Eco-Tourism and Jungle Law

We were grateful for bug screens on our trip to the Amazon, but the natural world often defies human-made barriers.

For instance, we shared The Hammock Room at the Research Center with a tarantula. He wasn’t as interested in us as we were in him.

It was a reminder to shake out our shoes each morning before getting dressed. Insects and critters found their way into our little sanctuary, but it was the ones I couldn’t see that bugged me.

We ventured into the jungle with Orlando, our guide. In spite of the heat and 90+ percent humidity, we covered as much skin as possible with clothing, and sprayed the rest with repellant. Nighttime mosquitoes carry malaria, daytime ones dengue fever, and I forget which ones carry yellow fever, but I didn’t want to be breakfast for anybody.

Below are a few of my own unofficial rules of the jungle for the timid traveler.

Rule of the Jungle #1– bring mosquito repellent!

Fallen trees and leaves, mud, and overnight storms in the tropical rainforest made hiking challenging.

We wore rubber boots to keep our feet dry.  Bea stepped in a puddle deeper than anticipated, and water poured into her boot.

Rule of the Jungle # 2–Watch your step!

Orlando uprooted several small trees, and cut the trunks off with his machete to make tea from the bark to relieve his mother’s arthritis.  He replanted the roots in the fertile soil, so the tree would survive.  Maybe the tea really was for his mom, but it was a tactful way of providing us with walking sticks to help balance on slippery walkways.

Rule of the Jungle #3–Take the hand extended to you, and be grateful for kindness in any form or guise.

So many trees and leaves were poisonous, covered with harmful insects or razor-sharp edges.  Another guest at the Research Center slipped and braced herself on a porcupine tree.  It left dozens of venomous barbs in in her hand, which swelled up painfully.  The nearest doctor was hours away, so her guide cut the barbs out with pins and a knife, and gave her anti-biotics.

Rule of the Jungle #4–Don’t touch ANYTHING!

Rule of the Jungle # 5–There are exceptions to any rule.

Orlando caught Olive Whip Snake with his bare hands.

He showed us how to handle a snake without getting bitten…

Orlando’s grandfather was a shaman. “My grandfather said if you can get a snake to wrap around you, it will become gentle and give you its energy.”  As soon as it wrapped around him, the snake grew calm, and then Orlando released it into a tree.

Rule of the Jungle #6–Be as open to new experiences as you can without endangering yourself or others.

Rule of the Jungle #7–Bring your camera!!

We caught many tantalizing glimpses of wildlife, but they were often quicker than I was when it came to focusing the camera.

However, some critters obligingly held still for me.

Occasionally I would be rewarded with a shot like this.

Or this….

Or this…

 

Or this…

 Or this…

Rule of the Jungle #8–Only you can know what it requires for you to glean the most meaning and satisfaction out of your jungle experience or your life.  Do no harm, be respectful, but make up your own rules, and break them whenever necessary.

All images and words copyright 2013 NaomiBaltuck

Testing One’s Mettle

“What are you afraid of?” author Bob Mayer asked at a writing conference, “because that’s what’s holding you back as writers.”

At the time, it was social media–mastering new technology, committing to cranking out a weekly post. But I started a blog, and am glad I did.  Since my first blogpost I’ve made new friends, discovered photographic storytelling, which I love, and crossed a whopper off this writer’s to-do list.

Marriage was another commitment that terrified me, but I faced that fear too.

It took seven years before Thom and I felt brave enough to assume the awesome responsibility of parenthood.  It’s the most joyful, most difficult, most rewarding, and most important undertaking we’d ever signed on for, or ever will.

Whether we choose them ourselves or take what fate throws our way, the most daunting experiences are often the most edifying.

The most challenging ones tend to be the most rewarding.

With the toughest climbs come the best views.

After the kids were old enough to change their own diapers, we thought could rest on our laurels, but there was an unexpected twist to the parent/child relationship.

We raised kids who challenge themselves.  Bea watched her big brother do his math homework, and designed her own “Really Hard Math Problem.”

As they tested their own mettle, and created their own challenges…

…we were forced out of our comfort zones just to keep up.

Thom and I would never have chosen to go to the Amazon jungle if the kids hadn’t been keen to go.

It was hard to watch my kids twist and turn like little spiders on a web as they climbed 200 feet up into the canopy to zipline.  And for the first (and probably last) time in my life, I went ziplining too.  You never know when someone might need a bandaid or some bug repellant.

Only for my kid would I board a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, another thing I swore I’d never do. But it’s good to feel a fire in your belly and rise above your fears.

We are not extreme travelers.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: most of the adventures I have are in my own mind.  But for the sake of my kids, I’ve put on my big girl panties and donned a hard hat once or twice.

Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind.

 I appreciate people who can lure me out of my comfort zone.

Sometimes it’s good to commit to a path with unexpected twists and bends.

I’m sure I’m a better person for it. And if nothing else, Life Outside The Comfort Zone provides great material for a writer.

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck.

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com.

Jungle Law

 

Thank goodness for window screens!  But as demonstrated in my last post on the Amazon, screens don’t always keep the wildlife out.

For instance, we shared The Hammock Room at the Research Center with this tarantula.  He wasn’t as interested in us as we were in him.

We named him Tomacito, or “Little Tommy.”  Tomacito served as a reminder to shake out our shoes each morning before getting dressed. Insects and critters found their way into our little sanctuary, but it was the ones I couldn’t see that bugged me.

That first morning we ventured into the jungle with Orlando, our amazing guide, the Eighth Natural Wonder of the World.  (I will tell you more about him later.)  In spite of the heat and 90+ percent humidity, we covered as much skin as possible, and sprayed whatever body parts we couldn’t cover with repellant.  Nighttime mosquitoes carry malaria, daytime ones dengue fever, and I can’t remember which carry yellow fever, but I didn’t want to be the breakfast special for any of them.

Below are a few of my own unofficial rules of the jungle for the timid traveler.

Rule of the Jungle #1– bring mosquito repellent!

Fallen trees and leaves, mud, and overnight storms in the tropical rainforest made hiking challenging.

We wore rubber boots to keep our feet dry.  Bea stepped in a puddle deeper than anticipated, and water poured into her boot.

Rule of the Jungle # 2–Watch your step!

Orlando uprooted several small trees, and cut the trunks off with his machete to make tea from the bark to relieve his mother’s arthritis.  He replanted the roots in the fertile soil, so the tree would survive.  Maybe the tea really was for his mom, but I believe it was also his tactful way of providing the Gringos with walking sticks to help balance on slippery walkways.

Rule of the Jungle #3–Take the hand extended to you, and be grateful for kindness in any form or guise.

So many trees and leaves were poisonous, covered with harmful insects, or had razor-sharp edges.  Another guest at the Research Center slipped and braced herself on a porcupine tree.  It left dozens of venomous barbs in in her hand, which swelled up painfully.  There was no doctor there–her guide Fernando cut the barbs out of her hand with pins and a knife, and she took a course of anti-biotics.

Rule of the Jungle #4–Don’t touch ANYTHING!

Rule of the Jungle # 5–There are exceptions to any rule.

Orlando saw an Olive Whip Snake, and quickly caught it with his bare hands.

He showed both kids how to handle a snake without getting bitten…

Orlando’s grandfather was a shaman.  Orlando said, “My grandfather used to say, if you can get a snake to wrap around you, it will become gentle and give you its energy.”  As soon as it wrapped around him, the snake calmed down, and then Orlando released it into a tree.

Rule of the Jungle #6–Be as open to new experiences as you can without endangering yourself or others.

Rule of the Jungle #7–Bring your camera!!

We caught many tantalizing glimpses of wildlife, but by the time I could focus the camera, the creature was almost always natural history.

However, some critters obligingly held still for the camera.

Occasionally I would be rewarded with a shot like this.

Or this….

Or this…

 

Or this…

 Or this…

Rule of the Jungle #8–Only you can know what it requires for you to glean the most meaning and satisfaction out of your jungle experience or your life.  Do no harm, but make up your own damn rules, and break them whenever necessary.

All images and words copyright 2013 NaomiBaltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

With this lovely post, we bring Wilderness Week to a close.

THANK YOU for joining us!

. . . and thanks to Priscilla Galasso (scillagrace) for hosting this event.

Chasing Rainbows


If a tree falls in the woods and I don’t photograph it, did I really see it?

Last week, amidst the throes of last-minute packing for spring break in Hawaii, I was mentally outlining the next chapter of my manuscript. That’s the only excuse I can give for walking out of the house and onto an airplane…

Without. My. Camera.

So Thom gave me charge of his new toy, a Pentax underwater camera, for use in or out of the water.  My hero!

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Its zoom wasn’t as powerful, but I was grateful.  As they say, “Any port in a storm!”


I snapped a handful of shots before it died. We changed the battery and…nothing.  Arrrrgh!  I thought about buying a new camera, but it seemed wasteful; I’m happy with the one at home.  Maybe just a one-use camera, a single roll of film in a recycled plastic case?  No, those photos always look washed out. Then I thought, I’ve been to Maui, and I’ll be back.  How many sunsets do I need in my archives?

I don’t need to chase rainbows

I decided to make a clean break of it, go cold turkey.  Perhaps my travel experience might even improve without a lens between me and my world.

Look, Ma!  No cams!


I confess, I felt the pangs of withdrawal.  My photographs help refresh memories I might otherwise forget.

 With my camera, I am never alone.

I anticipate with pleasure the sharing of pictures with friends, family, my blogging community.  Even sans camera, I was constantly framing shots in my mind’s eye. Sea turtles gliding in ocean currents.  Two hotel maids walking arm-in-arm down a deserted hotel corridor.  The underwater service station run by a pair of enterprising Cleaning Wrasse, with bigger fish lined up like cars at a car wash, patiently waiting their turn to be picked clean of parasites.

Oh, yes, and the kid in neon snorkel gear who shouted, “Mom!  Dad!  I can hear the whales singing!”  Eli and I smiled indulgently at his vivid imagination.

The next morning we were snorkeling off that same beach when Eli said, “Mom! Dad! I can hear whales singing!”  I thought he was teasing, but I ducked under the waves, held my breath, and listened.  And I could hear them too.  For an hour or more, we held perfectly still, just letting the whale song wash over us. I’d been coming to Maui for twenty years, but had never heard them. Had they been there all along? I was an astronaut, observing an alien planet from my little floating bubble, and was unexpectedly invited in for tea!  And inside my snorkel mask I cried.

When we staggered onto the beach and looked out at the water, we saw them spouting, teasing us with glimpses of their fins and shiny black backs.  We also saw the whale watching boat hounding them. Had they been communicating distress or just watching out for each other?  Finally the boat left.  And the moment it did, the whales began breaching and splashing, showing their big white bellies, time and time again!  I suspect they were jumping for joy and shouting,”Woo hoo!  We ditched ’em!”

It was like discovering your house is haunted with friendly ghosts going about their business, oblivious to that other world, except on those occasions when your worlds intersect.  I decided the rolling ocean is The Poker Face of the World, and just beneath the surface, a swirl of emotions, life and death struggles, joy, pain, drama, and countless stories play themselves out.

There was no way a camera could have recorded that breathtaking experience, and no way I would ever need the help of a camera to recall it.  Just when I resolved and resigned myself to a camera-free existence, Eli and I went for an afternoon walk.

And he taught me how to take photos with his Smart Phone.

Okay, forget everything I just told you about a camera-free life.  Because then Saint Eli indulged me completely, taking me back to revisit all the beautiful sights I’d admired.  We snapped all these pics and more with his Smart Phone.

Pretty pictures of stationary subjects…

 …that practically come when you whistle for them.

Other photos depended upon conditions like weather.

Or light.

Or where our feet happened to take us.

 My favorite shots are the unexpected ones, that dropped like ripe fruit falling from a tree into my lap.

Sweet.

Sweeter.

Sweetest!

As we sat on the beach watching the sun set, directly ahead of us a whale leapt out of the ocean so close I could see the lines on its belly.  It thrust one long fin into the air and waved goodbye. Exhilarating! A flash of wonder!  A glimpse of the sacred just for us! It is forever engraved in our memories and upon our hearts.

But I’m THRILLED that Eli caught it on his Smart Phone!

 

Okay, time to come clean.  I ADORE chasing rainbows…

…and I will ALWAYS go for the gold!

WOO HOO!

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck (and Eli Garrard!)

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Grand is in the Details

This magnificent mountain in the Peruvian Andes is Huanya Picchu.

 To me it looks like a great green ghost, its strong stone arms wrapped protectively around the ancient Incan city of  Machu Picchu .

Machu Picchu, meaning “Ancient Mountain,” was built in the 15th century, at the peak of Incan culture.  One of the greatest artistic, architectural, and land use achievements of the world, it was chosen as a World Heritage Site in 1983.

No one can say for certain, as the Incas had no written language, but it is thought to have been a royal estate, perhaps a summer retreat, or maybe a religious center.

It was so remote that the Spanish conquerors never found it, but it was by no means isolated.

It was connected to the vast Incan Empire by a royal highway called The Inca Trail, linking Machu Picchu to 25, 000 miles of roadway, the Incan version of the Internet.  Special runners called “Chasquis” traveled as far as 240K in a day to keep the king connected, or to deliver delicacies to his dinner table.  Runners could rest at stations along the way, or relay messages by tag-team.

Much of The Inca Trail survives to this day. This section leads to the Sun Gate. 

Another steep trail leading in the other direction hugged the cliffside.  This Incan drawbridge made it impossible for outsiders to invade the city…

…unless you count tourists.

The grand view was worth the walk.

Machu Picchu is surrounded on the other three sides by steep cliffs and a raging river, making it practically impregnable.

Magnificent.  Dramatic.  Ingenious. Grand.

Machu Picchu’s grandeur can be found in the details. Like the integration of natural elements into its design, shaping the city to fit into its surroundings.  Terraces not only took on the curve of the mountain, but prevented landslides and provided a hanging garden for growing crops.

Its location was a matter of sacred geography.  It was situated among mountains with religious significance to the Incas…

…and is perfectly aligned for key astronomical events.

This instrument cut into the bedrock was used for astronomical observations.

The Incans worshipped the mountains as gods, and this was reflected in their building.

Everywhere we turned, we saw natural features incorporated into the design.

Architecture mirrored nature’s design.

Walls were built around huge boulders, which remained cradled in the earth where they had slept since the mountains were born.

This did not prevent Incan engineers from using natural features to provide creature comforts, such as running water.

 

On our second visit, the clouds lifted.  We arrived in time to see the morning sun turn gray stones gold.


We tried to imagine what it might have been like to have lived there half a millennium ago…

The dry stone walls were constructed without mortar, with some stones fitted so tight a blade of grass couldn’t squeeze between them.  Even so, the ancients must’ve worked hard to keep the jungle at bay…

 …just as they do today.  There were redshirts perched on ladders, whose full time job was to keep the weeds from taking over.  

The backstairs whispered ancient secrets, but we couldn’t quite make them out.

We could only wonder at the world around us.

The flora…


And fauna.

Each one…

…a tiny miracle.

Great civilizations come and go….

…and life goes on.

As hard as we try to unlock them…

…Machu Picchu’s walls hold onto their secrets.

In the grand scheme of things, what does it matter if we don’t know all the answers?

It is a privilege to be there…

…following in the footsteps….

…of the ancient ones.

All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections.

The Mistery of Life

One of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever been is Switzerland, and not just because of the high altitude.

How can someplace be so wild and rugged…

…and yet so tidy and tame and settled?

You can take an escalator to the top of the mountain…

…and just when you think you’re alone in the most remote place in the world…

…you stumble upon a chalet where you can buy a cup of Ovaltine.

Or you hear cowbells and realize you are not alone after all.

When you’re looking straight up at the sky, where no mountain ought to be–surprise!–you realize its just playing peek-a-boo from behind the clouds.

We went for a hike, but the landscape seemed so domestic that we felt we should really call it  a stroll.

We stopped to make a friend or two along the way.

And belted out the words to The Sound of Music because…why not?

Unlike the deliberate and well-defined cable car ride up to our little village, there was no clear threshold, no magic doorway from domestic to wild.  The landscape changed so gradually we hardly noticed.

No cowbells here.

And then a shroud of mist descended so swiftly.

The path was obscured and maps were useless.

We couldn’t see the landmarks described in the guidebook.

It would soon be dark.  We had no choice but to put one foot ahead of the other…

…keep walking…

…enjoy the mystery and adventure…

…And trust that sooner or later we would get where we were going.

That’s life.

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck.

 

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Forward Movement

Movement, big or little, is a part of human nature.  There are social movements…

And musical movements…

We use movement to express ourselves…

To test ourselves…

Out of playfulness…

…or out of necessity.

We celebrate forward movements…

The world keeps turning and so must we…

Don’t forget to have fun along the way.

…or to stop and smell the roses.

It’s okay if you move at your own pace…

…or to give and receive a little lift along the way…

But…

…just…

…keep…

…moving!

All images and words Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Mad Cow Disease

Last July I visited the Hampshire College campus in Massachusetts. I was there to spend a few days with my daughter Bea…

…who was studying at the amazing Yiddish Book Center at the college.


Hampshire has a lovely campus in the middle of rural farm country.  And it was 97 degrees.

I’m from The Emerald City and I know green when I see it.  Believe me, that countryside was green.

It was midday, and the campus was deserted, except for mad dogs and Englishmen.  Oh, yeah, and Bea and me.  We were walking to the dorm to sit in front of the AC and have lunch (did I mention it was 97 degrees?).  Then out of nowhere came a couple of dairy cows, fresh off the farm, looking like two giant Oreo cookies on the hoof.  Completely out of context, they looked larger than life.

One doesn’t often see cows going faster than a mosey, but these two came galloping toward us–no, frolicking is the only word for it.  They came frolicking across the manicured lawn.

They seemed giddy with the sense of freedom.   No cattle lows here.  In fact, I could almost hear one calling to her girlfriend, “Woo hoo!  C’mon,c’mon,c’mon, come ON!!

Oh, they were fresh, and they were frisky!  Across the campus they bounced, udders swaying, heads bobbing.  Like young girls taking the bus downtown for the first time.  Or mothers in a frenzy of activity when Baby goes down for a nap.  Grownup sisters on their first overnight after the kids are weaned.  Old ladies and their girl herd down at the senior center on Bingo Night.

A student heading out to the parking lot saw them.  Before ducking into the safety of her car, she shouted, “Get inside!  Mad cows on the loose!”  But Bea and I weren’t afraid.  If this was Mad Cow Disease, we wanted to catch it.  I swear, those cows were laughing and shoulder bumping!

They were on their first jump over the moon.  New sights, new smells, new tastes.  Maybe the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence.  How would they ever know if they didn’t give it a try?

You’re going to stick your head into a garbage can?  Then I’m going to stick my head into a garbage can too!”  Thelma and Louise on the hoof!

Out from under Farmer Brown’s thumb!  You go, girls!

I knew then and there, I would never wait for someone to open the gate of the corral.  If it’s locked, I’ll jimmy it.

Whether your middle name is Hamburger Helper or you’re just tethered to a milking machine, life is short.  You can put in your time on the farm, but if you wait patiently for someone to put you out to pasture, chances are it ain’t gonna happen.

It’s up to you to kick up your heels while you still can.

You hear what I’m saying?   Get Moooving!

All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Who Turned On the Lights?

People find the light in their life in so many ways and places.  It can be as easy as turning on a switch.

 

Some find all the light they need in a sunset…

…or a moonrise.

Others find illumination in a church…

…a synagogue…


…a mosque…

…or a library.

Sacred is a place that lights up your heart.

It isn’t always easy to find…

Some look for it in food…


…at the bottom of a wine glass…

…or through yoga…

Some light up with the joy and anticipation of adventure.

And what constitutes an adventure is very personal.

Sometimes light comes in the form of a bright idea, a flash of inspiration…

The joy of creation in all of its many forms…

Everyone’s light shines through differently.  To each his own.

For me, love shines brightest of all.

It’s our life’s work and pleasure to follow the light…

…or to make our own.

It is there.

It is there.

It is there.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Another Man’s Shoes

I’ve always told my kids it’s nice to share, but not everything.  Bea was asthmatic, and every cold she caught seemed to morph into pneumonia. Since pre-school, they’d had it drilled into their heads not to drink from someone else’s cup.  And, of course, when you’re traveling, don’t drink the water!

Years ago, while traveling in Italy

…we had a long train ride from Naples….

https://i2.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/Pirate%202013/Italy/1cd5c4ef-9448-47ae-9966-eb5d6f2e909a_zps5bbc941c.jpg

…to La Spezia.


We were delighted to have a compartment to ourselves.  The kids sketched and I knitted, while Thom read aloud to us from the YA novel, Donata, Daughter of Venice.

When the train stopped in Rome…

…a middle-aged couple came in, lugging bags, suitcases, groceries, and a 2 liter water bottle.  I smiled politely, and we scooted over to make room, but I was privately disappointed to have to share our quiet space.  They stowed their stuff, Thom tucked away our read-aloud, and I determined to catch up on my travel journal.

The man introduced himself as Giorgio, and his wife as Leah.  Giorgio spoke very good English, but it was different.  It sounded to me like he was speaking English with an Italian-Australian accent, an unexpected blend of cultures.  As we left behind Rome Giorgio told us he was born in Italy, but lived in Australia. Their daughter studied in Pisa, had met someone, and now they were returning to the Old Country to attend her wedding to a nice Italian boy.  Then Giorgio kindly offered us a drink of water from his bottle…which I politely refused.  We couldn’t afford to get sick while on vacation.

“Please,” insisted Giorgio, perhaps assuming my reluctance was due to shyness.  He filled six little paper cups with water, one for each of us.  I took the cup, wishing there was a potted plant I could discreetly pour my little helping of hospitality into.  Cups in hand, both kids watched intently, to take their cue from the Queen Mum of The Land of Do Not Share.  I lifted the cup to my lips.  Yes, and then I sipped, ignoring everything I knew about contagion, as well as the shocked stares of my children, and the smarty pants expression on my husband’s face.

Giorgio shared much more than water.  As the train rattled along, he told us, step by step, how to cook his favorite Italian dishes.  He told us we really couldn’t leave Italy not knowing how to make our own tomato sauce, or white cream sauce, or garlic sauce.

“Brown, but don’t burn the garlic,” he said.  He dictated recipe after recipe, and I wrote it all down in my journal.  Canneloni, parmigiana eggplant, chicken breast filet.  “It is not difficult!” he assured me.  Leah nodded in solemn agreement.

We passed a field of sunflowers.  With tears in his eyes, he pointed and said, “Itsa beautifulla!”

I heard that heartfelt expression many times on our train ride.  When we passed farms, olive groves, or little villages, his eyes would mist up.  Overwhelmed, he shook his head and said again, “Itsa beautifulla!”

“You must miss Italy,” I said.  “Why did your parents leave?”  Giorgio said his family wanted to escape the pain and aftermath of post-war Italy…

…for a new life in Australia.  He said Italians made up the one of the largest minorities in Australia.  Like the Irish, who came to build the railroad in America, Italians provided cheap labor in a rapidly developing country.  Just as the Irish faced discrimination, and were confronted with “No Irish Need Apply,” the Italians were told, “If you don’t like it, go back to Italy.”

Giorgio was a teenager, wanting desperately to fit in.  Money was tight, but his father must’ve understood, because he bought him handsome new cream-colored shoes and matching trousers.  To show off his new shoes, Giorgio and his brother walked out on the town.   A gang of boys started following.  They laughed at the shoes, tossed ethnic slurs, kicked dirt on the brothers and the prized shoes.  Devastated, Giorgio went home.  In his backyard, he took a knife and shredded the shoes beyond repair.  His father couldn’t understand, but Leah did.

Giorgio was seventeen and Leah was fourteen.  Both were born in Italy, the children of Italian immigrants to Australia. Once they found each other, they never looked back.  Well, hardly ever.  In time, Australians came to respect Italians as hard workers, and recognized the contribution they made to the country, much as we now celebrate Irish-Americans, at least on St. Patrick’s Day.

When Giorgio and Leah got off the train in Pisa…

…we felt we were saying goodbye to friends.  We finally had the compartment to ourselves, but we didn’t whip out our read-aloud book.  We needed time to think about Giorgio and Leah, and the story we had been privileged to share.

Of course, Thom and the kids teased me about sharing a cup with total strangers.  But you’ll never know what you’re missing if you aren’t willing to share a compartment on a train, accept a drink of water from a stranger’s paper cup, or walk a mile in another man’s shoes.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

As You Like It (Reflections Upon the Art of Aging)

“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…”


My mother and her sister Loena were best friends.  Wherever Loena went, she would sing or hum quietly to herself.  My mother used to introduce her to friends saying, “This is my sister Loena.  Don’t mind her; she hums.”

Mom was the one who used to bust Aunt Loena out of Detroit for road trips.  Sometimes to Washington, D.C. to visit my sister Miriam, to Maine to see my sister Constance, or to see me and my siblings in Seattle, especially if the Tigers were scheduled to play the Mariners.

Driving cross country to attend my wedding, they made a late-night stop at a hamburger joint in Iowa. They were laughing so hard the young man behind the counter came to their table and said, “Ladies, I don’t know where you’re going, but I want to come with you.”

Less than a year after Mom died, my first baby was born.  It was a wonder-full time, if bittersweet.  Aunt Loena’s visit was the next best thing to seeing my mom holding my baby in her arms.  I felt my mother’s presence, watching, smiling, loving.

But it was hard for Aunt Loena to get away.  She spent two decades housebound while caring for her mother-in-law, and then her husband.  No one blamed him for his frustration, but he yelled at everyone who came to visit or offer aid, and fired everyone my aunt hired to help with housework and eldercare.  It was emotionally isolating and physically exhausting.  She never complained, and joked that at least her medical appointments for heart trouble, cataract surgery, and blood transfusions got her out of the house.  Like my mother, she knew how to look for the bright spots.

The 911 response team knew her by name, as she had to call whenever her husband fell out of the recliner where he slept.  It was time for a nursing home.  She visited him twice a day, until she caught meningitis.  Her doctors didn’t think she’d survive.  I flew to Detroit to say goodbye, but Aunt Loena is a two-time cancer survivor, who has come back from the brink so many times she makes Rasputin look like a weenie.  It was a wake-up call, however.  She checked out of the hospital with a bucket list.  My aunt is 86, anemic, subject to dizzy spells and shortness of breath.  Oh, yes, and always up for an adventure, so long as it is wheelchair accessible.

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Aunt Loena with my sister Lee and my son Elijah

Our first adventure was a trip to Seattle.  We knew she had a great time, because wherever we went, she hummed to herself like a purring kitten.  That trip was just a warm-up for her dream trip to New York City.

Aunt Loena in Central Park with Bea and me.

When it was time to leave New York and go our separate ways, it was too sad to say goodbye, so instead we said, “Where to next?”  She’d always wanted to go the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario.  So that’s what we did.  My son Eli flew in from college in Maine, I flew from Seattle, and my sister Lee joined us from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

 We went in October, to take in the fall colors as well as the plays.

I chose our motel for its name.

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In Stratford I discovered the secret to longevity–a nightly dose of Miss Vicky’s Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips!  Aunt Loena is a teetotaler, but she’s not afraid of a little salt and grease.  Got sugar?   Bring it on!

Each time we part, I fear another long drive or a cross country flight will prove too much.  We make a date and look forward to it, but  I always check before I make plane reservations.  “You’re sure?”  And she always says, “Oh, yes.  As long as I’m sitting down, it’s almost just the same as sitting at home.”

We promised to bring her to Seattle for fish and chips this summer, but Lee couldn’t make it.  I asked my friend Monica, also a Detroiter, if she’d consider escorting Aunt Loena.  The next morning I got her reply– she would be delighted!  What a gift to us all!  We couldn’t have pulled it off without her.  Monica and Aunt Loena had been hearing about each other for years, and felt like they already knew each other.  We kicked off a week-long PJ party by attending a performance of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.”   We also enjoyed Teatro Zinzanni’s very silly but impressive dinner theater show, “Gangsters of Love.”

Aunt Loena made her famous egg salad sandwiches.  Years ago, when we all drove to D.C. to visit our sister Miriam, we weren’t out of Detroit yet when Mom said, “Who’s ready for an egg salad sandwich?”  It was 10am, but so what?  We were ready for another one by lunchtime.

We picnicked at Green Lake–egg salad sandwiches, my brother Lew’s homemade cookies, and Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips.  We couldn’t get to a picnic table, because we didn’t have an all-terrain wheelchair, but from our park bench we had a gorgeous view of the lake.

I would love to take Aunt Loena to Hawaii or Europe; even she feels it might be too far.  But her eyes lit up when she said church friends had gone to a casino, and she thought it might be fun to try her luck just once–if there was a smoke-free one with wheelchair access.  I don’t know anything about casinos, but an internet search and a few phone calls was all it took to locate a smoke-free casino in Toledo, not far from their wonderful zoo.  I sent Aunt Loena home with a roll of quarters and a promise.  Guess where we’re going next spring!

Saying goodbye is hard.  Aunt Loena said Mom always told her, “Whatever happens, we won’t cry.  We’ll smile, kiss the kids goodbye, and stop the car around the corner to do our crying.”  And that’s what they always did, she said.  But this time we all had to cry, just a little.

Most people in my aunt’s situation prefer the security of a recliner, the proximity of their own doctors, and to be in control, even if that just means the remote to the television.  Who can blame them?  With advanced age, circumstances often change, especially where health, finances, and family support are concerned.  Aunt Loena lives her life as an adventure, and adjusts the size of her dreams as necessary.  But for her, everything is icing on the cake.  New York is as good as Hawaii, and Ohio is as good as New York.  But she would be just as happy humming quietly and playing cards with a friend while snacking on a bag of Miss VIcky’s Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips.

I want to grow old like Aunt Loena, to go out swinging or at least singing.  When I told her she was brave for coming all the way to Seattle, she laughed and said, “All I need is a wheelchair, and someone to push it.

You got it, Aunt Loena.  And you don’t even need to ask.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

When We Come to It

So many  bridges.

Bridges of concrete…

…iron…

…and steel.

Ancient ones of stone…

…brick…

…mortar….

…and wood.

 

Some are famous…

…celebrated in story…

…and song.

Some draw pilgrims from all over the world.

So different…


…yet they serve the same purpose.

To span distance…

…to connect…

 

…to deliver us from troubled waters.

There’s an old saying…it is better to build bridges than walls.

 All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

One Village

On the little island of Aeroskobing in Denmark…

…or above the clouds high up in the mountains of Switzerland.

At sea level in Iceland…

….or at the foot of a Norman castle in Ireland.

In the shadow of Cesky Krumlov Castle in the Czech Republic…

…or on the shore of a fjiord in Norway.

Beneath an ancient Roman aquaduct in Spain…

øn a little cobbled street in Dorset…

Or deep in the Amazon jungle…

Each place has its own unique story and history…

Tastes…

Traditions…

Colors


And characters…

All so different and yet so familiar.

Almost like family.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Sunrise in Gibraltar

This sunrise was our reward for an early start on a big day.  We were staying near Gibraltar, and taking the ferry over to Tangier in Morocco to spend the day.  It was our first time ever in Africa, and we were a little nervous to step through that door.

Our driver Rashid was very helpful.   Rashid was a good son, who lived with and cared for his elderly mother.  His English was difficult to understand, so he and the kids communicated in Spanish.  If I had a question, I could make myself understood in my rusty French, but his replies came too quickly for me comprehend.  We worked out a system in which Rashid would reply to my French questions in Spanish, which the kids would then translate into English for me.

We were typical tourists.  We went to the market.

And did what most of the day trippers do.

We felt grateful for just a quick peek into another world.

One glimpse down a dark alley shed light on another way of life.

We walked past little shops and businesses…

In Tangier we were given a taste of new flavors, colors, music, and customs.

I saw this cat in a narrow passageway, and it occurred to me that cats all over the world speak the same language.  I wondered what would happen if people did too.  Something would gained, but much would be lost as well.

Then it was time to cross back over the Straits.  The  kids will never let me live down the fact that I accidentally bought a rug, my only souvenir of that trip.  I just wanted to bring home some of the warm vivid colors of a world so very different, and yet so much the same as ours.

Sunrise to sunset, long after the threads on my rug have faded, that day will stay with me.

Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

The Seed of Creativity

When my daughter Bea was a little girl, she found a seed in a seedless Satsuma, and was inspired to plant it in a paper cup.  Our little Satsuma tree has lived on our kitchen windowsill for years now, a reminder that unexpected marvels can come from a single seed.  Creativity is a seed that grows ideas.

It helps us to see beauty in the ordinary.

Or, upon reflection, to take the ordinary and transform it.

Sometimes inspiration comes to us in a flood.


Sometimes in a flash.

Or even in hindsight.

More often,  it comes in disguise.

Or as a creative response to something we feel passionate about.

Perhaps we are inspired by another artist…as in Bea’s sculpture, The Ice Scream.

I love working with a creative team…

Sometimes it’s a process.

…but the end result is worth it.

However it comes to you, wherever you find your inspiration, you are never too young…


Or too old….


To fly with it!

May all your ideas and inspirations be fruitful!

Copyright 2012 words and photographs, Naomi Baltuck.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com