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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

Olympic Valley's Cosmic Chalice

Updated: May 5

"You Gotta See This..."

With over 50,000 photos on my iPhone 13 Pro, my obsession has led me to some pretty cool places and scenery, from Cat Island in the Bahamas, to the jagged edge of Big Sur.

But the one photo that's garnered the most attention, both locally and nationally, including excellent press on ABC10, USAToday and SFGATE, was taken in my boxers, barefoot, from our balcony.

On Wednesday, December 13th, 2023, the sun came bursting through the morning mist above a mountain in Olympic Valley, CA - Palisades Tahoe - where my wife, Nicola, and I live. It created a beam of light straight up into the sky high above the mountain which in itself is unusual. But as my eye followed the beam up, it formed into something I've never seen before, something that looked like a giant Cosmic Chalice.

Inside the bright, distinct funnel I could see crystal flakes swirling around like a living organism. "Nicola?" I said, "You gotta see this."

Nicola hears these words nearly every day. Whether it's a sunrise or sunset, clouds or waves, trees or airplanes, I'm constantly saying to Nicola, "You gotta see this."

Photo credit: Nicola Kennedy

It was 8:15am and Nicola was enjoying a cup of coffee minding her own business. "It's OK," she said, "I'm good."

"Nicola," I demanded (something I rarely do, I promise), "come here now! I'm not kidding!"

"This better be good," she said as she joined me on our second floor balcony.

And for the next few minutes Nicola and I were silent, blown away by the anomaly before our eyes.

It looked to us like a Cosmic Chalice.


"And the words slide into the slots ordained by syntax, and glitter as with atmospheric dust with those impurities which we call meaning." ~ Anthony Burgess, Enderby, 406


Anthony Burgess may have been looking at something similar when he wrote these words. As a visual storyteller I agree with Burgess that it's the words that sparkle and radiate with an author's inspired choice. But it's syntax that gives words the power to relate to each other in a pattern, to create something meaningful, beautiful, memorable, much like the Cosmic Chalice Nicola and I experienced on this day.

Though it felt like a spiritual moment, this kind of anomaly can be attributed to science. Such natural occurrences take place because of the way light refracts through ice crystals suspended in the air.


We considered it ‘cosmic’ because it connected with that part of us beyond our usual sense of perception or reality. The word ‘chalice’ itself originates from the Latin word 'calix' which means cup. What my wife and I experienced on that chilly Wednesday morning was a Cosmic Chalice.

A quick Internet research reveals interesting symbolism associated with the chalice.


For example, chalices are often associated with spirituality, ritual, and communion. The chalice is a symbol of divine wisdom and enlightenment. It has significance because it’s religious in nature, a standing cup used to hold sacramental wine during the Eucharist (also called the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion).


The chalice is like a repository of all that’s good, sublime and radiant. It’s the nexus through which all divine acts and blessings flow. This definition of what we witnessed certainly resonates with us.

We both snapped some photos and videos and watched it come and go, like an ethereal dancer on stage, and then looked at each other with smiles on our faces.

We watched something rare and spectacular, and we were grateful.

It was around 26 degrees that morning and our balcony was covered in ice. I stood there in my boxers, barefoot, and my feet were sticking to the ground. Nicola looked at me and said, "You might want to get inside before you freeze to death." Caught up in the moment, I was unaware of the cold.

I've been chasing awe since I moved to Tahoe over 4 years ago. With a pair of good hiking boots, some water, and an iPhone comfortably in my pocket, off I go up our mountains among the juniper trees, along the creek, the river, the Lake and the aircraft at the Truckee Tahoe Airport, always in search of that skin-tingling stuff that makes me go whoa.

Living in Tahoe, it's easy to find awe, including in some of the people you meet, like Brig. Gen. "Bud" Anderson, and Stephen Wampler. When I do, I share it through an expanding portfolio and blog on

Sometimes the awe finds me, barefoot in boxers, casually sitting at my desk enjoying a cup of coffee in the comfort of our home. Sometimes it's the greatest show on earth.

There's so much inspiration out there to discover and share. The quality of our life truly is the quality of attention we pay to ourselves and the world around us. Especially what's right in front of us.

Join me on this visual storytelling journey by subscribing (for free) to Blue Wolf Gallery. I promise there will be more photos and stories... you gotta see.


I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident, married to Nicola Kennedy (in photo above). I’m a premium ghostwriter and photographer. I just want to say thanks for your attention - I appreciate it in such a noisy world. If you enjoyed it, please share with others.

It means a lot to me and it helps others see the story.

If you're interested in owning any photos in this post, or in my gallery: click here, call or text me at 530.608.9150. Let me know what size you want, and I'll send a quote. My email: 

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Yvonne Scarlett
Yvonne Scarlett
Jan 16

Thank you, Michael, as usual, such beautiful photos of a place I onced lived. Your photos take me there again and again. Shirley Canyon is such a magical place that was my go to walk often and thanks to you, Michail, I can visit all through the winter. Lovely, thank you for that. So much water coming down that canyon this summer! More than I've ever seen. I look forward to more photos, videos, and stories, Thank you, Michael! Keep on, Keepen on!!💝🌲🌺💖💥Happy New Year!🕉️

Michael Kennedy
Michael Kennedy
Jan 16
Replying to

Thank you for your kind words, Yvonne. Good things to come.

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