Peacock feather portrait

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Impermanence

April 27, 2012

Monks at work on the Mandala

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The Tibetan Monks from The Drepung Loseling Monastery returned to complete another mandala and, as before, it was quite an experience to watch.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Closeup of Mandala

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Monks at work on the Mandala

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Monk working on Mandala

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Several days are used to build the Mandala and when complete, it has height, width, and depth.  Very impressive.  When finished, it is swept away in a closing ceremony that takes a relative few minutes.  The goal is to teach the nature of impermanence-that nothing is meant to last.

Life certainly presents contrasts.  Yesterday, Terry Gross interviewed Edward Humes about his book Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, and he closed the interview by saying something like “We make temporary products out of material that lasts forever.” That is certainly true:  the plastics we use stay in landfills and float in the ocean for the better part of forever. Normally it would be in my nature to include some photographs of trash to illustrate that point.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

However, today I prefer to think about the peace that can be found with the message from the Monks.

Take care.

Makoska (Badlands)

April 22, 2012

Close-up of Badlands National Park scrub brush

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The first full day of the recent Alternative Spring Break trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation was mostly spent on a hike into the South Unit of the Badlands.  The U.S. government established a National Monument here in 1939, which was redesignated a national park in 1978.  The Oglala Tribal Council has made an effort to have the Tribe manage the South Unit, a proposal under consideration by the NPS (please scroll to page 8 of the brochure for this information.)  It certainly is beautiful in its austerity and expanse.  It was 88 degrees and sunny that day, so it was quite hot and dusty.  This was magnified by the lack of rain recently and any meaningful amount of snow this past winter.

Cracked ground in the Badlands

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There were about 50 people in residence and so we boarded a school bus for the trip to the Park.  As we turned and drove down the entrance road, I could not shake the feeling that we were trespassing.

Walking into the Badlands

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The feeling became more insistent the further we walked into the park.  I made a conscious effort to drive it into my unconscious (the term for this is “suppression”), but the sensation kept needling the back of my brain.  I eventually hiked out and awaited the return of the rest of the group.  It was quite an eerie experience being there.

I have read a bit about Native American history but had not really investigated the background of this section of the Badlands-and having not done so was a mistake. During that night’s discussion, guest speaker Mr. Inila Wakan shed some light on what was most likely the root cause of my ill will.

Badlands National Park interior

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Mr. Wakan made several points about the Badlands-one was of semantics.  He reported that the Lakota revered the Earth, and so would never put the word “bad” together with anything to do with the land.  Interestingly, the National Park Service website for Badlands National Park states that the Lakota “…were the first to call this place “mako sika” or “land bad””.  Mr. Wakan said the Lakota referred to this area as “Makoska”, which translates as “White Wilderness”.  It certainly seemed to be just that.  As a means of illustrating this point, find my copyright information in these photographs.  (Hint:  it is in the lower left corner of each photograph.  The text is white and at 100% opacity  and is virtually invisible in all but the photograph of the trailer below.)  Difficult to read due to the lack of contrast between land and text, eh?

The "White Wilderness"

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Mr. Wakan later pointed out that during that 1940’s, the decision was made to use the Badlands as a bombing range so as to provide practice for the pilots fighting WW II (this continued through the Viet Nam era).  As “The Badlands Gunnery Range” (the “bombing range” link just above) states, 125  families were moved as a safety measure.  Mr. Wakan indicated that 890 Lakota family plots were condemned by the Department of Defense and that the people living there were given 10 days in which to move.   At the end of the time allotted for leaving, their houses were used for target practice.  Any remaining wildlife was used as target practice also, according to Mr. Wakan.

Those who were displaced were eventually housed in trailers throughout the Reservation.  (Note:  I do not know if those living in the trailer pictured here are associated with this relocation.)  Mr. Wakan made a direct link to the poverty and desolation experienced by the now 12,000 descendants of those forced to move from their homes.  While the Lakota do not believe in “owning” the land, those who did live there and their family members would appear to have a much stronger historic right to manage the South Unit as they deem appropriate.  Most certainly it is not my land to drive into and walk upon as I pleased.

And so it makes sense that I felt as if I were trespassing upon entering the Makoska section of Pine Ridge.  I was.

Take care.

Light and Space

April 21, 2012

Green gate opening to the prairie

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

At the beginning of Apocalypse Now, as Francis Ford Coppola is introducing his characters, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) says that Mr. Clean (Laurence Fishburne)”…was from some south Bronx s***hole and I think the light and space of Viet Nam really put the zap on his head.”

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That statement about the Bronx is, of course, harsh, but nonetheless could be descriptive of many areas of America’s cities.  Baltimore, Maryland is no exception; however, I have chosen a “non-holish” area near the Inner Harbour to illustrate a point.  No one would ever confuse the downtown sections of most cities as being characterized by “light and space” due to the built environment.  All of the structures simply encroach on those very qualities, leaving a distinct feeling of being boxed in-no matter how beautiful they might be.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Such is not the case out in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota; light and space is exactly what can be found.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And, yes, it does put the “zap” on one’s head.  It is quite pleasant, though, and a relief from the chaos of the inner city.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This openness brings truth to the saying that storms can be seen miles away due to the open prairie.  That puts a completely different zap on the head.

Take care.