Touching the Earth

"The practice of Touching the Earth...helps us return to the earth and to our roots, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors. We touch the earth to let go of the idea that we are separate and to remind us that we are the earth and part of life."
— Thich Nhat Hanh

I grew up in Asia, but had never been to Vietnam. At some point in my young life, someone told me there were more shades of green there than anywhere else in the world. Somehow, that stuck with me - and in the fall of 2011, I had the chance to see for myself. Although it was my first time there, in many ways it felt like coming home.

I'd left Asia for the States at fifteen and hadn't been back. Once in the States, I spent a few years negotiating massive culture shock, trying to adapt to American teenage culture. I'd mostly failed (spandex and scrunchies weren't popular in grunge-era Seattle) and had become a weird, tiny loner who ate seaweed, knew nothing about pop culture, and slipped occasional Japanese words into conversation by mistake. Totally uncool. 

I stepped off the plane in Vietnam after living in the States for close to twenty years. I smelled the spices in the humid air, looked around at people my size, saw fish drying in the sun - and something just felt like home. I got teary eyed and nostalgic for a time when I wasn't the lame kid, a time when I navigated other countries and cultures with an ease I never felt in the U.S. I fell in love with the place.

I always felt I lacked sense of place, of home, like many other people have. In making these images, I realized I do have a sense of home - I just carry it with me wherever I go. The pictures in this series are a collection, of sorts - a collection of scenes that remind me of my childhood and the home in my heart. The images were taken in the beautiful, misty Halong Bay area - land of the descending dragon, in the cloud-draped mountains of far northwestern Vietnam, and on the jungle island of Phu Quoc, off the southwest coast. 

Click on the first image to enter the slideshow.