I shot this portrait on the full moon November 12th, with the theme of vulnerability and exposure, blending in to the flesh colored sandstone, becoming one of the rocks in the landscape that has become so much a part of my soul.
Over the past year I have felt more vulnerable than ever. Living 4000 miles above sea level in the high desert-like region of the Tecate Divide just a few miles north of Mexico in an Intentional community known as Liberty Arising. I was exposed to new experiences, forced to break patterns, leave my comfort zone, experience loss, experience gratitude, grew spiritually, changing my definition of economy by exchanging work for my living and food, and explored new ways of living outside a city 40 miles from the nearest town with a grocery store. I completed a full Cycle here - experiencing snow, heavy rains, regular 40-60 mile per hour winds, colorful super blooms, scorching heat which brought all sorts of creatures out, and gorgeous fall days filled with fields of sage green, reds, and browns. Overall my vibration matched that of the inhabitants of this region - survivalists, endurers of extreme change where my definition of comfort was consistently challenged.
After arriving on the land last November, this spot was discovered on top of one of the rocky hills nearby, it's been known as Bear Rock. The area is like a sculpture garden made of sandstone, carved away by time, the prevailing gusty winds and occasion heavy monsoon like rains. It’s here, 3 weeks after arriving that I shifted my perspective, perched on these rocks, feeling welcomed by the landscape in awe of its beauty.
I leave this land in less than a month, set for Colorado. I wanted to find a way to express that so I chose photography which is not my normal medium. Hours before this hike, by coincidence or perhaps not, my mother messaged me saying it was my Great Grandfathers 50th anniversary of his death. He was among the first aerial photographers during WW1 gaining crucial information from the skies. Proceeding the war he became a portrait photographer in Baltimore City with my Great Grandmother. This shot I took, in photography terms is also known as a “long exposure.”
The air was unusually still on that tuesday evening, coyotes howled all around, and the landscape looking out into Mexico was gleaming in the surreal moonlight. The energy of the night was profound, renewing.
The poetic life of a 5,000 year old tree.
A cataclysmic event thousands of years ago pushed an ocean floor ten thousand feet high above sea level leaving behind an infertile, alkaline and dolomite soil that looks similar to snow, giving the White Mountains of Eastern California their name. This infertile soil, unfavorable to most, became the ideal place for a forest of ancient Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees living with little competition for thousands of years, seemingly succeeding in immortality.
Around the time the first dynasty of Egypt began building the pyramids, on the opposite side of the globe, a small tree began sprouting on a mountain top in eastern California. Alive with a vibration, it moved nutrients from root to leaf, leaf to root, like a pumping heart. This small sprouted tree was not alone, it’s already amongst elders in a forest thousands of years old, being fed nutrients through an ancient network of mycelium. This little tree grew for 5,061 years to become the oldest being of the forest, currently the oldest organism on earth. I was fortunate our paths crossed on a day in September in 2019, as it received my exhaled CO2 and gifted me back a clean breath of oxygen enhanced with insight.
A walk through the Methuselah Grove in the ancient Great Basin Bristlecone Pine Forest is like walking through a sculpture garden. Only the several thousand year old sculptures here are not formed by human hands, but a mixture of extreme elements. Wind, snow, and infertle soil cause these trees to twist and screw, stunt their growth, and kill parts of themselves off, creating their sculptural, tightly knit hardwood, that fire can barely scorch. Fully adapted to extremes, the main threat these trees face is a black fungus that rots their “heart”, or core, like a dark energy. Once the trees die and fall to the forest floor, they remain upwards of 11,000 years, bleached by time, they resemble bones. In the ravines throughout the forest, thousands of pine cones gather like a river. These seeds hold the genetic information to grow for thousands of years, to survive against the odds, to one day become a 5,000 year old tree, to continue the cycle of this seemingly immortal forest.
The quiet observations within the grove of the Great Basin Bristlecone Pines was a humbling lesson in growth, endurace, strength, grief, and the natural intelligence of our planet to provide lasting life.
To grow in an environment that is unfavored by others.
To endure the discomfort of extreme conditions.
To strengthen your inside, to ward off the fire from the outside.
To allow a piece of you to die so that you can continue to grow.
To witness death from an empty heart.
To live long enough to share your wisdom with others.
To leave your seeds to continue your legacy.
To be you or me.
To be a 5,000 year old tree.