Weekly Photo Challenge: Descent

I wish I’d taken my camera up to Alcove House at Bandelier National Monument.  I did not.  But those ladders were thrilling! Here’s a shot from tripadvisor.com:


photographer unknown

The descent is about 140 feet.  Not bad.  Another favorite spot is Holy Hill in Wisconsin.  There are 178 steps in the tower.

Holy Hill025030Hiking in New Mexico and Texas this month led us down into some beautiful canyons: Mills Canyon (1000 ft. elevation change)…

Mills Canyon…the Frey Trail down to the Visitor’s Center at Bandelier (484 ft. elevation change)…

frey trail…and our favorite, the ‘strenuous’ 1500 ft. Lost Peak trail that gave us views down into Dog Canyon and to our riparian campground on the other side.

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Of course, in hiking, what goes down frequently also comes up.  Steve turns 50 tomorrow, so we’re working on keeping our knees in shape!  Which way is more difficult depends…he beats me uphill, I beat him downhill.  (‘Course, he’s 6’2″ and I’m just 5’4″ and we’re weighted differently because of gender…and because I carry a pack and he doesn’t.)

May all your ‘down days’ include scenery like this!

(scroll down for another Halloween post ‘treat’!)

© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Photo Challenge Substitute: Dress Up

Now that I’m working from home, I find myself waiting on the Weekly Photo Challenge from WordPress like it’s the only thing I have to do.  Not so: there’s bread to bake, a pot roast to get into the slow cooker, and much more.  So, rather than stall my day, I’ve decided to come up with my own Halloween Photo Challenge.  My favorite part of Halloween has always been the dressing up.  Yeah, I worked for a theater company for 7 years.  I love costumes & make-up!  But I’ve matured beyond the days when I helped my 4 kids transform their ideas into actual outfits (‘an explosion’ is my all-time favorite) and dressed myself up for parties.  I did work as a costumed historic interpreter for the past 3 years, though, so the thrill hasn’t completely died.  My village decided that Trick or Treat day was going to be last Sunday, and I was driving from Texas to Wisconsin at that time, so I missed it.  I’d love to see some creativity in dress!  Here’s what I’ve got on file:

What have you got in yours?

Nov. 1 addition — My sister Sarah just sent this, so I thought I’d share:

Sarah as Dr Who

And just as I post this, Word Press comes through with their challenge word….Descent.  Stay tuned!

What’s Important? – revisited

Way back in February of 2012, I wrote a post titled “What’s Important?”.  It was an essay describing the evolution of my  ideas of “right” (as in “being in right relationship with”, “righteousness”) from the evangelical Christian tradition to a broader, Buddhist-influenced experience.  It led to a string of great comments and word analysis. 

My moral development has been challenged lately by the speakers, storytellers, and advocates I heard at the Wilderness 50 conference.  What is “Right Ethic” or a right relationship with our planet?  Where do we experience the emergence of this ethic?  Does it come from the top down, imposed by authority in law?  Does it bubble up from feelings of connection to places, plants, animals, ecosystems, communities?  How do we evaluate our interactions with Earth?  And how important or trivial is that interaction in our daily lives? 

Having immersed myself in a 5-day arena of wilderness philosophy, it’s very strange to return to the Internet world and gaze on its landscape.  Yahoo! news articles bombard my senses: “How to Crack an Egg”, “Romantic Move Goes Awry”, “Horse Rescued from Pool”, J-Lo, Renee Zellweger, sports teams, iPhones, who wore it best, etc.  Is this what life on Earth is about?  Really?!  Even gazing on the more thorny parts of the landscape seems a little flat.  Is death news?  Is human drama relevant or manufactured?  And what about the lives of the non-human inhabitants of this planet?  The life of the Ebola virus, for example.  What do we really care about that, other than the way that humans are effected? 

What is important about Life?  Just my life?  Just human life?  Just life that I recognize?

The keynote speaker in many of the Wilderness 50 sessions was Dave Foreman.  He is a much-loved, original eco-warrior who is now 68 years old and retains the spit and vinegar of his activist days.  Raised in the Texas atmosphere of Biblical preachers, he knows how to tell a story and describe a cause.  He used this illustration in a few of his addresses: he visited a ficus tree, of the fig and banyan family, whose broad canopy is one of the biggest in the entire world.  It stretched over his head and spread out in a space bigger than a football field.  And each limb supported hundreds of leaves.  A massive thing, this tree!  He likened it to the Tree of Life and stood in awe.  And then he realized that human beings, our species, of which there are more than 7 billion individuals, represent just ONE leaf on this great tree.  That one little leaf right….there.  That’s us.  How important are we?  How aware are we of the rest of the tree?  Of how we influence it and how it influences us?  Do we think about that…often? ever?  Or do we pay more attention to our celebrities, bank accounts and pet peeves. 

What’s important?  What fills your landscape?


© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

The weekly photo challenge came out on Friday morning, as usual.  Only this Friday, I was setting up camp in the Dog Canyon campground in Guadalupe National Park, a wilderness park in Texas where there is no Internet (ya think?).  I returned to Milwaukee just this evening, after 2 days of driving with only a 3.5 hour stopover to sleep in a rest area off the interstate in Missouri.  Needless to say, I’m tired.  This is a going to be a quick post.  But the Cover Art example on the Daily Post reminded me so much of a shot I took during this 2.5 week journey, that I have to share it.  To see the prompt and the example, click here.  My ‘magazine’ is a periodical covering aspects of wilderness preservation.  (Having spent 5 days at the Wilderness 50 Conference during this trip, I have much more to say about that…but I won’t go into it…yet.)  And here is the cover shot:

Cover art

I’ll be sharing a lot more about Wilderness and environmental ethics on this blog in upcoming posts.  Stay tuned, please!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Refraction is the change in direction of a wave due to a change in its transmission medium.

Storm in Western Oklahoma

Storm in Western Oklahoma

We set off from Milwaukee, Wisconsin last Saturday on a cross-country trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the Wilderness 50 Conference.  As we got to western Kansas, we noticed clouds gathering to the west and north.  It’s difficult to judge distances across such a huge, flat landscape.  I thought maybe the storm was in Colorado.  We cut south through the Oklahoma panhandle, and tumbleweeds flew across the highway.  Steve thought this would be a great place to get out of the car and take a picture.  Unfortunately, I missed the lightning flashes on the horizon (I wish I’d brought a tripod to take a timed exposure!).  The winds were crossing in all directions, curling plumes of rainfall came down from the clouds in mixed directions, as if forming quotation marks across the sky.  What are the winds trying to say?  We camped that night in the Kiowa National Grassland, at the Mills Canyon Rim campground (elevation 5900 ft.).  The rain barely wet the high desert ground, but the WIND was fierce!  Eventually, it blew the clouds away, revealing a waning gibbous moon and a host of stars undimmed by human lights anywhere in the area.  In the morning, the winds were so strong that I had to put our camp stove underneath the picnic table and bank it with coolers in order to keep the flame from blowing out.  By the afternoon, the wind was gone, the skies completely clear.  When the sun set, the air got very cold, very fast.  And a blanket of stars swept over the sky, banded by the Milky Way. 

Waves of wind, changing direction, crossing different mediums (clouds and stars) are an example of refraction and one of the pleasures of wild space.  We are here at the Wilderness conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Preservation Act into law and to find our direction in the call to protect and respect Earth.  When the conference concludes, we will venture back into wild lands in New Mexico for more adventures.  Stay tuned!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

Sailing off into the fog.  Setting off on an adventure with a sturdy ship, not certain of where it will take you, but fixed on a course nevertheless.

dreamy denis

  I am about to embark on a journey tomorrow, making real strides towards my dream.

cranesWe’re driving to New Mexico, to participate in the Wilderness 50 Conference.  I want to meet people invested in wilderness, in land and species preservation, in the future of our planet.


I want to work toward making a difference, taking a different tack, striking out on a new route toward sustainable living.

PG hiking

Dreams give us an awareness of ourselves, loosened from daily constrictions.  They give us a vision of change.

052Do you have the courage to live the change you dream about?

© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Harvesting Hope

I have just finished reading a very informative book by Jane Goodall on the subject of Food.  Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating has led me to reconsider the way I buy and cook and eat food.  Much of it is based on common sense and natural practices (What would a chimp choose to eat?  Have you ever seen an overweight chimp in the wild?), and much of it exposes the insanity that is our factory food production here in the “civilized” world. How civilized is it to cram thousands of chickens together in a cage, remove their beaks so that they can’t peck each other to death, pump them with antibiotics and force them to cannibalize their own kind by giving them non-vegetarian feed?  And then to slaughter them, ship their polluted flesh over thousands of miles burning fossil fuels, and eat it?  I was not thinking about that when I bought Super Saver packages of chicken breasts at my local super market.  I think about it now.

And here is the surprising gift of hope: my children have been thinking about this for years.  I didn’t lead the way. 

Here is another arena of hope: reclaiming, salvaging and recycling living space.  My daughter and her fiance purchased a home that had been severely water damaged and mold and mildew infested.  The inhabitants had moved out to hospice care and died; the house was abandoned, but the water wasn’t shut off.  In the winter freeze and thaw, the pipes broke and flooded the place.  What a mess!  But Joe comes from a family line of carpenters and construction wizards.  He has completely re-worked the house: plumbing, electric, heating, floor plan and surfaces.  He’s gotten neighbors, friends and family involved in the labor and in donating fixtures. The final step will be relocating the back yard garden.  You see, this house is just a few doors down the street from the one they’ve rented for the past 3 years.  So, by their wedding date one year from this month, they will have their own home and garden.  They are marvelous role models for sustainable living, and I am so proud of them! Yesterday I went down to visit and take pictures.  They sent me home with a bunch of produce from their garden.  I am so grateful and awed by how life unfolds.  The next generation is certainly capable of taking responsibility and working hard in a sustainable direction.  Let’s just hope many of them choose to!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Some signs are meant to be helpful, but come across as completely confusing.  Like this one in the Milwaukee airport, just past the security checkpoint. 

RecombobIt took me a while to think through this one.  I had just been stripped of my shoes, my jacket, my purse and my backpack, been x-rayed, patted down, swiped and wiped, and I felt….discombobulated.  So there, with a few chairs underneath, was the designated area for getting recombobulated.  See, spell check doesn’t even recognize that word!  Helpful, sort of, but mostly not.  But amusing, definitely.  And absurd. 

Another sign I found on my travels.  A possible answer to the question, “Can you handle this?”

handling bats

Turns out, you can’t handle this.  114They never said I couldn’t photograph it, though.

Some signs need translation. The town of Embarrass, Wisconsin on the Embarrass River is nothing to be ashamed of.

I wanted to go into the Post Office and ask about their deep, dark secret.  Instead, I went home and looked up the history of the town.  Turns out, it was settled by French Canadian loggers who found it difficult to get their floating logs past this point on the river because of snags and debris.  In French, “embarrass” means to impede, obstruct or entangle.  Oh. 

Will you recognize the signs of the times?  Well, the times, they are a changin’. 


By this time next week, I will be unemployed and heading toward New Mexico for the Wilderness 50 Conference.  Yes, the signs are telling me that it’s time for a change.