Cee’s Black and White Challenge -Heads and facial features

Cee’s Photography Blog has some wonderful photography tips, inspirations and challenges –

This week it’s the Black and White  Challenge of Heads and Facial Features– lots of fun!

So I found some heads of the family


cameo contrast

A very old family heirloom found in an old trunk


the beautiful Raven Lokisdottir



Denizen of my Deck

She looks like she could use a cup of coffee on her way to kill a hobbit


nick gargoyle2

gargoyling at Rosslyn Chapel


Garfield on steroids

I had to go out for supper with one of them!!

Monochrome Madness 2-11

My entry for Leanne Cole’s  Marvelous Monochrome Madness


The soft gate ( Edinburgh)

Two Portals

and  scenes from just a few of the fun events during the Highland Games 2015 at Topaz Park

One Four Challenge week 3

Here is my third edit for Robyn’s (Captivate Me) One Four Challenge
-and a short story for any who enjoy the Mayan mystery and myth

In this edit I cropped it even more and used a topaz glow with an ecru tone


3 The Road to the Heavens

Smoke Jaguar sat alone in a chamber inside the palace while priests and augurs were at the solemn task of deciphering the mathematics of magic within the cogs of celestial destiny. He  had given them the message he had carried and now prepared to make a blood sacrifice as was the duty of the nobility. He drank a cup of sacred balche* which was mildly intoxicating before picking up a jagged sting ray barb and drawing it through his tongue. He caught the blood in a vessel full of bark paper to be burned as a gift and petition to the gods. The pain was excruciating. It pierced through the smoke of the offering bowl, opening a veil where time flowed between worlds like the blood that flowed in the most sacred of ceremonies.

For a moment he was back hunting in the Puuc* hills with his older brother. Losing his footing on a stone ledge he had fallen and bitten his tongue badly. He was bravely holding back his tears when his brother, Tortoise Shield, had taken Smoke Jaguar’s small hand in his and with the other, pointed toward the dark horizon.  “Do you see it?” he whispered reverently, “that place between the hills where Wakah Chan* reaches far into the sky.  The bridge is somewhere at the edge of the earth but only the bravest souls can find it.” He had smiled reassuringly at the little boy, “Our father’s feet have already walked it!  It is not a place of fear like the underworld, because the tree of life has risen from inside the earth and is entwined in the sky road.” His pain forgotten, Smoke Jaguar stood in silent awe and love of  both- the stars of the heavens, and his brother.

Some years later Tortoise Shield  died of a fever that no medicine or magic could quench. Many others continued to fall ill.  Smoke Jaguar hoped that the bridge between the earth and the starry road had not been broken by the displeasure of the gods. He hoped the great tree was nourished by the shedding of his own blood. He missed his brother.

Lady Ho Chuen appeared at the door. She was bowed in sorrow. She took his hands in hers and spoke softy ” More messengers have arrived Lord Smoke Jaguar. Your uncle, the king, is dead.  You are his closest living heir and will bear his title.” In sad resignation Smoke Jaguar wondered  what was left to rule. A way of life seemed to be collapsing and the terrible Ah Puch* walked the land. He thought of Ho Chuen’s dream and wondered how it could be possible to save the sun from the anger of Kukulkan.


Interestingly, Mayan nobility often pierced body parts including genitalia as blood offerings to the gods. They also tattooed themselves. They flattened the heads of  babies into a loaf shape and in a type of ritual dentistry inlaid their front teeth with jade and turquoise. The more bodily adornments, the higher the status was of the individual.

Balche a type of mead made from the Balche tree

Puuc region in central Yucatan  Puuc means hills in Mayan

Wakah Chan– Milky way  ( chan also meant serpent)

Ah Puch – god of war, destruction and disease

Inspiration and a festival coming

I can’t begin to tell you that my energy level and enthusiasm are taking flight with the good weather. Goodbye SAD syndrome for now!! I’m even out in the garden!!

Meadow afternoon

Meadow afternoon

old farmhouse


The old Manor

Another walk through the grounds at Craigflower Manor which is now the home of the Victoria Highland Games Association. Celtic music, Irish and Scottish, Highland dancing, crafts and caber toss, plus the battle of the pipe bands from all over Canada will be at Topaz Park this weekend.

Many an intrepid Scot explored and settled in BC giving many places their names. It’s pretty obvious when you see the turn out of kilts at this event.  Can’t wait!  I’m sure I will feel homesick for Scotland and Ireland!!



Mull of Kintyre

susan boyle and the royal scots dragoon guards-

Last Year

One Four Challenge – week two – May 2015

Robyn at Captivate me created this wonderful challenge of weekly processing a photo four ways. Do check out the One Four Challenge in the reader for all the great submissions. I’m a bit early.

I layered this PS CC with a night sky background, a touch of blue filter and an art brush for this version.  

For those who enjoy reading and who requested more story here it is and I hope I won’t disappoint. For those who don’t I hope the image is a story in itself!!

Chak Ek rising above the trees
Chak Ek (Venus) rising above the trees

Lady Ho Chuen stepped out from the shadow of her loom and spoke softly.  “You have come at last!  My father and the priests have been waiting and so have I.” She invited the young man to sit and servants soon appeared at the door bringing  ceramic vessels filled with hot atole. As they both leaned forward to drink, Smoke Jaguar saw serpent tails of steam curl over her long forehead and into the luxurious black hair that was dressed in high rows on top of her head. Her eyes caught the fire from the torch lamps and flashed like an obsidian knife. He shivered slightly and a gust of night air from the hallway shook the blue green feathers of his headpiece.  Not long ago he had hoped they would marry and an alliance be made between their two cities, but now with the hardships that had come, those wishes had been put aside as the people struggled to make sense of what was happening.

Putting down his bowl, Smoke Jaguar turned suddenly and embraced the woman at his side.  He felt the beating of her heart quicken against his chest like the rushing wings of the quetzal bird whose feathers he wore.  After a few moments she reluctantly broke free and began to speak. “The people are leaving the cities” she said quietly, “The great ball courts are empty and there is talk of worse to come. The priests and nobles have been unable to appease the gods.” Lady Ho Chuen gripped his hand tightly. “Smoke Jaguar, last night I had a dream! The great Kukulkan swallowed the sun and was fleeing from the heavens. A blood rain fell upon our cities and temples.” Momentary fear gripped Smoke Jaguar.  “Aiiie my lady,” he exclaimed softly, “this is a powerful dream!  It must be entrusted to those who will understand  and there is also the codice   from the astronomer priests of  the Wizard’s Well that may shed light on it all”




Somewhere around 900CE and for unknown reasons ( possible deforestation, climate change, poor government ) the Mayans began abandoning their cities and the empire and population greatly decreased. Though some scholars don’t like to call it a collapse because a few centers still thrived and remained populated, by the time the Spanish arrived (1500’s) the great civilization had much changed.

I’m using some poetic licence as the most dramatic collapses were in Chiapas and Guatamala but the decline occured throughout the Empire.

Lady Ho Chuen– just for fun I used the name that a Mayan elder gave me that corresponded with my Mayan horoscope using their old calendar. It means 5 Monkey!  The Mayans often had strange names and numbers were magical.  One king was called 19 Rabbit. The monkey however is symbolic of both the power of illusion and creativity which I hoped was inspiring!

Atole is a central American beverage mix made from corn and sometimes flavoured with chocolate.

Kukulkan is the Mayan equivalent of  the Aztec Quetzalcoatl- the feathered serpent of the sky- his developmental role in the pantheon of gods is shrouded in some mystery but he was a powerful symbol of vision, sacrifice and the state. At Chichen Itza he visibly slithers down the pyramid( el castillo) during the equinox.

Wizard’s Well or more correctly the mouth of the wizard’s well was the city of Chichen Itza.

One Four Challenge for May – Labna

I am taking up the challenge again with Robyn at Captivate me and we process a photo four different ways each week for the month. Do check out all the great submissions!

I decided to use an older photo from my own wonderful Mayan journey a few years ago.  Starting with the original and an overpexposed sky I tried to achieve a Catherwood  sketch look, so I added a glow, antique plate and vintage effects. I added a hint of colour as per Catherwood.




The sacred gate to the ceremonial center of Labna


and a short story:

It was not a journey to be taken without intense spiritual preparation, and Smoke Jaguar had performed the necessary prayers and blood letting.  He knew that his journey along the Sac-be (white road) which connected the hub of the Empire to the outlying areas of the jungle was a solemn undertaking. According to belief all duty was holy ritual. Like the tree that rose up from the bowels of Xibalba, the messenger’s journey would parallel the voyage of souls from the underworld to the ultimate portal in the Milky Way. Within the great dream, the tree of life joined earth and heaven, and as branches grew into the turtle constellation of Ak- Ek, the leaves trembled constantly from the shimmering rain of stars.

Smoke Jaguar carried the long count symbols of the grand order that the high priest had rolled into the codex. He paused to ask for the blessing of Kinich Ahau and acknowledged the four pillars of the earth, the Bacabs, who prevented the heavens from collapsing into catastrophe! As he walked in reverence through the gate of the ceremonial city he knew he was passing  into another sacred dimension.

(Apologies to any true historians of ancient mesoamerican civilizations and mythology)


some background information

I can imagine the wonder of the two explorers in the Yucatan Jungle coming across the remains of this ancient civilization. Frederick Catherwood was a draftsman and architect who beautifully sketched these cities of stone and John Lloyd Stephens was a writer and diplomat  who wrote of their adventures in  Incidents of Travel in Central America.

Sac be– the white road- I walked part of this in the city of Coba. The Mayans built roads to connect everything- like the Romans

Xibalba– the fearsome underworld

AK Ek – is Orion in our astronomy

Kinich Ahau– the sun god

Bacabs – four brothers that corresponded to north, south east and west. The earth resided on the back of giant turtle.

codex – a book made of tree bark- the most famous Mayan codices that survive are called The Popol Vuh. The Mayans had great knowledge of astronomy and mathematics and the divine order of the cosmos was wrapped up in religious ritual.