Here is a collection of images I have made of Alex Knost over the years. He is an artist, musician and surfer and writer. Always evolving, changing and growing. I am grateful that we crossed paths.
Check out his band Tomorrows Tulips.
"Kym Ellery is definitely Australia's most iconic luxury fashion designer."- Jon Laurenson
She is also super kind and easy to hang with. I stopped by her studio where she showed me around and we talked about life, meditation and all sorts of other good stuff. Check out the images and video below.
This shoot was a collaboration with summersite.com be sure to check them out!
No one really knows how old the temple is but it is widely known that monks have been tattooing here for hundreds of years. When I arrived, I bought 70 Bhat worth of offerings which included flowers, cigarettes, a skinny candle and some incense. This is a standard offering for a traditional Sak Yant tattoo. Wat Bang Prah is a big temple, with several buildings. Outside some of the buildings, monks tattooed worshippers in front of small crowds of people. It was very casual, relaxed and hot.
I was ushered into a small tiled room where a monk sat cross legged on the floor as he tattooed mans back. A dozen or so people sat on the floor beside them and watched, or played with their i-phones. Hanging from the walls were dusty pictures of smiling holy men. Other than those pictures, the room didn't look particularly holy, though the air was soothing and calm.
Some of the monks wore all white, while others dressed in classic saffron robes. The crowd waiting to be tattooed was diverse. Both young and old, men and women, some looked more conservative, while others looked as though their story was more interesting. I suppose this is expected in all religious institutions.
The people who come here believe the tattoos from monks will empower them, protect, bring prosperity, health, luck and love. Sometimes they enter into a trancelike state as they embody the spirit of their artwork, and take on its strength and power. Towards the end of my visit, I saw a man begin to pray as the monk finished the script on his head. His hands, pressed flat together by his chest started shaking, and he began to breath heavily. I could hear heavy whispers of prayer on his breath. The shaking moved up his arms and soon his whole body began shaking and his deep voice became louder until finally he clenched his fists over his head and roared as fiercely as anything you've ever heard. The people in the room just sat quietly and watched him. The atmosphere was tense. He calmed down, or came to, and moved to sit beside the next man, to hold his leg as the monk started on his next piece.
I read that the tattoo blessing was originally a Hindi tradition, and that warriors used to journey to the temples to pray and seek blessings for luck and guidance in battle. A young man who was having script inked across his chest caught my eye. He was there with his brother and father who held him while the metal spike was being tapped into his chest, leaving ink behind. Watching these men hold onto each other as prayers were etched into their skin felt like an ancient homage to their ancestral warriors.
I reflect on the artwork covering my own body and feel compassion for the people sitting in this room, who are hoping to build strength through the ink of a monk in their journey here on earth. I think about each piece of mine, when I got it, why, what it represents, how it reflects a part of my life or an element of my character. It deepened my appreciation for tattoos as symbols of our struggles and our victory’s. Sometimes they happen in a parlor close to home or at a small shop on the other side of the world.
Tattoos are something that can make us all feel connected, the markings of our own path through battle and bliss. Maybe instead of treating people differently because of the markings on their skin we should take a moment to think about where that person has been. They may have fought battles that you cannot comprehend. Watching these men leave marks on the bodies of others made me contemplate whether they were leaving anything at all, or were they really bringing to the surface all the great things that make us human, lifting up the bold markings that stand for strength, power and perseverance. These markings are the physical manifestation of what it means to feel.
While everyone sleeps they are awake, pulling food from the sea. Their lives are lived on the open swell, in the sea breeze, not knowing what will be filling tomorrows nets. The fishermen of Kep, Cambodia breathe life into the small fishing village which has become renowned for 'having the best crabs in Cambodia'. Cambodian tourists spend their holidays here, feasting on the squid and crabs of the mornings catch as they swing in hammocks under the thatch roofed gazebos that line the shore.
The fishermen come drifting in just after the sun rises, after fishing far off shore, overnight. They're mostly on long tail boats or Pangas, which are powered by old motors pulled from Toyota Corollas of the 90's. Some are powered by the fishermen themselves. They anchor their boats off shore and wade in, dragging behind them handmade cages made of bamboo filled with their catch. You can see if the catch is good on a mans face even before he reaches shore. Today there was a man who was absolutely beaming. As his basket of gold hit the deck, crowds rushed over to see not only a full stock of famous Kep crabs, but squid, octopuses, fish, and all kinds of wild undersea creatures that I have never seen before. Once they have made it to the small pier, the loot is usually passed to a wife or family member who is in charge of sales. Groups of women gather under sun umbrellas, talking and waiting for their fishermen to come back from the blue. There is a vibrant energy in the air even though it is only seven in the morning. Up and down the dock, voices shriek and shrill as they barter with customers, who are usually local residents or restaurant and hotel owners. The sun is hot even though it just broke over the horizon and almost everyones face and neck is covered by large hats and the typical Cambodian krama. Bits and pieces of old fish and crabs line the shores, along with plastic bags and styrofoam containers. They love to use plastic bags and styrofoam in markets all over S.E. Asia. The ocean pays the biggest price.
Its hard work dragging your pay from the bottom of the ocean. I am always curious to hear what fisherman have to say about the ocean, because I feel as though they have a uniquely close relationship with the sea, an unforgiving one of give and take. I asked Petra, who worked at the guesthouse if any of the fisherman spoke English, he laughed and said “if you speak English, you are no longer fisherman. You drive tuktuk!” There are inevitable changes rapidly happening in this small seaside town, and you can only hope that the fishing tradition that has made this town so famous will survive it.
Petra was kind enough to be my translator so that I could interview a fisherman named Vibom who is 22. Vibom told he spends more time on water than on land. He told of when he first started fishing after he was introduced to it by his friend, “I was afraid, but the fear slowly went away, storm after storm and before I knew it the boat and ocean felt more like home than land and the shore”. Vibom and the other fishermen spend their nights under the moon, humbled by the storms that pass. There is something so honest about a life lived on the sea, especially at this level, not taking more then you need, living simply in harmony with nature. Yet there is a dark side to this life. Petra and Vibom spoke softly about fisherman who were taken by Thai commercial fishing vessels and kept out at sea for years on end, as slaves. Petra said they are “kept so far out they can't even see the shore”.
For days I found myself wandering the shores of Kep, wondering what was so appealing about the town. Watching people who live in such harmony with nature is such a long way from the frozen food section in my local grocer in the United States. There are people here still fishing the old fashion way, just taking enough to make a living for their families. It's an authentic example of what sustainability and community really looks like. There is something about these men who pull their food from the sea. They are simple and humble and I am grateful to have spent some time in this small seaside town.
California has always had a special place in my heart and every time I explore her I find something new. There is an abundance of raw natural beauty just waiting around each corner.
I am glad I was able to share some of this with Sophie.
Two people talking about ideas. The volume is quite but the message is honest.
A friend told me I should visit Hampi, a town of goat herders located smack dab in the middle of India, about 125km inland from Goa. The narrow roads leading the way there were winding and the landscape was like none I had ever seen before; big boulders shot up out of the earth in strange formations, this place looked like a real life version of the Flintstones. Old Hindu temples look out over the Tungabhadra River and sounds of chanting and drums fill the air. Rock climbers frequent the place for its world class bouldering, I went there for the goat herders.
There is a man who spends his day shuttling tourists across the river and into Hampi on a small boat. When I reached the other side, I immediately felt at home. Hampi is dry and warm and amongst the rocks and the rice paddies I found a small guesthouse called Goan Corner. A cool breeze worked its way through the palm leaves and empty hammocks on the front porches of scattered bungalows. Groups of boys played cricket in small vacant lots. I heard stories about a night bazaar that used to live on the other side of the river but is now survived only by the buildings’ ruins. I was told the government tore down the bazaar so that Hampi became known as a pilgrimage sight for Hindus. Hampi is a dry town, which means in order to get your hands on some liquor, you have to go to the edge of town and ask for a man who sells India’s take on moonshine. It the does the trick but might make you deathly ill or blind.
The shepherds of Hampi passed through town everyday and quickly caught my attention. Sometimes it was a lone shepherd with his goat, sometimes it was families with their herds. I wondered about where they were coming from, where they were going and why, though no one around me could speak English so I never got to the bottom of it. One day, they started building a makeshift shack, in the middle of a field, on a boiling hot day – I couldn’t work out why. Five hours later, there was a torrential downpour that came clean out of nowhere but the shepherds already had a fire roaring. I watched in admiration and awe as they tended the fire with their stash of dry wood, and ate their dinner, dry and warm in their makeshift shack as the goats happily grazed nearby.
It’s humbling to think about the shepherds sleeping in the rain. They live in the fields despite the elements and I could see this same scene unfolding thousands of years before. Men and women spending their days guiding their animals to food and water. Tending their herd and providing for their families. The shepherds’ lives appeared simple but fulfilling.
Control is such a strong and powerful word, one that has been hovering in my consciousness, working it's way in and out of my life for some time now. Not too long ago I felt completely at the mercy of the universe. Out of control of anything. It started with a friend of mine who died in a car accident, followed by the death of my grandfather and my father shortly after that. This all happened within a year. Grief and loss swept over me like a tidal wave. I began living impulsively, fearing that my time was coming at any moment. I got drunk, angry, lost and afraid. Then I realized:
I want to be happy
This was a mantra that seemed to flow and flow through my mind on repeat. I was sick and tired of my happiness being attached to the people, places and things that were outside of my control. I found by just repeating these words my happiness started to grow. I found myself slowly regaining control of the chaos that had become my life. It started with small steps of things that were easier to control. First I stopped eating red meat, then eventually chicken and fish. I began exercising. I started kickboxing, where running a mile was part of the training regime. Running felt good for me, so I did more of it. One mile became five, five became ten then 18 months later, I ran a marathon.
These relatively small things I could do to control my physical health gave me strength and courage to delve deeper. To control my happiness and wellbeing.
I traveled the world alone. When I was in India, I quit drinking and though I was already eating vegetarian, I began eating vegan. Then I faced my most difficult and significant challenge: sitting through 10 days of complete silence and meditation. This is where I truly learned to regain control of my life, and my happiness. It's hard work: sitting still, listening to yourself, your breath, but in this place, I learned compassion, peace and that life can be lived proactively rather than reactively.
This post is aimed at those who feel a lack of control. There is hope. You will have to work and at times it will be difficult. You will need to differentiate when to take rest and when to push yourself. There will be days when you wake, and begin to notice there is a shift taking place. You have the ability to change and transform and it is up to you to decide who you want to become.
If you need tips and tricks for regaining control or becoming unstuck, feel free to reach out.
This morning I woke and decided I would go to the French bakery. Sophie and I found it the other day and its the best bread we have found since we have been away from home. On my way back to our guesthouse I decided to roam the market. I have always loved the markets in Asia. They are small meccas that hold life. They make me feel powerful and vibrant feelings of being alive. Like when you see your favorite band for the first time, or jump off a pier into open ocean. There is so much life happening here in these markets. Monks chant over shop keepers and salespeople. Fish are wiggling and fighting to escape their small water enclosures, and men place bets under small overhangs filled with pool tables. It's so complex and overwhelming but absolutely peaceful. Life is happening here and it's a very long way from the frozen food section in the fluorescent supermarkets I knew growing up. It makes me wonder what happened to all the butchers and vegetable sellers, the watch fixers and umbrella salesman. I love home. It's pretty and safe and clean and the people I love are there but I would be lying to you if I said I didn't enjoy this world. It is so different to the one I was raised in. I feel like a big kid who is out exploring. I am flipping over rocks and looking under dead trees and seeking out secret hideouts. This was my morning in Cambodia.