Why “lucky” chameleon, you might ask? Because she is very lucky to be alive! While visiting the Big Island, my sister and I found her trapped in a spider’s web. She had clearly struggled to try to free herself, but had only managed to become extremely tangled in the web, and had broken her tail in multiple places. By the time we found her, she was nearly dead and seemed to have given up on life.
My sister and I used a pair of tweezers to carefully remove strands of web off of the little chameleon. It was very painstaking work. At first, the chameleon winced at our touch, like she was expecting us to hurt her, but she was too weak to struggle more. Over time, she figured out that we were helping her, and started to trust us. Once we had removed enough of the spider web that she could open and close her mouth again, the life seemed to start to come back in to her. Before long, her once nearly lifeless form was happily roaming so much that it was hard to get her to stay still long enough to finish taking off the last few pieces of web! Her color started coming back, and with it, a new zest for life. Her hope had been restored. She seemed so happy to be free , and wanted to move about and explore. She climbed up and down our arms, and all over the area. We tried offering her some water, but she wasn’t interested. When she seemed ready, we released her back into the wild, feeling a lot more confident about her chances than we had when we found her. This lucky little chameleon had her second chance at life, and she seemed ready to take it head on.
The town of Nara, Japan is unique in how the local historical sites blend in to the beautiful winding trails through a forest full of deer. These deer are extremely friendly and used to people, and don’t shy away from walking right up to you (and eating the special deer crackers sold in the shops). Unlike in some other cities where there are tame deer like Miyajima, in which the deer come right into town, in Nara it feels like it is the people who are visiting the deer in their forest home.
What a peaceful forest it is! You wouldn’t expect a popular tourist destination to have such an atmosphere, but it is thanks to the natural surroundings. There are enough small walking trails that it is possible to leave the crowds and the modern world behind, and enter the serene world of small tea houses, ancient temples like Tōdai-ji, and deer who embody their spiritual surroundings.
Eight is a special number in Buddhism, most notably used to refer to the Eightfold Path. This lotus flower has eight petals on both the inside and outside, and 64 petals (eight x eight) in the middle. Different colors of lotus blossoms have their own meanings, and a purple lotus is symbolic of spirituality and mysticism. Purple lotus flowers are not as commonly depicted as other colors like pink and white, and are traditionally associated with esoteric Buddhism. This association of purple and spirituality is also common in color theory, because it is a combination of both soothing (blue) and stimulating (red), and promotes inner reflection. It also happens to be my favorite color.
Would you like to see other lotus colors & designs?
Meditation by a waterfall is not only a peaceful and picturesque way to meditate, but the sound of the water itself is one traditional way to enter Samādhi. It is a powerful way to still the mind. The most renown figure to enter Samādhi through this method, and therein gain the ability to “hear the cries of the world,” is Guanyin (观音). The Śūraṅgama Sūtra describes how she disassociates herself from the sense of hearing, and thus gains mastery over it.
“I began with a practice based on the enlightenment nature of hearing. First I redirected my hearing inward in order to enter the current of the sages. Then external sounds disappeared. With the direction of my hearing reversed and with sounds stilled, both sounds and silence cease to arise . . . . Coming into being and ceasing to be themselves ceased to be. Then the ultimate stillness was revealed . . . . All of a sudden I transcended the worlds of ordinary beings, and I also transcended the worlds of beings who have transcended the ordinary worlds. Everything in the ten directions was fully illuminated, and . . . . I was then able to go to all lands and appear in thirty-two forms that respond to what beings require.”
Many other Buddhists have followed this example throughout the centuries, particularly within Chan Buddhism / Zen Buddhism (禅). This video clip shows one example at Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山), a monastery in Taiwan, and their connection to the nearby streams. Look for a mention of Guanyin / Avalokiteśvara around 13 minutes in:
Taking photos while riding an elephant through the jungles of Thailand can be an interesting challenge – and just the type of situation that can create unique photographs with good timing. Motion blur can be a beautiful element in photography. Since the elephant trainers keep the pace of the elephants, they are relatively in-focus compared to the foliage in the background. The key comes down to getting a feel for the rhythm of the elephant’s stride. Each part of the stride will have varying speeds, moving quite fast at some points, and slowing to nearly a stop at others. By experimenting with different timings and/or shutter speeds, can create unique effects . For more variation, or if your subject is moving at a different pace than you are, try leaning your body while snapping the picture. Similar techniques can create motion blur in other situations with rhythmic motion, such as while on a boat, or while riding horses and other animals.
Climbing the Great Wall is high on the wish list for many visitors to China, but not everyone realizes just how much of a climb it really is. China loves its stairs, and the Great Wall is no exception. However, these stairs are notoriously uneven, with small steps dispersed amongst giant steps, and plenty of steps that are sagging in places from the wear of millions of feet.
The surface of the wall isn’t the same rock that was there over two thousand years ago – it has been rebuilt multiple times, most famously during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, right on top of the crumbling ruins of the older sections of the wall. While scaling the wall today, it is hard to imagine how difficult it would have been for ancient Chinese troops to patrol up and down the mountain.
The climb, although not for the faint of heart, is very rewarding (and for more than the “I Climbed the Great Wall” t-shirts sold halfway up the mountain). The views are spectacular, as is the sense of accomplishment. Visitors aiming to reach “the top” are often surprised to discover that upon reaching what they thought was the highest point, that the wall really continues up and up beyond what they had previously been able to see. But all the little old ladies zooming past the young “in shape” tourists probably aren’t laughing at them (too much).
Inside the Grand Palace of Bangkok, Thailand, the most sacred Buddhist temple in the country gleams in the mid-morning sunlight. On the left is the library Phra Mondop, and behind it is the Royal Pantheon Prasat Phra Thep Bidorn. One of the Twelve Small Open Pavilions is on the right.
When possible, I like taking photos with both interesting clouds foregrounds, ideally with a sense of connection between the two. During post-production, I remember how it felt to be at that place when I took the photo, and imbibe that energy into the final photo. The awe of discovery. The profoundness of the spiritual. The hot sun on my skin on a breeze-less day. The smell of the nearby river and market. The stunningly beautiful and grandiose palace grounds. The intense reverence of the Thai people (and many foreigners) for this special place. My increased respect for the generations of Thai royals, as I learned more about them in the museum exhibits. I felt very uplifted that day, in multiple ways.
These memories remain fresh, even for a photo taken 6 years ago. I guess you could say that my memory hasn’t gotten cloudy ;D
Do your photos also bring back such strong memories?
Here are a few of my other favorite cloud photos from previous entries – click to see a larger view and read more:
At dusk along the northern shore of West Lake in Hangzhou China there is a beautiful water show lit up by an array of colored lights. Right at the waterline there are dozens of little fountain heads that shoot the water high into the air – sometimes 50 feet or more. The fountains of water change angles as well in a coordinated fashion, making the mist seem to dance across the lake.
Hangzhou is one of my favorite cities in China. It’s a city that has modernized quite eloquently without loosing its charm or cultural heritage, and while still upholding the beautiful natural landscape that surrounds the city. Even when venturing into the main parts of the city, Hangzhou never quite feels like the large metropolis of over 8 million people that it is – which is part of why I like it. After spending the day peacefully meandering around West Lake, or exploring temples, tea fields, and museums, the light show is a nice finale. I easily become memorized by pretty lights.
Moms are always multitasking, and Mama Cat’s Little Helper wants to “help” with bath time. Are the playful little kitten’s antics ever overlooked by Mom? Absolutely not – moms always have eyes in the back of their heads. She patiently lets the kitten play with her tail, all the while making plans to pounce on the little kitten and give her a bath too in due time. Multiple kittens have a way of keeping anyone’s paws full, yet moms somehow rise to the challenge with amazing grace.
Stray cats are some of the most overlooked members of our society. But a cat lover like me can’t help but notice such cute little kittens. These cats from a small town in central China seemed pretty healthy, so maybe some of the locals were feeding them. Canned cat food isn’t as common in China, but I’ve seen many Chinese people donate part of their lunch to hungry kitties.
Located on a small island not far from Hiroshima, Miyajima seems worlds away from the modern concrete and steel grid of Hiroshima. One can spend hours leisurely winding through the peaceful streets surrounded by traditional style buildings and historical sites. Two such places can be seen on the horizon from this scenic overlook – Gojunoto Pagoda and Senjokaku Shrine.
Although it was overcast and rainy for part of the day that I was there, the sun did come out a little and bask the village in its warmth. The aptly nicknamed “shrine island” has a very cozy feel to it, aided by the rolling hills next to the beautiful sea, the traditional architecture, multiple shrines and temples within easy walking distance, and even plentiful tame and friendly deer roaming the streets.