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Yi Peng

THE THAI LANTERN FESTIVAL

During the full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar, Thais celebrate the festival of Yi Peng. Thousands of floating lanterns are released over the Pacific Ocean as families celebrate the coming of another year. Buddhist monks gather to ensure that their good deeds are recognized as they move closer towards spiritual enlightenment.

KHOM LOI

Roughly the size of a person and sewn from thin silk fabric, Khom Loi are created by the thousands in the days leading up to the festival. Fires lit at the base provide lift, carrying them upward into prevailing winds. Over the course of a few hours, they fill the night sky traveling on a one-way journey towards a vast and distant horizon.

REMEMBERING EVERYONE

The events of Friday, March 11, 2011, held us all captive with shock and grief. The Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami were unlike anything we had ever witnessed. Cameras captured heartbreaking images of a wave of incomprehensible destruction. We learned quickly how unforgiving nature can be as it was revealed that close to 16,000 had people perished in a single day. The event is even more shocking when you consider the far more deadly Indian Ocean Tsunami that took more than 200,00 lives seven years prior. It is poetic to think of these lanterns as representing human souls lost in the wake of these tragedies. In reality, there are not nearly enough to account for the lives taken every year by natural and manmade disasters.

CELEBRATION

Yi Peng is a celebration of life and spirit, held in reverence to human kindness and the tradition of giving.  The beauty of this event is only outdone by the goodwill and spirit for which it exists. It is a moment of belonging and a chance to wish for good fortune in the new year.

 

The Town that Gold Built

TWO GENERATIONS THEN GONE

Rumor has it that everyone in the town of Golden, Oregon died sometime in the mid-1800s. Miners had run to the neighboring Salmon River for more lucrative pursuits, leaving the settlement nearly abandoned. Chinese immigrants who had been hired to help squeeze wealth from ever-dwindling claims were no longer needed and also left behind. Without regional support, they fell on increasingly hard times. The story has it that malnourished and desperate from months of starvation, they resorted to feasting on poisonous lizards gathered from the nearby creek, an unfortunate and deadly decision.

It is impossible to verify some events in American settler history. Much of what we know comes to us as a patchwork of myth and folklore. Nobody knows exactly what happened to the Chinese population of this early mining town, but there is no question about the hardships they faced. In one of the most brutal injustices in the Northwest United States, thirty-four Chinese gold miners were ambushed and killed by horse thieves and schoolboys from Wallowa County. Although the incident was investigated and suspects brought to trial, nobody was ever punished for the crime. Over time, this massacre, along with countless other injustices were swept into history and entirely forgotten.

Many believe Golden to be haunted, with sightings and ghost stories having been reported for decades. If you visit Golden, take the time to sit alone in the town church. Even if you don’t believe that malicious spirits occupy the places where people meet with untimely ends, it is hard not to feel the presence of the former residents. Baptisms, marriages, funerals, everything important that happens, happened here, taking place under the wooden cross that still stands above the pulpit.

A Wild West

OUR RECENT HISTORY

We place the Wild West as ancient history in our minds, but this is all recent history. It was our own great-grandparents walking through saloon doors, riding horse-drawn carriages, and reading by candle-light. Golden had everything society demands, a schoolhouse, courthouse, post office, and general store. There was no alcohol here, however. This was a religious town that at one time was home to two churches and only 150 people. A dance hall was built outside the city limits, providing much-needed relief to hard-working miners. Stories tell of local women coming on party nights to chant away the evil spirits.

Walking through Golden helps humanize the past. Although styles and technology often change, the important things do not. This community lasted for only 80 years, appearing with the discovery of gold and vanishing in its absence. The last people to permanently reside here were at the turn of the century, but their legacy remains, with some tombstones in the small graveyard dating to modern times.

Ghost Town

ABANDONED AMERICA

The American West is peppered with abandoned towns such as these. They stand as monuments to impermanence and our constant need to strive for a better life. Each has its own peculiar history, much of which has been rewritten or forgotten. Very few struck it rich. Many more suffered long winters, with nothing to show for their efforts.

The lure for easy money brought many to towns like Golden, but for most this was a difficult and unforgiving life.

 

Acts of Courage

Heroism in the Fight for Civil Rights

Courage is a cardinal virtue, dating to ancient times as a character trait required of all moral and worthy individuals. In the fight for civil rights, it stands as the defining characteristic separating those who lead from those who hide from a place of privilege intent on oppressing others. On this continent, the conflict only dates back 500 years when indigenous Americans and blacks joined forces to win their freedom against Spanish plantation owners.

Every decade sees stories of tragedy and remarkable heroism. For every story that is told, there are many more swept quietly into history. What every courageous act shares, is an overriding desire to do right, regardless of the consequences. Too often, this means risking everything for little or no reward. For years, systematic racism took place in darkness, hidden from our consciousness and view.

Armed with new tools, we are redefining the way we communicate. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, media channels are flooded with images of police brutality. Widespread cellphone use has captured important moments in visceral and lasting detail. These stories resonate online, shattering myths about black crime, and the narrative that acts of oppression happens in isolation.

We face uncertain times. An authoritarian, lawless government has America in a chokehold using fear and misinformation to carve a fissure through the heart of our nation. We are being gassed, arrested, and bullied to the edge. Demonstrators have discovered a new voice and power. They are actively affecting change. People of all backgrounds have gathered simultaneously into rolling mass demonstrations fighting oppression, calling for justice, and honor those who have lost it all.

There is so much left undone and so many have escaped justice. Moneyed interests, fascist ideology, and bitter, lingering racism are enemies that remain and likely will always remain undefeated. The path to progress is gnarled and it is easy to lose sight of the progress that has been made. If you look back, even a few decades, you reveal times that were even more dangerous and oppression was absolute.

Every piece of legislation that has been passed for people of color has been won on the same streets we occupy today. Activism drives racism into the open, forcing it to suffocate in the light. We are witnessing a seminal moment in our country’s history, with demonstrators facing sickness, beatings, and imprisonment to stand for what is guaranteed in our laws and constitution.

Courage brings us to this moment. Courage will carry us to victory.

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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela

 

The Treehouse

SANCTUARY OF THE MANOA VALLEY

High above the noise and frantic energy of Honolulu, a century-old banyan tree serves as the spiritual and structural backbone for a series of interconnected dwellings known as “The Treehouse.” Attached to the open lanai of a Japanese style home and looking down onto the beaches of Waikiki, this is a network of people focused on the future and living in harmony with their surroundings.


A Living Jungle

SIX STORIES ABOVE THE FOREST FLOOR

From the street, what looks to be a typical suburban home gives way to a structure that defies any sense and what we are accustomed. Visitors meet with familiar furnishings that transition seamlessly into a living jungle. There are no double-paned windows or plaster walls to offer protection. This is life in the raw, at the center of an unruly and electrified natural world. High above a tropical river, hand-crafted structures are strung together with vines and intuition, thin mosquito nets offering little comfort against strong winds and a teeming ecosystem. Here you are vulnerable, one amongst thousands of creatures out to survive the night.

This adventure requires the trust of a guide and whatever battery is left on your cell phone. There are several levels, some more sturdy than others, some only accessible to those who are athletic enough to reach them. It is up to the visitor how far this goes, every step over sixty feet in the air.  When the night finally relents, a chorus of birds takes center stage, leaving those who stay relieved and thankful to be a part of the natural world.

Marine Debris

LIVING WITH THE ENVIRONMENT

The treehouse stands in opposition to a selfish and myopic society with those who come here dedicated to improving the environment and our communities. The dwellings, fishnets, rope bridges, everything that you encounter has been reclaimed from the ocean. At times, it is hard to distinguish where the recycling ends and the tree begins. There are no right angles here, only twisting stairways and relics of faded decades. Staying as nature’s guest leaves a lasting impression of conservation, making do with what we have and hope for the future.