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Six years ago this evening, I walked backward for more than an hour. Photographing hundreds of women holding torches, thousands more behind them, walking up a hill to the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, in reverence to the 1.5 million Armenians who died between 1915-1923. That night was the 100th anniversary. It is rumored that President Joe Biden on Saturday might be the first sitting president of the United States in more than 100 years to use the word genocide, in connection to what began to occur 106 years ago. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #armenia #yerevan #genocidememorial #march #fire from the @natgeo story #ghostlands @viiphoto #fromthearchives

It isn't easy to share this story after last evening's essay in kindness and love Saalumarada Thimmakka has given to our earth, planting 8000 trees. Today is Earth Day, important to also scream loudly about the reality we have collectively done to ourselves. Yes, I hope to make you angry about the damage we have done to our earth. In more significant measure, finding solutions for all of us to be less wasteful, less polluting, less abusive to each other and our environment. I ask that we all make an effortless commitment to reduce our global footprint, beginning in our homes by recycling more, consuming less, and changing our eating habits to reduce our carbon footprint. Working together to inspire others to do the same. Herewith a weighted reality of who we are, how much better we can become. Happy Earth Day. Every Day. ❤️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Djibouti - thousands of plastic bags in trees ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Indonesia - polluted beaches in Bali ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Armenia/Turkey - rubbish along the border ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ India - sacred cow looking for food in street trash ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Uzbekistan - garbage dump in the desert ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Singapore - trash on the beach ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Brazil - plastic waste on the ocean floor ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Ethiopia - rubbish left along the side of the road ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Jordan - plastic bottles and waste in the desert ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Kazakstan - camels foraging for food in plastic ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #earthday2021 @natgeo @viiphoto #ourreality

I have met world leaders and criminals. The poorest of the poor, billionaires, warmongers, and peacemakers. One who often comes to thought is Saalumarada Thimmakka. An activist for our earth, when Thimmakka learned at an early age she could not have children, she chose to create life by planting trees. A former laborer at a quarry near her home in Hulikal, India, and with no formal education, Thimmakka has brought to life more than 8000 trees. 385 line the road to her village in the southwestern state of Karnataka. Grandest banyan trees she considers her children, where nearly every day she visits, touches, and prays for them. I met Saalumarada Thimmakka two years ago while working on a story about powerful women and our environment for @rippleeffectimages. As I write this caption, Thimmakka continues her love for our earth at the age of 110. On this Earth Day, I hope you will join me in reducing the use of plastics, easing or trying to eliminate animal consumption, recycling every piece of paper, plastic, and if you can, make a small offering by planting a tree. Inspired by the love this incredible mother for our planet has done for more than 80 years. Happy Earth Day. Every day…❤️🌳🌏 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #earthday2021 @rippleeffectimages #india #Karnataka #hulikal #saalumaradathimmakka #thimmakka #trees #praying #video @viiphoto #fromthearchives

Part II: Yesterday, we met the kind ladies wearing matching sarongs, in a pleasant moment of laughter hiding the discomfort for what was about to occur. I Will try to explain using now and the past…When our Covid days began, we were all feeling a sense of worry about the unknown. When I moved to Bali, it was the start of our previous global pandemic—H5N1 or Bird Flu. And we were clueless about what it meant. No one guided the world like today. Attempting to inspire us to wear masks, socially distance, and seclude ourselves indoors. The only prevention we heard was to stock up on Tamiflu. As Bird Flu spread rapidly across Asia and much of Indonesia, onward to the rest of the world, I learned a mass culling of chickens would occur at a poultry farm in Tabanan. As customary in Bali, before every event takes place, there is a ceremony. Before a mass slaughter is no different. Even a full gamelan orchestra is on hand, and priests, blessing the little chickens into the afterlife. Many of them were already dead from H5N1 before the bloodletting began. The feathered ones that didn’t make it before the flame thrower arrived were blessed with holy water and, before incineration, offerings of flowers and money. I won’t trouble you in posting images of the inferno-slaughter…they are gruesome. What I still don’t understand is why so few of us wore masks. Imagining a pill to suppress the general flu was all we needed. What I do love is giving by a culture. So kind and gentle when our world is turned upside-down. Giving offerings and thanks to what could have killed us all. A ceremony, even in a dark moment, to help balance our unbalanced world. #bali #Indonesia #ceremony #chickens #BirdFlu #H5N1 #offerings @viiphoto #fromthearchives #stanmeyerinbali

Part I: Nothing overly complicated...a lovely moment of women in matching sarongs, enjoying a laugh before an event which wasn’t all that pleasant, and I will share with you tomorrow. Till then, this simple portrait and the enjoyment I had discovering two near frames, becoming an unexpected connecting vertical diptych, two photographs that had little to do with the event that took place that day in Tabanan. A ceremony that would only have occurred in Bali. You might be able to decode a little bit from the hashtags. More tomorrow… #bali #Indonesia #portrait #Women #sarongs #H5N1 @viiphoto #fromthearchives #stanmeyerinbali

Yesterday's story was gentle. This evening shifts to war. Each year, the younger males in the Bali Aga community of Tenganan host a ritual battle known as Perang Pandan or Padan Battle. Padan's are a genus of plants found in Southeast and South Asia which produces long, firm leaves with razor-sharp thorns. The Tengananese are devotees of the Hindu deity Indra, a warrior god. Young men go into battle upon a ring or a stage within the village, shirtless, barefoot, wearing only a sarong and holding a ratan shield as their only protection. All in warrior-giving to honor Indra, thrashing each other until the pain is too stupendous, blood pours from their thorn-imbedded backs, and the battle ends. These matches continue throughout the afternoon by others willing to test their threshold of pain. I have been to Tenganan many times but only once to a Perang Pandan, photographing for the book Island of the Spirits. The first series of images are in color, while my primary purpose was creating this story in B&W film using a Hogla. The last photo in this album is from my book. Have always felt this image from Island of the Spirits expresses the power and intensity of this battle. The expression on the other man's face as he tries to reach behind to draw blood from his opponent's elaborate tattoos on his back. As in many pieces of Balinese culture, after the match, no one is angry. The wounds will heal, and acceptance to the outcome. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bali #Indonesia #baliaga #TengananPegringsinga #tenganan #PerangPandan #cermony #Men #battle #thornyleaves #fighting #holga #IslandoftheSpirits @viiphoto #fromthearchives #stanmeyerinbali

There is another Bali Aga community besides those in Trunyan, who chose over 1000 years ago to live within the caldera of an active volcano, Gunung Batur. The other Aga community, who as their counterparts were the island's first inhabitants, chose a secluded area in the east. More accessible though still remote, closer to the coast in the village known as Tenganan Pegringsinga, on the lower slope of Gunung Agung. Mount Agung is a most sacred and often highly active volcano in Bali. The cultures, language, and traditions are very different than the Aga people of Trunyan, and these coming days I want to share this unique culture of Tenganan. This evening with some simple, beautiful moments of music, sounds of the most sacred, almost fragrant sounding gamelan on Bali, young Tengananese girls preparing for dance in the Rejang Abwan ceremony, and a grandma with a unique set of fingernails talking to the young women as they get ready. If you have earphones, even more special. I hope you enjoy... ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @natgeo #bali #Indonesia #baliaga #TengananPegringsinga #tenganan #RejangAbwan #cermony #Women #Dance #gamelan #prayers #hands #longfingernails @viiphoto #fromthearchives #stanmeyerinbali

In the village where I lived for five years, Banjar Tandeg, everyone knew each other. At the time, we were the only foreigners (bules) and were welcomed like family in the usual kind presence of the Balinese. Many of whom I was close to, one most special was Pak Wayan Subrata. Pak (Sir or Mister) Wayan was Tandeg's Banjar chief, and as friends, I called him Boss Wayan. Every banjar (village) has a leader, overseeing the community's needs, the temple, activists for community youth, and whatever else might be needed for such a close-knit group of people to live in balance together. When Pak Wayan unexpectedly passed (he was only in his late 30's), our entire community felt a heavy loss. Because Pak Wayan was also my next-door neighbor, the end of our shared driveway became the ceremonial location for his next chapter into the afterlife. Everyone came to cleanse his body in holy water. Because it was not an auspicious day for cremation, his body was placed in a bamboo casket. His daughter and family walked under his hoisted body before the 2k (1mi) walk to the local cemetery. Our cemetery is a simple strip of land on the side of our village's main road, Jalan Pantai Brawa. A shallow grave was dug by various members of our community. After, a priest blessed the location, saying prayers, before Pak Wayan's body was placed into the earth until a more special day for cremation. A temporary oasis amongst the roots of a most givingd tree. The beauty of Balinese culture, as in many others, is how death is approached. Yes, in loss of such a kind one as my friend Pak Wayan was, always will be. Death is also renewal, one of many chapters in our magical cycle of life. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bali #Indonesia #banjartandeg #@canggu #funeral #ceremony #death #Renewal #graveyard #banjantree @viiphoto #fromthearchives #stanmeyerinbali

After letting go of the question, "Why do people live upon or within active volcanoes??" every nuance of life in Indonesia and where I lived in Bali—an island shaped by fire—became more apparent. And much more intriguing. Tonight we leave Gunung Batur with one more photograph of this gorgeous volcano, reflected in the window as children studied, others enjoying the playground, at the Sekolah Dasar Negeri No. 4 Primary School 4 located within 3k (1.5 mi) from the active mystical volcano. Layers of layers, answering my question of why. With the answer always being, "Why not!" What more beautiful way to live and experience life, in all our fragility. Our weaknesses and strengths. Mere humans of insignificance where the ground beneath our feet, the sky over our heads, is far greater than we are. I hope you have enjoyed this short series of stories from Gunung Batur. Next, we travel south to my banjar (village), continuing this series from my years living on the Island of the Gods. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @natgeo #bali #Indonesia #mountbatur #gunungbatur #batur #volcano #reflection #school #students #playground #children @viiphoto #fromthearchives #stanmeyerinbali

After leaving Trunyan village, crossing the lake by boat to go home, I wanted to stop at a particular place I'd visited many times before on the southern side of Gunung Batur. I had seen this altar-like shrine, but no one was ever there. It was morning, and by chance, I met Dewi. She was giving offerings, kneeling before a table ledge made from lava stone. She told me each morning, she comes here to pray within the lava field created when Mount Batur's previous major eruption occurred in 1994. Located just 2k (1 mile) from Mount Batur in Banjar (village) Sila Rupat, Dewi, and others who live on the active volcano consider this shrine a holy place. So beautiful it was to have met her, the flower offerings and reverence so many feel for this most sacred mountain. Once these days of Covid travel restrictions ease, I will return to my second home, already in early plans for a workshop in Bali. More to share soon... ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @natgeo #bali #Indonesia #mountbatur #gunungbatur #batur #volcano #Prayer #lava #lavafield #altar @viiphoto #fromthearchives #stanmeyerinbali

There is more than a neolithic idol only viewable by virgin boys in a village settled by the first Balinese (yesterday’s story). Unlike the lowland Balinese who cremate their dead, those who live atop Gunung (Mount) Batur approach death entirely differently. With reality of death befalling all of us, the Bali Aga, who are Hindu and following millennial-old traditions, approaches life's cycle most beautifully and unexpectedly. The Trunyanese (also called Bali Mula) believe cremating, which requires fire, will upset the spirit within Batur, the active volcano whose water-filled caldera they live within. Not to anger Batur, causing it to erupt or any other calamity, the Bali Aga bury their dead in different cemeteries. I will try in this limited space to explain complexity… When you die, and at the time of death, if you were married, still single, a young child with all baby teeth, or were not injured, you would not be buried. Instead, the body is placed above ground to decompose into the earth naturally. Protected within open-air bamboo fencing, personal possessions laid beside, bodies are placed under a sacred tree known as Taru Menyan, or "fragrant tree,” and is believed to be magic. You may wonder if the smell of decaying flesh would be everywhere. I have often been to Trunyan village and can share with you…never was there a scent of death. Only 11 bodies (same as the number of pagodas at Trunyan temple) can be placed here at one time. Whatever bones remain (monkeys are said to wander off with many to play with), their skulls are placed upon an altar-like ledge, also under Taru Menyan. Nothing feels macabre about this beautiful cemetery. I would stay here for hours, enjoying its peacefulness. Wondering… who's walked in these still-bright orange flip-flops? Did she enjoy the coffee from cups, tasty meals from bowls placed next to her? A kind reminder, we are all temporary. No need for fancy expensive tombstones nor mausoleum. Under a gorgeous banyan tree, upon nature, suits me just fine. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @natgeo #bali #Indonesia #mountbatur #gunungbatur #batur #volcano #trunyan #baliaga #cemetery #Bones #graveyard #TaruMenyan @viiphoto #fromthearchives #stanmeyerinbali