Month: May 2020

Health and Well-beingNature

I Want To Be A Mountain Goat

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”
― John Muir

After more than two months of quarantine – under very strict rules – in my small apartment in Rionegro, Colombia, I long to go for a rugged hike in the mountains or a walk along a sandy beach while listening to the soothing sound of breaking waves. Unfortunately, all non-essential travel is still banned in the region, with checkpoints set up to prevent unnecessary contact between people from different towns. With the healthcare disaster taking place in neighboring Brazil very much on people’s minds, the government of Colombia is taking the transmission of Covid-19 very seriously.

But, hey, I’m not complaining. Compared to the millions around the world who are currently suffering serious illness or feverishly searching for their next meal, I know I’m very lucky. And, while I’m grateful to be in a country where the government is placing the health of citizens first, my spirit needs to fly free for a while.

Despite feeling alone, distracted and at times disoriented, I’ve been finding a degree of solace in the 25,000+ photos on my hard drive which allow me to relive memorable past adventures. Even though I’m not a prolific selfie taker, I must admit that seeing photos of myself surrounded by magical landscapes makes it easier for me to visualize an escape from the reality of the moment.

Snowshoeing on the southern slope of Mount St. Helens, Washington, in America’s mystical Pacific Northwest. Photo: Dave Jones.

Discovering the Pacific Northwest

In 1988, I moved to Seattle, a tolerant, diverse city with thriving art and music scenes. While I immediately felt as if I’d found my home, it was what lay just beyond the urban area that fully ticked all the boxes on my best places to live list. Gazing in any direction from one of the city’s seven hills, there were splendid views of snow-capped mountains and glistening water – a true wilderness lovers paradise.

The mineral-tinted waters of Ross Lake with Ruby Peak in the background in North Cascades National Park. There are three national parks within a 2-hour drive of the Seattle metropolitan area. Photo: Henry Lewis.

As I always do when arriving in a new place, I read voraciously to learn about the area’s history, particularly stories of the region’s early explorers – miners, mountain climbers and unconventional dreamers. My fifteen years in the region were filled with weekend and holiday hikes and backpacking trips straight out of the many guidebooks published by local hiking experts Bob and Ira Spring, Louise B. Marshall and the Seattle Mountaineers. These local authors were supplemented by the writings of naturalist John Muir and the photos of Ansel Adams, both pioneers in wilderness preservation.

On the summit of Gobbler’s Knob with the west flank of 14,411 foot Mt. Rainier (Tahoma to the Native Americans) in the background. Photo: Random Hiker.

Ice Caves above Paradise on Mt. Rainier. Sadly, this interesting feature has disappeared due to glacial recession over the past 20 years. Photo: Henry Lewis.

While I’ve traveled far and wide on six continents and lived in half a dozen countries on four of those, it’s difficult to think of a better place to be on a sunny August day than enjoying the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

One of my favorite hikes was to Ingalls Lake which lies at the foot of Mt. Stuart on the eastern slopes of the central Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Photo: Henry Lewis.

The surreal landscapes of the high elevation Upper Enchantments in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area just outside Leavenworth, Washington are a sight to behold. In this photo taken in the fall, the needles of the Larch trees have turned a brilliant shade of gold, adding to the impression that this is an oil painting and not a photograph. Photo: Henry Lewis.

Feeling Whole in Nature

Grueling summit hikes in the Cascade Mountains – thundering with the sounds of the range’s innumerable waterfalls – were both physically conditioning and a self-esteem booster. The physical and mental challenges of the Cascade volcano climbs I undertook with experienced local friends – who’d spent years honing their mountaineering skills – were particularly beneficial in building what folks from previous generations would call ‘character.’ Being roped together with other members of a climbing party while traversing steep icy glaciers certainly highlights the importance of mutual human trust and interdependence.

High base camp on Mt. Baker in Washington’s North Cascades. Flat sites for pitching a tent were non-existent. Photo: Henry Lewis.

Our climbing party on the large snow dome that serves as the summit of Mt. Baker. I’m on the right. Photo: Henry Lewis via tripod.

Most of all, the time I spent exploring the majestic flower-covered mountain meadows and the equally rugged and magical Pacific coastline of the Olympic National Park were the times when I felt whole. Backpacking solo to the summit of an isolated peak and imagining that I was the only person on a mountain gave me a sense of peace and oneness with nature that I relished.

The building lava dome as seen from the summit of Mt. St. Helens, Washington. This Cascade Mountains stratovolcano erupted violently in 1980 devastating the northern flanks of the mountain and miles beyond as seen in the background. Once pristine Spirit Lake can be seen on the right side. Photo: Henry Lewis.

Added bonuses on many backpacking trips were eating wild blueberries growing along the trail or waking up to find a family of mountain goats grazing beside my tent. Away from the distractions of civilization, life slows to the rhythm of one’s breath and the sound of the wind blowing through the tall fir trees.

The rocky coast of Washington’s Olympic National Park holds mystical beauty and is a great place for hiking. Here, the temperate rain forest meets the rugged edge of the Pacific. Photo: Henry Lewis.

The setting sun casts a warm glow over one of the many forested sea stacks off the coast of Cape Alava, part of Washington State’s Olympic National Park. Photo: Henry Lewis.

So, off I go on another imagined adventure as I try to forget that I’m sitting on a wooden stool at my kitchen counter trying to make the best of life under government quarantine.

Sometimes, one just has to throw caution to the wind and jump in order to find a moment of freedom. Photo: Skydive Kapowsin, Washington.





FilmHopePerforming Arts

My Friend, Killer Bob

While the 1930s to 1950s were the heyday of movie stars being randomly ‘discovered’ at places such as Schwab’s Pharmacy on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, such serendipitous circumstances have continued to occur in the wacky world of Hollywood entertainment. One lucky recipient of almost instant fame was my friend Frank Silva.

Frank came from a theatrical background and had once longed – like so many other Hollywood hopefuls – to be a working film and TV actor. The stereotype of an actor sitting by the phone waiting for their agent to call is the reality faced by most individuals seeking a ‘break’ in the business. And, as is true of the vast majority of such hopefuls who find hunger and near-homelessness less than desirable, Frank eventually settled for a more reliable role as part of a film crew working behind the camera.

From the moment I met Frank in his home base of Los Angeles in 1988 on the set of the film Tap, it was clear that his larger-than-life personality and passion for living dramatically set him apart from most other crew members. Indeed, while Frank was kind and generous in most situations, he could be a force of nature when things didn’t go his way. It was impossible to be in a group without Frank quickly becoming the center of attention. Such was the exuberance of his demeanor.

In addition to his strong personality, Frank’s appearance was striking with his prominent facial features and thick shoulder length hair, tinted lightly with natural streaks of gray. Add his deep resonant voice to the mix and Frank surely possessed the qualities required to be a professional actor. Frank was proud of the Portuguese heritage and genes passed on from his parents and often talked about his formative years growing up in California’s Central Valley.

Frank Silva 1992

David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”

By late 1989, Frank and I – along with several other close Seattle friends – were once again working together, this time on David Lynch’s 2-hour TV pilot Twin Peaks. On a work-related shopping trip to Vancouver, BC during the show’s pre-production period, Frank’s free-spirited nature was on full display.

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Health and Well-beingPolitics

Being Humbled By The Universe

As a child, I remember laying in my grandparents yard on delightfully dark nights while gazing at the clearly visible glow of our galaxy – the Milky Way – and the sparkle of uncountable twinkling stars. Star-gazing gave me a sense of wholeness and complete peace and calm, as any earthly problems I had lost their significance when compared to the vastness and timelessness of space itself.

Unfortunately, suburban sprawl and accompanying light pollution have enveloped the area where I grew up, making it impossible to view the contours of our galaxy without the aid of a telescope. Still, that feeling of personal insignificance in the larger scheme of the universe has stayed with me throughout my life.

After seeing images of a distant Earth taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 as it headed for the outer limits of our solar system, American astronomer and well-known science educator Carl Sagan eloquently summed up my feelings.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
-Carl Sagan

Sagan’s words seem particularly notable during our current time of crisis as governments and citizens bicker over the perceived best way forward when faced with the difficult choice between saving human lives or protecting livelihoods. While individuals and organizations in many regions of the world are coming together to support those in need, there are some who are using the current situation to further their own narrow political agenda with little regard for the rights of others or the greater good.

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The Camel Beauty Pageant

As the Monty Python crew used to say, “And now for something completely different!”

Let’s escape to the deserts of southern Oman to participate in one of the locals’ favorite events – a camel beauty contest. Mind you, these descendants of Bedouin tribes take camel raising very seriously as the princely sums paid for a prime specimen indicate. Contestants – lovely one-humped dromedary camels with long double sets of eyelashes – are judged on the fullness of their chests and downward curve of their lower lips, among other distinctive qualities.

As you’ll see in the following video, the owners and other audience members create a party atmosphere, filled with dancing and lots of cheering for their favorite contestant.

Be sure to crank up the volume!