“Share Peace” is the 2014 theme for the Hongwanji temples of Hawai’i. A few months ago there was a photo/art contest for the upcoming 2014 calendar put out by Honpa Hongwanji. The contest asked, “Can you picture peace?” I thought long and hard about the different ways that peace can be manifested, and in the end decided to illustrate a path to finding peace within.
Inner peace is an essential component in being able to share peace with others. When you have peace in your heart, it radiates outward. The Nembutsu can not only lead to inner peace through entrusting Amida Buddha, but can also inspire compassion to share with others. The Japanese characters radiating outward are 南無阿弥陀仏 Namo Amida Butsu – mindfulness of Amida Buddha.
Hawai’i is the first state in the US to officially recognize Peace Day (September 21st, same as the United Nations International Peace Day). Peace starts as an idea, powerful enough to transcend all boundaries. A day when people of all backgrounds can come together to share their dreams of peace is very powerful. There are many roads to peace, but they all start with what you choose to share with others.
Seek the horizon
Never knowing what’s beyond
Explore a new shore
When leaving the familiar
What wonders you’ll find
As your travels grow
You’ll grow as a person too
Expanding your mind
Tourists rush around
Well beaten path tourist spots
Not meeting locals
Travelers stick around
Get to know the real place
See the unique
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Yet pumpkin carving is an art that I really should dabble in more often. It’s lots of fun, and with the right tools, not too difficult.
I picked this pumpkin at a local farm (yes there are pumpkin farms in Hawai’i). The weather was perfect, and it was fun to stroll through the rows of sunflowers, corn, green beans, and pumpkins. A friend and I each carved our own pumpkin. I was surprised at how easily the tools from the pumpkin carving kit sliced through the pumpkin – much easier than the knives I used to use growing up. It makes me want to create an even more intricate design for next year.
How did I get inspiration for an Amida Buddha pumpkin? It just popped into my head. Hardly traditional Halloween decor. But just as Jack-o-lanterns light pathways, the Buddha also illuminates a path. On this night celebrating the connection between this world and the next, it is a reminder that not everything on the other side is scary.
One year ago, I started posting on seasreflectingstarlight.com!
It’s hard to believe that it was really that long ago! The time has gone fast! I’ve had visits from people in 61 countries, and gained over 100 followers. All of you are wonderful, and I appreciate your support and friendship!
To celebrate (and say thank you) I have two specials this weekend:
Thousands of origami paper birds soar above my head, white and red. They lift my eyes upwards towards the cascading ceiling. So simple, and yet so elegant. I can’t help but smile. I enjoy origami, and started learning it when I was 9. Although I can make cranes in my sleep, I haven’t ever made anything quite like these elegant birds. Generally the instructions I’ve found to make origami swallows haven’t quite been this variation, but that goes to show the diversity within origami. Everyone has their own style.
This illustrated guide is probably the closest to recreating the swallows in my photo. I also came across a video version of a different model (in Japanese, but you can follow along easily even if you can’t speak Japanese):
From high on Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island, there is a spectacular view of the city below. The nearby skyscrapers seem surprisingly striking for this cloudy April day. On the other side of the harbor, shapes on the Kowloon peninsula fade in and out of the midday mists. The faint outline of the mountains looms in the distance.
Hong Kong Harbor can feel bustling, yet peaceful, depending on where you are. Generally I’m not a big fan of huge cities, but I like Hong Kong. It really is a place that has something for everyone. The city itself has everything you can imagine, and when you want to get away, town and rural areas are only a short metro, ferry, or bus ride away. It is also ridiculously easy to navigate. Hong Kong gets points for having one of the best airports and metro systems I’ve ever seen. My first time ever traveling alone was in Hong Kong, and it didn’t take me long to get comfortable exploring the city.
Hibiscus flowers are some of the most popular flowers here in Hawai’i, and one of the most iconic. I’m no plant expert, but I think that this is the species Hibiscus rosa-sinensis which is native to East Asia but now very common in Hawai’i. However, there are also many Hibiscus varieties that are native to Hawai’i in a full rainbow of colors. And yes – tourist and local women alike occasionally tuck a blossom behind our ear (although it can be hard to get them to stay!)
This is a digital oil painting I did inspired by one of my photos. I painted it in Photoshop using digital brushes designed to simulate real oil-painting brushes on a canvas texture.
Upon arriving in Luang Prabang, Laos, I heard of a great hill from which to watch the sunset. Customs took awhile, and I reached the bottom of the hill with only about 15 minutes left until sunset. Still rather motion sick from the propeller plane I came in on, I hiked up the mountain as fast as I could, worried that I would miss the sunset. The hill was deceptively tall and long, so each time I thought the end was in sight, I discovered more stairs just around the bend. Although exhausted by the end, I somehow made it to the top of the “hill” in time to watch what turned out to be a very golden sunset. The beautiful mountains in the distance and the winding Mekong River made for a very peaceful setting. It was a rush climbing up there, but in the end it was worth it.
Other photos taken during Golden Hours (sunrise or sunset):
This photo is (a slightly belated) part of a weekly travel themed photo contest Travel theme: Motion! – my entries for other weeks can be found here.
When the Japanese holiday of Obon came to Hawai’i, it expanded into a whole season. There is a different Obon Dance every weekend all summer here, hosted by temples all over the islands. This photo was taken at the 2013 Bon Dance at the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin temple in Honolulu. While the many dancers encircled around wearing kimonos, happi coats, and street clothes, I tried to capture a sense of their movement by experimenting with different exposure times and camera angles. The variety of different kinds of traditional bon dances (and even a few modern ones) amidst a live musical performance is one of the many highlights of Obon season.
Special companions are those who stay with us, even when we can’t be physically together. The bond that connects us is something that can transcend distance, and even the cycle of life and death.
At the Lantern Floating Festival in Honolulu on Memorial Day 2013, this little girl carries a lantern down to the water to release into the ocean. The lantern is in loving memory of someone close to her who has passed on, but it is also in honor of the special connection that the two of them have.