Tag Archives: travel

One Wave

Jim Welch loves waves! This free spirit traveler chases his muse around the world, to ride the surf and capture the ocean’s hidden beauty on camera.

Jim’s luminous photographs sparkle with color and energy. Rainbows, fantasy landscapes, and cosmic swirls all unfold in a gorgeous microcosm of nature and the very essence of life. The photos reveal the intimate world of an artist who is deeply connected to the heartbeat of the ocean.

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Jim grew up surfing the waves of the Hawaiian Islands, so he knows well the nuances and moods of the ocean. It is customary for a surfer to tune into the rhythm of the wave sets before diving in. As Jim puts it, “Each wave has its own name tag”. Surfers pleasure in the feeling of being at one with the water, and in the big waves their very life can depend on achieving this synergy.

In 1989, the search for new surf experiences and a desire for freedom led Jim away from Hawaii and on the road. He hung out in a California beach house for a while and found some fun and liberation. Right about that time, he bought a camera and shot his first roll of film with the guidance of a professional photographer. Jim was immediately hooked, and traveling soon became about capturing the world and his experiences in photographs.

Jim explored around Asia and he witnessed the rawness of poverty in the third world and the very real disparity between the rich and the poor. He also made the fleeting acquaintance of people in Costa Rica and Indonesia who owned next to nothing, yet they generously invited him into their homes to share what little they had to offer. It was in these experiences that he found the golden secret of where happiness may be found, at least in part. He has been amazed at the kindnesses extended to him by complete strangers. There was also a realization of the value of simplicity, and “the commonality we all share. In the end we are all humans having experiences and just trying to have a good life.”

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Why does Jim think that everyone should travel?

“The new sensory experiences give you a reborn appreciation for everything, and most of all for life. You feel alive! You discover the magic and richness of living in the moment. There is the fascination of discovering new things and you expand.”

There came a point in the ongoing saga of Jim’s travels when he felt the call to go to Africa. This trip was not about chasing the surf, but rather it was an irresistible attraction to the exotic. Through a synchronistic set of circumstances, he was invited to visit the village of the Pondo tribe, who as it happened was hosting a meeting of chiefs to determine solutions to some ecological problems.

During the meeting there were about seventy people crammed into one hut, and they were all working together towards a common good. There was a strong feeling of community in that African village and a sense that “if we are going to succeed, we are going to do it together.” When the business at hand had been accomplished, everyone gathered to celebrate. Music began and the children started to dance. Jim was struck by their innate rhythm, some of them very young, as they danced to the hypnotic chanting of male and female voices. The throbbing beat of the drums intensified, and as the adults joined the dance it gradually escalated into a frenzied, rhythmic merging of energies. In the midst of it all, Jim felt the deep connection of the people to one another and to the spirit world. He experienced “One”.

Profound experiences have a way of changing a person’s direction, and Jim’s enthusiasm for photographing surfers and landscapes dried up. But as the saying goes, when one door closes another opens. Jim was shown the way by his old friend the ocean. One day at the beach while idly observing two wave sets crashing together, inspiration hit Jim like lightning. His passion turned to wave photography.

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Jim’s new fascination with the intimate world of waves quickly took hold and he fully embraced the challenge of taking wave photographs. Jim works with an underwater camera inside potentially dangerous waves up to twelve feet high. Immediacy and a crucial sense of timing are definitely involved. He reveals, “I am in rhythm with the ocean’s pulse. I sit and watch the waves first and I mesh with the rhythm of the natural elements of the ocean.”

At the heart of the photography lies a deep desire on Jim’s part to awaken those around him. He is aware of a general lack of connection to nature, although he does believe that many people crave to find it again. He says, “I have always felt a deep sorrow for the decline and decimation of the natural world. I hold an appreciation for nature close to my heart. I try to capture it through the lens in such a way that people will take another look and really appreciate the beauty.”

In every photograph you see his love of nature, his connection with the ocean, and that feeling of “One.” Each wave is splendidly unique, but also part of a beautiful whole. And as Jim says, “Waves are unpredictable, and that is what I love most about life!”

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Wave photographs © Jim Welch. All rights reserved. Photos by permission.

“One Wave” © Susan L Hart 2002. All rights reserved.
“One Wave” was first published by EscapeArtist.com in their September 2002 issue of Escape from America magazine.
A version of this story published August 2016 in Friends in Foreign Places: An Expat Anthology.

Hawaiian Sovereignty

Hawaii is one of the major tourist spots in the world and if you spend all of your time in Honolulu and Waikiki, a tourist experience is exactly what you will have. Waikiki Beach is just one and one-half miles long and this small strip of sand attracts over five million visitors each year.

However, when you travel outside of the blatantly tourist areas, you begin to discover another Hawaii. You find islands of breathtaking tropical beauty, a slower speed of living, a quiet grace, and inevitably you are introduced to the spirit of “aloha”. If you dig even deeper beneath the surface, you also learn of an issue that runs deep in the hearts of the Hawaiian people. This is the issue of sovereignty and freedom.

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First, it is important to understand the concept of aloha. At a very basic level aloha means hello and goodbye, however this one simple word runs much deeper than these superficial meanings. In the Hawaiian culture, words have mana (pronounced: mah’ nah, meaning spiritual or divine power), and aloha is among the most sacred. Aloha is a divine word and it is a greeting of love when expressed with sincerity.

To introduce you to the basic background of the sovereignty issue in Hawaii, here is a quote from an article called “Hawaiian Sovereignty and the Native Hawaiian Vote”. Ppkp Laenui, who at the time was Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Hawaiian Affairs, wrote this in October of 1996:

“There is another side to the picture postcard of the hula girl swaying in her grass skirt under the coconut tree with the American flag in the background. It is the picture of a proud, hard working, intelligent, and honest Hawaiian people whose ancestors crisscrossed the Pacific ocean long before Columbus came upon the Americas, whose literacy rate was at one time the highest in the world, whose nation had almost a hundred diplomatic and counselor posts around the world, whose leaders signed treaties and conventions with a multitude of states of the world, and whose King was the first Head of State to circle the globe traveling to America, Asia, and Europe before returning to Hawai’i.

“In five quick years, Hawai’i moved from independent nation/state to a colony of the United States of America. Following an armed invasion in 1893, by 1898, the U.S. claimed Hawai’i, without the consent of its constitutional monarchy or the Hawaiian nationals. For a time, Hawai’i was lost from the arena of international presence other than as a historical footnote.

“In 1946, the General Assembly of the United Nations through Resolution 66(I) noted Hawai’i as one of seven territories over which the United States was to administer pursuant to Article 73 of the U.N. Charter. By 1959, Hawai’i was removed from that status and considered a State of the U.S. The process under which this changed status happened is now under serious scrutiny for its failure to meet basic standards of self-determination.”

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In that same fateful year, on May 20, 1959, a baby called Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (nicknamed “IZ”) was born on the small island of Oahu, Hawaii. He was raised with the knowledge of his Polynesian heritage, found the music inside, and eventually wrote songs that lamented the destruction of the land and the loss of sovereignty among the Hawaiian people. He gave voice to a desire to take back the land that was stolen from the Hawaiians. So say some of the words from IZ’s song “Hawaii ’78”:

Cry for the gods, cry for the people
Cry for the land that was taken away
And then yet you’ll find, Hawai’i.

Sadly, IZ passed away on June 26, 1997, while his star was still on the rise. However, the words of this musical icon had already captured the admiration and imagination of thousands of followers, as it continues to do even today.

The issue of sovereignty in some ways seems complicated and yet it is simple. It is has now existed in Hawaii for over one hundred years and many people here debate whether the land will ever be returned to the native Polynesian people. No matter what the future holds, however, a love for the land will always be held in the hearts of the Polynesian people, as well as anyone else that settles here and understands and lives the spirit of aloha.

The music of IZ is haunting and compelling. He speaks to the souls of not only the Hawaiian people who had their land stolen, but at a deeper level to anyone who has felt the bite of injustice and control. (That would probably be most of us, at some time and in some way in each of our lives). The music of IZ cries out for a return to the principle of aloha, so that we all may connect to the beautiful spirit of the land living deep within the soul of each of us.

My other blog post today: Sun-kissed | Gratitude

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Cover photo courtesy Errin Casano, Pexels

Quotation from “Hawaiian Sovereignty and the Native Hawaiian
Vote”, October 1996, by Ppkp Laenui.

Quotation from “Hawaii ’78” on “Facing Future” album, by Israel
Kamakawiwo’ole, 1993 BigBoy Record Company

“Hawaiian Sovereignty” (previously published as “The Spirit of Aloha”) © Susan L Hart. All rights reserved.

Miracle in the Park

What is a miracle? Well by their very nature, miracles defy explanation. I can tell you that when I experienced one, it was so profound and deeply personal I resisted talking about it for some time. I have since come to the conclusion that it is important to share a miracle, for it is a gift, an inspiration that gives healing and hope to a person (and ultimately a world) that sorely needs it.

It seems to me that miracles are answers to truly heartfelt prayers, requests made with the unshakable faith that they can be delivered. And, the deeper we go within ourselves and connect back to God, the bigger the answer that may come back, one that says, “Okay! Here it is. You can’t miss this one!” Bible stories say that Jesus could perform miracles at will. Perhaps these were answers to a bigger prayer, a plea from the heart of humanity to be shown what was possible in the realm of God. I just know that a miracle came to me when I released the need to figure it out on my own, and when I humbly asked for help.

Miracles undoubtedly take many forms, perhaps the most dramatic examples being those of inexplicable cures for the terminally ill. Mine is a quieter story, one born out of a feeling of isolation. The answer eventually revealed itself one special afternoon in Albert Park, Auckland, New Zealand. It didn’t, however, happen in just one magnificent “boom”. Rather, it unfolded slowly, with teasing little hints of the main event dropped at my feet by messengers from the sky.

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Angels, you say? Well, not quite, but these were certainly winged. As I searched, and asked, and prayed, I started finding feathers. I found them everywhere, during walks along a familiar country road, on improbable city sidewalks, and even in outright impossible places, such as a change room in a clothing store. And when they appeared, there was a deep knowing within that they had been left there just for me. The message that resonated with every feather discovered was “There is hope”.

Hope for what? What was I seeking? In a bigger sense, understanding and wisdom, to make sense out of a world where too many people are feeling isolated and separate, anxious and stressed. On a more personal level, I was seeking something to fill my own lonely void. You see, my partner and I had decided to travel for an extended period of time to see some of the world. And, as much as we experienced many wonderful times, there were also considerable trials and stress involved.

There is something about leaving your comfortable little corner of the world that is scary, but ultimately illuminating. I am a friendly and outgoing person, and over the years I have enjoyed many happy relationships and a sense of community. As much as I made a few new friends on the road, it takes considerable time to develop deep relationships. These had always been my main source of happiness in life, and while moving frequently I was finding it impossible to develop new ones or properly maintain the old ones back home. This was unfamiliar and very unhappy territory for me. At the height of this crisis, I tramped up and down a dusty little back road in Australia untold times, asking how I could find that feeling of deep connection that I missed so much. I knew there had to be an answer, and I was determined to find it.

Now, praying was a bit of a new thing for me. I have always felt the presence of God, but I had rarely communicated to this source of higher wisdom. And I certainly was not in the habit of asking for help and direction! Being reasonably intelligent and independent, I had always prided myself on my ability to figure things out. Now I realize how restricting this was; in God’s realm of infinite possibilities, I was directing my life through my own limited scope of wisdom.

Native chief's headress

The answer began to appear with the feathers. Somehow their mere presence helped me to feel better, but beyond that, they also tickled my curiosity. I wanted to know more. I researched the symbolism of feathers and found that they have been held sacred by many cultures and tribes throughout history; hence the fact that the headdress of the wise chief was abundantly adorned with them. Some universally accepted meanings of feathers include “freedom” and “expansion beyond boundaries”. And, as birds could transcend the ground and fly towards the heavens, they were viewed by some as messengers between Deity and man.

These explanations intrigued me. Years before in Hawaii, I had learned enough about the Polynesians to be convinced that there was great wisdom held within the ancient indigenous cultures. One common factor between these cultures worldwide has been a deep reverence for the land and the animals, and a belief that the spirit of the Great Creator exists within all of Creation. They believed that if you were quiet and listened, the Creator would communicate wisdom to you through nature. Well, nature seemed to be communicating with me now.

About a week before I left Australia, the first messenger appeared. I was taking my customary evening walk under the gum trees, towards the sunset at the end of the country road. Suddenly I heard a rustle behind me, and I looked around. No more than seven or eight feet away, a pink galah was standing nonchalantly in the middle of the road, looking right at me. Being close cousins to cockatoos, galahs are both beautiful and noisy. I loved watching them at sunset, as whole flocks would chatter and swoop over the valley before retiring; they always seemed to be having a good time. This one had evidently left his mates to come and say hello.

Pink Galah, Australia

Slowly and quietly I knelt to the ground, and as I did, the galah walked right up. I stretched out my hand and it came closer, but never quite close enough to touch. The bird stayed for awhile though, and walked tight circles around me as we watched each other. After a time, I reluctantly stood up to say goodbye and continue on my way. I started on down the road, and to my surprise and delight, the galah followed! My new friend accompanied me for quite a distance, then eventually took flight and rejoined the flock. The galah showed up one more time for a repeat performance a few days later, perhaps to show me that this had been no fluke meeting.

Soon afterward we traveled to New Zealand, and I was now taking my daily walks on the hard pavement of the Auckland City streets. New Zealand has a very different flavor than Australia, and I welcomed the fresh, crisp green of the city park lands. It wasn’t long before I discovered a gem called Albert Park, and I headed there regularly to nurture my newfound connection with nature.

Albert Park encompasses a large city block in the heart of Auckland, and when I walked in, a tranquil oasis awaited. Entrances from all four sides led down tree-canopied walkways towards an open courtyard in the middle. Here a large, tiered fountain presided, surrounded by luxuriant beds of bright, fragrant flowers. The benches afforded a welcome refuge for sitting quietly and listening to the soothing trickle of water and the wind in the trees.

I noticed right away that the birds love to congregate in Albert Park. Why would they not? This park was abundant with some of the most beautiful trees I had seen anywhere; very ancient looking, with huge, twisted trunks and gnarled roots, straight out of a fairy tale. The fountain provided a socializing and bathing spot for the birds, and they also liked to mooch food from the people relaxing on the benches. I spent many happy hours in the park, and I felt from the beginning that there was something almost magical about this place.

Finally, the magic revealed itself. One afternoon as I got up from a bench to leave, I noticed a pigeon at the edge of the garden. Its iridescent colors shimmered in the late afternoon glow, and I delighted in the beauty. Increasingly I had been learning to truly value the abundance of nature around me, and to communicate that appreciation back. As I passed by the bird, I said a silent, “Thank you for sharing your beauty. I love you.” The sentiment was fervent and heartfelt.

Pigeon, Albert Park, New Zealand

I started down the walkway that led home. As I walked along, I heard a loud rustling to the right and looked over to see what it was. “That’s odd,” I thought, “There seem to be a lot of birds heading to this end of the park.” The number and type of birds was indistinct to me, however, as they were flying through a thick stand of trees.

This particular walkway wound around a large gazebo before leaving the park. It was an ornate, open building, fifteen feet or more in diameter, large enough to shelter small bands for outdoor concerts. It had the usual style of such a building, with a railing for walls and seating all around the inside edge. As I approached the gazebo, I was stunned by what I saw. It was covered with birds!

Every kind of bird in the park was lined up along the railing, covering the seats, and creating a sort of feathered carpet on the entire floor. There were at least three hundred of them, seagulls, pigeons, sparrows, swallows, and several types unfamiliar to me. The birds were all lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder (if you can use that term for birds), and they were all waiting for me. I was so overcome by the sight that I stood frozen in awe. I looked around to see if other people were watching, but it seemed that I was in my own little bubble and the world was oblivious.

After I recovered from the initial shock, I inched closer very carefully, hoping I wouldn’t startle them. I reached the bottom stair to the gazebo and stopped, quietly uttering an emotional, “Thank you!” The birds did not move, except for a couple of pigeons standing on the floor nearby. They approached, and one of them walked down the stairs and made a circle around me, just as the galah had done on that little dirt road in Australia.

After a while longer, the spell was broken and the birds began to fly away. I stayed until they all left and then quietly walked home, feeling a wondrous bond to the world around me. My heart was full of gratitude for the gift I had just received, a realization of the truly deep connection between everything that is part of Creation. We are all part of One. My feelings of isolation had originated in my own small idea of what was possible, and the world around me had reflected that. When I opened my mind and my heart, the answer was there, waiting. And the key, as I should have expected, was love!

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Pigeons cover photo courtesy Ashithosh U, Pexels

“Miracle in the Park” © Susan L Hart 2006, 2020. All rights reserved.
“Miracle in the Park” was first published by InTouch Magazine, New Zealand in their Aug/Sept 2006 issue.

SusanLHart.com

Hawaiian Respect & Harmony

Approximately 1,500 years ago, the Hawaiian Islands were discovered by Polynesian colonists who sailed double-hulled canoes on voyages from various parts of the South Pacific. Hawaiian legend says that the demigod Maui pulled the islands up from the ocean depths with his magic hook, and caught the sun with his net from atop Haleakala mountain, in order to slow it down and lengthen the day.

Living in Harmony with the Land & Each Other

Early Hawaiians believed that the earth was a living being with its own consciousness. They never tried to dominate the land, but believed in respecting and living in harmony with it. In Hawaiian language, this is called “pono”, or being in harmony with ones SELF and the ENVIRONMENT, for they are all elements of one energy.

By the time Captain Cook arrived in 1778, several hundred thousand Polynesian people who were skilled farmers, fishermen and craftsmen had established themselves on the islands. In Hawaiian culture, successful cohabitation with the land depended on several principles. These involved cooperation and a sense of community among the people who worked the land. Caring for the land (malama aina) was accomplished through working together (lokahi) and using many hands (laulima).

The Importance of Community

This strong sense of community was reflected in the formation of extended families (family is “ohana”), and the building of gathering places (long house is “halau”). Heiau (temples) were built, and the “spirit realm” was honored and respected during all phases of planting and harvesting, as well as in other aspects of Hawaiian life.

There is an inherent love of and reverence for the land in Hawaii. This is still maintained by many of its inhabitants even in these modern times, including by the haoles (non-native Hawaiians). Being greeted with love (aloha) and invited into a home to eat (Aloha, e ai kakou) is still a very strong tradition and a mark of good manners in the Hawaiian Islands.

Looking to the Future

Is it possible that we might more widely incorporate cooperation and respect for the Earth (and each other) into our modern societies? If so, perhaps our world could become a more expansive and fulfilling place to exist.

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Photos courtesy Troy Squillaci and Matthew DeVries, Pexels

Hawaiian Respect & Harmony © 2017, 2020

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