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Lately, my two-week trip on a grungy ship carrying goods and aid workers around islands in the Solomons has been on my mind. Sitting in my older sister’s hammock in her Oregon back yard, I don’t feel ungrateful but I just wish I was back to the sea in the South Pacific. These past several years I have traveled a lot, maybe too much for it to really be good for me in the long run, but the one place I just felt I suited and where joy seemed to settle into my heart was on the sea on this dirty little boat riding up to island after island. Maybe I am a water person, or a boat person or someone who just wants to be on the water. I admit, I am super stressed. Once I left West Africa some years back, I have returned from time to time but not to stay past several months. I kept finding myself back in Asia, then in Europe, the Caribbean, in this kind of endless wandering. On the back of mopeds in small towns in Java in Indonesia I would suddenly feel this sense of freedom and wonder, a feeling I had not had since my 20s living in strange places from what I had grown up in. I did not know I could feel that again after so many years living in countries not my own, but on this boat in the South Pacific, with no good food and no good place to sleep, I felt more at peace then I had felt anywhere. I cannot pin point why. I am a water person, or a boat person or just someone who feels genuinely at home on water! Ebola is threatening those I have left behind: my close people, my heart, my loves. I see myself being pulled back in ways I cannot explain even though I had come to the decision to return to Liberia for good anyway, to live the remainder of my life in the laughter of my grand children. Now, in moments of worry and nervousness, I find myself wishing so deeply we could be somewhere between islands on some ratty ship, sailing to meet up with welcoming people far far away from all that has come to disturb our family dreams!

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Oregon summer. Yard beauty! 

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Summer backyard bees in Oregon try to weather the heat. 

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Backyard summer in Oregon. 

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More Oregon Coast garden beauty at my kick-a** cousin’s house. She has got the growin bug. When people say you cannot grow a garden so close to the Ocean Coast sea spray, just look at these beauties and know it can be done! Near Lincoln City, Oregon just a few steps from the Pacific Ocean.

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My older cousin moved away to the mid west when she was just married. She stayed, raised a family, became a nurse, raised pure-bred horses and jumped with them, trained dogs, taught disabled youth how to ride horses AND planted gardens. Just your average mid-western woman. When she recently returned to Oregon and moved to a small community just blocks from the coast, various folks said she would not be able to make a garden in her front lawn. Just two or three growing seasons later, here are some of the results. Don’t mess with no dog-trainin and horse-ridin motha of grown kids. She can grow anything where she pleases!

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Oregon flower beauty!

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Oregon garden beauty! 

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Set along one of the many fresh rivers of Dominica, the Riverside Cafe offers food, drinks and a chance to buy into a housing scheme unlike most found on the island. If you build it must be approved by the owners, use natural products and employee local workers. When I first went there I was a little upset as they have built on a river I loved to swim in, but the women running the place told me everyone is welcome to still swim in their area, so that was a relief and I commend them for allowing people access. La Plaine, the town nearest the cafe, is the small town where I once lived in the 90s and have fond memories of walking its lanes, getting groceries from its one store and picking all the abundant fruit and veggies in my backyard garden. Dominica = Heaven!

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The beauty of a little visited Thai temple in Nong Bua Lampu in northeastern Thailand!

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Flower Show in Chiang Mai, Thailand…..I just love the floats!

All photos by Renee Irene

6 Notes

Skimming on the water in a canoe through the mangroves is such an emotionally rich experience. For me, it also became a creative experience. I was mesmerized by the way the light filtered onto the dark water and the kind of creepy yet very alluring look to the forest itself. Up to the day I got to glide through the mangroves, I had no idea that a story would come up through me and have to be put on paper. A movie outline. I have written a few radio dramas but this was a visual story, influenced by a film I had watched one night in a village of the looming Independence of the Solomon Islands in 1978 and time with the people in the area. While in the canoe itself, the story just bubbled up into my head and demanded to be put on paper. These are a few of the photos I was taking those two or three days! I have refined the story and now doing research. I cannot get it out of my head. The creative process is kind of mysterious. I had been telling a few folks I had met that there was no way I could write a story set in the Solomons because I was just not there long enough to really get a feel for the place and then, bam, the story just hit me. 

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Kids again…in the US, Indonesia, Thailand and the Solomon Islands.

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Kids can be so natural in front of a camera if you wait a little while and let them play or just be themselves. It helps to be fond of children. They are one of my favorite subjects. While at home and traveling, I often prefer to photograph kids.

Sometimes they can even surprise you.

On a long trip around the islands of the Solomons, I came to a village along with local aid workers and was sitting on a porch with one or two adults and the village children rushed to sit with us, filling up the space. 

I had on Keen shoes, very strange looking  indeed, and support socks as traveling so much does do damage to veins. Maybe the children had never seen those kind of socks before and they could not get enough of them. As I sat there, they started to whisper to each other, “socksies.” In a few minutes it became a mantra - everyone saying socksies. After about 10 full minutes of this, with me trying to ignore that they were all fixated on my socks, two very brave little girls crawled under the bench to sneak a feel. I was very popular in that village along with my socks and Keen shoes! 

Throughout the islands my shoes would get all the kids’ attention. Over and over! 

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Making panorama photos is a science and an art and I am still a beginner but here are a few from Oregon, Indonesia, The Solomon Islands and Montana. One or two little mistake areas but as I said, still trying. Hope you enjoy!