Sparks Of Light – 1/15/2014

Mother Earth will perish at the hands of the greedy and will not saved by the bleeding hearts. This is so because the greedy love money more than the bleeding hearts love our Mother. The greedy will stop at nothing in pursuit of money and bleeding hearts stop when they die with no one left behind to take up the fight.

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I’m Sorry – An Open Letter to Mother Earth

Dear Mother Earth,

I am sorry.  When I think about what we humans have done to you I feel ashamed and embarrassed.  You have been in existence much longer than we have and yet we were foolish enough to take on the role of caretaker, so long ago, but we have proven to be unworthy of such a role.  I guess I cannot take all the blame myself, nor should I really, as when I examine my life and how I have lived it, it has been one of conscience and care.  I am sorry though for how I was misinformed in my upbringing, not by my parents mind you, as they were duped just as badly as I was, never giving thought to how you were treated.  Although there were good people out there trying to correct the wrongs being perpetrated against you, I guess the message they were sending out did not reach everyone or affect them the same way.

I recall as a little boy the television commercials of the Native American man named Iron Eyes Cody looking upon your polluted land, water and air and crying.  Those images and messages affected me very deeply and I have been careful ever since.  Nonetheless, I am sorry for my lapses.  I am sorry for my use of plastic.  I know it never goes away and that it has been stuffed into your belly and chokes your waters.  I am sorry that I never raised my voice against plastic and argued for your sake to my parents who thought nothing of it.  Had I known it was so detrimental I would have.  Now I am at a loss.  Everything comes in plastic and I do not know what to do with it.  No one ever told me that most of the plastic, even the recyclable type, never gets recycled. Nor was I told that the plastic that does get recycled is shipped off to Asian countries where poor people root through it and then remelt it into a toxic sludge that will get reused into something, but not before it poisons them and chokes the air with its noxious black smoke.  For that I am sorry.

I am sorry that as I was being educated as an engineer that I did not connect the dots and see that in the course of using science to make life better for humanity it was making things worse for you.  I am sorry that I did not realize that I could have directed my engineering fervor to find solutions that would make life better for us and at the same time not make it worse for you.  I am sorry for not questioning my teachers about the technologies they were advancing if they would do harm rather than just worrying about how to make them function.  I am sorry for not realizing that the engineering systems I studied were just smaller parts of the whole of your system and that they would affect the whole in ways that we never imagined.  I am sorry that in the course of being an engineer resources were extracted from you to make machines that brought more harm to you than good.  I am sorry that we scientists and engineers have forsaken you for the monetary gains that our technologies can bring.  I am sorry that we scientists and engineers formed alliances with greedy financiers who would rather see a beneficial technology that would be safe for you be put to death if it meant that they could not make a profit from it.  I am sorry that in our effort to extract clean energy from you we develop methods that pollute you beyond belief and that we keep how toxic those methods are to ourselves lest the public rage against us.  I am sorry that we cannot seem to understand that polluting you will kill us before it kills you.

I am sorry that in my current profession as a nature and landscape photographer concerned about your preservation that I have to drive a vehicle to the places where I photograph and to the places where I display the photographs and try to educate people about your importance that consumes petroleum in obscene quantities.  I am sorry that I even have to use petroleum as an energy source.  When as I student, I and team of 30 other students designed and built a car that worked completely and cleanly on solar energy and used it to travel over 1000 miles across the United States that I did not champion such clean energy so that today it might be the norm.  I am sorry that I have to pay taxes that help fund unjust wars against innocent people just so that the oil-thirsty nation I live in can continue to quench its thirst for oil.

I am sorry for the arrogant pursuit of poisonous radio-active alternate forms of energy that just continue to hurt you, us and all living things on your back.  We have no clue how to properly contain its power, or how to dispose of its waste and in our sheer stupidity think that if it is out of sight it is out of mind and does not exist, so we bury it deep inside of you or dump it deep into your oceans.  I cannot seem to understand why we seeing past our own noses into the future and realizing we are just digging our own graves eludes us, and for that stupidity, I am sorry.  Worse yet, we turn to using the waste as ammunition for the guns that we turn on ourselves and spray it all over the land poisoning not only the water we drink but the food that we eat and the dust that inadvertently finds its way into our lungs. We kill our selves and sentence our offspring to gross and unjust deformities that will eventually exterminate all of us, and for that I am sorry.  I find it ironically poetic that you, my dear Mother, will not clean up the mess that we make.  I hope we get the message, but I must apologize once again for our lack of understanding in how to care for the place we live, on your back.

I am sorry for our hubris to think that we have unraveled the mysteries of the genetic code and think that we can change small things to alter our food without it harming the whole of creation.  I am sorry that we produce seeds that do not reproduce themselves and then lay claim on the rights to own it so that we can profit from what the seeds produce one time.  You give us seeds that produce for us over and over in manifold gain without cause or concern for profit.  Your generosity shames us in comparison, and for that I am sorry.  I am sorry for the use of chemicals that kill your life giving oxygen-producing plants and that kill the insects that feed on the crops we grow, teaching us how to share, because we deem them an annoyance.  I am sorry that we use such toxins and fail to realize that once they breakdown into their constituent parts they cause an imbalance in the male-female populations that you so carefully crafted for millenia.  I am sorry that we have failed to learn from your wisdom and generosity.

I am sorry for the insanity that we must exhibit in striving to reach other planets and pondering on ways for us to live there while we systematically are killing you.  Maybe those madmen know we are driving in the last few nails into your coffin and they are looking for a means of escape, or a new place to destroy.  I am sorry that we do not spend our wealth amongst ourselves in preserving the beautiful home you have already provided us.  Maybe someday we will learn.

I am sorry for what we have done to you bringing you to your current state.  You ail today, your fever is rising, and yet we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to your illness because the change will cost us too much financially.  I am sorry for the nonsensical logic that we use to justify the status quo.  It is hilariously-sad to me to see the wealthy trying to hold on to something they will never get to take with them once they die and they fail to use it for the benefit that it can bring before they return to you as dust.  I am sorry for the sad state that humans have devolved to where greed above all else matters most even at the cost of severing their own lifeline so embedded in you.  I am sorry that humans as a whole have not learned how to be as generous as you have been to us for all these eons.  I am appalled that we cannot seem to understand the value of a seed over the value of the fruit bore from it.  For each fruit is of its own, while in a seed lies 70 to 700 times its self in the fruit it will bear.  I am sorry we do not give back to you in the like quantity that you give to us.  It seems that everything on your back knows the meaning of balance except us and for that I am sorry.

I am frightened that as our Mother, you are ready to discipline us with your chastisement for our wrongs.  We do not seem to hear your scolding and I fear it will not be long before the mulberry-switch comes out.

I know your chastisement will be stern, but please have mercy on us.  We are fools and know not what we are doing.

Please accept this apology from me and from those who sign on to this letter as well.  We do care and we are trying our best in a system that has gone completely wrong.



Youssef M. Ismail ~ Organic Light Photography

Tim Gray

Guy Tal ~ Guy Tal Photography

Bret Edge ~ Bret Edge Photography

Michael E. Gordon ~ Michael E. Gordon Photography

Dali Delos Reyes

Mujtaba Ghouse

Alice Gray

Gary Crabbe ~ Enlightened Images

Mark Graf ~ Mark Graf Photography

Floris van Breugel ~ Art In Nature Photography

Terese Boeck

Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill ~ EcoRebbe

Nancy Schwalen

Mary Ann Donegan

Iskandar Soekardi

Ginny Kalila

David Leland Hyde ~ Landscape Photography Blogger

Larry Kimball ~ Pronghorn Wildlife Photography

PJ Finn ~

Brad Mangas ~ Nature & Wilderness Photography

John Strong ~ Visual Notebook

Mark Fenwick ~ Fascinating Photography

Greg Russell ~ Alpenglow Images

Patty Hankins ~ Beautiful Flower Pictures

Alexandra Mitchell

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Crying Black Tears

The earth is in pain.  We are hurting it.  We poison its water.  We choke its air. We cut it limbs and we slash into its flesh.  For all that we do to the Earth, it still takes care of us by the sky sending down its life giving rain, the fields still give their nourishing foods and trees still provide us with shade and the air we breath.  For some the earth is an inanimate object held in check by the laws of nature that govern how everything works.  For others, this author included, see the earth as a living and interactive organism that has a spirit and purpose.

There are a set of verses in the Qur’an, the text that Muslims believe was revealed by the Creator to guide humanity to what is ultimately their only success, that speaks of the Earth.  They mean as follows.

When the Earth is shaken with her final earthquake.

And the Earth yields up her burdens.

And man says “What is the matter with her?”

That day she will proclaim her tidings.

Because your Lord inspired her.

That day mankind will come forth in scattered groups to be shown their deeds.

And whoever has done a bit of good will see it then.

And whoever has done a bit of ill will see it then.

Its a weighty set of verses.  They frighten me.  But more than that they help me check myself with regards to what I do to and on the Earth.  I not only consider the Earth my home, but my companion in life and the physical source of what I need to stay alive.  It is my spiritual center and from which I learn many important things regarding how to live in peace with the Earth itself as well as with my fellow humans.  It is my teacher.  It has a persona that we all recognize, for do we not call her Mother Earth?

Everyone can learn from the Earth if we just open our eyes to what it has to teach. For millennial the Earth has taken care of us.  It saddens me that we do not reciprocate that care in kind today.  It seems that in past generations we, as humans, understood the necessity of mutual care between us and the Earth. That what was good for the Earth was ultimately good for us as well.  Today we seem to have lost our way in that respect.  We have become selfish, arrogant and blind that our actions, even though appearing self-serving, are in reality harmful to the Earth and to our own existence.

Faith and belief are sensitive topics, I know, but what if the Earth truly does have a memory.  A memory so sharp that it will tell all about what we individually have done on her back.  That it will stand as witness against us on that final day and bear a testimony that no matter what we do we cannot deny.  Which group do you wish to be among – those who have done good or those who have done ill?

I wonder if the Earth ‘looks’ at us and is saddened by what it must do to us to rectify its unbalanced state and return to equilibrium.  I think it will rid us, or most of us in the process.  I think it knows that and I wonder if it is crying black tears over it?

Crying Black Tears

Black Tear

Just some food for the mind to chew on.


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I Found My Dream Girl

Last week on Veteran’s Day I was not scheduled to teach anywhere as most schools close for that day.  I waited patiently as I watched my online schedule for any last minute additions.  When 6 pm rolled around and nothing showed up, I made a snap decision to return to Yosemite Valley to catch the last bit of autumn color in the Valley.

I gather up my entourage of four kids and packed up a day lunch, water and some warm clothing and we hit the road.  Four hours later we found our selves playing in the remnant snow at 6000 feet elevation around Crane Flat from the storm that passed through a few days earlier.  Once the fingers on my children’s hands had sufficiently numbed we continued on our way dropping down in to the Valley.  All four were now very excited to be in the mountains once again.  As we rounded the bend on Highway 120 leading down to the first view of El Capitan and Half Dome, my youngest son suddenly exclaims, “I have found my dream girl!” With astonishment the rest of the kids look at him in wonderment asking what in the world he is talking about.  I had an inkling about what he meant and then he clarified his statement to the rest confirming my thoughts.

He said “the Earth is a girl right?  We do call her Mother Earth.  She is beautiful. She never complains.  She feeds us and gives us to drink.  And she is always ready to accept us when we want to play.  She is my dream girl”

Well my son, mine too…mine too.

Dream Girl

Dream Girl

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Shooting One’s Self in the Foot

This year in California the wildflowers have been particularly prolific.  It has brought photographers out in massive numbers all looking to capture that unique wildflower photo.  On the one hand it is nice to see people out communing with the natural world.  The problem is that they have no clue how to behave while out there.

The open range land where most of the wildflowers bloom is private land.  Some of it is fenced and some of it is just open range land.  Private property is private property and it should be respected, wildflower heaven or not.  For as long as I can remember fellow photographer and workshop leader, Carol Leigh and her wonderful Wildflower Hotsheet has been an Internet resource for wildflower hunters.  It was user driven with reports coming in almost daily once the blooms started.  This year however, due to incredulous bad behavior of photographers in one particular canyon in the south-central part of the state that is private open range land, one of the land owners made a post on the hotsheet asking photographers to stop coming onto their land, to stop tramping all over the place, tearing up flowers, and warning that if the behavior did not stop further legal actions would be taken!  That was last week.  Well all of a sudden Carol takes down the hotsheet and leaves the notice that is there now.  Not only did the bad behavior anger the owners of the land, it has resulted in losing a fabulous resource that was of benefit to so many.  This passed weekend, I heard reports that the county sheriff was patrolling that canyon now, making sure private property rights are observed.

I have photographed in that canyon before, and yes it is a special place, but come on, you don’t have to trespass to photograph there, and you certainly do not have to tear out flowers once you have photographed them or picnic right on top of them, roll around in them or whatever other nonsense people dream up.

Mother Earth has rights as well.  It is always a difficult proposition trying to photograph the wildflowers.  In the process, some flowers are trampled on.  But we must learn how to tread lightly on the earth.  Even though the Earth seems like a resilient rock, its ecosystem is very fragile.  Even more fragile are the flowers themselves.  They rely on pollination to generate the seeds for coming years.  Trample them, or pull them out before they can secure pollination and there will be no more flowers. 

I do my best to stay on trails or on roadside when photographing the flowers.  However I must admit I do love sitting in the middle of them all, sampling their intoxicating spicy fragrance and vibrant over-the-top color.  When I do, I stay put in one place, I follow my own foot steps back out and when at all possible, I step on bare ground where no flower is growing.  And I encourage all my readers to practice the same when you visit the wildflowers this year.  And please do go out and visit them and be grateful for the bounty that Mother Earth and our Creator are giving us this year, just be nice, so that we don’t want to “shoot our selves in the foot” and never get to see the flowers again.  

Poppies in Antelope Valley

Bed Of Poppies


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In A Hole

In A Hole

In A Hole

Mother Earth ceases to amaze me with the visual allegories she serves up.  If we are in tune to seeing them we could find them everywhere.  On seeing these small pebbles trapped in these holes in Tafoni sandstone I thought how many of us feel like we are in a hole?  Overwhelmed by the state of affairs we find ourselves in, we feel trapped with no way to get out of the hole.  Unable to see over the rim of the hole that traps us we fail to realize that others are probably in a hole was well.

Navigating through life without falling into a hole or two is unheard of as the journey is riddled with them.  But like any trial that we endure in life, falling into a hole is not permanent, we will eventually climb out.

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Sometimes an image just happens to come to you. It appears as if by magic at your feet, and in this case it literally did. Even more amazing is when an image just captivates your imagination and conveys to you exactly what you are feeling.

Such was the case with this photo of twisted sage brush in the Eastern Sierra. Continue Reading »

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