Visiting the BEAUTIFUL Lyon Arboretum in Oahu, Hawaii (A Photographic Adventure)

As many of you know from my Instagram and my wife’s Instagram, we spent our honeymoon in the beautiful state of Hawaii on Oahu island. We saw a lot of really amazing stuff, but in this post I wanted to focus on our journey through the Lyon Arboretum. It was hands down my favorite arboretum I’ve been to and we were lucky enough to visit them on their 100th anniversary.

(To view any picture up close, tap/click on it and it will expand. All photos are raw shots/unedited.)

We first arrived not really knowing what to expect. Most arboretums that we’ve visited are very structured with clear, graveled walkways. Lyon was in a realm of its own as it presented us with a dirt trail that became more and more treacherous and jungle-like. I suppose this is what one should expect on a tropical island.

The off-path feeling actually made everything a lot more enjoyable. In fact, it was even a bit dangerous as some trails had signs that basically translated to, “You may get hurt or die. If you think you might do one of these things, it’s best not to do them. If you think you might not die, however, go for it!

I realize now you may be reading this and thinking I’m roasting the park or that I’m speaking ill of it in some way, but I’m not! I just found it humorous and a bit more dangerous than your average arboretum. Like I said at the beginning of this, it was hands down my favorite arboretum I’ve been to. I thought the entire place was unbelievable. I even took a picture in the bathroom while peeing… of the window and view, of course.

When we first arrived, Tiff had spilled coffee on her shirt so we decided to visit the gift shop before hiking in and taking pictures. The greeter inside was extremely helpful, nice, and knowledgeable, (about the park - not stained shirts). We went to the restroom, (as previously stated - no clue why I had to mention our bladder powers again) and we were off down the trail.

The path opened up to a peaceful and scenic view, though as a sucker for close up photography, I started taking pictures of flowers immediately. The diversity of plant life here is amazing. It’s even more spectacular when compared to the Texas/mainland flowers we’ve grown up with all of our lives.

As we rounded the start of the trail, it opened to a large, sprawling field with strange trees and mountains hiding at the back of the landscape. The trees had their roots as their base and were exposed. Some hadn’t reached the ground yet and looked somewhat phallic. I, of course, had to showcase this in a photograph below.

Birds were heard overhead, though most were hiding from sight. We traversed a small bridge and came upon trees with the strangest root systems. They rose from the ground like a city’s walls. The way they ebbed and flowed as you followed their tops with your eyes were mesmerizing.

Along the path laid a variety of mushrooms, flowers, and other variants of nature.

As we walked through this area, I realized how obsessed I’ve always been with the forest’s floor. Looking up and through is always wonderful, but there’s something about looking down at the debris that covers the ground that holds an oddly satisfying feeling. Life thrives and dies down there.

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Most of the notable insects we came upon were invisible and only made themselves known by the red welts they left on my wife’s leg, (mosquitoes, we assume). Though besides a large, flying bug that blocked our path, (which I wasn’t able to get a good picture of) we encountered the cricket’looking creature from hell that can be seen below.

We did however see a few normal-appearing bugs as well. Some are harder to see in the photos than others.

Further down the jungle-y, Hawaiian rabbit’s hole we went. The pathway led us by mossy rocks & coconuts, strange-to-us plants & flowers, and more tropical greenery than we were used to. I snapped more photos.

It was a lot to take in and I didn’t come close to capturing it all through my camera. The moment seemed a little more important than the future’s remembrance of it.

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I could get lost in this for days with Tiff and be completely content, (besides all of the bug bites and humidity).

The hike went higher and higher up. The walkways became more dense. Our route elevated and provided us passing root systems that become convenient stairs. The entire climb up we could hear rushing water, but we couldn’t view its source. A directional sign popped up as the only man made object and directed us toward a small waterfall.

We followed the arrow past the sign and its metal sister that warned against falling rocks. After another 5-10 minutes had passed, we were standing before the ‘Aihualama Falls. It stood as a large rock wall with a peaceful stream flowing from it. The entire area was enchanting and belonged to just Tiff and I for a brief, fleeting moment.

We hung out for a bit and began our trek back down. We took a small detour down a part of the path we hadn’t yet traveled.

The rest of the photos are from our trip back down. I can’t recommend Lyon Arboretum enough. If you find yourself in Hawaii on Oahu island, add this to your trip itinerary! You can visit their website by going to: https://manoa.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum/

Enjoy the rest of the photos below!

Photo Essay Three: Hers, Forever.
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Falling in love with her has been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around, and fell. Our love surrendered to gravity.

She makes me feel as if I’ve known her my entire life.

Life is a train and we travel it wildly into the future. We’re both passengers. There was a time when we had never met. Then a day came when we did...and the train still flies down the tracks and we don’t know when it stops... but at least now we have each other. Her head forever sits on my shoulder as we both look out at the changing scenery. Both of her hands are in one of mine. There are no second guesses on if I should be with her... I should be.

Similar to a famous Carl Sagan quote: from my vantage point, she’s all I’ve ever known and ever will in my lifetime. She’s a ball of energy clearing the darkness that wishes to envelop us both. She represents our ancestors: the stars, better than anyone I’ve ever known. The only difference is, is that she burns brighter.

She’s a forest; now my forest. Beings before me have attempted to cut down her trees and stomp on her plants, but she continues to bloom. My goal is to preserve her and help her grow. As with natures most beautiful creations, we often think we’re saving them, when really with just one glance or just one experience, they’re saving us.

I consider tonight the vastness of space and time, and it leads me to my most important life understanding so far: somehow I got lucky enough to not only cross paths with Tiff, but out of every possible and impossible outcome that could have been, I get the opportunity to be hers, forever.

Robber's Cave State Park: History, Hiking, and Alien Encounters

Most people tend to think about Oklahoma as a flat, boring state. Well, for the majority of the landscape you'd be right, but not the Robber's Cave State Park Area. Robber’s Cave has some really cool winding trails through giant rock cliffs and an amazing view from the top if you go in the fall, (like Tiff and I did). It’s located in the scenic, hilly woodlands of the Sans Bois Mountains of southeast Oklahoma and just might be among my favorite camping grounds within 4 hours of Dallas, Texas.

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A Brief History

The area surrounding the present-day park has been a hunting ground for hundreds of years. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest people were related to the builders of the Spiro Mounds. By the 1600s, the Osage and Caddo tribes dominated the area. French hunters and explorers also visited, leaving their mark by naming some of the prominent geographic features, which are still used.

After the Civil War, this area became legendary for sheltering fugitives from the law. Some of these included Jesse James and Belle Starr. Other fugitives included the Dalton Gang, the Youngers and the Rufus Buck Gang.
— Wikipedia
 “Dalton Gang” - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Dalton Gang” - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

My First “Alien” Encounter

When I was a wee lass about 10 or 11, I went on a camping trip to Robber's Cave State Park in Oklahoma. Something happened there that separated itself from other childhood trips: I saw an alien. Well, okay, I REMEMBER seeing an alien or a ghost or something. All I know was I woke up from a dead sleep, looked out of the window that was positioned at the foot of the bunk bed I was sleeping on, and BAM. In front of me stood, (or floated) this incredibly bright, green figure that eerily stared at me unflinchingly.

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In the years that have followed, I’ve tried to scour the internet for sightings similar to my own around that same location. The only similar story even remotely like it is that of “The Spooklight” or “Hollis Light”. A mysterious event that can be seen from the Oklahoma/Missouri state line from a small town in Hornet, MO.

The only issue with this commonly reported sighting compared to my own is that the two events take place a little over three hours from each other. In The Spooklight sightings, most describe it as an orb, whereas I remember a large figure that felt imposing and yet calm somehow. I had always hoped I could return to Robber’s Cave to see if I could experience the same phenomenon. In November of 2017, I got my chance.

My Trip As An Adult

My girlfriend at the time, (now wife) and I decided to go on a quick trip some place close, but out of North Texas. I told her about my encounter and my wish to return to this place that forced me into such wonderment as an adult. It had a lot of hiking and things to climb so she agreed and off we went. Below are some of the photos we took. (Click to Enlarge Them.)

Final Thoughts

As much as I’d love to say I saw the green thing again, I didn’t. Instead, the trip ended up being really great. We explored the area, climbed the rocks, cooked food over an open flame, drank wine, pet farm animals, stargazed, and more. The locals were extremely accommodating at the cabins we stayed at, the nearby gift shop, and the people in the nearest town where we ate dinner the first night.

I often think, maybe it saw me and I was completely oblivious or maybe and more probable, it was all a brain failure at a young age. Either way, I highly recommend visiting RObber’s Cave State Park for yourself. Who knows, maybe the glowing thing is waiting there to meet YOU.

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Some of the Coolest Tiny Apartments Around the Web

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been obsessed with tiny home and tiny apartment YouTube videos, As my fiancee can attest too, I’ve been watching WAY too many of these tours. I just find it fascinating how people pack their entire lives into small spaces and still manage to make them look really nice and livable.

I’ll try and break down my favorites by design style. Each video/space that I picked represents areas or furniture concepts that I hope to incorporate into the house I’m getting soon. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite ones and be sure to give a follow to all of these awesome YouTubers.

Modern Geek

This first tour is from a YouTuber named SpacySpice. He is a digital interior designer and wanted to show off his own home. I wanted to start with this one because it’s one of my favorites. The fold out bed/work area is so cool. Sometimes I watch videos like these and I’ll see a few areas that look kind of throw together, but this guy thought out every inch of the apartment. I’ve also never seen such a small kitchen that’s so functional.

Minimalist

I’ve always dreamed of being a minimalist, but I love collecting TOO DAMN MUCH. Luckily, I can live vicariously through YouTubers who do. This apartment is from a YouTuber named Rawvana. Her Loft is amazing in its layout and design. My favorite features are the modern kitchen and the wooden stairs.

Traveling through this apartment, I miss the loft that I used to have, (though this one is A LOT cooler than mine was). It gave me a few ideas on certain areas of our future house than can follow the minimalist lifestyle.

Artsy Fold Out

This one comes to us a YouTube series on a channel called Never Too Small. (Nothing Freudian about that.) I fell in love with this apartment the second that Michael Bay directed this guys kitchen. The way it transforms and fold out is such a cool concept and something I’ve never seen before. On top of that, the natural light is amazing the colors of the space flow nicely with it all.

Views / Modern

Here’s another awesome, tiny apartment from Never Too Small. Although it isn’t furnished yet in the video, the space all leads to my favorite part about it: the view. This would be a dream spectacle to wake up to each morning.

Everything

What can I say, this is my perfect apartment. It’s modern, functional, great views, smart home features, and the perfect balcony, (minus the constant rain where he lives). It might be a little bigger than the other apartments, but it’s still pretty tiny and extremely nice.

I think my favorite part is the large windows and beautiful view. My only complaint is the lack of art however he addresses this in the video so he plans on filling it and making it even more into my living space soul mate. Check out the video below and more on Justin’s YouTube channel, Justin Tse.

Photo Essay Two: Hemisphere
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How many nights have I spent here? If I had to guess I’d probably say five hundred or more.

Sometimes for skating.

Sometimes to explore the underground tunnels.

Sometimes to just get away from everything.

We called it Hemisphere because of the furniture store it was on the side of, but we mostly know it from the large, blank white wall the covers the west. The cracks and indentions in the cement. The low ledge that sits discolored from years of applied wax.

I visit less often now. The stores have changed in the building and the people are worst.

The spot itself really hasn’t changed much. The ledge continues to collect layers of wax from passing skaters.

The past is forever etched into its very existence.

A drive by reveals a thousand memories, (or at least five hundred).

Happy Birthday, Neil!

The past couple weeks I’ve been planning to make a rap song for my friend Neil, but I got hurt skating and then it kept raining and it seemed like it would never get done. I recorded the song last week, but there was still a video to be made. Yesterday I started brainstorming and worked on it all evening/night. Get ready to see a half-assed production for a non-half-assed friendship. Happy Birthday, Neil!

Photo Essay One: A Creative Space
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Growing up in the 1990’s was a fascinating mix between analog and digital; between technology and a lack thereof (compared to today). I thank the universe that I grew up in a time period where the prospect of adventuring in a forest was more important to me than sitting in front of a screen.

Sticks and dead leaves crunching beneath my feet created a feeling more fulfilling than watching TV. Climbing a tree made me happier than reading, so naturally I did one more than the other (though I still love books). The forest was and always has been my favorite place to spend my time.

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I would never advocate littering, but growing up next to a forest in a suburb of Dallas, trash and random items were a normal thing to come across. I would often use them and combine them with the surrounding nature to create forts, paintball courses, and more. In a city, I see it all as being apart of the landscape. If the trash and random human-manufactured items outnumbered the trees and plants, well, then it would all be a very different place. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

The photos included in this essay were taken recently. This place now stands in the aftermath of its former self. Metal posts are still tied to the trees I placed them on. Paths, though worn and partly covered, still show themselves like an old man showing you the “good ole days”. A screw and nail still remain where an old childhood friend embedded them.

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Most importantly this area of the forest is where as a child and teenager my creativity, in part, blossomed. I consider the forest my first love and this is where we fell for each other. I never left this place sad or emotionally hurt, but rather I ran to it when I was scared or heart broken, just as a healthy relationship functions.

When I would visit a friend’s house, they would show me their newest toy. When they visited me, I showed them my tiny, personal safe haven filled with barbed wire, recently dug holes, and other broken pieces of mother nature’s anatomy. I’ve visited many wooded areas throughout my life in Texas and in other states, but none compare to my first love: my very own creative space among the trees.

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I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.
— Jack Kerouac
5 Movies That Changed Me.

It's been a REALLY long time since I made a list article or "listicle".  Movies seem like a good topic and I thought it was about time (no pun intended from my first film choice) that I put an article like this one out.  It seems to me that some movies just present themselves at times in life when you need them most. Other times, they show up and enter your psyche in a way you hadn't planned and at times, weren't mentally prepared for.  

Today, I'd like to talk about five movies that I've watched as an adult that changed me. These particular cinematic trips affected me in a way that no other stories on screen have at very particular times in my life. I'm excluding documentaries from this list because I want to focus on fiction. Let's dive in.   

1. About Time

 Photo courtesy of  Sami Naik

Photo courtesy of Sami Naik

I saw About Time for free through a company that hypes upcoming movies and allows you to see them earlier than most, though the seating is never ideal. It's a beautiful film about love and loss, but not in a way that most romantic comedies tread. If you haven't seen the film, you may want to skip to my second movie pick, as I'm about to talk about one of the plot reveals.

About Time is about a family where all the men can secretly travel in time and how a young man deals with the knowledge of this and how he uses that gift. It may sound cheesy, but the film is done in a fantastic way. Because this revolves around his father telling him about this "power", the father-son relationship unfolds before us in a really wonderful way. I instantly connected to the characters as I love my own father very much and we're close as well.

Later in the film, the protagonist finds that his father has terminal cancer. Rules around the movie's time travel are explained in a way that makes it so neither of them can change this grim outcome. This movie forced me to confront my own father's mortality and how I might deal with it when that frightful day arrives. I'm not ashamed to admit that I found myself crying a few times in this film. It all just felt so real.

I found myself connecting to it in other ways too, like the way the main character's relationship evolves throughout the film. Besides the prospect of having children, everything else is very much like my current relationship. One of my favorite quotes from the film is a saying I lived by when I was single and it certainly applied to Tiff, my fiancee, when I met her and our relationship matured. 

I’d only give one piece of advice to anyone marrying. We’re all quite similar in the end. We all get old and tell the same tales too many times. But try and marry someone kind [...]
— Bill Nighy character

I actually wrote about About Time (I apologize for the word-play redundancy) a while back, which is why I put this movie first on the list. I could reiterate and expand its meaning to me and move forward. You can read that HERE if you're interested.

2. Albatross

 Photo courtesy of the  New York Times

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

If you google "Albatross film" you'll probably get a documentary about birds, however the movie I'm referring to is a British coming-of-age tale from 2011. Here's a brief synopsis of the film from Wikipedia:

The rebellious teenage dropout, Emelia Conan Doyle, believes herself to be a descendant of Arthur Conan Doyle. She takes on a job as a cleaner in a seaside hotel owned by Jonathan Fischer. Jonathan is a writer from Germany who has struggled with writer’s block since his successful first novel, The Cliff House, was published 21 years before. He lives in the hotel with his wife Joa and two daughters, Beth, 17, and Posy, 6. Jonathan is constantly sequestered in the attic working on his writing, leaving the hotel to be run by Joa. Their marriage is stormy as Joa is unhappy about Jonathan’s lack of success in his profession and his disconnected parenting. Meanwhile, Emelia has lived with her grandparents since her mother committed suicide.
— Wikipedia

The film's main character, Emelia, finds herself seduced by Jonathon and an affair occurs. The affair isn't what I connected to however, but rather the act of Emelia being young and not knowing where she fit in, like me. At the time, I watched this film on a laptop sitting on my bare legs atop a mattress surrounded by boxes. A week or less from then, I was to move out for the first time and was filled with depression and excitement.

I was in a very strange head space at the time. This movie added to that sensitivity, but also made me feel like maybe I could make it as a writer after all. Or maybe I merely could make it in life. I'm not sure what I meant by "making it" then and I probably still don't. Either way, the movie caused me to embrace some inner stuff I'm not sure I was ready to confront. It's quite hard to describe, but I'll never forget Albatross and the scene/feelings I attach to it in my memories of the film.

3. The Fountain

 Photo courtesy of The Fountain's trailer on YouTube

Photo courtesy of The Fountain's trailer on YouTube

The Fountain was my introduction to the films director, Darren Aronofski, or at least it was the first movie that led me to his work in a focused way. The Fountain is quite honestly an exhausting film, emotionally and physically. For this reason I've only seen it twice, which is mournful since this movie probably deserves 5+ watch-throughs to really wrap my head around the entire plot and its intricacies.

The film focuses around two main characters played by Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman, in three different timelines. (Before you ask, yes, the movie is long, but worth it.) 

Three stories - one each from the past, present, and future - about men in pursuit of eternity with their love. A conquistador in Mayan country searches for the tree of life to free his captive queen; a medical researcher, working with various trees, looks for a cure that will save his dying wife; a space traveler, traveling with an aged tree encapsulated within a bubble, moves toward a dying star that’s wrapped in a nebula; he seeks eternity with his love. The stories intersect and parallel; the quests fail and succeed.
— IMDB

The Fountain was recommended to me by an old co-worker as, "a movie you watch and then go sit outside and stare into the sky, not knowing what to say or think." I think that perfectly encapsulates the film for me and my feeling toward it. This was another film I watched shortly before I moved out of my parents house and a film that made me confront love and loss, not toward my father, this time but in a future love interest.

It's long been my fear that I would meet someone and fall madly in love only to find myself or my significant other entangled in a terminal disease at a younger-than-old age. As you may know from previous posts, I now have that "significant other", so I'm not sure I ever want to revisit The Fountain any time soon, in the attempt to dodge my own worries and anxiety.

This movie isn't all doom and gloom in my memories though. I think about this movie from time to time and appreciate the health, however temporary that may be, my fiancee and I share. It's sad to come to the realization that someone close to you will pass one day, but hopefully her and I won't have to experience that anytime soon. Plus, I somewhat lived it out literary-wise a few months ago in a novella I wrote and am currently attempting to publish. Though the characters are completely fictitious in my book, they bear a resemblance to how I feel about Tiff, my significant other.

All these years, all these memories, there was you. You pull me through time.
— Hugh Jackman

4. HER

 Photo courtesy of  Roger Ebert

Photo courtesy of Roger Ebert

Even in the best state of mind, this movie can really make you feel peculiar. I watched it during one of my most depressing junctures in life which proved to be a poor decision. I had seen it years before this and remembered bits and pieces, but it wasn't until my second viewing that everything hit home. Mid-movie I walked outside, fell flat on the grass in the middle of a park, and lost touch with reality for a small amount of time, (no drugs or alcohol needed).

This movie is set in a not-so-distant future, but deals with city landscapes and technology we don't yet have. This film is great at making you feel isolated with the character even though he has friends and lives in a large, active city. He's a poet of sorts and besides the extreme introverted-ness, him and I had a lot in common (a couple years ago). I found a connection.

A sensitive and soulful man earns a living by writing personal letters for other people. Left heartbroken after his marriage ends, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes fascinated with a new operating system which reportedly develops into an intuitive and unique entity in its own right. He starts the program and meets “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), whose bright voice reveals a sensitive, playful personality. Though “friends” initially, the relationship soon deepens into love.
— Google

Joaquin Phoenix plays this main character and I really can't imagine anyone better for it. The melancholy and sadness he brings to this role are perfect; almost too perfect. It should be obvious to note that I don't relate to him because I, too, fell in love with an operating system, but because of his situation in life and how life just seems to drag along for a bit while you allow depression to live within you.

The ending, which I won't spoil, is incredibly beautiful cinematography. I can imagine it as I write this like I'm watching it on a screen in 4K. Maybe, at the time, I did need this movie in my life?

You know what, I can over think everything and find a million ways to doubt myself. And since Charles left I’ve been really thinking about that part of myself and, I’ve just come to realize that, we’re only here briefly. And while I’m here, I wanna allow myself joy. So fuck it.
— Amy Adams

5. Perks of Being a Wallflower

 Photo courtesy of  Sky

Photo courtesy of Sky

I watched this film during my depression as well which makes so much sense as to why I connected to it. I think there's something romantic about being a wallflower in real life. The act of being misunderstood and then being found out by someone is a beautiful thing. It's carrying a secret that only a select group of people or less get to see; the secret being: who you really are.

It doesn't feel beautiful or wonderful being an outcast, but those small moments when you can escape the anxiety and be the real you in front of others - those moments are worth it all. The main character in this film is discovered as being this creative human being and through that exposure, other repressed secrets reveal themselves, good and bad.

To me, it was a movie that teaches you that no matter how bad life gets, it'll get better. Then worse. Then better. Then worse. Then better again. Life ebbs and flows to a random beat we can't control, so I learned to let go. My approach to difficult situations has now changed from the nagging sting of anxiety to, "I'll figure it out. Life will always go on." It also taught me to appreciate the hell out of each moment in life. I now take time when I'm on an adventure or when I'm just really happy and I just soak it in; these are blips in time that I'll never get back again. One day when I'm old, I believe these moments will be all that ever really mattered on my journey through life.

 Photo courtesy of  We Heart It

Photo courtesy of We Heart It