Serene sunsets and self-reflection in Southern California

Who doesn’t love a gorgeous sunset? While nothing compares to seeing one in person, these photos of Southern California sunsets by Nick Chill are just as good, if not better, than viewing a setting sun with your own eyes. According to Chill, the trick is getting away from the developed coastline and clean, sandy beaches.

“You can still find high cliffs, rocky surf, and other beautifully natural settings from which to view the warm Pacific sunsets,” he explains in an interview. “Another challenge to photographing sunsets in Southern California is the inherent lack of clouds. While this is a dream for tourists, photographers aren’t so enthusiastic about a clear sky. Clear blue skies tend to make for less dramatic images.”

While most people can agree sunsets make for moving moments, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly why this is.

For Chill, it is a magical time of day. “As the sun gets low in the sky, it casts a warm light over the land that seems to make everything beautiful. It’s sometimes hard to see the beauty of life when you are toiling away, at work or at home, but the magical light of sunrise and sunset is always there to remind us that life is beautiful. To watch the sun set over the horizon reminds me of the impermanence of life. It’s really a very spiritual, self-reflective experience for me, and I do my best to try and share that experience with the viewers of my work.”

To get a better idea of what he means, check out the gallery below.


Rome’s Vatican Museums host rare Aboriginal art exhibition

No one can ever accuse the Vatican of acting impulsively. In 1925, over 300 artworks and relics were sent to Rome by Aboriginal Australians, for a papal show. Since that time, the items have been squirreled away, despite being one of the world’s finest collections of Aboriginal art and artifacts, according to a recent New York Times article.

Fortunately, these treasures are now on public display, thanks in part to Missionary Ethnological Museum curator Father Nicola Mapelli. Last summer, Mapelli flew to Australia and visited Aboriginal communities to request permission to display the collection. His objective was to “reconnect with a living culture, not to create a museum of dead objects.” His goal is accomplished in the exhibition, “Rituals of Life,” which is focused on northern and Western Australian art from the turn of the 20th century. Despite the fairly contemporary theme of the exhibition, Aboriginal culture is the oldest surviving culture on earth, dating back for what is believed to be over 60,000 years.

The items include ochre paintings done on slate, objects and tools used for hunting, fishing, and gathering, a didgeridoo, and carved funeral poles of a type still used by Tiwi Islanders for pukamani ceremonies. The collection also includes items from Oceania, including Papua New Guinea and Easter Island (Rapa Nui).

The collection was originally sent to Rome because it represents the spiritual meaning everyday objects possess in Aboriginal culture (each clan, or group, believes in different dieties that are usually depicted in a tangible form, such as plants or animals). The items were housed, along with other indigenous artifacts from all over the world, and stored at the Missionary Ethnological Museum, which is part of the Vatican Museums.

“Rituals of Life” is the first exhibition following extensive building renovations and art restoration. The museum will continue to reopen in stages, with the Aboriginal art on display through December, 2011.

For an exhibition audio transcript, image gallery, and video feature from ABC Radio National’s “Encounter,” click here. The Australian series “explores the connections between religion and life.”

[Photo credit: Flickr user testpatern]

Travel the goddess trail with Sacred Places of the Goddesses

For those in search of that little extra umph when they travel–the something more that connects them to self or something bigger than they are, sacred place travel can offer a sense of purpose. Traveling with a contemplative eye can move one deeper into an experience.

Here is a book that offers up sacred places to visit with a twist. In Sacred Places of Goddess, 108 Destinations, author Karen Tate, presents the history of goddess worship, the role of the Divine Feminine around the world, the significance of each particular goddess, and how do you get to the places where you can experience their influence. This is part travel guide, part history lesson, part cultural analysis, –and more. Much more.

Whether it’s a sacred, spiritual boost you’re after, or just an unusual way to look at the places you are wandering though, here’s a book to consider.

Tate’s book caught my eye when I was wandering around the West Hollywood Book Festival last September. With spiritual travel showing up on the radar lately, I wanted to point this one out as a fascinating read that presents sites and information you may not come across otherwise.

Divided into sections by continents and countries, the book delves into the archaeological, sociological and historical significance of particular places and their goddess connection. Sites include: grottoes, churches, temples, ruins, particular statues or artwork of note.

Remember Hera, Aphrodite, Athena, Persephone? You’ll hook up with them in Greece. Hera’s Temple, for example, is in the town of Pythagorian. Tate tells you how to get to these goddess oriented spots, as well as, what it’s like to go there.

“As one travels over the blue-green sea from Mykonos toward Delos, the gentle rocking of the boat and the island ahead growing ever closer becomes a trance-like journey taking visitors from the mundane world into the sacred.”

Delos, Tate points out, is referred to in Homer’s, The Odyssey, and is thought to be where Apollo and Artemis were born when Leto, their mother, was hiding from Hera, Zeus’s wife. On Delos, you’ll find a statue of the Greek goddess Isis, in addition to many temples that honor other goddesses.

If Ireland or Italy are in your future, you can also connect with Isis there. In Egypt, visiting Isis sites is a given.

Tate’s book connects the sacred places through their goddess similarities to make clear the relationship these places have with each other. No matter which section of the world you are traveling, there’s a goddess along the path.

Places include the well known to the obscure. For anyone with a hankering to go off the beaten track, here’s an option.

Throughout the book, photos, drawings and maps highlight particular places and artifacts. Tate also offers suggestions on how to maximize sacred place travel experiences and offers her thoughts about how these places fit into the framework of modern times. The current day perceptions towards women are woven throughout. In Tate’s’ view, history has an influence over the present.

For armchair travelers, or anyone interested in delving further into the subject of the goddess–whether from a historical, cultural or spiritual perspective, Sacred Places of Goddess is a read guaranteed to teach you a few things you probably didn’t know.

For travelers, “It’s enough to amplify the spiritual wanderlust of even the most ardent sojourner.” –Yoga Journal.

Check out this write-up in The Goddess Pages for an in depth review.

Look for a “Talking Travel with Karen Tate” post in the near future.

Jesus travel: Eating in the land of milk and honey

Right after I posted about the Jesus Trail in Israel that meanders for 40 miles through the land where Jesus walked, I received my daily missive from Intelligent Travel. There was the post “What would Jesus eat?” Now, that’s a pairing combo–eating and walking.

Travel writer, Andrew Evans just returned from Israel armed with details on food that have a biblical basis. While you’re walking along the path that Jesus might have wandered, pop into the eateries he suggests and you’ll have some mighty fine meals.

Evans tells which restaurants serve what and gives a bit of a background history of some of the foods, many that date back to the time of Jesus or earlier.

Eucalyptus is in Jerusalem and Muscat Restaunt and The Organic Kitchen are at the Mizpe Hayamim Health Resort overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Here are some of the foods Evans mentions eating, although some of them are from markets he visited along the way:

  • yellow lentil soup with hyssop
  • lamb braised with pomegranate
  • tilapia with lemon butter sauce and baked vegetables
  • sage tea (thought to cure jet lag)
  • pumpkin-filled Bukharian pastry
  • pickled green almonds,
  • black Persian lemons
  • Yemeni yogurt balls
  • bread sprinkled with olive oil and herbs

The Jesus Trail

Here is a bit of low impact tourism that can provide you with some exercise, a history lesson–and a walk similar to one that Jesus might have made.

Instead of hopping on a bus to be taken to certain holy sites to see places where Jesus did his ministry, there is a walking option.

This go-at-you-own-pace trip is along a 40-mile path that brings you to sites like: Nazareth where Jesus grew up as a boy; the Arab village of Kana–where Jesus turned water into wine; the sea of Galilee, Mount of Beatitudes where it is thought Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount; and to the location where it’s said that Jesus turned two fish and five loaves of bread into enough food for the multitudes.

There are sites important to Islam as well.

According to Laurie Copans who took the trip, it has appeal, partly because of the interactive quality. Listening to birds, feeling the breeze, and experiencing the topography adds meditative and reflective elements to the travle experience.

As one of the people interviewed for the article said, “The more intimate you become with the land, the more intimate the land becomes to you–the smells, the feel, the hills.”

The tricky aspect of this trail is that it’s not marked. Here are your options for doing the trip without getting lost.

  • Hire a tour guide
  • Download a Global Positioning System that coordinates with, or
  • Pick up a Map–but with the trail not marked, I say hire a tour guide.

For more details and contact information about how to follow the Jesus Trail, read Copan’s article. The photo is of Galilee from Mount Beatitudes by hoysameg on Flickr.