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© John David Becker 2010

Mr. Bird and his Sonic Arboretum – a landscape of speaker horns in all sizes by sculptor, inventor, and luthier Ian Schneller – create a sonic and visual ambiance at the Guggenheim for the Dark Sounds series.

Guests wandered the spiraling gallery showcasing the “Haunted” exhibition.  Worth checking out, but the Andrew Bird performance was a one-off event (August 6th,2010).


© john david becker 2010

a mug for my coffee.  it’s an object.  sits on my desk day after day.  it serves a purpose.

this particular inanimate object somehow came alive the other day.  it’s purpose was different.  it radiated an energy that i had somehow forsaken.  it has less with what this mug said to me at that moment —  it was actually what this mug said to everyone else that arrested my attention.

i started compiling a list of the life affirming gifts i received from sailing on Semester at Sea in 2003 and again in 2008.

1.  my wife.  i met her early on in my first voyage.  i remember everything about that moment we first spoke.  it transpired into long talks off the coast of Singapore while refueling, overnight trains up to mountain villages in India, and long long walks on island beaches off the coast of Brazil.  eventually we married and it has been an incredible ride the entire way through.  half the people at the wedding sailed around the world with us that first time.  within a year of our marriage we were on the new ship to sail around again.

2.  i sailed around the world.  point to point.  twice.  over 28,000 miles each time.

3.  i survived 30+ foot seas off the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.  i’ve also seen the calmest seas imaginable and some of the most awe inspiring sunsets.  there’s always a give and take.

4.  i sailed through the panama canal.  sounds silly, but it was my gateway to a full circumnavigation by ship.  the first time there was a 3,000 mile gap closed by airplane.

5.  i was drinking sumatra coffee one morning and my friend Brian told me to look off the port side.  what was there?  the island of sumatra.

6.  i’ve seen snapshots of the world twice and can tell you what kind of difference five years make in third world countries (and some 2nd & 1st world too).

7.  i can differentiate stereotypes from archetypes in societies dotted around the globe.

8.  i’ve been swindled, cheated and blindsided but never hurt, maimed or killed (obviously).  i have more fears and reservations about American Suburbia than international travel destinations.

9.  the work i’ve done, whether in the realm of photography or volunteer work, while with Semester at Sea has been the most rewarding i’ve ever done.  seeing my work used for promoting such an amazing program makes me proud.

10.  i am a different person thanks to my work with Semester at Sea.  the people i’ve met, the experiences i’ve shared, the things i’ve seen have all culminated into the person i’ve become and the values i hold dear.

the intention is not to brag about accomplishments, but to remind myself of the incredible experiences i’ve been fortunate enough to share with dear friends and most importantly my wife.

we move through our days and we live in the moment.  to be reminded of your journey can make the destination that much sweeter.  if someone see’s that mug and asks me about it, i can share some of the most important stories of my life.   thanks mug!

F’03, S’08 and E81

I’m starting a new series called “pictures i like” for the sole purpose of motivating me to share.  Sometimes as a photographer, sheer volume can be a difficult mountain to climb.  By sharing photos as they inspire me, I’ll be more apt to work through them.  When I look for stories and portfolio pieces of work, the pressure of maintaining a level of artistic merit can overshadow the enjoyment of a picture for pictures sake.  Sue and I always remind each other to take “we were there” photographs.  Enjoy…

Sue Fan on a bamboo swing in the Garden of Dreams - Kathmandu Nepal 2009

Annapurna I & Annapurna South

Annapurna I, Annapurna South & Fishtail ~ 2009 John David Becker

To think these beauties standing at 7,900m and above were once at the bottom of the sea.  We woke at 0430 on October 20th to ascend to 10,000 ft atop Pun Hill.  The sun cracked the early morning sky, painting it’s warmth on the mountain faces.  This was the blessing we earned for two hard days of trekking the Annapurna Circuit.  These mountains will continue their journey skyward long past our days on this planet.  We gain strength reflecting on their permanence.  We are modest and humble in the shadows of the Himalaya.

My thoughts and prayers go to my grandfather…

sue fan & jb ~ 2009 john david becker

sue fan & jb ~ 2009 John David Becker

laughing little monks

laughing little monks

Joy is infectious.  I mentioned this monastery in an earlier post.  We had a great time.  You quickly realize that the monks are just kids like any other.  Filled with pranks and jokes.  Teasing and bullying each other.  I know there is time when their learning must be disciplined, but it’s also important to just let kids be kids…

six years ago, john and i had our first date in the small town of ooty, india.

this october, we are planning an extended trip to asia, flying in to delhi. india will always be our first love. the smells, colors, tastes – every sense is overwhelmed. we look forward to seeing northern india, feeling the energy of the ganges, the trains, the crowds.

with japan on the back burner, we’ve decided to move on and do some volunteer work in nepal and hopefully spend some time in bhutan. we spent a long time freeing ourselves of responsibilities, our kitties, jobs, nyc. there’s no saying we won’t return to any or all of those things, but life is here. we may as well live it.

it’s never easy to let go, but i let simplicity, inspiration, my husband, goals of a boat and a dog, a hut and some chickens, and an inherent need to do better and be better guide life, one we share so seamlessly. it’s so important we take time in our lives to breathe deeply, swim, share, learn, create, stretch, purge, and see the world. we all need a little more humility, a little more reality, to live out more dreams, to feel grass between our toes and dirt between our fingers. humans need challenges, sacrifice, adventure, and freedom.

travel lets me hear beauty, taste joy, see grace, and feel everything.

we can’t wait.

Sue Fan in Pondicherry, India

Sue Fan, Sri Aurobindo Ashram

They say, one of the oldest methods of healing
Is by breathing deeply.

They say, while walking over grass,
To breathe in the colour green;
Which gives you a deep feeling of
Harmony with the environment.

They say, while walking alongside the sea
To Breathe in the colour blue;
Not only will the water energise you
But when combined with the colour blue,
It quietens your mind.

They say, green is one of the positive colours,
Suggesting an abundance of what we need
And generosity with what we have.
Green is associated with giving and receiving freely,
So that all may be in balance.

Green also relates to qualities of the heart,
Like sympathy, kindness, and compassion.
They say, it is good for the eyes
To walk bare feet on the grass.

I got on the E train at West 4th heading home from a seminar. When I stepped on the train, I think I was listening to “Welcome to the World” by Bobby Weir and Ratdog. There was something savory in the bass line, something bluesy in the guitar. The lyrics weren’t beautiful or poetic beyond measure, but they had heart. I wouldn’t concede that my musical taste is the highest form of absoluteness or that the tunes that fill my iPod would be considered classics to all. I think I can concede that, when I heard that song – like many songs – I felt that I wasn’t missing something. There wasn’t the emptiness of pop or the trendiness of hip-hop, the tragedy of emo or the angst of punk. All that was left was a feeling that a thought had been completed. An appreciation was born. A need to fill a void didn’t exist.

So how does this transpire to a new age of enlightenment? My thoughts that follow targeted the people surrounding me on that train, pondering their levels of consciousness.

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sue fan & me in Angkor Thom, Cambodi

sue fan & me in Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Travel. What compels some people to do it, some people to fear it and some people to wish for it? We had brunch here in NYC with some friends from Delaware. Eventually our plans to go to Japan became the topic of conversation and then the inevitable discussions of prior travels. It’s funny to me that no matter how many places I’ve seen, the wish list doesn’t diminish. One of our friends traveled in Europe for 10 weeks, lived in Alaska for three years on top of countless other experiences. She thinks we’ve done some cool things? The talk winded down the same road that so many other conversations have for us. “How do you do it?” and “I wish I could do it?!?” And our response is always the same.

While I admit our fortunes are entwined with our freelance work status — it’s easy to pick up and go when you’re not working a 9-5’er with 2 weeks vacation — two weeks can really add up to some quality travel time if you use it wisely. When I had a real job, we still managed to get to Puerto Rico on a Friday night and return to NYC for work by Monday morning. Roatan for a week of diving. Yucatan for a week of exploring. Acadia, Maine for camping. It helps to have a partner with common goals – the motivation and inspiration to do more. This is how we attempt to inspire everyone.

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When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. -Barbara Bloom