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On the last trip before my next one to Ireland, I delighted in one of the countryside's natural wonders hidden in plain sight. (Optimism runs high that there will be another adventure in the Emerald Isle).

Yet, how easily this photograph could represent the delicate balancing act, we have managed. Granted, some of us fared better than others. Despite our friends and family struggling with COVID, or untimely deaths, there is an overall glimmer of hope.

If I recall correctly, this particular piece, along with several others, was in the middle of a farmer's field requiring a stroll down an uneven rural path. The sun hung heavily in the late afternoon sky, stretching intricate shadow fingers between the stones.

There were several other tourists there, and like myself, they were mesmerized by this space's sacredness. I don't understand what pulled me in. It did, though, and I went with the serenity. Ancient Celtic worshippers centuries ago were there, too, in spirit.

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At approximately 7:30 am on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, a stable boy leads a second horse along the shoreline to where he will pick up a customer.

It's not going to be me.

I'm out for an early morning walk before the sun gets impossibly hot and the beach overcrowds. The only observable activity is a cluster of surfers riding the waves. I'll watch them for a bit with my two feet planted on the ground firmly.

On a visit to Costa Rica several years prior, one of my tour activities was a horseback ride through scenic woods with a trail master. About half the people in the tour group were from the Western States, and of course, they were comfortable in the saddle. The rest of us were fearful of the whole adventure for one reason or another.

When our horses were brought to us, I held back as long as I was able. (Was I wishing that the stable didn't send enough horses)? One of the guides brought a tan horse over and pointed at me. I had no choice but to mount with help; for a non-rider, that is no easy feat until you get the hang of it. At least I didn't embarrass myself.

No sooner did I get my feet in the stirrups then the horse trotted through the line of twenty others, taking me on a scary start. Someone said that the horse was used to following in line next to the trail leader, and that's what he did. I raised my eyebrows at the guy, and he spoke in broken English, 'you'll be okay. Relax."

Sure. I sat on the saddle, not realizing how every muscle in my body was tense. At first, I couldn't look to the left or right at the scenery. Once I figured that I would not have to hold on for dear life, I actually enjoyed myself even to the point of forging a shallow stream and back up a hill through a scrub all in one piece.

When the ride reached its destination, I was assisted off, and for a moment, I was so stiff I couldn't move one foot in front of the other. That was remedied in short order when we all were taken over to mud baths on the ranch. I soaked the pain away and let the horseback ride sink in.

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No one was paying any particular attention. Except for me, otherwise, the enormous mass of pilgrims continued shuffling forward in the park to the hundred or so steps leading to the ornate golden shrine.

This was the most people-noise that I had heard so far around a country of normally soft-spoken individuals. It was a festive holiday weekend in Japan, and I was in the middle of a new cultural experience. I stepped aside reverently to honor the group's brief opportunity for photographs.

The couple was posing for a photoshoot with their bridal party in Kanagawa, Japan. The wedding photographer was orchestrating animated poses while the wedding coordinator, to the bride's right, was arranging the gown to its best advantage. I caught the humor of one participant in the second row to the left had his cell phone positioned for informal shots.

Outside the picture frame, family and friends were milling about taking their own photos and offering advice. I couldn't understand a word of it. However, the expressions on their faces were enough to imagine the ribbing the couple was receiving from well-meaning peers. That's universal, wouldn't you say?

This was the first of several wedding parties that I happened upon during my Japaneses travels. For each one, the bride and groom wore a traditional regional outfit. They used serene gardens for backdrops away from any interruptions, unlike this one.

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