Ginkoa Biloba leaves blanketed the courtyard outside the high school classes where I teach English near Shanghai, China. This colorful display cheered my students and me. Later we went to Starbucks to celebrate a strange kind of Thanksgiving with a student’s birthday cake and flavored coffee. Half of the students paid attention to my speech about Thanksgiving, and the other half played with their mobile phones. Such is life in China. If you like my blogs, please check out my books.
I was teaching basic English to private language school students on weekends when I decided it was time for a field trip. Since I had often stood in Izmit, Kocaeli by the banks of the Marmara Sea and looked up at the distant mountains, I thought of traveling to Kar Tepe, the tallest peak in Kocaeli and home to a five-star hotel and challenging ski resort.
The only way to get up the mountain is by car, since the buses only go to the village of Kar Tepe at the base of the mountain. The paved road is well cared for, thanks in part to business from wealthy Istanbul residents who want to ski at the closest location. One of my students offered to drive our small group, and we left early on a Saturday morning in September. Continue reading
Here it is, December second, and I am sitting in a Starbuck’s in Alanya, Turkey. I listen to Christmas music piped over loudspeakers in a Muslim country where Christmas is rarely celebrated. I miss my children in California, wondering if I will return to them this Christmas, or if this will be my third Christmas overseas.
Last summer I was here when it was really hot, and I snapped a photo of a boy swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. Now my children are in the California mountains where snow may fill the forests at any time.
Life is full of contrasts, irony like the bitter taste of coffee mixed with dark chocolate.
In Antalya, to the west of me, I had a job at Akdeniz University where this palm tree, under a white-hot sky, reflected in a fountain. I fought hard for that job, but it ended sooner than I expected, thanks to slow Turkish paperwork which would not get my contract in time.
Perhaps the hottest of anything I have seen in Turkey is the love two people can share, like this couple I randomly saw at Kaleiçi in Antalya, posing together on their summer wedding day.
I like to write about life’s extremes like summer and winter, New Zealand and Russia. If you like travel adventures and enjoy my photos, please have a look at my book “Fire and Ice”:
My uncle Vic was a professional photographer in New York City. My cousin Larry traveled the world, taking sportsmen photos. Since I was a child, I held a camera in my hands, looked through a lens at the most amazing places, and snapped pictures in color and light.
I love the colors green and blue, found in natural, earthly scenes. My inspiration comes from trees and leaves; sunlight slanting through a mountain forest; poetry; God’s great, redemptive love.
My inspiration comes from my children, my hands on their shoulders, sun on our faces, ice in dark coffee, transcient eternity like the Word made flesh to live among us–Christmas, reunion in the touch of fingertips.
You can read about what inspires me:
Inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge topic of the color green, I browsed through some of my old photos of New Zealand, the most beautifully green place in the world. I edited the photos a little, brightening colors or sharpening edges, and here are some for you to enjoy.
My son Jonathan as a little Hobbit in Dart Forest
The sheep-farming hills of Fairlie
Fairlie with snow-covered mountains in the background
The blue-green water of Lake Pukake, which melts from Mount Cook’s glacier
An evergreen forest behind the autumny colors of Lake Tekapo and its church
The rocks at Banks Peninsula near Christchurch
More colors to explore on the open road
If you enjoyed my photos, read the adventures that go with them in my book “Fire and Ice”
Some of the strangest foliage I saw was in New Zealand. Here is a lancewood tree in the mist of the South Island:
Here is a pine tree in the steamy mist of Craters of the Moon Park on the North Island:
A silver fern’s fiddlehead (new growth) stretches out for spring (it’s now spring in New Zealand):
I shared New Zealand adventures with my children. Now they live in California, and I teach English in Turkey. I’m trying to write my way back to them. If you liked this blog, please check out “Weekly Photo Challenge: Mine.”
My children, Jessica and Jonathan, are my most precious something that is “mine.” We shared our happiest days together exploring New Zealand. In this photo, they sit at the back of a tour boat in Milford Sound. See more photos . . . Continue reading
A lone egret stands in Milford Sound in New Zealand. The white bird is surrounded by water, trees, sky, and the distant, misty mountains. I stood at this spot with my children Jessica and Jonathan, a few years ago. We could feel the peace of the place, solitary in a vast landscape–yet connected to each other. Now they are in California, and I am in Turkey, writing to get back to them.
If you like my posts, please check out my books:
Like a Tree Planted, my science fiction novel:
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Miranda lives in future San Diego, a city enclosed in a Dome because chemicals destroyed the natural world. Everything is made of plastic, and wood is more valuable than gold. The daughter of scientists, Miranda is Keeper of The Last Tree, which is dying. She is also great-granddaughter of the famous environmentalist Gabrielle Leigh who foresaw the trees’ destruction. By means of The Archives, a multimedia library, Miranda studies Gabrielle’s life. Each “visit” through The Portal becomes more real, and Miranda gradually materializes in Twentieth-Century Oregon to explore the Pacific Northwest evergreen forests. She breathes pine-scented air, sees stars and waterfalls, tastes real food like chocolate, and wears cotton clothes. She watches Gabrielle fall in love and is caught in a battle between loggers and “greens.” After Gabrielle’s husband is killed and their child born in a snow-bound cabin, Miranda tries to stop the other tragedies the Archives foretold. She almost forgets her own world. Back under the future Dome, her family and boyfriend try to keep her from being trapped in the past. Government security forces, afraid that the outside world is too dangerous to explore, hunt them down. Miranda and Gabrielle struggle, between two places and times, to reintroduce trees to the future and lead people outside The Dome.
Once again, I am drawn into Gabrielle’s world. I take off my shoes in the Hall of Trees, my toes feeling the grass carpet. On either side grow plants and flowers–ferns nearly as tall as I, tropical lilies white against dark green fronds, poinsettia plants with fiery leaves. I pass the many aisles, only half interested, noticing again the holes–the many holes spaced equally on the floor, holes once filled with trees.
Now there is only One. A bluegum eucalyptus, it stands at the path’s end, its hundred-foot crown reaching toward our dome. Its clumps of thin-leaved branches sway slightly in the “wind” that breezes the Hall, its trunk mottled with peeling bark. Odd, to me it resembles a photograph I saw once in the Archives–a tall African dancer under a mask.
I pause in the tree’s shelter, look up at the leaves. Each seems to dance a separate dance. Does each have its own piece of life? I pick up a newly-fallen leaf, break it, and smell the sap. How sweet for a tree without blossoms or seeds.
I bend down and press a blue button, and the Tree is enveloped by moisture. Tiny droplets of water drip from the lower boughs to my head and lashes. Another button–a brown one–rolls away the moss at the Tree’s base, revealing plastiground, in which the Tree’s roots wrap themselves.
“More vitamins for you?” I ask aloud, pressing the red button. A pink liquid streams toward the Tree’s roots.
What good will it do? I wonder. You are dying. I feel like hitting the tree’s indifferent trunk, shocking it to life. Continue reading
Some university students and I went to the top of Kar Tepe mountain in Kocaeli and found this mysterious forest. I used the photo for the cover of my science fiction novel, “Like a Tree Planted.”
Get the book here: