To Open and Unlock: A Collection of Photographs of Windows and Doors from Ten Countries (a travel photography book by ME!)

One of the reasons I love to travel is to unlock my curiosity about other people and to open myself to other cultures and religions.” Debby Lee Jagerman

Bhutan Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Ten years of travel. Thirty four countries on five continents visited. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of photographs taken. All while experiencing the people, the cultures, the religions, the scenery, and sometimes even the animals, of the places I visited. And from all this, I have created a travel photography book. A book with ten countries represented, from four continents, based on my favorite subject of my photography- windows and doors.

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Bhutan believes in measuring their development and economy not by a GDP, but with Gross National Happiness. The Buddhist religion is strongly embraced by the Bhutanese. It is in this country where I had the honor of trekking several days to the remote village of Laya, as well as the honor of having a brief conversation with the King and Queen of Bhutan the day after they got married. The above photo from Bhutan is the front cover of my book.

Québec City is one of the oldest cities in North America. It was the historical windows and doors set in stone and brick buildings, along with the matching paint colors of the window frames and shutters, coupled with a modern beautiful display of colorful flowers in planters on the window ledges that were the subject of some of my photographs in Québec City.

Quebec City Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Vietnam has 54 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own culture, lifestyle, heritage, language, and style of clothing. The landscape of the country is just as varied. The vibrant and colorful homes of the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, with their windows and doors, seemed to reflect the equally vibrant and colorful people and landscape of Vietnam.

Vietnam Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Quito, Ecuador is one of the gateways to the Galapagos Islands. The restored colonial architecture of the buildings of Old Town Quito, along with the balconies and iron railings of the windows, often overflowing with flowers and plants, captured my attention, and directed my camera lens.

Quito Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

A 500-mile journey, stretching from the Spanish/French border across northern Spain to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, is a pilgrimage that hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims have walked for over 1,000 years. My pictures in this chapter are organized into colors and other subjects such as materials, decorations, symbols, and objects. Yet many pictures could easily be placed into more than one category.

Camino de Santiago Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Bicycling in Skagway, Alaska, an historical boomtown born out of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, is the town that started my tradition of taking pictures of windows and doors in 2002. As I zigzagged through the streets with not much intention or planning, I began to notice the older historical homes, becoming aware of porches, stone fireplaces, and other objects. As I took more pictures, the windows and doors came into focus.

Skagway Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

A five-month solo backpacking trip in Europe brought me to 18 countries, my absolute favorite being Italy. Full of small hill towns, bright yellow sunflower fields, green vineyards, ancient history, fabulous food, gelato. Photos like this one with children’s bikes, made me feel like home. And I found that the windows and doors throughout Italy were as diverse and as flavorful as the gelato.

Italy Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Porvoo, Finland, one of the three Baltic Sea Countries that I have represented in the book, is one of the most photographed towns in Finland. It was the cobblestone side streets lined with an assortment of colored windows frames contrasting against the colored siding of the buildings that drew me to photograph here. I felt like I was walking through a rainbow of homes. This photo is the back cover of my book.

Porvoo Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

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Filled with just one picture shy of 250, and one page shy of 100, To Open and Unlock is a book that you won’t be able to look at just once. With so many pictures, you will need more than one sitting to absorb them all. It is a book that will sit on your coffee table (and your family’s coffee table, and your friend’s coffee table, and your family’s friend’s coffee table) for years to come. Each time you browse through it, you will see a picture that you have never noticed before. Or you may see some new detail in a picture that you have seen before, but didn’t notice its subtleties.

Not only are there all these photographs in my book, I explain what attracts me to taking pictures of windows and doors. In addition, I introduce each chapter with reflections of my travels, including short stories containing experiences, impressions, and information of the countries. I’ve also included great quotes about windows and doors, both poignant and funny, from some famous people, throughout the book.

The book is available for you to order on Amazon, with preview on Blurb. You may also order books for your family, your friends, your family’s friends, even your friends’ family. You may also search for the book under my name, Debby Jagerman, or under the title, To Open and Unlock. One may even search using the words “Windows and Doors.” You may also share this blog.

5% of my profits will be donated to Bhutan Foundation.

Thank you!! and Sweet Travels!

Valentine’s Day: Random Love

Ah, yes, Love, Sweet Love. Can You Feel The Love Tonight? Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? Love Me Tender. Endless Love. Love Will Keep Us Together. All You Need Is Love.

Ok, ok, you get the picture. It must be Valentine’s Day.

Heart Rock (450 x 338)

I once had a random unexpected experience of love. It was during a walk on the beach at Homer Spit, Alaska, this past summer.

As I was enjoying the gorgeous scenery during my stroll, I would occasionally look down at the rocks on the beach. I wanted to collect a few rocks (ssshhh, don’t tell anyone) to take back to My Love back home. He has a wonderful rock collection that was started by his grandparents as they combed beaches all over the Northern California and Oregon coasts, and I wanted to bring him back some rocks from the Alaskan coast.

Out of the thousands upon thousands of rocks on the Spit that day, I glanced down at this one particular rock…yup, it was shaped like a heart! I just had to take a photo of it. Don’t ask me why though, but I did not take this rock home with me. I now wish I had, but oh well. It is now there for someone else to randomly feel the love.

Heart Rocks (450 x 380)

I have also purchased a few polished stones shaped like hearts from various places during my travels to give to My Love, such as these.

Oh, here is one other blog that I previously wrote about hearts and Valentine’s Day, Heart Art.

Sweet Travels, and remember, Love Is All You Need!

The Iconic Mailbox in Alaska

Over nine decades ago, a recognizable container with a curved tunnel-shaped top, a tube-like interior, a movable signal flag, and a latching door was invented. Now everybody across the country uses this contraption, or some other form of it, such as a slot through a door, or a wall-mounted box attached to a house, or a cluster of boxes in one centralized location.

Mailbox 1 (170 x 200)Mailbox 11 (184 x 200)Mailbox 12 (154 x 200)

I’m talking about the much-valued mailbox. And while the exterior shape of it is meant to prevent the collection of water and snow, the interior shape is meant to collect incoming mail. And when that signal flag is up, it informs the postal carrier that there is something outgoing.

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In 1915, a U.S. Post Office employee, Roy J. Joroleman, designed this familiar curbside mailbox to save time for the delivery of mail. You see, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prior to the use of any type of mailbox, believe it or not, postal carriers actually had to deliver mail to homes by knocking on doors and waiting patiently for someone to answer. And when I say patiently, it has been noted that each postal employee actually lost 1.5 hours each day just waiting for the door to be answered. (A bit unproductive, I’d say. If I had an hour and a half idle time, I’d probably be fired…)

Mailbox 18 (164 x 200)Mailbox 19 (200 x 189)Mailbox 2 (155 x 200)

Over time (but before 1915), mail slots in doors or in walls of homes were at least cut into place, so that if someone was not home or unable to answer the door, then mail could be delivered. This resolved the idle time, but it did not resolve everything.

Mailbox 23 (136 x 200)Mailbox 24 (127 x 200)Mailbox 42 (137 x 200)

Apparantly there was still an issue of taking time to walk to homes to deliver the mail, especially in rural areas, where they were some distance from the street. (How far, I really don’t know.) In addition, some rural residents had no public mail delivery at all and actually had to pick up their mail at a post office located sometimes miles from their homes. (Interesting facts that I did not know before my research on mailboxes…)

Mailbox 27 (145 x 200)Mailbox 28 (150 x 200)Mailbox 29 (150 x 200)

Finally, Mr. Joroleman’s curbside mailbox design was put into practice, especially in those rural areas. Now no more idle time or walking distances. Although, for some reason, some farmers and rural homeowners decided that they wanted to use bushel baskets, tins, and wooden boxes in which to collect their mail instead of the new-fangled mailbox. They seemed to resist purchasing these mailboxes. (I am not sure why, though. Was the cost too much? Or perhaps the custom back then was making due instead of buying new? Or maybe they just wanted to recycle?)

Mailbox 3 (154 x 200)Mailbox 33 (203 x 200)

However, in 1923, eight years after Roy’s innovation, it actually, really, truly became mandatory that every house have a mailbox or mail slot for the delivery of mail. (Wow, I did not know that…) I guess that meant no more bushel baskets, tins, or wooden boxes. (I wonder what would happen these days if someone didn’t have a mailbox? Would they be fined?)

Mailbox 38 (146 x 200)Mailbox 39 (145 x 200)Mailbox 4 (149 x 200)

Ok, so now you probably know more about facts and history of the mailbox than you ever knew before, and you are really wondering where I am going with all this. Not too far really, other than to show you the mailbox pictures that I took while I was in Alaska with my sister this past summer.

Mailbox 40 (145 x 200)Mailbox 41 (139 x 200)Mailbox 5 (153 x 200)

While traveling around, I got into one of my “photography obsessions” where I become enthralled with taking pictures of the same object over and over, such as The Windows of Porvoo and The Homes of Skagway.

Mailbox 6 (143 x 200)Mailbox 8 (200 x 161)Mailbox 9 (150 x 200)

These mailbox photos were taken on the highway between Anchorage and Denali, as well as on the various roads of the Kenai Peninsula. While I am not sure what originally caught my eye, I became intrigued by the rows of mailboxes as we drove by. I am sure that I have seen zillions of mailboxes in my life before, but for some reason, perhaps because I was on vacation, I noticed these mailboxes.

Mailbox 34 (148 x 200)Mailbox 36 (152 x 200)Mailbox 37 (132 x 200)

I must have stopped a dozen times to take pictures, carefully pulling off the main roads, sometimes onto gravel side streets, not only to photograph entire rows of mailboxes, but also of clusters of two, three or four, and then of individual boxes. It is these individualized pictures that I liked the best. I appreciated the creative decorations that some people put on their mailboxes, as well as the various colors, sizes and shapes.

Mailbox 25 (200 x 150)Mailbox 31 (200 x 167)

I believe that the mailbox has been a symbol of joy and fun for people. It seems important to everyone, as we all go to check our mailboxes everyday. (Except, of course, for Sundays.) I know I like to going to the mailbox to get the mail. And while getting the bills, and junk mail, aren’t necessarily a favorite, mail is definitely a way of giving and receiving tangible communication with family and friends.

Mailbox Flag (200 x 168)
The Alaskan Flag

Needless to say, though, today there is a more popular way to send and receive mail, especially the communication. Hopefully though, email will never completely replace the iconic mailbox. Thank you, Mr. Joroleman.

Sweet Travels!

All photos Copyright Debby Lee 2009 (some photos altered to exclude names and street numbers)

Facts and History of the mailbox, courtesy of Wikipedia

Timeless Messages in Alaska: Peace and Love

Somewhere along the road between Anchorage and Denali (or between Denali and Anchorage if you are headed in that direction), along George Parks Highway #3, the 60’s and 70’s still exist. At least a Volkswagen bus, seemingly from that era, still exists.

Decorated with colorful flowers and hearts, and big yellow smiley faces, you can’t help but spot this vehicle as you drive by. The background is painted purple, the tires have blue hubcaps, the windows have orange curtains. The bus is just sitting there on a gravel parking lot in front of an old building, strategically placed for all to see.

peace (400 x 236)

You also really can’t help but smile when you see this piece of history. In fact, it is so compelling, that you really have to stop and take a picture or two.

Because more than the visual appeal, the VW bus presents a message. You don’t have to think too deeply about the meaning of what is written. You just have to read two simple words, and instantly you are reminded of the two most important concepts of life…peace and love.

love (400 x 219)

As I was sitting there contemplating the words on the sides of the bus, a few additional significant thoughts came to mind as well…happiness…compassion…understanding…

So next time you are driving down a road, whether traveling or not, keep your eye out for life reminders like this. And just because the vehicle of the messages may have been from over 40 year ago, the messages are timeless.

Peaceful and Loving (and Sweet) Travels!

Photos by Debby

From Denali National Park to Mount Rainier (Alaska to Washington)

No, I’m not a mountain climber. Although I have taken a climbing class, but put a rope on me with some possibility of slipping, and forget it.

I do, however, love to hike. Give me a trail on a warm, sunny summer day, with wildflowers and trees and mountains as my scenery, and I’m in heaven. Add in my boyfriend, some berries to pick and eat along the way, the spotting a critter of some sort, and you have described one of my perfect days. Oh, and if there happens to be a lake or a stream, now you’re talking!

denali-hike-1-300-x-225

I try to incorporate getting into the outdoors when I travel. Sometimes, I may do some other adventurous activity depending on where I am, but hiking is a favorite.

On a very recent trip I just took to Alaska with my sister, we visited Denali National Park. We were lucky, as the weather that day was in the 80’s. There was however, a bit of haze in the air from wildfires around the state, which unfortunately made views of the actual mountain itself a bit unclear. But the surrounding landscape that we were in was just beautiful!

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We went on a hike together. The first time that I have been hiking with my sister. We chose a short hike, one with a trail that paralleled a river. In the middle of the hike, we stopped in a grassy area for a rest…just ”to chill,” as my sister says. We had a snack, took in the views, contemplated life…

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It was a perfect hike for us.

I have been to Denali National Park once before, and went on a couple of ranger-guided hikes there deeper into the park than where my sister and I were. During that trip, I was very lucky, and had fabulous views of the mountain itself two of the three days that I was there.

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Now that I am back home in the Seattle area, I have my next travel plans all ready to go. In less than a week, I shall be backpacking with a friend, hiking about 30 miles of the Wonderland Trail, part way around Mt. Rainier. This majestic mountain is one of my favorite places on this planet!

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While some people take about ten days to do the entire 90 miles around Mt. Rainier, we are going to take our time so that we may completely enjoy the scenery, have time to eat, take photos, and not be in a rush…we are going ”to chill.”

Sweet Travels!

All photos by Debby