Now with the villagers full attention, Agostin spoke:
“I have been sent by your ancestors, who take pity upon you. My voyage here has given me the vision to help you. Each home must have a shrine, to bring ancestor spirit back.”
The king and his court had now arrived. Waving his cloak again, an ancestor appeared beside Agostin, and spoke: “We have seen the misery that has come here. The earth became tired of your footsteps and nature has turned her bounty to dust as a warning. You must make a council from all the people. This council will be for the good of all, and call the Creator into its chamber during consultation. Men and women are to be considered equal, wealth to be share equitably, worship will commence and the good of all considered at all times.”

The ancestor looked directly at the king. At this, the king bowed and knelt with his knee to the ground. “I swear by my life, I shall be the instrument of your message. Thank you!”
The ancestor looked around him into every face, then said, “Tonight a wind will come and lift the scourge that has beset you. It is time to begin anew, remembering to give thanks and keep your hearts pure for the new days ahead.”

With that, the ancestor vanished . . . and so too did Agostin.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The World Comes To Me

I abandoned my art gallery today and joined a procession of pilgrims.

This weekend Santa Fe hosts the International Folk Art Market. It is hugely popular—a once yearly event that draws people near and far like a magnet. This Saturday in the afternoon, I joined the masses of people taking shuttle buses up to the Folk Art Museum where the festival takes place.

My main two interests were to photograph the amazing display of humans from around the globe, from 140 different countries all dressed in native garb amidst their handcrafts, and also to buy a hat. The colorful skullcaps I have purchased in the past wore out from plentiful wear.

Fate smiled on my aspirations for I took plenty of pictures of beautiful people—and found my hand embroidered hat, made by a native of Uzbekistan. Her name is Gulnora Odilova.

I also bought this little sculpture . . . the artist is Claudio Jimenez from Chile

I have traveled thousands of miles and been around the world twice, visiting many places, but once a year in Santa Fe, the world comes to me. I so enjoy it!

The world is one country, and mankind its citizens. -Baha'u'llah

Other articles I wrote about the International Folk Art Market:
A Gem In The Crown

The Human Family

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Human Family

Each year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, during the month of July, the Folk Art Market unfolds to great fanfare. Heidi Of The Mountains and I always go, and visit all the booths, enjoying the fabulous crafts from all over the globe. The artisans dress in their native garb, and seem just as excited as the big crowds of people that come to admire their work.

We always spend money, and usually, more than we intended.

I especially enjoy the grand show of humanity and the flavorful atmosphere. This year, I became nostalgic for my former days of world travel. Seeing the Tuareg silver jewelry reminded me of Morocco, the emerald cotton shirts with simple designs of Thailand, and the fellow from Egypt with his artwork made me remember how welcome I felt there.

This annual market is an example of our glorious world and its human family. In the words of Baha'u'llah, “The earth is one country, and mankind its citizens.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Turning Point

"Claustrophobia and Insanity"

When I was in my late teens I was surprised to find violent darkness within myself. I will always remember that the surprise came when I suddenly had a violent thought, and the thought was directed at someone I was intimately close with. This experience came at me like a thunderbolt from the underworld and it shook me to the core. Life was not the safe place I relied on, especially now that my peaceful inner world had been violated. 

From that time on, I became guarded about the world, and worst, guarded against the vast mysterious places that existed inside myself and were the “invisible” realm of the universe. When I had unsettling thoughts typical for teenagers, I was shaken, and the divide against myself widened. Essentially, I could not accept psychological violence anywhere in the world or universe, and loathed it.

As I was so embroiled, I continued to be an avid reader, and read heavyweight books, especially classics like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, and Crime and Punishment, and various books on psychology. I began reading a book in my mother’s vast arsenal of literature, called Our Inner Conflicts, by the esteemed German psychoanalyst, Karen Horney. This book had a profound impact on my thinking, and I realized that I must not set up ideal pictures of life to enforce, but rather accept all of it, including the darker, less ideal parts. I must discover myself, rather than idealize. To do otherwise would only lead to neuroticism. 

I began practicing allowing all my thoughts and feelings to flow uninhibited through my being. Immediately, I sensed freedom and even joy, but also great fright because of the power of the demons that lurked within. 

About this time, I had also become religious, having joined the Baha’i Faith. I reached a crucial turning point of continuing on a path of freedom, joy, and suffering, or turning to embrace only the light and reject the dark. I succumbed to my fear and went on a path of war—the war of light against dark. Essentially, I fell back into the war of opposites. This led to even deeper suffering.

Over the course of many years, my perceptions have shifted countless times. I perceive this physical existence as illusion and I am unafraid of death or the darkness it represents. Life is THE DREAM, and I am actively watching and participating, but know that I cannot be harmed by experience.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


There are always two people in every picture:  the photographer and the viewer.  ~Ansel Adams

When I was in Kashmir, India, I went on a trek in the Himalayan Mountains, and during the journey stopped in a tiny hamlet to paint. I set up my easel to get a view of houses with the mountains rising behind. Children were the first to arrive by my side, but before long adults too, came to watch. I was entertaining them. Fortunately, I had my camera, and occasionally turned and snapped pictures of the onlookers. That day was quite memorable, and I came away with a painting, wonderful experiences, and a trove of photographs. Many are favorites from among 30,000 pictures I took in 2008. One in particular is a photo that came when I had finished painting and stood to smile at the young people. I motioned to a group that I wanted to take their picture and without a word, they quickly gathered and focused all their attention to me. In a second I had taken a marvelous photo, and then, a few more in succession. I have printed it as large as 34 by 44 inches and lived with it for many months . . . and never tire looking at it. The children are present, free from confusion and gaze openly with candor. They are dressed nicely in mountain garb, and have chapped skin from the climate. In some of the pictures, the village children show clothes that are stained and faces with dirt . . . and it's understandable since they do not have washrooms or toilets, but live close to nature. In the above photo, I like that they stand shoulder to shoulder as comrades.

I had similar moments of serendipity when in the briefest of seconds an unlikely slice of time is captured forever. For instance when I was outside a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, and noticed a big congregation of pigeons bustling about. A homely woman turned to me, and in a moment I had taken her picture as she offered me seed to throw to the birds. She is smiling bashfully and missing teeth.

Some photos can be planned. When I was driving on the island of Corfu, in Greece, I came to a place called Ipsos and spotted a rickety dock that jutted into a lake. I stopped and as the gentle waves lapped the shore at my feet, set up a tripod and leisurely snapped photos. The result is a picture that has fullness and emptiness both. I call it Zen Dock. 

Sometimes, I knew a picture was waiting for me, but I would need to make special effort to get it. When I was in Hoi An, Vietnam, I heard of a fish market that was especially lively at dawn, when the fishermen arrived at a dock amid a crowd of clamoring and bartering women. Several mornings I rose with the sun to ride my bicycle to the place. Sure enough, I got great pictures. Among them is this shot of a woman who was squatting on her haunches, smoking a cigar under her straw hat.

Photos can record in a moment a picture worth a thousand words. While in Africa in the Serengeti game preserve, I met a group of Masai boys and could not have made a painting of them. But my camera was with me, and my brief encounter is now more than an isolated memory in my head.

It's weird that photographers spend years or even a whole lifetime, trying to capture moments that added together, doesn’t even amount to a couple of hours.  ~James Lalropui Keivom

Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created.  It is a major force in explaining man to man.  ~Edward Steichen

See more travel pictures:  Artistic photography by Steven Boone
Also my full website for photos: Graphixshoot

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cradle Of Civilization

One day, while on African safari in Tanzania, we had been on a grueling, bone-rattling, and dusty journey over the Serengeti Plain, and our excursion vehicle rolled to a stop near the boundary of the wildlife reserve. Everyone poured out to stretch legs and look around the barren landscape. Immediately I spotted a small group of Masai women gathered under the shade of a lone tree nearby. The sight seemed incredible since civilization was nowhere to be found in the area; no roads, homes, village, utilities . . . and I wondered how these females were here, in the middle of nowhere with no men in sight.

Our group had made previous stops where Masai were near, and I had noticed everyone stayed together and would not approach the Africans. It seemed as if an invisible boundary existed that could not be crossed. The tourists were on a mission to see exotic game animals, not people. However, the Masai drew me like a magnet—even more than the lions or elephants, and so I approached them. This day, I walked straight into the group of ladies. They welcomed me with smiles and I smiled back. The women were of different ages, including grandmothers and younger ones with babies in slings around their shoulders. Soon I motioned that I would like to take pictures and they smiled okay, so I snapped some shots. What was remarkable was how everyone maintained an unflappable equanimity and graciousness. I felt welcomed by strangers. Before going back to join the safari group, I spontaneously leaned over and gave a kiss to one of the woman . . . and that brought giggles and laughter from all.

I imagine that the Masai people are older than Christianity or Judaism. Not far from where our truck stopped is Olduvai Gorge, also called the “Cradle of Civilization”, where fossil remains of earliest man were found by anthropologists in 1931. It is believed man emerged 5-7 million years ago.

When I was among the Masai, I always felt a peacefulness that was special, distinct from the frenzy of the world. They seemed calm, fearless, and curious. Sure, they had great adversity living in unforgiving environs, but a nobility inside of them transcended their outer circumstances. I found I could not simply look at them from afar, but always had to step toward them, perhaps shyly, but lovingly and with eagerness to learn.

Many more of my world photos are at Graphixshoot

Sunday, June 13, 2010

People Of Color

Lately, I have been pondering the nature of prejudice. Here in the USA, we immediately think of racial bias. But prejudice comes in many shades. It can be nationalistic, religious, have to do with class and status, or intellect . . . the list goes on and on. What is sure is that prejudice diminishes life. Why? Because prejudice is a judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known and in most cases, these opinions are founded on suspicion, intolerance, and irrational hatred that resists alteration or enlightenment. Life, to me, is all about change, growth, flux, alteration, mystery, and surprise—in short, it cannot be contained by small minds with petty judgments.

When I set out upon my travels, I begin by looking forward to meeting the world in all of its diversity. I forget the color of my skin, my nationality, my religious affiliation . . . in short I abandon all that sets me apart from the matrix of where I am going, and then my eyes are open like a child's—full of wonder and awe at what is before me. Remarkable things happen this way. Doors open and miracles are plenty. Ecstasy demands abandonment. This is esoteric, but think of the mother’s love for her child. It is ecstatic in the moments of complete abandonment to the relationship.

I find it humorous and pathetic the attempts to define race. We all share the same genetic background and are of the same substance. Terms like “people of color” are particularly stupid. I am an artist and observe that everyone is colored. The term “colored people” is a silly contrivance. Melatonin produces the color we see in each other, and it also controls the amount of ultra-violet rays from the sun that enters our bodies. It is totally neutral and has nothing to do with intelligence or character.

I have painted people of various skin tones and find that I use the same colors, but in different proportions. If you look closely at the two portraits I include here, you will see that the two people share some colors. 

Nobody is black or white and everyone is colored. Many years from now, this need to define race will be gone, and all that will remain is the human family. For now, it is fun seeing the differences. When I first arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, from Rome, Italy, my initial impression was shock at witnessing a drab, dilapidated city, since I had come from one of the most culturally iconic and artistically dazzling places in the world. My eyes hurt, until I became entranced by all the dark skinned people who offered a beauty I had not seen before in such a grand way. From then on, my vision was not so much on the material surroundings as upon the people. Love allowed beautiful experiences to unfold. Prejudice would have killed my time in Africa. I am so glad that it did not—the ecstasy was waiting for me to experience.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Everything Is In Motion

We are all travelers. All is in motion, even when appearing to be at rest. Time is always moving and everything is related to time, so everything moves, becoming “older” with each moment. Furthermore, our world and all its parts are in constant rotation: the earth is rotating on its axis, and orbiting the sun, which is in a galaxy revolving in the universe, which is in revolution of another universe; and so on.
These thoughts arrived last night when I was at a party and people asked me about how it feels now that I have stopped traveling. Really, we are always traveling, and my trip around the world is but a small step in the grander scheme of motion. Moreover, I am comfortable knowing that the flux of my travel never ends, and that my perception of the moment is most important. Quality moments depend on awareness, and the love found when one's being is commingled with the surroundings; not resisting, but surrendering and engaged.

Another question I am often asked is, “What was the best place?” That is another matter for analysis, because it depends on what I have just discussed, which is quality moments. If I am always engaged and having good quality moments, why should I deconstruct the whole experience and break it apart so that I then label segments in a sliding scale of bad to good? No, I prefer to keep my experience intact as a living whole that is entirely inter-related and inter-dependant. Of course, some memories are stronger, like when I first saw an elephant roam into my view at the Serengeti in Africa. That is a bigger impression than waiting to board an airplane in Bangkok, because boarding airplanes is something I have done many times and includes long waits in a static environment. But somehow, the two experiences do not exclude each other. If I were a Masai tribesman who had grown up among elephants, then the airport experience might be more memorable.