Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Rotary Club visual presentation about acceptance in Sherwood Oregon


As part of their peace effort, the Rotary Club asked me to give a visual talk about acceptance. They saw the work I've done in Africa, where I went looking for the primal roots of my beliefs and religion in the Birthplace of Modern Humans and found much more.




Little village children taught me to look through my first eyes, my child's eyes of acceptance and exploration. 

In a remote corner of Ethiopia, when I asked Konso elders what advice they would give world leaders, one elder replied: "Tell them that we are all made by God. No matter what your tribe, no matter what your religion, we all bleed the same color blood." Then he raised his hand with fingers outstretched and concluded: "We all have five fingers." 

Come hear how the village children's acceptance of a stranger and the remote elders wise words inspired me. 

I've invited President Trump. 

Please come so we can all be inspired to move forward on September 6, 6:30PM at the Sherwood Library Community Room, in Sherwood, OR 97140.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ethiopia's remote Suri tribe: Fall of Man woman's fault



Originally humans had a direct connection to God. 

So say the elders, chiefs, shamans and storytellers of the remote Suri (Surma) tribe in Ethiopia's Omo River region. 

"Long long ago there was a rope from earth to God," explains Bolagedong, the eldest Suri chief. "So in ancient times people had a direct connection to God.

"Humans could climb that rope at any time to visit God," contines Bolagedong. "The only rule," the chief hesitates for drama, "humans could not bring anything with them up the rope."

This is my illustration of the Fall of Man story I heard from the Suri tribe. Omo River region, Ethiopia.
"One day the woman decided to bring her grinding stone. As she started to climb up for a visit to God, instantly the rope fell to the ground. 

"People lost their direct connection to God."

So today we don't have a direct connection to God.



Three things struck me about the Suri Fall of Man story:
1) I wondered which was older, the Suri story or the one in the Bible. 

2) For me, the Suri story is easier to understand. A rope makes sense. An apple, not so easy to bite.

3) And why is it always the woman's fault? 


Suri tribe. Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

Monday, May 29, 2017

One kid's chores in the Birthplace of Modern Humans



Hamar tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

Leading the family cattle to the watering hole is a daily chore in the Birthplace of Modern Humans, Africa.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mursi tribe elder confirms my photo-illustration perfectly depicts God.


"Is there a God?" I asked the Mursi tribe elder.


This is my illustration of God as described to me on my first trip to the Mursi tribe in 2001.  Mursi tribe, Omo River Valley, Ethiopia, Africa.
That was one of the questions I asked the elders, shamans, chiefs, storytellers and witch doctors of Africa's most remote tribes.

"Yes, there is a God," said the Mursi elder. "He is powerful. He has no legs and has a rainbow colored chest. And he flies through the air." Then the elder emphasized, "And he can kill a man instantly."

Mursi tribe elder explaining God. Mursi tribe, Omo River Valley, Ethiopia, Africa.

On my last trip to the Mursi in 2014, I showed elders at the distant village of Belle my illustration. Without hesitation, they said, "Yes, that is God." There was no doubt.


In 2014, a Mursi elder in Belle village confirms that my illustration perfectly depicts God. Mursi tribe, Omo River Valley, Ethiopia, Africa.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Could learning the "Secrets of Life" actually kill us?



In the remote cliffs of Senegal's SE corner, these 12 and 13-year old Bedik boys run in this traditional way all day for one month and then spend 5 months in the bush by themselves to learn the "Secrets of Life". Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

Shaman tell us that, were meaning to come to us fully unveiled, it would turn us into it; that is, it would kill us.
Malidoma Patrice Somé

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: He escaped from Zimbabwe to a New Zealand vineyard


To show rebirth and future promise, I was photographing a new-born Syrah leaf in a vineyard on Roy Hill above Trinity Hill Winery in Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand's North Island

Rain drop covered Syrah leaf. Hawke's Bay region, North Island, New Zealand.

And here comes Matthew Stobart, a friendly vineyard worker (I never actually met an unfriendly New Zealand vineyard worker) on a mower.

He turned off the engine and asked how I was doing.

I replied my usual: "When I count my blessings, excellent." 

He said likewise. It turns out we both are immigrants with amazingly parallel stories.

Matthew Stobart: "I escaped from Zimbabwe in 2001, with my parents, when the government took our farm. We got out with just two boxes of things. Everything in two boxes."

Mowing the vineyard grass. Trinity Hill winery, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
Matthew: "And it's not like we stole the land. My parents paid the government for it. Then 10 years later the government took it away. Gave it to the president's relatives, cousins and relations. All for politics, for votes."

Janis: "The Communists arrested my father and tossed him in jail because we owned land. Landowners were criminals. Fortunately, friends broke my dad out of prison." 

Matthew: "We're lucky to get out in time. Many farmers didn't. Now they're stuck with no farm, no pension, nothing."

Janis: "After hiding in the forest for months, my father and mother packed a few things in an ox-drawn cart, buried some valuables in the forest and left our farm forever." 

Matthew: "Zimbabwe used to be the bread basket of Africa. Now they can't feed their own people."

Janis: "Latvia had the best standard of living of all the Soviet states, yet at the end of the Soviet Union, it was very difficult to even get a bottle of milk without connections."

Matthew: "Things are good here. The people are great. The government is stable. Now my wife and I own a house. We're doing all right now."


Working at Trinity Hill winery, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
Matthew: "There isn't a morning that I don't wake up and count my blessings."


Matthew Stobart
Vineyard Worker and Landscaper
Trinity Hill Winery
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Five Most Scenic Vineyards in New Zealand


Maude Winery vineyard
I discovered this amazing little vineyard by sheer luck. (But isn't that the way of great discoveries?) When my sister Zaiga found I was going to New Zealand, she suggested I contact Vanessa, co-winemaker at Maude Wines. After asking about their vineyards, Vanessa took me to petite Mt. Maude Vineyard.

Dawn and Dr. Terry Wilson planted this vineyard "because all doctors want to plant a vineyard." They named it Mt. Maude for the stark mountain Mt Maude, across the Maungawera Valley just outside of Wanaka, Central Otago. Mt. Maude Vineyard, Maude Wines, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka region.

Netting to prevent birds from eating the ripe fruit, the vineyard is four hectares of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  Mt. Maude Vineyard. New Zealand, Central Otago wine region, Wanaka region.


Rippon Winery vineyard
This has to be the most photographed vineyard in all of New Zealand. I even had to sign a release form stating that I will let them know how the photographs are used.

Biodynamic Rippon Vineyard, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.
Ruby Island points to Rippon Vineyard on the shore of Lake Wanaka in this aerial view.  New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.
View of vineyard and Ruby Island through an old spider-web-covered truck. Rippon Vineyard and Winery, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.


Man O'War Vineyard 
Wnadering around the Man O'War property with vineyard manager Matt Allen, I was struck with the scale of the project. It is actually 150 acres of vines planted in 76 individual hillside blocks scattered over 4,500 acres. It's like a grand experiment with each vineyard having a distinct soil profile and microclimate.

Man O' War vineyard is on the "other" side of Waiheke island, requiring a scenic drive over an unpaved road. Barely visible are two hikers on the far left of the photograph. The boulders are the left overs of the ancient volcanic activity which created the island. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Captain James Cook anchored along this coastline during his first voyage around the islands of New Zealand in 1769. When the good captain saw the ancient stands of magnificent Kauri trees ashore, he wrote in his journals that they would make great masts for the Man O' War battleships of the Royal Navy. Thus the name Man O’ War was given this unique part of Waiheke island. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Located at the eastern end of Waiheke Island, Man O’ War vineyards are a combination of coastal hillsides with high cliffs, pristine hidden beaches, and a rugged coastline. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Sheep, vines and crop trees co-exist on Man O'War Vineyard land.
Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand




Te Whau Vineyard
Te Whau was the first vineyard I saw from the Auckland to Waiheke Island ferry. So, actually, that makes it the first vineyard I saw in New Zealand.


Bird netting covers cabernet sauvignon vines of Te Whau vineyard. The view is of ferry and sailboats in Anzac and Putaki Bays.  New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard


Te Whau cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay vineyards seen from the Auckland to Waiheke car ferry. New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard

Auckland can be seen in the background from the Te Whau vineyard and restaurant. New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard



Chard Farm Winery
This was the very first vineyard I saw in Central Otago, on New Zealand's south island.


The landscape seems to dwarf Chard Farm vineyard hanging on a lip above the Kawarau River.  (The vineyard is the patch of green in the distance. I wanted to show the river canyon in the photograph.)  Chard Farm vineyard, Gibbston wine region, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand.


This Chard Farm 11.6 hectare vineyard was planted by Rob Hay, wife Gerdi, Rob's brother Greg and their parent's checkbook.  Chard Farm vineyard, Gibbston wine region, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand.