Sunday, December 31, 2017

From the Photo Archives

Too cold to go exploring today. So I took the occasion to search my old photos and see what I could find that has been forgotten, overlooked or ignored over the past few years.  Here are a few I picked out. Not sure why these particular photos. They are just the ones that caught my immediate attention. I'm sure there's a reason. It might come to me, but in the meantime go ahead and take a look if you're so inclined. I hope you see something you like, or that conjures up a fond memory, or in some way makes you happy. That would make me happy, too.

 A Zen garden right in the heart of the city. Denver.

I don't remember where this was. I wonder what it was.

Red Rock Park near Las Vegas. Before the rain came.

Sedona, AZ. A study in shapes, lines and colors. 

Sunrise in the Black Hills. Or sunset. Could be either.

Black Hills greenery. 

We all hit one every so often. That's okay as long as something doesn't break. 

Happy New Year. I hope in 2018 we see more kindness, less madness, and better days for all of us. 

Roger O'Dea     12/31/2017




Monday, December 25, 2017

Straight on Spirit

I went to church yesterday.  The Agape Spiritual Center. I guess you could call it church, but it is not really one in the traditional sense of the word. This is what is printed on their information sheet... "We honor people of every age, color, creed, culture & lifestyle. Many Paths - One God!"

It is non-denominational. They prefer the term "Beyond Denominational." And so do I. It was a denominational church that led to my fall from grace many years ago. I was told by an elder of that church that I couldn't truly be close to God unless I could speak in tongues. I couldn't do that, and didn't understand why it mattered, so I left and never went back. And, other than a wedding or funeral and an occasional Christmas or Easter service, my church-going days were pretty much over. I didn't lose my faith. I just stopped going to any church professing a particular religion or affiliation. My church became nature. Still is.
But I missed the fellowship and community that I was once a part of. Some friends and acquaintances spoke very highly of ASC, so I had been thinking about a visit. Yesterday seemed like the right time.  It was the perfect time. The message by Rev. Vikki French was a very personal one. Several times it felt like she was speaking directly to me. And her comments really rang true about how we rarely remember the presents we received for Christmas in the past but do remember how we felt and who we were with.
I don't sing but I love music, and the music was so good! Very talented and inspired singers and players. There is also a part of the ceremony called "count your blessings" where during a song the music stops and people say out loud a blessing or something they are thankful for. Pretty cool idea. I didn't participate, but it was an excellent reminder of how we all are blessed in so many ways every day. Even when times are hard and nothing seems to be going right we should still stop once in a while and count our blessings.
I enjoyed my time there and felt welcome. I appreciate those who greeted me and helped me feel comfortable in an unfamiliar situation. I wish I would have had some personal contact with a few whom I recognized for one reason or another and with others who just seemed ...well...interesting. The type of people I love to have conversations with. But I plan on going back as time and Sunday activities allow, so I hope that will happen in my future visits. If you are in the Black Hills area and searching for some spiritual uplifting or fellowship, this might be a good place for you. Maybe I will see you there. We can count our blessings together. Even right out loud if the spirit moves you.

Roger O'Dea     Christmas Day / 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Life in Black and White (An Interactive Activity)

I've always enjoyed making black and white photographs. There's something in the light and shadows that makes them more real and timeless. Color certainly has it's place, but can also be distracting. There is a quote credited to Kim Hunter that describes my feelings about black and white photography as well as I ever could. She said, "...emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Color is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn't necessarily reach the heart."

The following pictures were taken on my recent trip to Northern California. I have many in color, but these are the ones I saw as black and white. It's the only way they would work, in my opinion.
So take a look. Consider my comments. Do you agree? Do you see what I see? What do you feel? Most importantly - what is your own personal interpretation of each? What story do they tell you? I do hope you'll feel something. It could be anything. That's the fun of it. And that's what art is really all about.          

 (click on photos to enlarge and open in a separate view)

Montaro Beach, late afternoon on Highway 1 between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. I took several color photos of this area, but only this one has the lone figure in the lower center left. Shows how insignificant we are compared to the majesty of nature.

Person sleeping in the plaza near Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco. I won't describe him as "homeless" because I don't know that for sure. Maybe there were other reasons he was there.

Two people huddled together sleeping on the street in the middle of the day. Quality gear, nice boots and sneakers. I am puzzled by this scene.

Riding a cable car through the streets of San Francisco at dusk. Urban scenes always look more real and raw in black and white. To me, anyway. In color you could easily miss the details in the architecture, and not notice the illuminations dimmed by the natural soft light of early evening.

A good example of how shadows and natural lighting can add an unexpected element. Enhanced by another lone figure sitting at the bus stop.

A study in perspective. And, doesn't the water actually look cold? Can you feel it?

Another one taken late afternoon as the fog was rolling in. Bodega Bay.

This is actually a record store in the Haight-Ashbury area. A little rundown with a storefront that needs a refresh. My eye was first drawn to the sign referencing Stanyan Street, familiar to me because of a poem by Rod McKuen.

This one makes me sad. She is rather well dressed and was obviously able to pay for a large meal at this fast food restaurant. I tried to make sure she wasn't in serious trouble. She raised her head, brushed me off and once again slumped face down into the plate. It was 8 a.m.  I didn't take any more photos that day. And that's where I'll end this photo essay. Thanks for watching. I hope you enjoyed the show. Be sure to tune in again soon for our next episode.

Roger O'Dea     11/25/2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

200 Miles and 500,000 Years

I almost didn't go. It would have been more responsible to stay home and pick up leaves. But it was a pretty nice day and I had been wanting to take a trip into the South Dakota Badlands all summer. There wouldn't be many more nice days before winter comes so I chose not be responsible and head south and a little east through Rapid City and the small town of Hermosa to the Red Shirt Table area. It was a long time ago when I last visited that part of the Badlands which I remembered as providing some rather spectacular views. I remembered correctly.

Geologists tell us that erosion formed these badlands around a half-million years ago, and that erosion will erase them over the next half-million years. I never get tired of the views, and continually wonder what's down there. I mean way down there, where there are no roads or trails and where it is very likely no human has ever walked. Probably dinosaur bones. Fossils of prehistoric sea creatures. Maybe even bits of meteorites. I would love to take a magnet into the depths of this landscape and drag it around for a while. I've done that around the Black Hills and even on well traveled trails have found old rusty square nails and magnetic pebbles and dirt. Who knows what lies in other-worldly landscapes like this? 
I know something that can be found around these parts if you take the time to find and sift through ant piles. Beads. Very old stone beads, newer glass beads, and modern day plastic beads. Ants seem to love them and apparently will carry them a long way back to their homes.

I found these searching in a pile just off the road. They are glass, and there were more. But the ants were getting mad at me for disturbing them, so I didn't dig deep or look for very long. Besides, I had more sites to see and discoveries to make. 
I backtracked to the town of Hermosa where I stopped long enough to take a picture of a sign for a drive-in theatre. It's nice to know there's still one around.

From there it was a short drive into the Black Hills toward the town of Keystone. On the way I spied an unfamiliar and unmarked trail off the main highway that looked like it had not seen much use, which was a good reason for me to pull over and do a little exploring. Turns out it was a good decision. Not far up the trail I came upon an old abandoned structure which may have been a mica mine years ago. I suspected mica because there was an abundance of the mineral all around the area. 

This was not my best discovery of the day, however. That came a short time later farther up the trail. Pink quartz! I can find white or clear quartz in many of my favorite places, but have had very little success in finding the more desirable pink version of the crystal. But here it was in various sizes just scattered on the ground and sticking out of the side of the hill. I gathered up a few pieces, marked the location, and now can't wait to go back and collect more. I don't do anything with it, just like to have it around the house and yard. It's a good source of positive and healing energy.

The entire round trip totaled about 200 miles. Not a lot when considering how much I enjoyed the day. It's a trip I'll make again. Most likely not until next spring. But it will give me something to think about and look forward to during these long winter days and nights which will be closing in on us soon. Too soon. 

Roger O'Dea     10/22/2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Aliens Out West...and More Saturday Adventures

It was something I had been looking forward to since I first heard about it a couple of months ago. The First Annual Devils Tower UFO Rendezvous. Speakers, workshops, even a barbeque cookoff. None of those things held much interest to me. It was the parade I was excited about. The day finally came, so I packed up my cameras and headed out. It was not a very nice day. Rainy and cool. But the parade went on as scheduled, although I believe the turnout was smaller because of the weather conditions. But it was fun. The entries that showed up seemed to be into it. And the scattered spectators along the parade route appeared to be enjoying themselves.

However, after careful consideration, I'm convinced the "aliens" were just humans in costume. Most of them anyway, although I'm still not quite sure about this guy -

After visiting with some members of Star Fleet Command, a man in black, and a girl in a giraffe costume, I packed up my gear and took to the road looking for other things that might catch my eye.
I didn't have to go far before enjoying the visual treat that was this scene - 
It really is beautiful country around that part of Wyoming...during all seasons and any time of year. A little farther on down the road I noticed a turnout that I thought could lead to some photo opps, so I parked and hiked a short distance in to this perfect place to be on an early autumn day -

And then there was this -

I'm surprised there is so much color this early. But it has been a strange year. My pepper plants have new growth on them. It's mid-September! My giant pumpkin is big, but not giant. And the butterflies!

Early fall also brings out the small town harvest festivals and farmers markets. I accidentally wandered into such an event in Belle Fourche. (Spearfish is next weekend.) Basically, I was lured in by the food truck parked on the street. I do like food served out of a truck. And they had walking tacos! My newest favorite thing. So I ordered one. It was okay, but it cost $5.00 and was not even close to being as good as the one I had recently at the Unity Concert for only $3.00. I also bought some delicious locally grown and canned pickles, and enjoyed some wonderful music in the park - 

All in all, another pretty good day. And I'm looking forward to a few more adventures before winter sets in. Not a fan of winter. I know we need a certain amount of snowfall, and for that to happen it must get cold. That's how things work around here...whether I like it or not. I might make more of an effort to get out and find some things to do this winter. It could help the time pass more quickly until spring comes. Otherwise, it's going to be a long six months. 

Roger O'Dea     9/19/2017


Monday, August 14, 2017

Maybe I'll See You There

"So maybe I'll see you there. We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares
And go downtown. Things'll be great when you're
Downtown. Don't wait a minute for
Downtown. Everything's waiting for you."

You've probably heard the 1964 hit song by Petula Clark, or at least clips of it somewhere at some time. It comes to mind for me often when I go downtown. Particularly downtown Rapid City. It's a little bit of an urban feel. As much of an urban feeling as you can get in a relatively small town. I like it. That may sound a little strange coming from someone who enjoys being in nature so much, but I've always felt a certain draw toward city streets. I don't know if "everything's" waiting for me, but there is a lot. I like that it's a little different each time I visit, and I always run into different characters of some sort. One of my favorite places was Art Alley...until a year or so ago when messages like this started appearing -

I really wasn't surprised. Tagging and graffiti were overwhelming any actual art that was there. I know some will say that graffiti is art. I won't argue that. But it was starting to be like weeds. Weeds are plants, too, but they are not so attractive when they take over your garden. It was no longer a fair sharing of space, so the property owners shut it down. That is their right and I guess I really don't blame them.

The good news is, though, that the alley is showing some signs of resurgence. And, speaking of gardens, this was an encouraging site during my most recent visit -

Pretty impressive for being tucked in an alley surrounded by concrete and brick.

There was some actual work being done on a wall. Perhaps not a work of art by most standards, but I think I know where they were going with the message, and at least it is something fresh.

I also encountered a pretty cool "auntie" with a couple of pretty cute kids in tow (although one was either a little camera shy or noticed something much more interesting on that wall).

And there is always a splendid view to be found...if you look close enough. Including some interesting abstracts and angles, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

So maybe there's some hope for an Art Alley rally. A comeback of sorts. Even if it doesn't come back all the way. And if wandering around in alley is not your thing, I will suggest a short walk around the corner to one of the best little used bookstores you'll ever find. Just take a look at how their windows were decorated on Sunday -

Somebody spent a lot of time and did a lot of work to make this such an appealing display. Especially since it's not a franchise or major brand store and probably doesn't employ master window dressers and designers. I really appreciate the effort. It's called Again Books and Bazaar. I've dug up some pretty good treasure there. You should check it out next time you go ..... Downtown. 

Roger O'Dea        8/14/2017


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lost and Found

I was disappointed to find out that a map to my favorite secret place in the Black Hills has been published. It's not a good map. Kind of vague and not very detailed. But, combined with many social media references, as well as some well worn paths, the Poet's Table is not much of a secret any more.

That "leaning birch tree" mentioned in the directions is obviously an outdated reference. Here is what's left of it -

I do remember when it was a significant landmark. Not so much these days.

The pictures I have seen lately show the actual table completely carved up with names and initials of visitors to this unique and contemplative place. So I decided to make another trek up there to see for myself how bad it is. It's bad. Not only is the table itself in terrible condition, so is the cabinet containing all sorts of writings, books, trinkets and various forms of art and personal expression. One of the chairs is broken. The rock walls all around have also been scarred and covered with names. Why? What is it that causes so many people, including Alan, Kip, Paige, Max and Willie G to feel a desire to do such damage? Is it some misguided attempt at immortality? A need to feed the ego? Underlying tendencies toward creating mischief? Whatever the temptations may be, there certainly are a lot of people giving in.

The hike up there still provides many visual delights. Unusual and interesting rock formations -

Twisted and odd shaped trees and remains of trees -

 I always take the long way when I go up. It takes me to this well hidden place about 400 feet away (as the crow flies) from the Poet's Table location but invisible from any trail -

Judging from it's mostly pristine condition, I don't think many people know about it. Yet. Great views. Quiet. A good spot to just be still.

Overall I was slightly disappointed with my recent visit to the Poet's Table. Something has been lost. It could be simply that the mystery is not as deep as before since it has become so well known. And seeing the graffiti and damage was discouraging. But, the day was saved by two was the arrival of two hikers who just seemed happy to be there. Especially the little guy. He couldn't wait to put pen to paper and begin writing. I kind of wish I would have stayed to see what he wrote. 

I do get some enjoyment out of seeing others I encounter here and on the trail smiling and enjoying these Black Hills that I love so much. 
The other positive event was when I found a simple painting buried beneath a pile of random pages. A watercolor that I felt came truly from the heart of the artist. If people can be so inspired by this place, then who am I to complain about its physical appearance?

So, as with life in general...usually when something is lost, something is found. It's a balance. And I guess all we can do is try to maintain that balance, make art in whatever form suits you, take care of each other, do good work and enjoy nature. Wherever and however we find it.

Roger O'Dea     7/13/2017

Sunday, April 30, 2017


"In schools we keep teaching that history is divided into American history and Chinese history and Russian history and Australian history....we're teaching kids that they are divided into tribes. We're failing to teach them that we also, as human beings, share problems that we need to work on together."   David Christian
No man is an island…
"But without a tribe, that’s exactly what you are: a loner, a rebel. Not a pioneer, a vagrant. As poetic as it may seem to go it alone, you need people to help you accomplish your vision (whatever it may be)."  Seth Godin

So which is it? Tribe or no tribe? I've been thinking about that lately. Maybe because the word seems to be popping up more often. Not in relation to Native American tribes in this country, or African tribes, or primitive tribes in the Amazon, but tribes as defined by the writer Jeff Goins -
"...existing groups of people formed around very specific interests and passions."
As examples he listed Vegans, J.K. Rowling readers and the Southern Baptist Convention. You get the idea. I've even used the word myself, in the context of talking about like minded people I have as friends or that I get to hang out with once in a while and that I wish were my friends. I am also wondering if you can be part of and have allegiance to more than one tribe.
I like being around people like this -

 And also these guys -


Can I be part of both? Can being in a tribe (or tribes) cut me off from others? Or cause me to give up on people who are not part of my tribe? 
I guess it probably comes down to whether or not you only associate with others in your same tribe. That would not be a good thing. You would be too sheltered, and possibly lured into a false sense of security, never being confronted with a reality check. If everyone around you thinks and acts and even looks like you, there are no challenges to be met. We all need to be challenged occasionally. 
The other side is that without a tribe to call your own, will you feel like an outcast and alone to make your own way without regard for the welfare of others? I've known people like that, too. The ones who say, "Leave me alone. I don't need anybody. I'm fine on my own." That's as sad as someone taking refuge within a tribe, under their protection, and never venturing beyond those boundaries. I don't know the answer, or even if there actually is an answer. And, if there is an answer to these questions, it is most likely different for each individual asking. 

It's kind of funny (frustrating? ironic?) that even after all this talk about tribes, I'm still not sure how to measure their value. I'm not even sure I'm actually a part of one. Maybe I'm that one mentioned above...the loner, the rebel. Yeah, that's me. The bad boy rebel loner. Right. Well, I do have a leather jacket and a motorcycle. And I do value my alone time. However, I wouldn't last very long without what I consider my tribe. It's small, but it's awesome. New members are always welcome. No application required and there's no initiation fee. Feel free to join up. Anywhere. Any time. 

Roger O'Dea     4/30/2017