and then there is oregon...in many ways, oregon stole my heart. this is, at least in part, because i did not expect the beauty that awaited me as i left portland and began my drive south. we often hear about how gorgeous the pacific coast highway is (and it is certainly something to experience in your life), but i do not think we hear often enough about the 101 -- a stretch of road that stretches from the washington state line to the california border weaving in and out of small towns, with vast stretches of road that hug the coastline. another one for your bucket list, folks.
i was trying to think of something particularly insightful to write about what it is like to sit in complete darkness and observe the night sky ... and then i remembered that years ago calvin & hobbes said it as well as i ever could: " if people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, i bet they'd live a lot differently. when you look into infinity, you realize that there are more important things than what people do all day." (calvin & hobbes spitting the hard truth). .
this photo was taken last week, shortly after midnight on my 30th birthday. i have never been one confident in dabbling with a tripod, but after setting up my tent i got it out and a random passerby spent an hour and taught me how to capture the night sky. the roadtrip trip, ultimately just shy of three weeks in length, was full of these types of fortuitous encounters that led me into conversations and down paths that i could not have planned or anticipated. joshua tree national park 12:17 am 08.19.2017
anyone that knows me well knows that im not exactly what one might describe as a morning person. drawn to the silence, solitude, and mystery of the night i don't often find myself (getting) up at 5am. this day was different though; in glacier national park, i had plans to hike about 20 miles and to make it to one of the many peaks that gives the intrepid hiker a view of the parks' glaciers. .
i had met some fellow travelers in missoula the day before and we found ourselves together again at the ranger station early that morning -- one of the many things i love about traveling in a free and fluid way is how similarly minded people tend to find one another again and again. .
as they waited for their permits i stole away and sat on the banks of the water, watching the sun begin to rise behind the mountains, over the water. i maintain that there are few things like watching the sun rise or set that help to set or correct the tone of the day.
the redwoods are as magical as people say that they are. after driving the near 18 hours from glacier national park the previous day, i woke, having pitched my tent about a mile from the entrance to the park -- i knew that i wanted to get in at first light. having arrived late the previous night, the trees still shrouded in darkness, i really didn't know what to expect. the morning was damp and the combination of sunlight and mist had traffic driving at 5 mph as everyone tried, impossibly, to take it all in.
the sun burned off the mist within the hour, but those first moments remained with me for the next 12 hours as i hiked and sat among those giant majestic beauties.
as mentioned in my previous post, i recently returned from a several week road trip in which i camped and hiked my way through many of our nations national parks. i am no landscape photographer, but i want to share some of what i saw over the course of those few weeks. my hope is that each of you makes or takes the time to see these places for yourself. in almost every instance, i found that a photograph did not do what i saw justice… the reason? the reason is that though the photo may visually show what was before my eyes, it is absent the feeling of wonder and awe that is felt when we recognize the beauty of the natural world.
late friday night, august 19th, i brought in my 30th birthday at joshua tree national park. as the clock ticked midnight i was on top of an enormous boulder, staring up at the night sky, so dark that the milky way seemed to be within reach.
i slept out under the stars that night and woke thankful to be 30. over the course of the past two weeks, ive covered 7451 miles of road stretching from pittsburgh to the west coast.
i saw the badlands, jumped from a cliff in the grand tetons, hiked nearly 20 miles to sit on top of a mountain in glacier national park, drove the back roads of countless small towns, saw the beauty of mount rainier and crater national and stood in awe at the vastness of yosemite.
i got a tattoo in venice beach, watched the sun set into the pacific ocean, drove the 101 down the oregon coast and spent 12 hours alone with the giant redwoods. along the way, i have been touched by fortuitous encounters with strangers that led me down paths that i could not have previously planned or imagined. i saw a few old friends and made just as many new ones; for all of this, i am grateful.
it is hard to articulate what this type of trip does for the mind, body and soul, but there is something about unfettered, solo travel that is both cleansing and renewing.
i drove 20 hours yesterday arriving back to pittsburgh at 5 in the morning exhausted, sunburned but feeling lighter than when i had left. over the next week or so ill be taking a break from sharing the type of work that i usually do to share some images from the past few weeks, many taken in our countries, treasured national parks. this photos is an image of my campsite at joshua tree taken that night, shortly after midnight.
sisters sara and adela are among an estimated 800,000 displaced moslawis; they fled their neighborhood with their mother and father and had been living in the camp for three weeks when I met them in june 2017
hasansham camp for the internally displaced. june 2017. though the city of mosul has been "officially" liberated an estimated 800,000 people remain displaced as reconstruction efforts, estimated to cost billions and take decades, begin.
sama, age 12, of west mosul hopes to return home so that she can go back to school. it's been over three years since she has been in a proper classroom -- while under isis control schools in mosul were either shutdown or the curriculum was drastically changed to indoctrinate students.
inside the hasansham camp for internally displaced persons. june 2017.
an injured iraqi soldier is helped into a makeshift clinic. west mosul, june 2017.
civilians and a few isof soldiers take a moments break in a pool hall in a liberated neighborhood of west mosul.
less than 2km from the contact line and less than 2km from where civilians were trapped within mosuls old city, life had started to return to some semblance of normalcy. june 2017.
civilians carry what belongings they are able as they flee west mosul. june 2017.
a hole that isis members once used to travel through west mosul, from house to house, on foot, relatively undetected (by aircraft and soldiers as they were out of the streets) is seen patched up. local residents shared stories of daesh putting holes in the walls of their homes and it becoming "normal" to be sitting inside and to have fighters run through.
the group is known for their use of ieds and passageways, both among the reasons that the fight against isis has and continues to be unlike most other conflicts.
a resident of west mosul redefines "car trouble" as he somehow manages to drive his vehicle through the streets of a recently liberated neighborhood of the once besieged city.
with air strikes in sight, the marketplace had partially reopened in a liberated neighborhood of west mosul. less than 2km from the contact line and less than 2km from where civilians were trapped within mosuls old city, life began to return to some semblance of normalcy. june 2017
civilians and a few isof soldiers take a moments break in a pool hall in a liberated neighborhood of west mosul. less than 2km from the contact line and less than 2km from where civilians were trapped within mosuls old city, life had started to return to some semblance of normalcy. june 2017.
the sun sets on another day in mosul, as seen from inside a minaret. this particular mosque, located in west mosul, had been used a place of worship for daesh (and the minaret a snipers post) before being reclaimed by iraqi forces. it has since been refashioned into a tsp (trauma stabilization point), a place for wounded soldiers and civilians to receive care before being sent to mosul hospital.
from the roof of the TSP (trauma stabilization point) we were able to see daily life in the recently liberated neighborhoods of west mosul as well as the airstrikes that rained down on the old city day and night. june 2017
most camps for the internally displaced are home to thousands if not tens of thousands of people. providing medical care for this population is often done by a handful of volunteers. as you might imagine, the need far outstrips the available resources. i have hundreds of photos from my time within the hasansham camp for the internally displaced. many of the photographs show pieces of life within the camp — medical care, food distribution, daily life scenes, portraits of beautiful iraqi children — very few even come close to doing justice to what it must feel like to be these individuals.
this image may come close. there were over a hundred people, most women and children, waiting in the 105 degree weather to be seen by a small team of doctors. it was chaos and the situation reeked of desperation, helplessness and the quiet acknowledgment that their lives were no longer within their own control.
i met her eyes for a moment and when she didn’t look away i couldn’t either. we studied each other for a long moment, side by side and yet worlds apart. what is her name? what has her life been up until this moment where she is resigned to sitting on the ground amidst a crowd of women who are simply trying to be seen by a doctor? what are her thoughts right now? what is her future and the future of her children and her grandchildren?