Photography by Mimi Phan, enhanced by narrative, lyrics, and poetry

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Azores Cows by Mimi Phan

Exactly one year ago, I had an 18-hour layover in the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal composed of nine volcanic islands. I was specifically on the island of Sao Miguel. Coming into the trip, I didn’t know much about these islands except that they are stunning from geomorphological structures created from millions of years of volcanic activity. I was really intrigued and excited for the beautiful lake-filled craters formed from the dormant volcanoes on Sao Miguel.

What I did not realize, however, is that dairy farming is one of the most popular industries in the Azores and that I would be bumping into cows everywhere, literally.

Azores Cows by Mimi Phan

“Whatdya want?”

Azores Cows by Mimi Phan
Azores Cows by Mimi Phan
Azores Cows by Mimi Phan

“Whatdya lookin’ at?”

Azores Cows by Mimi Phan

“Just chillin”

Azores Cows by Mimi Phan

My friend, Phomdaen, and our wonderful Azorean tour guide during the half-day, adventurous jeep tour we managed to embark on before our flight back home. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, those volcanic craters I was so excited for did not let me down:

Azores Lagoa das Sete Cidades by Mimi Phan

I’ll save the rest of the island for another post though…

Cherry Blossoms by Mimi Phan
Cherry Blossoms by Mimi Phan
Cherry Blossoms by Mimi Phan
Cherry Blossoms by Mimi Phan

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

-E.E. Cummings

Probably my favorite by Cummings…

Elderly Woman in the Alfama by Mimi Phan

i seem to recognize your face
haunting, familiar, yet i can’t seem to place it
cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
lifetimes are catching up with me
all these changes taking place, i wish i’d seen the place
but no one’s ever taken me
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…

-Lyrics from “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In a Small Town” by Pearl Jam

"War Mother" by UMLAUF, photographed by Mimi Phan
"The Kiss" by UMLAUF, photographed by Mimi Phan
"Divers" by UMLAUF, photographed by Mimi Phan
"Mother and Child" series by UMLAUF, photographed by Mimi Phan
"Mother and Child" by UMLAUF, photographed by Mimi Phan
"Mother and Child" by UMLAUF, photographed by Mimi Phan
"Lovers V" by UMLAUF, photographed by Mimi Phan

I just came back from a trip to Austin, TX two nights ago and feel compelled to post a series of photos I took at the very special UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum. I normally take forever to process photos after a trip (ask my friends), but I was so enchanted that I felt the need to ride the wave of inspiration.

Charles Umlauf was an exemplary American sculptor and taught at the University of Texas for 40 years. He and his wife, Angeline, gifted their home, his art studio, and 168 sculptures to the city of Austin for public enjoyment and education. The stunning sculpture garden and museum I visited are actually an adjacent property to the home of the Umlauf’s, built as a natural oasis featuring native Texas plants. Umlauf’s sculptures range from haunting expressionism to detailed neoclassical realism to lyrical abstraction. As I walked through the beautifully landscaped sculpture garden (which complement the sculptures in a way that no building ever could), I couldn’t help but be completely captivated and moved by his work. The expressions, body language, and detail on each piece are absolutely mesmerizing. How can so much emotion come from stone and metal? I could’ve spent an entire day in a zen-like state enjoying Umlauf’s art, framed in perfect harmony with nature.

The above photographs are the sculptures and themes I was most drawn to: mother & child and lovers. From top to bottom: War Mother (1939, cast stone), The Kiss (1970, bronze), Diver (1956, bronze), Mother & Child (1950, cast stone), Mother & Child: Refugees (1950, bronze), Mother & Child (1972, bronze) taken at two different angles, and Lovers V (1975, bronze).

The Man Who Left Town by Mimi Phan

And the memories we’ve made
Will never been lost, no
And the look on your face
We both knew the cost
But the wind yes the wind keeps

Lyrics from Shake by The Head and the Heart

(I posted a very, very different take on this bar scene previously.)

Azores Birds by Mimi Phan

“The secret of a good old age is simply an honourable pact with solitude.”
“El secreto de una buena vejez no es otra cosa que un pacto honrado con la soledad.”

-From 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Sometimes you have about 2 seconds to capture an inspiring moment. If you’re not prepared…well then, you’re screwed. I happened to be very lucky in this particular moment as birds were swooping down overhead and my camera was in my hands and ready to go. This was taken on an 18? hour layover in the Azores, Portugal last Spring.

Boston Subway Bear by Mimi Phan

You can get lost in the music for hours
Honey, you can get lost in a room
We can play music for hours and hours
But the sun will still be coming up soon

The world’s just spinning a little too fast
If things don’t slow down soon we might not last
So just for a moment let’s be still

-Lyrics from Let’s Be Still by The Head and the Heart


I’d like to personally thank this bear for entertaining me while I was waiting for the subway in Boston last Saturday. Just one reason why living in a city never fails to be interesting.

Photography by Mimi Phan

Watchin’ a stretch of road, miles of light explode
Driftin’ off a thing I’d never done before

Watchin’ a crowd roll in, out go the lights it begins
A feelin’ in my bones I never felt before

People always told me that bars are dark and lonely
And talk is often cheap and filled with air

Sure sometimes they thrill me but nothin’ could ever chill me
Like the way they make the time just disappear

Feelin’ you are here again, hot on my skin again
Feelin good, a thing I’d never known before

What does it mean to feel? Millions of dreams come real
A feelin’ in my soul I’d never felt before

And you always told me no matter how long it holds me
If it falls apart or makes us millonaires

You’ll be right here forever, we’ll go through this thing together
And on Heaven’s golden shore we’ll lay our heads

-Lyrics from Golden by My Morning Jacket

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

-Poetry by Pablo Neruda

Photo taken in a city full of soul & rhythm, and one which I adore (minus the insanity of Bourbon Street, of course) – New Orleans.

Eiffel Tower

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.   -Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been on an adrenaline rush for about a week now. My sisters and I are taking are mom to Paris for her 60th birthday today! After months of planning and weeks of reading blogs and books, the reality has set in that we are indeed going to be in the city that so many artists, writers, and romantics adore.

Paris has always been alluring to my mom, since her days studying french as a young child in Vietnam. French culture has always remained a big influence on Vietnam, ever since the French colonized them. In fact, many Vietnamese went to Paris after the Vietnam War, in addition to America. I’m sure I’ll be bumping into many of my Vietnamese brothers and sisters in Paris.

Paris has always been alluring to my sisters and me because we grew up reading Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Stein-a few of the writers who formed the American expatriate circle of writers in 1920s Paris. We grew up with Monet hanging on our walls. We grew up appreciating the French baguette. We grew up hearing about Paris from our parents.

However, this trip is more importantly, our first mother and daughters, sister and sister trip together. And I can’t wait to soak in the sounds, the smells, and the sights-the moveable feast that is Paris.


Photo courtesy of Honey Pie!