Sunday, February 22, 2015

Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake. A Photo Journey.



This belongs in the series “around the corner from our house”, or “our very own backyard”.
We’ve lived here for almost 5 years, and we have planned to visit Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake every single one of them. This time, we did not plan it. We just woke up one Sunday morning and off we went.

Because this was a February trip, I need to speak a bit about the weather (we normally don’t venture out in the mountains in the winter). We have had a very mild winter so far, and the weather was gorgeous: bright, almost cloudless and a mild 50F. Once you drive towards the island, which feels literally just in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, connected to the land by a skinny roadway/ pier contraption, the temperature drops a little, just because of the wind. But the brightness increases.

The landscape is breathtaking, as you’re on the water, surrounded by desert and the Rockies out in the horizon. There is a strange feeling of what is more overwhelming: all that water? Or all that desert brush? Either way, you feel remote, and lost.

The remoteness and wasteland are broken down by all the amazing life popping in your face at every corner. After the sudden silence you come up against once on the island, everything starts coming to life – birds and animals alike, whole flocks and herds of them, are giving the island its pulsating heart and you realize: you are never alone in this world. I am just curious to see what it’s like in the summer, with all the bees and snakes and lizards coming out, too. Possibilities.

I will let the pictures speak for the place, as my words are not going to do it justice. 




 

Do you feel small and lost yet? I could never get tired of shooting these parts! Between the depth of the lake and the height of the mountains, the majesty of the entire landscape just renders me mute, most days ... If anyone needs to believe in God, or doubts Him, they need to really come and watch, listen and just see ... 


My panoramic view of The Island 


The thick salt, solidified on the beach of the island. I did not taste it (maybe for a warmer day!), but they tell me the Great Salt Lake is really, really salty. I guess this is proof.   





  

We left the place thinking that they should really call this "The Bison Island" - it felt like they owned the place! The "friendship" or tolerance between the bison and the birds is simply amazing. These enormous creatures don't even blink at the birds barging into their personal space. The birds feed off of bugs in their fur.

 

This was a bigger bird, not on their backs, but still unfazed by their proximity.  

 

She was gorgeous in her own right!  



Coyotes and rabbits were other free inhabitants coming out to check out the crowds...


And antelopes, of course, albeit skittish and remote ... After all, it's their island. 


This driftwood in the shallow part of the lake was trying so hard to capture every single shade of the sunset in its fibers.



Various shots to remind us where we are ...


The Fielding Garr Ranch, on the Island, shows the 21st century city people what built The West: ranching and how it was done. 


The end of a beautiful day ... 


My favorite shot from the whole shoot! It summarizes the whole day in one crystal testimony: prairie grass, the American Wild West, The Rockies, where we are, where hope lives on, where dreams begin ... and end ...  
For viewing the complete album from this trip, click on the picture.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

With Light and Smiles, He Shines On …



Four years ago today, I was driving back home from an interview. And on the way back, my mom called to tell me that my sister had her second baby – my beautiful nephew Kevin.

Just like I cried for his brother, three years before, I cried for his arrival, too. Out of joy, bewilderment, amazement of how life “happens”, and gratitude. Lots of gratitude!

We each are brought into this world through our own miracle. It’s ours to keep forever. It’s ours to keep and share, and develop into whatever it is we want it to be, later. We put our unique stamp on it and make it more beautiful than it was given to us originally, or sometimes less than beautiful – it’s what we make of it that will matter in the end, with the help of some luck.

Four years later, Kev is so much different than anyone hoped that he would be, so much different than his brother, and parents and rest of the family put together, although we can chase all our roots into him: his smile, his antics, his love of gab and food, his intelligence, his wit, his caring and love for everyone …

Fighting his brother for screen time on Facetime tonight

He loves animals (or as he calls them “Ah-nee-MOL-s”) more than anything. And snakes and “little furry hamsters”, too. He asked for a “little bear brown” for his birthday, and nothing else. He speaks two languages fluently (English and French) and he’s just ramping up in Romanian and going fast!

No one, and I mean not a soul, not a cranky, angry, Grinchy soul can ever keep a straight face when met with his smile. If you’re too serious, he’ll make sure it won’t happen for long.

He’s literally a bundle of joy, because he gives that, he radiates that to everything and everyone around him.

God or life have given him some tough burdens, even in the few years he’s been here. We never had any history of asthma in either of our families – but he was diagnosed with it, at least 2 years ago and he fought it like a trooper. He still does, every day. This winter, he got chickenpox, a more severe form than his brother (the more “fragile” of the two!). He smiled at the facetime screen and asked me then “A., do you see my booboos? All cute … Sometimes I think God picks him to handle the worse burdens because … he will carry them with a smile. Some things that would crush his more sensitive brother, leave him unfazed and still chuckling … Still finding a soft, furry pet to talk about … That and “the trash packs”.

He’s his brother’s best friend, and worst enemy all at the same time, as brothers (and sisters) go. He is smart, witty and a joker. The very picture of the joker, right in the dictionary next to the definition of it.

He puts on his mom's glasses and says: "A., look! I am mami!"

He simply makes my day and adds at least 5 more years to my life when he smiles at the screen that separates us and says “A., I love you!”. Melted away. Puddle on the floor and nothing else!  

Happy birthday, little man! You’re the sunshine and the joy of a large family that adores every minute of your existence and the very snowy Canadian soil you walk on every day. I miss and love you – always …Stay you! 


Then and now: four year transformation. Still a miracle!

Monday, January 19, 2015

17 Years Ago Today …


… I landed in Atlanta, GA, from Romania and then Amsterdam. And although I have occasionally looked back, I have never, ever considered, not even for a second, to ever return to my homeland, after I realized that living here was possible.

And 17 years feels and sounds like a lifetime. Much has been lost and gained. Much has been lived, most of all.

Lived in 3 states and 6 homes. Worked for 5 companies. Switched careers more times than I can count … 

Climbed The Twin Towers in NYC that are now gone forever. Climbed The Smokies and The Rockies. Ate gumbo in New Orleans and chowda in Boston. Cooked turkeys for Thanksgiving and watched baseball and fireworks for July 4. I’ve watched the sunsets in Key West and Waikiki Beach, and sunrises on Monument Valley and bison roam in Yellowstone.  

I married twice. Raised kitties. Became an aunt twice. Welcomed my family into my new life. Got bruised many times, and stood up and walked again.

Got my citizenship and I cried. I cried a lot in these years!

Made friends and lost some, too. I still say my prayers in Romanian, and I write my mom every day. I am still looking forward to my adventures and I still feel like a foreigner. I feel like an intruder, to some extent, and I feel like a guest when I visit back “home”. Where is “home”? I do not know. And I do not care. Home is this planet that welcomes me, every day. No matter the latitude of my being.

I wrote a piece 5 years ago , and it still rings true.

Every year, on this day, I pause, I stop breathing under the weight of realizing this miracle that my life has been. And I pray that every one of you knows what a miracle your lives are – every second of every day, with every accomplishment or loss, which are, in fact, neither. But simple lessons and simple days passing, making a lifetime for each one of us.

These are some of the first pictures I took on American land, in Myrtle Beach, SC - my first American home. In a lot of ways, I will forever be looking across The Atlantic, for the first half of my heart to complete me. 

“It’s something unpredictable/ But in the end it’s right”.