I first met Native American artist Louie Gong when writing about his work in a Portland Art Museum exhibition. When I learned he’d be opening a retail store in Seattle, I knew I’d have another story to write soon. Here it is, as featured in OnTrak Magazine.
Written by Gina Williams | photography by Bradley Lanphear During a recent artist-in-residence stint at Seattle’s Eighth Generation flagship store at Pike Place Market, Native American artist Joe Seymour (Squaxin Island/Pueblo of Acoma) wore a black T-shirt with large white letters that read, “Real Indian Artist.”As part of his presentation weaving together cultural art and contemporary performance, Seymour would not speak until a visitor placed a dollar into a jar.
When photojournalist and conservationist Luca Bracali first told me of his recent return trip to document the nomadic Tsaatan people of Mongolia, I didn’t fully understand the scale or scope of his journey. Now, via his reportage in National Geographic Italia, it is possible to peer inside this incredible and shrinking world. See the full image set via the article here and an English translation below.
Sono gli ultimi testimoni di un tempo. Oggi di questa grande etnia millenaria e di origine turca si contano solamente 50 famiglie. Conosciuti anche come Tsaatan o uomini-renna, i Dukha sono “il popolo della taiga” oppure, come loro stessi amano definirsi, “i cavalieri delle r
They are the last witnesses of an era. Today in the new millennium, only about 50 families, originally of Turkish origin, remain. Also known as Tsaatan or reindeer men, the Dukha are “the people of the taiga” or, as they themselves like to define themselves, “the reindeer men.”
We are on the border between Mongolia and Siberia, in a remote and isolated area covered with fir trees and larches, in a portion of that which is the largest forest in the Northern Hemisphere.
I’m almost too busy to blog currently, but there are adventures on the horizon. Today’s post will have to be brief yet hopefully inspirational.
I snapped these infrared shot while traveling for my contract communications work through Parkdale, Oregon at the base of our beautiful sleeping volcano, Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. I had two minutes of extra time with Mt. Hood came into view, so I pulled over quickly & had to keep going. But it was a beautiful summer morning in my home state and I didn’t take it for granted.
The photo reminds me to consider where I’m headed, where I’ve been & all parts in-between. May your journeys be rich and magic-filled, even if, at this particular moment in time, they only take you around the block.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett,
The air is so thick with smoke in Portland, Oregon USA from wildfires burning all around us this summer, that I can feel it in my eyes and throat. A light dusting of ash is visible on lawn furniture and cars.
A couple of days ago, one of our most beautiful gems, the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, erupted into a human-caused inferno. The blaze is now more than 20,000 acres and has merged with another fire. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of fires burning all across the American west from Oregon to Colorado. I’m reminded of the devastating fires affecting other parts of the world, in part due to extreme heat, like Portugal.
Fire is part of the natural cycle and the forests will rebound eventually. But it’s still sad to see the loss. And the increasingly hotter, more dangerous weather brought on by climate change here — as well as more intense weather elsewhere — is troubling. Having worked on wildland fire crews in the past, I know the forest isn’t “gone” and that it will rebound. But a lot of damage has been done and I feel for people who have lost homes and land as well as the ecosystems that will be disrupted for years to come.
It will be interesting to watch the shifting dialogue about climate change after this summer of fires and floods; runaway infernos and monster hurricanes.
Here are a few infrared images I took while hiking in the Gorge last week.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of travel for me is getting swept up in the ebb and flow — the rhythms — of a place that’s different from home.
I loved the feeling of that cultural beat recently on a recent trip to Mexico City. And it made me consider other places with a strong rhythm. Everyplace has its own beat, of course, but some places seem to have a stronger pulse. Italy. Norway. Paris. The Oregon Coast. Northwest Territories, Canada.
In Mexico City, the day began with birdsong. Then came the cooking smells — and the scent of delicious Mexican spices — that wafted up to my second-story flat. I could hear sturdy heels walking with intention on rough stones outside. Then, the softest pink light turned the orange and grey stucco walls red and deep brown. A cool breeze would lift the palm fronds.
A resident cat below would meow for its breakfast, followed by yipping of dogs and the sounds of street vendors and shop owners sweeping and setting up.
I realized by the next day that the scent of spices meant coffee would be waiting in the foyer and so I’d pad downstairs for a cup before taking a shower.
On my way out for the day’s activities, I’d have to step around wet, soapy tiles scrubbed clean every morning — place smelling delightfully like my mother’s Pine Sol cleaning binges on Saturday mornings.
In the evening, the sky turned darker pink and the sounds sharper. Dinner parties. Laughter. The smells of roasting meat and flower blossoms lifting in the warm summer air. Music and dancing, toasting of cool drinks, the harmonic crush of forks & knives. Finally, high heels on stones, wobbling their way home.
Then silence, mostly, until the birds and the spices signaled that coffee was near, the steady old globe turned fully around on its wobbly axis, the world made new once again.
What and where are your favorite world rhythms?
***Stay tuned: Citli Tours knocked my socks off while I was in Mexico & I’m looking forward to sharing their story soon!
Now and then I find myself explaining the background scenario of my work as an arts & culture writer. On social media, it can appear that I’m simply gallivanting around the world without a care.
The reality is that sharing the experience with a little bit of marketing skill through multiple social media channels is part of my job. Of course I’m thrilled that I have the opportunity through my background and experience and technology to be able to write about art, culture, photography and travel around the world, but you’d have to go back 36 years or so to middle school and high school writing and journalism classes & being inspired by my father’s photography to get to the beginning the path to where I am now.
Only about 25% of my time is spent on freelance assignments. I have a 30-hour-per-week contract with two nonprofits in Portland that is my base income. And the assignments aren’t typically handed out like candy. I have to work hard for them, pitching editors constantly. Every time I send a pitch to a new editor, I have to include a compelling cover letter, relevant published writing samples and a pitch that’s perfect for them right at that moment. It’s like applying for a job every time while also trying to hit a bullet with a bullet. The competition is fierce.
I’m currently in Mexico City and for this trip, I bought an inexpensive round trip ticket on sale ($300 RT from Portland to Mexico City via Delta and Aeromexico) and worked like crazy to build an assignment around five whirlwind days. (At other times, I build additional work and travel around an assignment). I left on a Wednesday and am returning on a Tuesday, so that I could still pop into my office in Portland a couple of days each week. I did a mad dash of research, connecting dots between people I know at home and abroad — friends, editors, colleagues and others — and created a trip that will result in six or seven assignments, plus material for my blog from this one short adventure. I got in touch with two photographers working here in the city who I found through research and connections, discovered a great B&B (The Red Tree House) that I’ll also be writing about & am touring with a guide service owned by amazing locals (Citli Tours) I found via a former co-worker when I did marketing for a bank in Vancouver, Washington.
I’ve toured the city, hunted down great restaurants, gone out Ubering on my own, conducted interviews in the courtyard of my B&B and chatted with fellow guests to keep the research pipes open & am looking forward to a day of people watching & photography today at Basilica de Guadalupe where at least 30 masses are held every day of the year. Who knows what could transpire there for yet another assignment.
Buenos días! I encourage everyone to follow their dreams, but don’t expect success without hard work, sacrifice & openness and constant adaptation to technology, cultural norms and work standards such as publishing expectations (ever changing writing guidelines).
Elbow grease, as they say, wins the day.
On a recommendation from our (highly recommended) Airbnb host, we walked towards Dublin city center from our flat in the suburban Rathgar neighborhood to a newish bar called The Bowery. “Rock & Rum bar in an old ship!” the description shouted. They had me at Rock & Rum, but the “old ship” aspect raised my curiosity.
The Bowery didn’t disappoint. The space opens up into what literally feels like being inside an old pirate ship, but not in the Disney sense. The bar’s port holes are from Irish Naval auxiliary ship L.E. Setanta, decommissioned in 1980. The Bowery’s floorboards were brought in from the demolished Boland’s Mill in Ringsend, and the wood paneling is from the former Little Sisters of the Poor convent.
It turned out every Tuesday is open mike night for poets and musicians. My husband Brad, a musician & poet and never shy about leaping onto a stage, quickly found a guitar to borrow from a sweet Dubliner named Ron.
Ron performed a song he’d written after a sniper terrorized Washington, D.C. “It’s the end of another American dream….” goes the haunting refrain.
Brad took the stage after a poem or two and referenced the stinking pile that is the current U.S. Administration. “I think the Irish might appreciate the metaphor,” he said. “Anybody know Louden Wainwright?” A couple of shouts went up from the small crowd. Brad then launched into Wainwright’s “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road.”
While Brad was setting up, Ron said he was sorry about the disturbing state of affairs in the U.S.
“Pray for us,” I said. “Oh believe me,” he responded. “I do, every day.”
It’s easy to forget, in our American bubble, that the world really is watching.
People around the globe look to the U.S. for stability and leadership. Sure, we have a deeply mixed history, but in general, they’re looking to the past for a remembrance of hope and to the future for a glimmer of hope. The Irish, for example, haven’t forgotten that America was one country that took millions of starving immigrants during the great famine of 1845-1852. Here’s brief lesson about that bitter time in History: “As the crisis grew, British relief efforts only made things worse: The emergency importation of grain failed to prevent further deaths due to Ireland’s lack of working mills to process the food; absentee British landlords evicted thousands of starving peasants when they were unable to pay rent; and a series of workhouses and charity homes established to care for the most vulnerable were poorly managed, becoming squalid centers of disease and death….”
When we left the bar, Ron gave me a big hug. And on our way out the door, a couple of tough-looking locals gave Brad kudos for his performance.
We went to all of Dublin’s must-see sights around town as one must do when experiencing a place for the first time, from Grafton Street & Temple Bar to Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle. We ate all the fish & chips and seafood stew we could stuff ourselves with at ancient pubs like The Bleeding Horse & the Celtic Bar.
We took the DART train to the seaport village of Howth, ate raw oysters & rode a rickety little boat around an island swarming with seabirds and seals. We took a coach tour to Northern Ireland and saw the gleaming countryside and explored Giant’s Causeway with a brief stop in beautiful Belfast. We spent an evening on a Guinness canal restaurant, sipping on wine while chugging slowly through what must be the world’s tiniest locks.
The natural beauty of Ireland is forever imprinted in my mind. I’ve never seen such well-kept and beautiful farmlands (I literally googled whether they have rubbish laws, because the countryside is that pristine – and they in fact do, but a Dubliner told that me pride is really what keeps the place tidy). And Dublin is one of the most colorful, artsy, literary & jovial cities I’ve traveled to so far.
But my favorite experience in terms of satisfaction – for fulfilling what travel is truly about and why I believe it’s important to see the world, was that sincere hug from Ron on an evening when we weren’t tourists, but simply people connecting through music, art and culture. People with shared dreams and goals who dare to hold out hope for this maddening-yet-wonderful and immense-yet-tiny, world.