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Entries about writing

The Sixth Grade Ambassador

The Next Project Begins...

all seasons in one day 72 °F

Greetings...

I have started my next project. Several weeks ago, a friend of mine who teaches sixth grade came to me and told me she wanted to do a project called, "Where in the World is Thom?" I thought it was a great idea. I've been wanting to do a project like this for a long time and now I will finally have the chance.

I call it, "The Sixth Grade Ambassador" and my goal is to update it once every couple of weeks or so and tell the class where I am, what I am up to, and why I am there. I will ask questions, offer insight, share photographs and an essay - business as usual for the ol' Dusty Vagabond. I hope you drop by to see what I am up to, and share this with anybody who teaches or wants to learn more about our natural world.

Thanks...

http://sixthgradeambassador.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/an-invitation/

Posted by Rhombus 20:43 Archived in USA Tagged school photography students teaching writing learning projects Comments (1)

And He Lived Happily Ever After...

The End of the Dusty Vagabond

semi-overcast 68 °F

I'm commiting blogicide (Is that a word?). Though "The Dusty Vagabond" has been a pleasure to produce, I would rather lay it to rest with style then watch it wither away through lack of effort.

"Why?"

It feels right, you know? I woke up this morning and my first thought was end this blog. I feel good about it. It's time to start the next chapter. Buddha said, "Use me as a craft for crossing the stream, but when you are across, let me go (roughly paraphrased)." Well, I made it across the stream. I have a voice. I know what I am about. I'm living an amazing life. This just feels right.
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I'm excited. I am now free to recreate myself in any fashion I wish. I am not done writing. I am not done catching photographs. I am not done sharing. I am not done living my life. I'm curious to see what doors will open next and where that path will lead. There will be another project. Consider the Dusty Vagabond, "Thom's early years."

If you are into numbers, blogging is all about how many people you can get to follow you. The more people that follow you, the better. I have great numbers. My blog site tells me how many people have visited (278,806), how many people have read my journey (297,240), how many people read what chapter (my most popular has been "Wardner Beginnings" 7,078 - I've never understood why this has been so popular). They are great numbers. They are YOU, after all. The fact you gave this blog any time at all is amazing to me. I sincerely thank you for your time.

I'm letting you go. You are as free as I am.

How did you stumble upon this blog? Was it from a friend? Did you see a picture you like and investigated further? Did you see a featured blog? Was it a random find? There's no reason that can't happen again. Perhaps, in losing me, you might find someone else to inspire you.
You might find my next project in the same way. Then again, you might just drop me a line telling me you are interested. When it gets up and rolling, I can send you a link.

Life flows on. So do I.

In a way, this is kind of like writing my own epitaph. "Here lies The Dusty Vagabond. May he forever wax eloquently about the morning mists of southeast Alaska."
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Actually, I never could do them justice. You really need to see them for yourself.

"And He lived happily ever after..."
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Look for me in the north, the west, the east and the south. Look for me at dawn. Look for me at sunset. Look for me in the night. You might find me on the ocean. You might find me by the sea. You might find me in the park climbing a maple tree (this is starting to sound like Dr. Seuss).
Above all, go look outside. There's good things to see out there. We might even cross paths. I'm the toe-headed bearded guy. I'm probably wearing my trusty blue wool beanie. I'm often found slogging down a mountain trail with a battered tripod sticking out of my faded red backpack. I'll have a serene smirk (can you smirk serenely?) on my face. My boots are will be worn, my adventure pants and shirt faded and ripped- but those are the trademarks of (mis)adventure.

Many Hugs, Many smiles.

Thom - The Dusty Vagabond

Posted by Rhombus 01:22 Archived in USA Tagged me alaska photography blog writing Comments (4)

The Next Twist in the Path

Writer's Block, The Nature of Blog Writing, Photography and What's Next

Fact: I don’t know what to write about today. I could’ve written this sentence every day this week, but this fact didn’t come to me until this morning. Is this what writer’s block is all about? To be sure, I have a lot of material. Life has flowed along since my last meaningful entry (Yodeling Under a Glacier). But, I don’t know, I just haven’t found the lead. Inspiration has been lacking.

So, I’m just going to tell it like it is. I don’t have any eloquent words this week. I feel like if I write this one, no matter how mundane, I’ll be over the hump and perhaps inspiration will strike next week.
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Part of the reason I’ve been quiet lately is that I’m trying to figure out the next direction for this blog. Is there one? Does there need to be one? What do you do with a blog? Do I want to try to write for money? What else can I do with it, other than what I have been doing? These questions have been rolling around in my mind for a while. I haven’t been able to answer them.
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Here’s the tricky bit about writing a blog: In my life, every day of the week could hold great material, be it great photos, experiences or both. It takes a lot of effort to keep the blog current when each day could possibly deserve an entire episode on its own. I don’t want to get into the game of focusing too much on the photos or thinking about what I’m going to write that I miss the experience. Sometimes it is a close thing. My priorities are life moments first, documentation second.
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I do know the experimental phase is over, though I‘m not sure if that changes anything. I’ve been pumping out a lot of material over the last three years. Some of it is good, some of it is not. I’ve found my voice. I catch beautiful scenes with my camera as I’d catch fat snowflakes with my tongue. It’s a beautiful thing.
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I have thousands of photographs that I have collected from all over the world. I uploaded over six hundred of my favorites to my new Flickr page. It took a lot of time. I archive my photos by Year/Month/Major Location. My digital photos went back to 2003, though I have hundreds more in slide/print form. I browsed through my archives for a solid week uploading the ones I found interesting.

You can see them here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/dustyvagabond/ For those of you who really dig my photos more than my words, this is the site for you. I’m happy with my collection, I tried very hard to keep it diverse and keep it interesting. These photos are a fair representation of my life and what I live for, namely, creativity in action.
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“Where ya been, Thom? Where ya goin’?”
In late May, I left Alaska for Seattle without any clear direction on where I was going or projects I wished to pursue. With unlimited options and many paths to follow, I felt a few of them out before “deciding” to go to Switzerland in late July. Having purchased the tickets, I promptly took a train across the northern tier of the U.S. from Seattle to Central Minnesota. From there, I visited some old haunts and friends in northern Minnesota. Then I took a bus home to the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan.
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However, life has its own comedic timing. Instead of going to Switzerland, I am going to Alaska. I took a new position as an assistant engineer on the cruise ship I work on. The job starts at the same time as my trip to Europe. Ha! So, I’m going to Switzerland by way of Alaska.
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Unless, of course, some other unforeseen event changes everything again. I don’t know why I ever make plans. The plans I make always change - often morphing into something I never expected. I try to go with the flow. I’ll make occasional decisions about my life, but I’m always skeptical about my choices. There have been too many times that unexpected forces trump my decisions. But, that’s the way I like it.
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Be flexible. Be spontaneous. Just be.

Posted by Rhombus 10:09 Archived in USA Tagged trees nature photography michigan paths zen writing blogging Comments (0)

Who Am I?

In My Own Words...

all seasons in one day 70 °F

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I get around, you know? I'm a professional visitor, a homeless (is that a typo?) romantic, a voyageur of sorts, a guy who wonders what‘s around the next bend. I spend most of my time outside. I've yodeled under a glacier. I've walked around in a blizzard in Antarctica. This makes me sound cold, but I am not. I once took a spelling test which received two gold stars on it. But, so what? We’ve all done great things. I like creativity in action. I love pointless challenges. What makes you happy? Why aren’t you doing that? It’s all in the details. I'll probably skip the small talk. Keep in mind that i am not a serious person, though I can be sincere. I'll probably make you dinner at some point. My sense of humor is irrepressible. I've been known to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I am a work in progress. I'm not sure I belong here...

Given the opportunity, I’d rather whisper secrets to the trees than go through the motions. I like giving honey to injured bees. I like picking up trash and I never use bug spray. I’ve become a social creature. Who knew? The path of life takes interesting twists, doesn’t it? I’m not the same man I was three years ago. Can I tell you the truth? I’m enjoying writing this.

If you were to ask me how old I am, I won’t give you a straight answer. I tend to get a deeper look into humanity than most people. I think it’s the questions I ask. But people tell me things I would never ask about. I give strange advice.

If I stay awake for over 20 hours I develop amazing powers of concentration. If I drink during this time, I become chatty. I like to jump into really cold water, yet I am obsessed with hot springs.

One of the best conversations I’ve ever had was with a mountain man from Oregon. We talked about ghosts, living in the woods, heaven, beer, hamburgers, jobs and wandering.

My brother taught me at an early age to keep my mouth shut. Since then, I’ve been a safe harbor for gossip. I can’t remember everyday that I have lived, but sometimes I try. I think it might be possible. People tell me I look like a Viking. I tell them they look like themselves.

Balance is important to me. I’m not sure if its an obsession, or simply a way of life. My head empties with the sound of a gong. I like to tie knots. I have many talents. I’ve read many books. Ask me anything, I don’t mind. I eat out a lot, though I prefer to cook. I love the ritual of coffee, especially in the morning.

I have an accent but its hard to place. Do I interest you? Think about that. Where does that feeling come from? “It’s better to live a short life doing something you love than a long one doing things you hate.” Alan Watts said that. I say it too.

Did I tell you I feed birds from my hand? My niece is dying to know my secrets. Speaking of secrets, I’m only ticklish on the bottoms of my feet. Oops. Say that backwards. That might be my next tattoo.

My hearing isn’t so good. My eyesight is worse. I’ve never met anyone who is famous. I love graham crackers in milk. I write long emails. I like hard work. Give me your shittiest job, I’ll do it. What do I care? I’m here to help.

Life doesn’t follow my Illusions. I need to be right here, right now. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I see myself sitting on a park bench in Strassburg sharing an ice cream cone with you on a beautiful spring day. You can’t tell employers that though, can you? I think I might start…

Posted by Rhombus 12:31 Archived in USA Tagged me history photography philosophy vagabond writing Comments (0)

Southeast Alaska in June

Whales in the Night, Trees, The Devil's Thumb, and Returning to Tracy Arm.

overcast 60 °F

AN ALASKAN WELCOME
The Alaskan Inside Passage Welcoming Committee consisted of several pods of actively feeding humpback whales. In fact, we were surrounded by them. I counted ten, in three different pods. Humpbacks migrate to Alaska in the summer months to feed before returning to warmer southern waters to repopulate themselves. They don’t eat when down south (a fact I’m skeptical about) and to me it’s understandable that they might be a tad bit hungry by the time they get back to Alaska.

It was getting late, but in mid-June in Alaska, there is still enough light to see several hundred yards away. To the southwest the water was bright like polished silver. A smattering of stars were dully poking out through broken gray clouds, the islands were a black outline of fir trees and impassive mountains.

The whales were tail slapping the surface of the water in order to stun their food. They would then lunge through the collected ball of fish mash with their mouths agape breaking through the surface of the water to salute the stars before clamping their big mouths shut. Humpbacks are baleen whales which strain the fish from seawater using a baleen. A baleen runs lengthwise along the top of a humpbacks mouth in a long series of combs designed to catch the fish, but allow the seawater to pass through.

I watched this amazing behavior through the high powered bridge binoculars. As the whales broke through the surface with a giant mouth full of fish, I swore I saw them smile. Then they would quietly sink back into the water.

TREES
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We were sailing south through Glacier Bay National Park, and were exploring a small bay in hopes of seeing some wildlife. The sun was at a perfect height in the southwest to brilliantly highlight the foothill forest that surrounded the mountains. The deciduous trees have a healthy full coverage of leaves now, though their season is a lot shorter then other parts of the country. Summer has taken hold of Alaska. The forest was a good mix of brightly lit deciduous and very dark fir trees. The contrast between the light and the dark made both types of tree stand out.
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“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” ~Chinese Proverb

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“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.” ~Willa Cather, 1913

THE DEVIL’S THUMB

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This monolith was first climbed by Krakauer. It sits high above the small island community of Petersburg, and is seen best on brilliant blue sky days that happen occasionally here in the inside passage.

TRACY ARM

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Tracy Arm never disappoints. Today I saw two harbor seals lounging peacefully on an ice flow. They watched the boat, but sensed no harm in the dozen of us that were taking photographs.
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Look at the amazing layering and color of this glacial iceberg. This is a color found only in glacial ice and I find myself watching it for long periods of time. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to it, but it’s hypnotizing.
I wish my eyes were this color; I could get away with anything I wanted to.
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Posted by Rhombus 08:58 Archived in USA Tagged trees wildlife travel fjords whales ice alaska oceans glaciers photography foliage icebergs writing Comments (0)

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