Water Jar Girl Running

Self portraitSelf portrait, of sorts. Larger view here.

Part II of Time—Around and Around
This conclusion of a two-part post on some considerations about the nature of time has evolved into some tangential thoughts.

Like Water for Time
I sat on the banks of the Chama River in north central New Mexico for quite some time lost in thought. I had driven up from Santa Fe through Abiquiu, compelled once again to view the scenes that were dear to Georgia O’Keeffe. It was a planned day trip without a firm destination, but with a vague idea of a large loop that would bring me back to Santa Fe.

The image above is indeed a self-portrait. With a careful viewing, which isn’t really warranted, you might see in the mirror the barest glimmer of light reflected off the lens used in the shot. I’m further beyond that in a darker recess. It may seem odd, but when I think of a self-portrait, I don’t always see myself in it. What I see is the encompassing view of what my eyes behold—a vision from behind my head and through it. So this is a self portrait that matches my definition and experience—and I like the softness combined with the vibrancy of the shot which enhances the metaphor.

I sat. I often get a sense there are times for waiting, and not knowing what the waiting will bring. Perhaps there will come something new to see or an illumination of thoughts that wander in and out of my brain—much like the barest whisper of a breeze and noting its presence before it’s gone forever. I got up and wandered.

It’s a beautiful little river—and around a bend in the distance I found fly fishermen, slowing, if not suspending, time for themselves. The river was not very deep or quick and it started some thoughts on the nature of time. The Chama flows in a linear way, of course, much like our understanding of how time works. It’s the nature of linear movement that we might wade out into a shallow part, but would never really step in the same river twice. Time’s march is inexorable and we often seem to float and bob along, unable to do anything else but bob up and down along the way. We’re lucky when we seem to find a little eddy caused by a fortunate obstruction, moving around and around a point where it seems we have more than enough time to enjoy the moment—time suspended for a little while.

We’re like those molecules of water, jostling to find our way without really knowing what the path will bring. The river may end as we know it or name it, but we continue on—though perhaps in a different form. It might be eons before our little aqua molecular self finds a way to the surface of a vast sea, only to be drawn up as vapor into the atmosphere to become a part of something else—a microscopic part of a cloud that will travel with the wind. We morph into a falling drop and find the headwaters of some other river with an untold number of partners. And it cycles again and again so the very nature of the reincarnation approaches timelessness.



Valles CalderaThe Valles Caldera. You can see a larger image here. It’s a composite stitch of three photos. The little mound you see in the middle distance is the rhyolite lava dome Cerro la Jara. It is about three kilometers away and 75 meters high. The uplift in the distance is 10 kilometers from where I took the shot. The high point on the horizon at left center is Redondo Peak at 3400 meters and about 800 meters higher than where I was standing.

The image above has us standing at the edge of a super volcano. A smaller cousin to the super volcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park, Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico is still a vast structure stretching about 22 kilometers in diameter.

We often don’t have the imagination to understand the largeness of a thing.  And in the case of large geology, we have no good sense of the time involved. Even with the Sesame Street-ish object lessons—this and this and this equal that, our minds can’t always bend to take it in. You need to get high above Valles Caldera to see it from one end to the other. Your vision at ground level is too limited to encompass the size and time of it.

VallesCalderaAn image of the Valles Caldera captured from the Landsat 7 satellite. There is an added red arrow that shows my location for the panorama image I took. You can see a larger view here. The Earth Observatory page with some additional information is here. The city of Los Alamos is at the center right of the EO shot. Image is in the public domain.

I think the view from outer space makes it seem as if the caldera is an enormous paw print left by some being beyond our ken and out of our time. The Valles in the name of the place means “grass valley” not simply a generic valley. The grass is never much overgrown because of the wildlife. The largest herd of elk in the southwest finds it’s home there along with countless deer and wild sheep. It has been a feeding ground for millennia and the first human nomads knew of it and exploited it for the hunting and other resources. Spear points dated to 11,000 years ago have been identified. Nomadic family groups evolved into disparate tribes and settled into different neighboring areas. They all came to hunt in the valles, but they also found obsidian to use for spear and arrow points.

In the first installment of this time diptych about the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument we saw some unusual geologic formations, cones that seemed to defy the normal slow progress of wind and water erosion. The cones of soft pumice and tuff that spread out beneath harder caprocks were initially deep flat deposits of volcanic rock and ash. Within the strata are bits of obsidian that are rounded and shaped a bit like raindrops as they were flung from the super volcano that spewed the ash and pumice. They are called “Apache tears.” It’s against the law to excavate or collect them now, but it was the source of a burgeoning trade economy for the first peoples.

In more modern times the Spanish invaders, Mexican settlers as well as the Navajos, used the valles for seasonal grazing. From the time of the first visitors there have always been clashes and raids, it was too rich for just one group.


Now here’s the thing. Long before there were any peoples in what is now northern New Mexico there were massive eruptions from the Valles Caldera super volcano. The largest was about 1.5 million years ago in the Pleistocene epoch. What’s surprising about the Pleistocene is that in doing some research to place it in context, 1.5 million years ago is a blink of the eye in terms of geologic and megafauna history. The last of the dinosaurs that roamed this same area died off about 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Many scientists believe that New Mexico saw the first human inhabitants about 13,000 years ago. Interestingly, some of the megafauna (large animals) that survived to the end of the Pleistocene became extinct with the arrival of those nomadic hunters. The last American mastodon, Mammut americanum, left our world about 10,000 years ago, having survived super volcanoes and incursions of vast inland seas and multiple ice ages in its 3.7 million year residency in North America.

So I’m at 8,000 feet above sea level in the middle of April. It’s still cold enough to need a light jacket as I stand contemplating the nature of time and place and who was in it and when.

Who does it belong to? The first peoples? They often didn’t have the same notion of land ownership that later European settlers imposed, though the Black Legend of colonization in the New World had, in hindsight, a predictable result. One might make a case that the Roman Empire brought many benefits to the conquered peoples, but there are many historians who calculate the cost to the various indigenous peoples subsumed or who disappeared. Has there ever been a colonization that honored and protected a native people? Manifest Destiny taken to the logical absurdity says that if I paved your gravel driveway then I get to own your house. The codices of the Mayans were collected and burned en masse because they were written by the Devil. Smallpox and other communicable diseases eradicated native populations, at first passively and then later as genocidal weapons. Why is the history written by winners taken at face value?




The People
The archaeologists and social anthropologists who in later years placed the Hemish people in what was to become northern New Mexico probably also believe in the Land Bridge theory of immigration. During the last great ice age, the Wisconsin Glaciation, ocean levels were down about 200 feet from present levels beginning about 50,000 years ago and lasting until about 10,000 years ago. Much of the continental shelf was exposed due to sea waters being sequestered in ice. The estimated continental ice and glaciers in the northern hemisphere meant that the land bridge between Siberia and the western coast of Alaska was about 1,000 miles wide—more than wide enough for migrating game herds which were followed by those hunting them.

The hunters, who gradually made their way south—first along the coast and then inland—were the ancestors of the American Indians. That’s the theory, and recent discoveries have found some chinks in the archeological armor of evidence supporting it. It was long held that the first non-nomadic settlement in the New World was a site near Clovis, New Mexico at 11,500 years ago. But in 1997, artifacts from Monte Verde, in Southern Chile, were found to be at least a 1,000 years older. And new evidence from the Clovis site by carbon dating some artifacts place the time frame at nearly 14,000 years ago.

Whatever the science involved, many Native Americans have never accepted the theories. In various but similar genesis stories, many of the first nations cultures believe that the Creator who formed the land also caused the people to rise up from it. Those beliefs don’t actually counter the science of the Land Bridge theory, the Asian nomadic hunters could very well have crossed that ice free connection, but they encountered a land that had a host of peoples already in the new world. Charcoal found in what is now South Carolina had a radiocarbon date of at least 50,000 years, before the Wisconsin Glaciation ice age.

Whether populated by Proto-Amerinds, or raised up from mud, clay, fire or water, the inhabitants of the New World followed the land and what it had to offer and were often driven by ecological cycles that spanned generations.


Water Jar GirlJemezGirl


The river trees have not yet lost their yellow leaves, but they will soon. Mountainside colors have changed to acorn orange and dull green. The nights are now cold, but the days are still warm enough for those outside to seek shelter from the sun. It is a favorite and welcomed time of the year. The maize is in and stored, the summer hunt meat is smoked and put away as well. This is the time between the hot hard work and the more meager winter hunting. It is a time when the people enjoy each other and their place in this world—the narrow canyon world. It is a time for coming together.


It has been a long time since the Diné from the northwest or the Tewas from the northeast had come to make trouble for the Hemish. Most of the peoples in the scattered pueblos knew it was for the best. Didn’t they all come from the earth? And whether you were Apache or Zuni or Tewa or Diné or Hemish—the very thing you called yourself confirmed those origins because they all meant the same thing: the people.

It was a comfortable time of peace, the leaders of most of the nearby clans and pueblos had long since resolved most issues of sacred places and hunting areas. The people were left to grow their corn and beans and to hunt—and to run. They loved to run, for running brought breath and life. To run was to be one with the deer, and the closest you could come to flying.

Water Jar Girl was born into this peace. She was of an age now where her questions were more than about the asking. She wanted to understand the answers.

“When you learned to walk, you began to run. You haven’t stopped running granddaughter Water Jar Girl, I think you will always do so.”

“I don’t want to see the visions in the water, grandmother. I just want to run.”

“We are many things Water Jar, some we choose, some we cannot. You can run for the joy it brings, but you cannot run to break your shadow. You will see the future in the water. You must choose if the gift the First Ones gave you will help our people. It does not matter that there is no sense in it for you, perhaps that will come. It is the Elders who will see the meaning through your eyes. It is theirs to bear what our people will do with what you see.”

“I just want to run.”

Fall in Indian Country

It was a short walk to the stream that ran next to the village. She took a worn path upstream to a favorite spot and settled next to where the stream cut a smaller channel. She knelt on her flat rock next to a still pool and peered into the water. 

Water Jar saw herself running and smiled at the reflection. The gentle ripples made it seem as if she was running faster than she could and as if she barely touched the ground. She stared and realized she should not be smiling…there was no joy in this running. Her image slowly vanished, but there was still a runner there. A young man had taken her place and she could tell that he had been running for a long time. He bore the terrible news that she had given him. 

She saw the people in the windows and doorways of a place she didn’t know…walls built below an overhang of a sheer cliff. It was an ancient place abandoned ages ago and now ruined. She didn’t recognize anyone, but knew they were her people. They were worn and scared.

Cliff Palace

They were hiding from strangers, people that must have been called up by the gods for punishment. People they didn’t know how to fight. People who were bringing the end of the world.




Part of my journey that brought this story and all these thoughts and daydreams had me traveling up the Jemez Valley, what is known as the San Diego Canyon. As hinted above, the name Jemez was a Hispanicization of what the pueblo people in the area called themselves—”the people” in the Tewa language still spoken in the Jemez Pueblo today. When they said “Hemish” to describe themselves, the early Spanish explorers heard “Jemez.”

Here I found the ancient Hemish village of Giusewa (pronounced Gee-eh-seh-wuh). The people came late to the valley, probably migrating away from drought stricken areas to the northwest in the Four Corners area. Giusewa was settled around A.D. 1500.

In the winter of 1540-41 it was as if an asteroid stuck the pueblo. Millennia-old patterns of puebloan living was forever altered. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his entourage of soldiers, Franciscan priests and Mexican-Indian auxiliaries set up camp near the present town of Bernalillo and sent exploratory parties throughout the region.

By the early 1600s life and culture had changed. The people were conscripted to build the Franciscan mission. In 1620 the Mission San José de los Jémez church was built with indigenous labor. The ruins of the church is still visible. The ruins of the lives irrevocably changed are harder to see—it takes a knowledge of the pre-invasion history and culture to compare that with those who remain—and then a subjective analysis.

I know what has gone before in this post is a long and rambling introduction to the following images. Thanks to those of you that took the time to scan though those thoughts. It’s not really necessary to understand how I think in order for you to get whatever enjoyment you can out of a few travelogue style photographs, but it does provide a bit of context. That we fell into some unfamiliar territory with the insertion of some historical fiction is just some added fun for me. I hope you enjoy the before and the after. Now for the after: What follows are images of the Jémez State Monument. It’s a place where you can wander on smooth concrete paths and think about all the time it took for you to get there. The immediate impression of the monument is that it’s all about the ruins of an early 17th century mission church. What strikes you more forcefully is that the church and its compound buildings overlay a much older indigenous way of life, still visible and still able to conjure what was and what might have been but for the accident of the wrong “India” getting in the way of the first Iberian explorers.

One more note before the photos: As I was leaving the site and exiting through the visitor center I overheard another guest, perhaps a retired midwestern vacationer, mention to the attendant that she had no idea that there was something so old as the remains of the church still there. The State Park ranger, in uniform and obviously a native, just looked at her. I could tell from his expression that he seemed to be biting his tongue. It didn’t take me long to figure out what he was thinking. He never answered her rhetorical thoughts, but what surely must have been churning in his brain was the history of his own people, and all the related tribes and families who occupied the broader region for more than 10,000 years.


A Mission Church
Cottonwoods coming to life
Except for a few stones and boulders displaced by erosion, weather and gravity, there is probably little change in the view of the canyon wall in all the time that there have been people in the canyon. Larger view is here.

oven at the Jemez Monument
A puebloan oven

Jémez State Monument
The entrance to a reconstructed kiva. You are welcome to enter it, but out of respect they ask you not to take any photos inside. You can see the bell tower to the mission church in the background.

Jémez State Monument
Kivas in the foreground

Jémez State Monument

Jémez State Monument
The entrance to the mission church showing the nave beyond.

Jémez State Monument
Standing in the nave. I think with a celestial ceiling such as this, it might inspire some

Jémez State Monument
The chancel, worn with time

Jémez State MonumentEmbedded timbers that supported a second floor

Jémez State MonumentA room with a view

Jémez State MonumentA view outside the room

Jémez State MonumentThe site is all about respecting the indigenous.

San Diego Canyon in Jemez Valley
Place yourself in time, back before the Spanish version of Manifest Destiny





As you might imagine, this particular post took some time to put together. It was a long time being thought about befoe it began to take shape. Choosing and preparing the photographs also takes a good deal of time. Many of you know that I endure some trouble with my eyes which has its own weird irony given the profession. It’s not until I get home from a journey or a photo shoot  that I can evaluate if a something I took in the field is any good. A lot of what I do means taking my time. I think about what I want to do, then approach the composition with some deliberation. Some of what happens is a distillation of experience of more than 40 years of f/stops, aperture settings, lens choices, intuition and quite often, pure luck. So it’s a natural thing to think about tangential things in the slow process. Or maybe its just OCD behavior.

The original image of the Indian girl was a photo taken in 1905 by Edward Sheriff Curtis, 1868-1952, an intrepid photographer of the American West and of Native Americans. The girl’s name was Ah Chee Lo. You can see the original photo here. The photo resides in the Library of Congress and was copyrighted between 1905 and 1929 and the copyright was not renewed. Works copyrighted before 1923 are now in the public domain, thus it’s permissible to use the images without consideration of the constraints of Fair Use. It is also permissible to make derivative works of images that are in the public domain—which is what I’ve done with the lovely photograph. I took the outline of the image into Photoshop and painted it there with a broad watercolor brush, then toned it toward sepia. I hope you see it as it was intended, a respectful rendition of a master’s work to fit within the fictional narrative.

Running has a long history in the native cultures. It is part of the spirit of Native Americans that they embrace running for the sheer joy it brings for runners and spectators alike. You can read a short narrative of how the runners played a part in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, when many puebloan communities rebelled against the harsh Spanish colonial rule in northern New Mexico. That story is here.



all photos copyright © 2011 by barry b. doyle unless noted otherwise

all rights reserved

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Dear [Name Removed]

Hi [Name Removed]

(copying [Name Removed] in case I don’t have your correct email address)

Attached is a PDF showing my costs for one Bluebird birdhouse.

I think it doesn’t make sense to have me make the cedar bluebird birdhouses for you, at least economically, unless you want something that’s handcrafted or artisanal in nature. It would sound weird in telling neighbors and friends, “Look at my artisanal birdhouses” when in fact you can get a cedar bb house for less than $20 each on Amazon.

Amazon link to one of many

However, it’s difficult to find on Amazon a bb house that has the precise diameter opening at 1-9/16” specifically intended for Mountain Bluebirds that is required to reduce predation and invasions from other birds. The Eastern Bluebird has a slightly larger opening. I don’t really know the efficacy or accuracy of these claims though. And the ones on Amazon are not made by me. And you never know if the ones on Amazon are made by 10-year-old Chinese girl orphans in prison dormitories using toxic liquid poisonous cedar preservative that will kill your birds anyway. And the Chinese girls too.

But mine are nice…it’s the only way I really know how to do things. “Quality to Suit Myself” sounds like a good logo/motto thing, don’t you think?



IMG_0228 IMG_0212

Cedar Bluebird Birdhouse Bid

Sweet Potato, Chipotle and Apple Soup


I saw this recipe in the paper and thought the combinations a bit odd, but maybe they might just work.

They do—this is a winner. (I changed some amounts to suit my taste, added the shallot and changed the apples to Honeycrisp or Pink Lady from the ones suggested in the paper—I’m sure mine’s a bit better.)

We were invited to our friends’ home to say goodbye to another couple who are part time residents up here on the mesa. It was time for them to return to their other lives in the big city. So we did a pot-luck. My contribution was the soup.

The soup is easy—easier still if you have one of those hand held blending stick things to get it all done in one pot.

The recipe 
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and cut
1 Tbs fresh ginger, grated
2 Pink Lady or Honeycrisp apples, peeled cored and roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 qt low sodium chicken stock
3 cups water
1-2 chipotle in adobo sauce (from a small can), seeded and minced (depends on your heat tolerance)
¼ cup cream
Salt and white pepper
3 corn tortillas, cut in half and then thinly sliced
oil for frying tortilla strips
cinnamon sugar

Note: To honor our departing friends, I added an adjustment to the ingredients. Since he’s Persian, I added a slight sprinkling of ground sumac. It has a tart, lemony taste. He loved it. You can see in the image above I didn’t need to add much. Another nice addition, which we used last night is diced avocado which tempers the heat a bit from the chipotle. Depending on the guests’ heat tolerance, I’ll normally add just one chipotle pepper, cut in half with seeds and ribs removed before adding to the soup prior to blending.

In a medium or large soup pot heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and minced shallot and saute over medium heat until edges are translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 2 minutes more.

Add the apples and celery, stir to combine. Cook, reducing the apples in volume a bit—about 5 minutes.

Add the sweet potato slices and cook, stirring occasionally, for another five minutes.

Add the chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes. Add the chipotle.

Using a blender or a blender stick, purée the soup to creamy smoothness. Add cream and stir to blend. Add salt and white pepper to taste

Fry the cut tortilla strips for a few minutes until almost golden. Do this in batches. Transfer cooked strips to a couple of layers of paper towels to drain, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Toss, sprinkle again.

Serve in shallow bowls with tortilla strips on top. Will make about six hearty servings.

This is great for a chilly winter day.

Contrabando on the Rio Grand

Contrabando on the Rio Grande from bbd on Vimeo.

The Contrabando site takes its name from a nearby canyon. It’s an easy crossing from Mexico and doesn’t require a swim, simply a wade. You can guess why the canyon has that name.

What makes the site interesting is that it’s now the location of an abandoned movie set. Nine different movies were made here including the justly forgotten comedy-western Up Hill All The Way starring Roy Clark, Mel Tillis and Burl Ives. A bit better film was Larry McMurtry’s Streets Of Laredo.

The set is decaying, its demise forestalled somewhat by the arid climate, but returning to dust and plastered over particle board debris is inevitable. For all that, it was quiet, I was alone and I felt transported to a time that could have been real. A time really not that long ago, and a time now when a real rancheria like this still dots the Mexican landscape.

This is the story that inspired the amateurish video:


decaying set

This is the second in a series taking you along on one of my solo photo road trips. It’s a continuation of the previous post from the now dead Open Salon site “Dawn at Prada Marfa,” a photo shoot of an art installation in a remote part of the high desert in West Texas. And it’s part of my journey toward my OS friends, a meet-up in Scottsdale at Rancho Laurena and eventually being introduced there to that most subtle of mistresses, Kilt Lifter Scottish ale on draft. She’s a sneaky powerful dominatrix. Some tales will remain untold I’ve been told I promised.

I was dimly aware of the Contrabando site, but was brought up short when I stumbled upon it on US Highway 170. The highway, also called Ranch Road 170 is a sinuous asphalt snake, curving and undulating for some 60 miles along the Rio Grande. I had no trouble throwing a rock over to Mexico, the river is quite placid and narrow near the highway.

You know when you see a highway warning yellow sign advising of a 6% grade and trucks must use lower gears? There was a small and nearly missed sign at the beginning of the road near Lajitas, just west of Terlingua, that mentioned grades up and down at 15%. That may not sound significant, but I can tell you that I felt like I was on an extreme rollercoaster at Six Flags. Coupled with the fact that often at the apex of a steep ascent, that innocuous sign with a little curved arrow you just passed did not in any way prepare you for an off-camber two wheel skidding turn just out of view on the other side of the top of the hill leading you straight to the depths of Sheol. My incontinent screaming once again drowning out the 300 db output from my iPod wailing Sun Kil Moon’s Si Paloma.

Still, it has to be one of the prettiest roads in the country, certainly in the state. But it is a severe beauty. And I traversed it in March, not in the searing moisture sucking parched summertime. There were green things to see—a rarity for much of the year when most things take on the camouflage of dust and a dry hope for survival to a relatively cooler time.

The Contrabando site takes its name from a nearby canyon. It’s an easy crossing from Mexico and doesn’t require a swim, simply a wade. You can guess why the canyon has that name. Various sites on the Internet spell it Contrabano, but that’s a mistake.

What makes the site interesting is that it’s now the location of an abandoned movie set. Nine different movies were made here including the justly forgotten comedy-western Up Hill All The Way starring Roy Clark, Mel Tillis and Burl Ives. A bit better film was Larry McMurtry’s Streets Of Laredo, though it starred that turgid curmudgeon James Garner—my dislike for the improbable Rockford will keep me from adding it to Netflix.

The set is decaying, its demise forestalled somewhat by the arid climate, but returning to dust and plastered over particle board debris is inevitable. For all that, it was quiet, I was alone and I felt transported to a time that could have been real. A time really not that long ago, and a time now when a real rancheria like this still dots the Mexican landscape.

I enjoyed taking these shots and I hope you enjoy viewing them with me. Thanks for stopping by.

Addendum: If you want to point your GoogleEarth app or Googlemaps webpage to this location, you can find it here: 29°16’46″N, 103°50’29″W or 29.2794, -103.8414. There are some Panoramio photos on GoogleEarth that show it in less decay than my shots.


The sky seemed too immense, much more so than what I could capture here.  You can see a larger version of this shot here.

west of Lajitas

Contrabano church

Inside the church, a bell façade in reserve

Inside the saloon things are decomposing as well

That’s an Ocotillo plant on the left, with a mockingbird taking wing above. You can see this shot in a larger size here.

Again, that big, big sky. Larger version of this shot here.

Randy Newman comes to mind for some reason.

A home overlooking the river with a covered patio for sitting and sipping.

I don’t think the sawhorse would actually hold a real horse for long. These two shots above are not of the same structure, the bottom one shows the outside of the saloon…inside view of the saloon a few above.

The view to the river

See? An easy walk to Mexico without having to bother with all those pesky trigger happy border guards. (Yeah, probably some Predator drones overhead and out of sight)

Ocotillo bike rack—FAIL! Actually, the ocotillo stems make good fencing if you can keep yourself from being impaled by the thorns whilst building it.

Another view to the now invisible river. Look closely at this original sized image in the middle right hand side of the shot and you’ll see a wild burro.

Nearly between two worlds—that’s Mexico on the left looking west and the curvature of the earth beyond.

You can see a fairly benign portion of the Ranch Road 170 to the right in the shot above.

A lovely thing I encountered all along my journeys were these little cairns left by those who’d gone before.

It seems I used this particular lens in this shot on this trip more than any other lens I have, and it’s a beauty. It’s the Nikkor 14-24mm 2.8.  It’s a wonderful performer. The only downside is that the front element is so large, and constructed in such a way that there can’t be any protective filter. It does have an extra hard nanocoat on the outside element, but still, you have to be very careful with this lens to keep it from getting bumped. The lens cover is as big as a dessert plate. You can see a picture of the lens here.

And finally…

I hop back into my trusty little Honda and continue my journey westward to lovely friends and the amazing Kilt Lifter.

all images copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved

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Reflecting on Japan

Or, Politeness, Social Lubrication and Zen Peeing


Tokyo Tower as seen from the Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills. Larger version is here. Original pre-tilt shift image is here. Such was the power of the earthquake on March 11 that it bent the tip of the Tokyo Tower. The Tower has stood as a symbol of Japan’s postwar rebirth and regeneration. It was built in 1958.

I’ve been able to travel around and play in lots of different places. This is all due of course to my dear bride. In her job as the CEO of a national association, she travels quite a bit—it used to be as many as 125 days or so on a couple dozen trips per year—though it’s lessening now for a number of reasons. I know I’m lucky.

We’ve traveled a couple of times to Japan. Those trips have been highlights for me as I’ve long been in love with the Japanese aesthetic. The bride was to be the featured guest and speaker at a JBATS conference, the Japanese Baseball Athletic Trainers’ Society. We spent some time preparing for the trip, researching the protocols for giving and receiving business cards, learned some basic phrases and planned what we wanted to see together in the few spare moments she had free.

One of the nice perquisites she receives from traveling so much is access to the airline club. I feel a bit out of place, but it’s a comfortable place to sit before or between flights and she is able to get business stuff done and out of the way while waiting.

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They have gorgeous bathrooms. So while standing and taking care of business an elderly Japanese man shuffles in and stands next to me at the adjacent apparatus. His adult son accompanies him. The distinguished gentleman is small and, by means of unintentional peripheral vision, I sense he is impeccably attired—a dark suit and red tie and perhaps a plaid vest. The son appeared nervous but did not have to use the facilities.

It started as a small noise, almost imperceptible, but increasing in volume; a thrumming, humming sound. It was, in fact, humming. The elegant gentleman was creating a Zen zone of pleasant noise to help him get his business done. The son was almost hopping on one foot in embarrassment, trying to quietly shush his father.

It didn’t bother me in the least. Having just witnessed the week before a six year old in a similar situation stand three feet away from a urinal with a perfectly horizontal stream that any in my situation would envy, I understood what the elderly gentleman was trying to accomplish. But this may not mean much to those who don’t know about trying to pee through a prostate the size of a grapefruit.

I often hum to myself now to help things along.

The son who was nervous just wanted things to be being polite, I think. He didn’t know I didn’t care and was amused, but the Japanese are extraordinarily polite. I was to find it even more evident in Japan.

There exists there the phenomenon of cultural politeness. Some societies seem to value the lubrication needed for people to get along with one another.

While in Tokyo, I was amazed at what I presume is the evolution of a society that has to live within a fairly finite space and in ever burgeoning numbers. In subways, on trains, on the streets and in taxis the evidence of polite society was present everywhere.

When someone on a train receives a call on a cell phone, they move to the back or front of the car to be out of earshot of everyone else. This is an example of social empathy.

As I was walking in the Shinjuku district I saw many people wearing particle masks. You may think, as I did, that they are reacting to industrial pollution. But in fact the majority of people wearing masks in public places do so because they have colds and wish not to spread the germs.


In a city of some 12.3 million people it seems a little communal empathy, or thinking of the other person, represents a thread in the warp and woof of that polite society. It was a delight to be there, to experience something other than the typical red necked social intercourse found around here. It’s crowded in Tokyo—they have found ways to implement the required social lubrication to make it work as well as it does.




But in fact, politeness as a part of the fabric of culture can be overdone too. Traffic jams from downtown Tokyo to Narita airport are notorious. Our host had arranged to pick us up at the Westin Hotel to take us to the airport for our flight back home. We were in Tokyo for ten days and while we are good at traveling light, the trunks on Japanese cars are correspondingly small, so there were two cars to transport us caravan style.

We were predictably stuck; dead stop going nowhere before we were past the Shinjuku district. Our host said we would not be able to make our flight if we stayed on the freeway. A couple of turns on two wheels and a race down an alley with nano clearance on both sides brought us to a back entrance to one of the downtown train stations. Our host’s assistant hopped out of the second car and magically produced two first class train tickets to Narita.

Of course we were happy that we had a much better chance of making our flight, but in a symphony of pre-planned moves, we ended up where our host intended us to be, though he had previously said he would personally take us to the airport. Eve was the guest of honor, and protocol dictated personal service. As it ended, our host was the hero of the day and it appeared he had a strategic backup plan. My guess is that it was planned all along, but he felt it would be inappropriate to tell his guest of honor she was getting dropped off at the train station, thus providing service, saving face and displayed the epitome of polite behavior.

Domo arigato.





Sexy cap in Shibuya

Meiji torii

Torii gate at the Meiji Shrine

Meiji shrine saki

Saki barrels at Meiji Shrine

Meiji shrine grounds

Lanterns at Meiji Shirne

tea seller

Selling green tea at the Meiji Shrine

Meiji shrine roof lines

Meiji Shrine roof lines

Meiji shrine prayers

Meiji Shrine prayers

Meiji shrine wedding

Meiji Shrine wedding

Meiji shrine wedding

Meiji Shrine wedding

Harajuku hug

Me getting a free hug at Harajuku. He seems a bit disinterested and is maybe looking away in the hopes of finding a prettier client.

Harajuku girl

Harajuku girl—Harajuku is a favorite site for cosplay participants.

Harajuku girl

Harajuku girl

Harajuku girls

Harajuku girls

Roppongi doors

Roppongi doors—I thought this guy looked a bit like a decorated Tommy Lee Jones, but now I’m not so sure. He’s not quite wrinkley enough.

Roppongi Dali spider

Roppongi Dali-esque Spider. The piece which has copies in several cities around the world is by Louise Bourgeois and is titled “Mama.” Thanks to Alysa Salzberg for the reminder on the provenance.

Ryogoku Sumo Stadium

Ryogoku Sumo Stadium

Ryogoku Sumo Stadium

The address

I love the pose of the referee here

Ryogoku Sumo Stadium

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market Auction—5:00 a.m.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market—$10,000 tuna. A recent single tuna sold for 9.63 million yen—that’s $118,603! They’re going to have to slice that sashimi awfully thin.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Samurai slicing

Tsukiji Fish Market

Demonstrating the quality of the tuna for the auction

Imperial district pigeon

Imperial district pigeon

Imperial district toddler

Imperial district toddler

Her Imperial Majesty the Empress Michiko of Japan

Her Imperial Majesty the Empress Michiko of Japan—waving at me.

Thanks for coming along with me. I intended this as a reflection on the beautiful things found in Japan. Because we were on business excursions when traveling to Japan, travel to the rural areas wasn’t practical. I did take some time out on one trip to take the Shinkansen (the bullet train) down to Kyoto to spend the day walking among the beautiful sacred shrines and temples. I didn’t take photos on that excursion, it felt more like a personal spiritual journey and wanted to concentrate without thinking about taking and using all the photo gear. It was well worth it.

A collection of my images from the Portland Japanese Garden set to music.

all images © 2007, 2008 barry b. doyle all rights reserved. 

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I Still ♥ New York

This was written some years ago, now reprised—another year has gone by and I continue to think about my experience at Ground Zero. These are just my own musings from shortly after the horrific events. I certainly don’t own the story, but we still share it and we share what we all went through wherever we were on September 11, 2001. 

It was a rare experience for us as a nation to come together regardless of our politics, regardless of anything else that makes us unique. People drove on the highways more politely, a form of empathy. Strangers talked to each other in the grocery store, a form of empathy. There are countless examples. We were bound, E Pluribus Unum

We have descended now into political and faith-based camps more rigidly defined than ever. From politicizing the constructions of mosques in our country as un-American to the xenophobic demonizing of others not like ourselves to the degradation of what our constitutional freedoms and obligations should mean—we are not now what we were as a people soon after September 11, 2001.

As you will see if you read a bit further, I was shocked and heartbroken at what I saw. I was more deeply moved than any other time in my life. I was angered at a seemingly incongruous disconnect at the twin tower ruins. I restrained myself, and retreated into considering what the event and aftermath meant to me.

I hope we can all take a few moments, or longer, this week to remember those we lost, what we gained, and what we’ve lost again as a nation. I don’t mean to minimize the murderous horror of fourteen years past, I’d just like to see a bit more national comity, including from me.

Thoughts from October, 2001

I normally put a photo of mine to lead my posts. I don’t have a photograph to show you. I’ll tell you why in a bit.

I don’t own this story, I was just passing through. We all were. We continue down a path that others have laid out. We can shape our destiny in the choices we make for ourselves—we can make our path our own. But it is all about the choices we make along the way, and the leaders we elect to make those choices for us.

As with most Americans, indeed as it was with most people across the world, we were united for a time in grief and solidarity.

Nous sommes tous des Américains indeed.


My wife and I were scheduled to go to Buenos Aires in the fall of 2001 for one of her business meetings. She was on the board of directors of ASAE, a national association based in Washington DC that serves the needs of association executives.

We were excited. Though we’ve traveled extensively, this would be the first time either of us ventured southward from Central America. We even upgraded to Business Class using some of her million mile travel award points, since the eleven hours on the plane wears hard on the sturdiest of lumbar structures. It was going to be great—and at the time we had a tremendous advantage in the currency exchange with Argentina.

I was in my kids’ school on September 11. I volunteered a lot. I forget what I was doing or why I was there on that day. I heard something from the library and went to investigate.

The TV was on. I saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. The world crashed. I really had a hard time processing what I was seeing. I don’t remember now what I was thinking then. I remember feeling drained and hollow though.

Planes.jpgIt wasn’t more than a few weeks later that the board of directors meeting scheduled for Buenos Aires in October was rescheduled to take place in NYC. We flew into La Guardia and checked into our hotel—one of the nicest I’ve been in—the Waldorf-Astoria. My bride’s time was filled with board meetings, but I was free during the day. I only had to dress up and stand next to her in the evenings at the scheduled soirees—including a dinner at Gracie Mansion where we listened to Mayor Guiliani thank the ASAE for supporting the city. He gave us NYFD ball caps with FD pins attached. I count it as an honor to have that cap.

I had mixed feelings about taking the subway down to Wall Street. I had to check my own heart and soul—my own motives for visiting the site. I did not want to make it a personal hajj to Mecca—nor to make it about me and what I was feeling. I think I did get to that respectful place by vowing to honor those lost and to honor the bravery of the police and firefighters who gave their lives trying to save those in peril.

The Blue and Red lines only went down to Canal Street Station which was about three stops before Wall Street. Even before arriving at Canal Street the odor seeped into the subway car. You couldn’t escape it. It became pervasive, nearly overpowering. Everything smelled of burnt. It was the first indication of horror, and not the last.

I got up to the street and started walking south. As you might imagine, I was overcome with emotions. I never before felt such a connection to the police and firefighters and found myself touching my forehead in an imitation of a salute—a silent thank you to some stranger in uniform—an acknowledgment of their service, bravery and loss.

St. Paul’s Chapel is a tiny 240-year-old church at Broadway and Fulton and hard up against ground zero. From just after the tragedy it became and remains a destination for pilgrims coming to honor the dead. For eight months after the World Trade Center towers fell it was also where hundreds of volunteers labored in 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day tending to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the rescue, construction and security workers on the site.

When I arrived at the historic chapel I was stunned by what I saw. The entire wrought iron fence surround the church grounds was covered with stuffed toys and hand-made posters. I broke down and wept. I thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t nearly ready to see this outpouring of love and affection.

I made my way down Broadway to Albany or Carlisle Street, then west to the site. It was on one of these narrow streets that I put away my camera. There were workers in the streets, just below the surface, repairing the infrastructure and utilities. The workers had made and displayed a series of signs, mostly written out on cardboard. They were all a variation on a theme. “Please don’t take photos.” I’m convinced that what they were saying was that we needed to honor the dead in a way that did not turn the site into a tourist destination. My mixed emotions about visiting returned. I vowed to honor the requests, in spite of the many vendors across Manhattan that were selling trinkets and images. They could do that, and I’m sure for a variety of reasons—some good, some venal. I decided I would honor the requests of the workers.

Immediately after reaffirming that decision I turned the corner to Washington Street and started walking to the site. I didn’t get far. I could see the smoking hazy scene from two blocks away, the torn jagged aluminum siding from the Trade Center angling skyward.

In front of this scene was a man with a camera. His family—his wife and two daughters standing in front of that horrific carnage—were smiling for the camera. My first reaction was to get in the face of this guy and ask him if he’d seen the signs. I quickly stopped myself. It was not my place to confront or judge anyone else there. I could only decide for myself how I would handle things. I turned around and left, retracing my steps back to St. Paul’s. I lingered for some time absorbing the scene at the church and just watched the people. I must have stayed for a couple of hours, but had to get back to the hotel. I’m not one to be overly talkative, but the day’s journey to the site of terror served to make me even less communicative. It was a weight that in some ways still remains.

I know my thoughts and feelings can’t compare to those directly affected. This post does indeed sound like it’s all about me. For my friends here who know something about me, I know you will recognize my heart in this. I will not go on to now preach about the solidarity so soon lost. The last 14 years are what they are. We can all only continue to go on, but hold fast some simple ideas that helps shape our personal and collective choices: love, honor, duty, sacrifice, coming together as a nation and remembering the fallen.


Peace, سلام


Beaten with a Hammer

Spider Lilies, Lycoris radiata, in our back yard—volunteers that appear every year and last just a few days—a startling metaphor for lives cut short and all too brief.

I sat out on the back deck this morning. I was finally able to sit out on the deck for a few moments in this too slow to go dread Dallas summer delivered from the bowels of Hades.

We had rain last night that meant more than our cat Popper being pissed she was getting squishy mud between her delicate pink pads as she checked the peepholes in our fence for near trespassers. What it really meant was that many of the horde of firefighters across much of Texas could get a break from trying to put out the hell-spawned infernos that have been incinerating desiccated prairies, crops, trees, homes and people. It’s been a hell of a year indeed.

no rain

Fuel for the fires—no rain and no money for irrigation water. West of Hondo, Texas on State Highway 90

It also meant I had a few quiet moments for thought. I’m haunted, still, by something recently seen.

It’s humid from the rain. I try to decide whether to switch off the AC in the house. I hear it click on as the outside compressor fan comes to life. I hate humidity too, as much as her evil twin the heat so I let it run knowing it won’t stay on long. I see our neighbors roof above the top of our tall fence. Squirrels are having fun finally, chasing each other before they get down to business planting acorns and somehow imprinting the locations in their little memories. Maybe they can smell those fermented nuts months from now, or maybe it’s like a photograph triangulating micro benchmarks for later retrieval.

It’s all beautiful for a change, and I’m still haunted.

What is it drives men to violence and hatred? It’s more than big pickups and tiny dicks, though those are common enough indicators. Men have been on a killing spree from either Cain or some unnamed missing link—take your pick. I wish “someone else’s turn” would really happen.

Three women, Ellen Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman, shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. I read some of the celebratory comments in different online fora and a common thread spanned all the ones I saw—that maybe it’s time for the women to be in charge of everything on the planet. Oh, to be sure, there will always be Margaret Thatchers, Phyllis Schlaflys and Sarah Palins aplenty. But for every one of those there will be a multitude more who are peaceful and progressive, sheltering and nurturing and true to the essence. I think the odds are in favor of a better job being done.


My friends Joe and Julie Delio were off on a short trip to see the Albuquerque Ballon Festival. On their way back they would take a long southern detour to stop at the Davis Mountains State Park to spend a couple of nights at the Civilian Conservation Corps 1930s-built Indian Lodge, so named for its imitative design of the Pueblo communities of the Southwest. I decided to drive down and join them in the interruption of their journey home.

Dawn at Davis Mountains State Park

and then she came

Indian Lodge just after dawn

Indian Lodge

A progression of dawn shots. It is an achingly beautiful place to spend some time. That Joe and Julie shared it made it all the more wonderful.

Beauty abounds in the spare, sere reaches of the west Texas high country. I love the big sky and big geology of it. What meager talents I have in the transcription of photography, I feel my best work is often done in open spaces such as found in the Big Bend area.

(I say “meager” deliberately, without a need for any contradiction, knowing my place on the spectrum of ability + artistry and always seeing the beauty in what others produce. I’m rarely envious and usually take such beauty as instructive and illuminating which I think is a sustaining approach both to life and photography.)

Lonely road

I love lonely roads—there’s never a worry in going slow or stopping to get out and think on the very nature of beauty. Highway 118 west of Fort Davis. A larger version is here.

Lonely roads are for bikes too.

And I returned, of course, to a favorite personal icon of beauty. It encompasses the paradox and dialectic of the beauty and profane for me. The artists of this non-commercial-functioning art installation intended (I think—I don’t really know) for it to be a social commentary pitting two elements against each other: the things we need versus the things we want.

Midday at the Prada Marfa

It was a beautiful day, the clouds were amazing and a gift for composition. Larger version is here.

Prada Marfa

A larger version is here.

Of course I don’t own the Prada Marfa store—its art or presence. It’s a personal hajj for me to view it again and again because of my affection for it. I only claim the images I’ve made of it as my own, which are really only a veneer of its substance, and yet I’m happy to place myself inside the store for a moment, if only by reflection, and transform the space it occupies showing clouds within and without. (If you click on the image itself to take you to the Flickr hosting page, you’ll see a comment left by my photographer son—a false contretemps comment as he knows what it means to me.)

And yet we see that profane dialectic I referenced above in the following image. Whether it’s mere vandalism or a contributive statement is for you to decide. I know what it means for me, and I know there are other ways as well.

Prada Marfa

I focused on the recent bullet embedded in the bullet-proof Lexan of the storefront—an attempt on my part in composing some semblance of beauty in spite of the efforts of others. I imagine the assault as a drive by shooting betraying some physical or emotional impotence. Again, I choose the words carefully—”assault” for what it portends in the rest of this story, though there is no real comparison.

Come sit a spell with me and grab a Nehi beverage from the cooler—before we get to the bad part of this story. We’ll grab a seat near the barber shop and think and talk, maybe solve some minor problems and decide what we ought to do. I don’t really think either of us will have any answer to what we’re about to see though, but it might help to take our time getting there.

Have a drink

come sit a spell

I returned to this beautiful sparsely populated corner of Texas even though I had recently visited. I don’t mind that it takes 11 or 12 hours or more to get there in my choice of how I travel—staying off the Interstates and opting instead for the beauty of blue highways. I’m not really sure how long it takes to get from Dallas to Big Bend, I’ve never kept track. It’s a long drive. Except for the freeways of Los Angeles, and not counting Alaska, Texas is the only state where you can drive for more than 15 hours and still be in the same state. One benefit of these long photo road trips is the modern hermitage—a solo driver encased in metal and glass—contemplating the fittingness once again of the song Hejira at about 85 decibels and 58 miles an hour and no one caring or even hearing when I miss the high notes. Joni Mitchell’s 1976 album is still beautiful and apt today moving forward to me and backward in time to Muhammad’s hijira from Mecca to Medina in the 7th century. I don’t know how this song gets so outside of time.

However, it was another of her songs that turned out to be prescient for me on this trip. Her Magdalene Laundries has often struck me hard over the years. It’s not just that my connections to Ireland are so recent, my parents immigrating from that beautiful and troubled island, the song speaks of the corruption of power that one gender holds, one that was evident in ways in our own family. Here it is again, with the addition of her explaining before the song what it was that inspired it.


I think it’s amazing, unconscionable, that the last Magdelene laundry only closed in 1996.


Joe wanted to stop by the Marfa Lights Viewing Center on the off chance that some aliens might happen by. We stopped in Marfa for an unremarkable dinner and headed out in the gathering darkness to the viewing center east on Highway 90. As expected, we didn’t see anything that couldn’t be terrestrially explained, but at least we could say we were there just in case. There were quite a few people gathered and a couple of them were cowboys.

Cowboy and Marfa Lights

It’s a bit dark, I know, but this is shot with my Nikon D3S at ISO 16,000 (normal ISO is usually in the range of 100-200). I couldn’t see the cowboy with my naked eyes and had to manually focus since the cam doesn’t have a light assist focus. It’s a bit grainy, but hell—ISO 16,000? Also, it was shot at 1/13 sec at f/1.4 handheld—so, not too bad.

It was blowing hard and cold at the viewing area, so we decided to pack it in and cap the evening off by counterbalancing the blasé dinner with a trip to the local Dairy Queen on the other side of Marfa for dessert.

We drove by the haunting place, Julie was the first to see it, but we were eager for ice cream so we vowed to come back and look at what caught our attention.


In what looked like an old fashioned service station, but was now according to the signs the Big Bend Coffee Roaster, we saw an enigma. It might just have been a simple art installation and it took a little while to figure out the horror stories it represented.

Random bits of white things floating in an otherwise empty and lit place.

The shapes of the suspended forms, hung by a single red thread, were beginning to make sense.

Red hand-written script on anatomical shaped plaster hearts.

In the larger version, here, you see this inscription: Carmen Patricia Ramirez Sanchez 34, 2005, Shot To Death

Every heart, every heart suspended by a single red thread, represents the death or trauma of a woman from domestic violence. Every heart had the words written out: the name, age, date and method of death or damage.

What we saw was an installation by Marfa artist Bettina Landgrebe.

The following is from Bettina’s website, and describes the installation in much better and starker terms than I could ever present.

A constellation of objects suspended in mid-air creates an impression of a gathering cloud. Approaching the work more closely, what appears as a cloud dissolves into individual human hearts; a common denominator of our humanity: a symbol of love, hope, and life. On further inspection, each heart is inscribed with answers to the following questions: Name, Age, Date and Method of Death.

While reading/listening to the systemic tone of a female voice reciting the fate of these human hearts, a terrifying emotion shutters through the room.

The body of these hearts is absent. The corporal silhouette that housed these vital organs is invisible; this body, we find out, was prematurely and unnaturally taken from these hearts.


But it is not only the body that was violated. The body of their relationships with their family, their community, and their culture was also disrupted. These hearts belonged to females of varying ages and backgrounds: to a girl, a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a wife, a cousin, a niece, a godmother, a friend, a lover. 

However, we must remember that the death of these women will not be primarily remembered by the heinous transgressions that took their life. The life of these females goes well beyond this exhibition. They were and remain richer and more colorful than this installation or anyone could ever try to capture. But what this exhibition strives to do is to cast a stark and unflinching eye at a common red thread that is shared by these human hearts; that is, collected in this room, a system of violence emerges. 

A war is being waged on the culture of women and civil society along the border city of Juarez, Mexico. 476 hearts are testimony to this war. A war that is waged against empathy, civility, love, hope, family, community, and towards the “softer”, fragile side of life, which the war of terror and totalitarian domination views as a threat to the complete command and control of society.

It is not a war contained amongst warriors, but it is a war that devours life and replaces it with human greed and the vanity of power. The physical and psychological warfare perpetrated against women is a testament to this naked disregard for life after war. There will be no life.

copyright 2011 Bettina Landgrebe, used with permission.

The installation runs through November 19.


The name of the installation, Beaten with a Hammer, is from one of the hearts, one of the invisible silhouettes—Tomasa Chavarria Rangel, aged 54—and the method used in her murder in 2005.

I can’t really do this justice, but I can bring it to you and let you think about it. Maybe it will haunt you too.

Update: I want to personally thank Bettina Landgrebe, with whom I’ve corresponded via email, for her kind permission to allow me to use the text from her website. It’s my hope that bringing some attention to the installation will also bring attention to the horrific plight of the victims—that with more attention that there will be changes. I know what I’ve done here is just a small measure of what needs to happen. I hope also, that with this blog and with others writing about Bettina’s art in all it’s terrible beauty, that the installation will find a home at other venues across the Southwest. It just takes a spark for that to happen. If I helped in that spark, then I’m gratified to have that small part. 

You can also hear Bettina with host Tom Michael of Marfa Public Radio 93.5 talk about the installation at this link. It’s an enormously interesting interview. 

all photos copyright © 2011 by barry b. doyle · all rights reserved

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