From enchanting Costa Rica
Just the afternoon before, our airplane had droned twenty-thousand feet above the sandy sprawl of the Mexican beaches and angry volcanoes of Guatemala. Cutting in from the Caribbean Sea, we hushed down palm trees and sudden mountain crags before landing at San Jose’s Santa Marina airport in exotic Costa Rica.
As we drove towards the fiery volcano of Arenal past endless coffee plantations and banana groves, our car would be lost high in the mists, passing through charming cloud forests…
– In my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, I invite readers to experience such adventure and imagery illustrating my travels.
From Ambarnath, India
I stood in an ancient shrine to Lord Shiva – the Destroyer of Death in the Hindu Trinity.
Known as the shrine of Ambreshwar or the Lord of the Skies, this was a 10th Century stone jewel incredibly tucked away in the heart of a bustling Mumbai suburb.
Intricate carvings made up this age-old monument lost in the bustle of high rises and the clangor of a city. Continue Reading
From Fairbanks, Alaska
The hush of silence was indeed mesmerizing. The swath of the 600-mile Alaska Range glistened in the landscape. Yellow specks mottled the trees in the boreal forests – Nature was readying herself in choicest finery for the approaching fall. Continue Reading
From Fairbanks, Alaska
A safe 200 feet ahead of me atop a knoll, a pair of huge grizzlies ravenously chomped away at a soapberry patch.
‘Make yourself be heard – just don’t surprise the bears!’ had been the ranger’s warning. If threatened by a grizzly I would simply need to play dead – if confronted by a black bear, I would need to try shouting senselessly. If this didn’t work, I would need to fight back. Bolting would be a blunder. Continue Reading
From Varanasi, India
The rhesus monkeys or what I simply call “temple monkeys” are a frequent sight in these parts of the world. However, the Hanuman langur is probably less common in urban areas of Varanasi. Named after the Hindu monkey-god Hanuman, these primates are treated with some reverence. Continue Reading
From Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
It was early morning as we hurriedly rolled out of bed for an early morning raft ride on the Snake River. Here, in the Grand Teton National Park, Nature remained unclothed in her raw beauty, shorn of kiosks and stalls, tourists and clangor.
All was quiet. Continue Reading
From timeless Sedona
Our guide carefully uncovered an ancient Hopi flute from his patterned cloth bag. Mellifluous strains broke the quiet hush of the rocky landscape. Is that what he had meant by ‘conversing’ with Nature? “You can also absorb Earth’s energy through a medicine-wheel ritual,” he intoned.
Having driven 300 miles from glitzy Las Vegas with the aid of a GPS handheld, all this seemed surreally New Age to me.
The evening sun slanted upon the massive canyon walls, setting the red rocks afire. Stony ramparts enveloped the lush forest of ponderosa pines and juniper trees mottled by bristly agaves and cacti that that endured the elements for centuries. A scrambling climb ahead lay a knoll and Larry Sprague armed just with a pair of dousing rods, led us to just where that alluring power of Nature had become stronger. Continue Reading
From Fort Yukon, Alaska
The sun beat down mercilessly that sweltering August afternoon.
There were unkempt buildings everywhere – a school on stilts, a liquor store, a rundown post office. A couple of ugly concrete structures and a few snowmobiles in disrepair confirmed my greatest fears.
This was all too disappointing – where were those igloos and smiling Eskimos clad in sealskin boots, commandeering dog-sleds through blizzards impregnable? At least that’s what our school textbooks had us believe life was like above the Arctic Circle.
We had taken an hour-long flight from the Alaskan town of Fairbanks to the village of Fort Yukon above the Arctic Circle. Our twin-engine Piper Navajo chopped above the vast tundra – a stubbly yawn of green mountains, stunted spruce and sparkling streams. Just as in the last few months, the sun wouldn’t set today – it would just dip shyly to soon rise again heralding yet another morning.
Our guide who welcomed us at the airstrip, Richard Carroll, was an Athabascan Native American who spoke impeccable English. The Gwich’in tongue was all but forgotten. Contact with Christian missionaries started with the Russian occupation of Alaska before the land was sold to the United States. Joblessness here was a way of life, even with the exodus of the younger generation to promised lands beyond.
A typical Bush village surrounded by swaths of water and wilderness, Fort Yukon is inaccessible by road. Satellite TVs and that rare internet are their windows to the world outside. Groceries are too expensive to fly in, and subsistence living is probably a cheaper option. A hunting expedition rather than a trip to the grocery store may precede dinnertime. Bears come raiding your log cabin 180 miles up the Porcupine River to where a boat trip is the only option.
As our plane chugged the trip back to Fairbanks, I looked below at a humbled settlement of 500. Had modernization strangled a community that should have been best left alone steeped in its traditions?
The sun would soon sink into torpid slumber as winter buries this village in months of secret darkness. The cheerful auroras would return dazzling the nights in their ancient dance of light and color. The graceful caribou herds would roam the plains again even as the winds howl along the tundra, clothing evergreens in white robes.
Ulus and igloos may sadly disappear from our textbooks soon. However Nature’s wondrous sway will last forever here in a very different world – in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
In my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, I invite readers to experience such adventure illustrating my travels.