Today's Treasures

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About Me


Hi there and welcome! I'm a San Francisco photographer armed with a Nikon and a case of wanderlust. When I lost my job, I decided to embark on a journey, both literally and reflectively, to capture what people treasure most in life. Read more about my story here...


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What We Treasure in India: My Goat  

A warm and fuzzy post to start the work week. Learn more about my stop to a small village in Rajasthan, India. Read more here...

New photos of India have been added to the photo gallery. Click here to experience what I consider to be one of the most stunning landscape in the word!



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What We Treasure in Iceland: Forces of Nature

I was ready to fire my GPS. The roundabouts were confusing it as much as they were confusing me. "Recalculating." The dreaded word. I felt I had "recalculated" enough these past few weeks: work, locations, recalculating my body to an eight-hour time difference. Was there anything left to recalculate?  

And yet, my trip to Krysuvik was taking a recalculated turn for the worse. Krysuvik, as I had been told, is a land of hot springs, volcanic ash and yes, hidden people that live in the rocks. I had been guided there by the gregarious clairvoyant Sigga, whose voice message greets you with the sound of the hidden people cheerfully chanting, "ha, ha ha, ho, ho, ho!" I imagined these people like the seven dwarfs, heading off to work they go...

Sigga channeling the power of the skyThe hidden people, or Huldufolk, as they are referred to, have origins traceable to Adam and Eve. According to Icelandic folklore, God made a visit to Adam and Eve. While Eve washed most her children, some remained unwashed and she hid these from God. When God asked about these children, she lied. As a result, God declared that what man hides from God, God will hide from man. And thus, the hidden children became the hidden people who make their homes in Iceland's rock formations and supposedly share their magic and messages if we listen.

As we talked over tea, Sigga picked up on my nervousness about my trip and suggested I go to the rocks and listen. "Go to the Mother Earth, lie on the stones, give her your problems," she advised, "Respect the Mother, love the Mother, and she will love you." 

Sigga should know, she's been in touch with Mother Earth all her life. She grew up on a farm in the countryside near Snaefell Glacier, without television. During the long winters, where four hours of daylight was not unusual, she found inspiration in the natural world around her. Cold January nights were spent huddled by the fire with family, telling fortunes, reading tea leaves and deciphering the messages of the native stones. She shares this knowledge with a deck of cards she created called, "Cards of Fortune, with Icelandic Stones." According to her cards, anyone can consult the stones for guidance and each stone has a special energy to support us. 

I flipped through the beautifully illustrated cards. Jaspis promotes forgiveness. Amethyst gives you peace of mind. Kalsit offers passion! Where do I find Kalsit? 

"How do you know what energies the stones possess?" I asked.

"Hold the stone in your hand and it will reveal it's energy," she said nonchalantly, as if this comes naturally for everyone, "it can be different for different people." 

I told her these stones are very expensive if you buy them in California. She shot me a look before asking, "You don't go into nature and choose them yourself?" Good question. I guess we don't do that anymore. We go into a shop and fork out $20 for a crystal. However, I had to chuckle at the thought of Sigga, in her neon pink dress and four-inch, studded Joseph Campbell platforms, roaming the glaciers of Snaefell, picking up rocks to 'stuff in her bosom' as she liked to say. 

Sigga wasn't the only one I met in Iceland whose work with nature was their life's work. My hostess, the effervescent Ms. Moon Healer, (her professional moniker), is an astrologist, healer, world traveler and moon ceremonialist. She has bright blue eyes, a kind face and an easy smile. It was impossible not to feel welcomed by her. 

One night, we took a midnight hike to the hidden hot springs above Hverageroi. It took effort to balance our feet along the rocky path, where shaggy sheep grazed feet away, wild foxes barked in the distance and the snow-kissed tip of trouble-making Eyjafjallajokull could be seen in the distance. "Watch out for the horse remains," she cautioned. "You know, some people don't like the smell of horses, " she continued with a smile, "but I love it. It reminds me I'm in nature." 

As we rounded a corner, the smell of sulpher became intense and the earth was steaming. We could hear the sound of the gurgling geysers, like the sound of hell speaking, which signaled (or warned?) we had arrived. It was there we slid ourselves into the bubbling water of the "hot pots", let the slippery moss caress our feet and watched the sunset against the purple mountains, as it turned from gold, to pink, and finally to a deep violet red. I had never seen such a glorious site. I wanted to learn more about what a "moon ceremony" entailed.

Moon ceremonies, as she explained, help people get in tune with the rhythm of the moon. She became interested in lunar cycles from reading about the moon's role in ancient cultures and religions. Following the moon cycle is, "like going with the flow," she said, "some people do this naturally, others need a little help."

She further explained that each of us can use the lunar cycles to our benefit. The New Moon is the best time to set goals; the Full Moon is the time to reap the benefits; the Waning Moon is the time to reflect and revise. Or as she put it, "The New Moon is the beautiful young woman. The Full Moon is the ripe woman. The Waning Moon is the woman who is old, but wise." Ah-ha, I think I got it.

On our drive home, I was curious about her background. It's not every day you meet someone who treasures the moon. She shared that she came from a typical, complicated Icelandic family:  something like 11 brothers and sisters, four different mothers and three different fathers. 

I asked her why this was "typical" for Iceland, to which she responded that Icelanders are like the weather: changeable, volatile and hard to tame. It's as if the wild and contrasting Icelandic landscape is tattooed on their souls. Much like the hidden people, there is a hidden dark side to 'Niceland'. "There are a lot of single mothers here," she added, "it's just the way it is. Expected." 

This respect for nature was also echoed on an organized tour of Iceland's geysers and waterfalls. The tour guide, a jolly man in his 50s, shared stories of the hidden people and how construction projects were often postponed or changed if they required stones to be moved, as to not disturb their dwellings. He mentioned, with a sigh of sadness, that a generation ago about 75% of Icelanders believed in the hidden people; today only about 25%.

"If you ask people why fewer people believe in the hidden people these days," he said, "most would say it's because more of us live in the city and we have become less connected to nature." To this, a few in the group of mostly American tourists, snickered under their breath. However, I think he was on to something. In our fast-paced lives, how in touch are we with ourselves, let alone our surroundings? Do we know if the moon is waxing or waning? Do we even realize it's there?

After the third "recalculation" at the same roundabout, I gave up my Krysuvik plans and settled for a quiet spot near a pond off a dirt gravel road. There, I surrendered myself to the stones, took a deep breath and stared at the sky. It was like staring into the eyes of a lover: deep, expressive and changeable. One minute moody, next minute exuberant, as clouds parted to reveal the mid-day sun. Perhaps it's like the emotional cycles in our lives, changing one minute from despair to joy to sadness. Recalculating. Maybe we are not so different from the natural world, perhaps we just forget to see we are a part of it. I laid there and let my worries seep into the stones. Just learn to love and relax more, the hidden people whispered their message...

Thank you to Halla and Sigga who so graciously invited me into their worlds and shared their knowledge of Iceland, what they treasured and life. 


What We Treasure in Copenhagen: In Search of Identity

"Breinholt," huffed the guy at the coffee shop as he scrutinized my drivers license, "that's a good German name." Except it's not. It's Danish.

While I'm as much Ukrainian-Welsh-German as I am Danish, there's something about the mythical Nordic nature I've always felt drawn to. Perhaps it's their strength of character. Or their curiosity for exploration. Or maybe it's because somewhere in my dreams I like to imagine myself invincible like a Viking, braving seas and swords to discover new lands. Whatever the case, I approached my pilgrimage to Copenhagen with much anticipation of learning something about my own nature.  

There's a uniformity about Denmark that's noticeable immediately. While I couldn't find stats to support it, I'm sure there's more 7-11s per capita in Copenhagen than anywhere else. There's three in the central train station alone, and I'm sure I would have found a fourth had I tried. Curious, I entered one to see if there was something overwhelmingly more wonderful about them than the ones at home. However, I quickly discovered that they actually carried less selection, just rows upon rows of Ritter bars, cigarettes and Faxe Kondi soda. 

A stop to Copenhagen's Fisketorvet Shopping Center revealed more of the same. While it advertises over 100 stores, it doesn't tell you that half a dozen of them are H&Ms. The other stores are random retailers with names like, "Feet Me," "Oh My Gosh! Cosmetics," and "Indiana Tex Mex." Most have English names and very little of anything is in Danish. I stopped briefly to buy a $6 coffee that tasted moldy and watch the gaggles of beautiful blonde people pass by carrying their bags of H&M...

In search of something more authentic than chain stores, I ventured to Freetown Christiania. Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood in the borough of Christianshavn which was started when artists, hippies and other idealistic types overtook abandoned military barracks and their surrounding areas. Among other things, it's famous for its Do-it-Yourself architecture, drug culture and "Pusher Street" where one can freely buy marijuana.

Upon entering, several hand-made signs advertise you are in "Little Amsterdam." Several more signs warn against photography and the impending bad karma that might befall those that don't obey. While I had no desire to have a joint, I ordered a Tuborg at a makeshift bar and had a seat at one of the communal picnic tables in the square. The sun was hot and it smelled strongly of marijuana, beer and school gym lockers. Everyone looked bored and disinterested. A line of tattooed men, some of them missing teeth, lined up at the bar. Fifteen year-old boys with dreadlocks were sitting alone rolling joints. Mangy dogs, some missing a leg, others with a chomped-off ear, were chasing a tattered green tennis ball. Bill Wither's, "Lovely Day" was playing over the loud speaker. I had to leave. 

I crossed the street, still in Freetown, to Manefiskeren coffee shop where I bought a $3 Coca-Cola. I overheard a group next to me talking about how Freetown was like a "Little Amsterdam". But to be honest, it could have just as easily been "Little Haight-Ashbury" or "Little Anywhere Else" where people in tie-dye congregate to get high. A group of about 40 British tourists in white sneakers and fanny packs entered the cafe. 

Since Freetown had not satisfied my curiosity to find the true spirit of Copenhagen, I decided to check out the design stores in Vesterbro. After all, the Danes are known for design and Vesterbro had been described as, "the hippest, most manifold neighborhood" in all of Copenhagen. It was there that I met the vivacious Ms. Mouschka of aMOUSCHKA and Friends, ethical jewelry store. The store hosts fun and whimsical jewelry designed by Mouschka herself. She was bold, talkative and colorful: I liked her immediately.

According to Mouschka, Copenhagen is unique in that many local designers still have small stores, versus other Scandinavian cities where design is more mass produced. While that is certainly the case for Mouschka, I found most other stores to carry many of the same kitschy items I'd seen in San Francisco: necklaces mass-made in China, scarves from India, handbags from Italy. The dishes at a high-end, neighborhood eatery were stamped "IKEA."

The best canal view in Copenhagen?Mouschka told me the locals love the canals and water in the summertime, so at her recommendation I went on a canal tour. The thing people won't tell you is that Copenhagen is not a pretty city, even though professional photographers may trick you to believe otherwise. While there is one picturesque canal, much of it is rows of neglected, non-descriptive, four-story brick buildings. The canal tour guide seemed to know this and in her British accent, gave everyone a few minutes preparation for when the "best canal view" was coming up. The tour itself revolved less around the Danes and their history than the number of times the British attacked the city. The most interesting moment was when the tour guide announced, with deadpan delivery, that the iconic "Little Mermaid" statue had had her head cut off twice this year.  

After day three, I felt frustrated. I still could not capture the spirit of the place, nor did I know what was unique or special to the Danes. Had I decided to write a piece called, "Copenhagen, We Treasure 7-11s" I would have had an easier time of it. But that seemed like giving up, so I decided to ask my host Jon. Jon is an electronic music composer in his early thirties with kind eyes and cheekbones that look like they were carved from marble. He seemed flabbergasted that I hadn't been able to put my finger on the pulse of Copenhagen. He argued that Copenhagen had a very unique identity or as he described, "a combination of Stockholm chic with the laid-back vibe of Amsterdam." Hmmmm.

I spent my final day searching for a flea market in the newly hip "meat packing" district. It smelled of sea and dead fish and had remnants of teenage drinking parties. After an hour of unsuccessfully roaming the abandoned warehouses, I decided to give up and have brunch at a place called Mothers. As much as I had wanted to gain insight into identity and home of my ancestors, perhaps it was more important to cultivate an identity of my own. Perhaps the place we come from is not as important as how we shape the place we are...

The ruggedly handsome waiter, who could have been a Viking in a former life, handed me my check and stared at the camera around my neck. "Any good pictures?" he asked. I told him not really and asked where he would recommend. "Norrebro," he said confidently, "it's just like Berlin." Exactly.

Sidebar: It wasn't until I got to Berlin that I realized the bottom of the receipt said... 

 Perhaps my powers of observation were off in Copenhagen. Tell me about your experiences. Is it important to have a sense of place? 


Copenhagen in Pictures

For more pictures of Copenhagen, please click here. 


Paris in Pictures

For more photos from Paris, click here


10 Lessons from a Month on the Road

10. Most of our daily morning routine is unnecessary. Showering everyday? Anti-aging creams? Putting on makeup? None of it adds much value on the road, where you are reminded that time is a precious commodity. 

9. Only Americans take pictures of their food on their moblie phones. 

8. There's a lot you can say without uttering a word.

7. Coins weigh as much as rocks. If you wonder what's weighing your bag or purse down, it's probably coins. 

6. If you are lost, walk with conviction. You may not know where you're going, but the confidence will carry you through.

5. No matter where you go, people want to talk about love, love lost and relationships. 

4. Don't underestimate the power of observation. 

3. Going with the flow is essential to enjoyment, however most Americans (including myself) are very "checklist" oriented. When life becomes a checklist, we may get a lot done, but learn nothing about ourselves in the process.   

2. Be open. You may be surprised where the word "yes" will lead you.  

1. Small, seemingly inconsequential interactions with strangers can be every bit as meaningful and impactful as those we have with our long-term friends. So look, listen and revel in the small, beautiful moments life reveals to us. They really are everywhere if we look...

What insights have you gained from traveling?

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