Thursday, June 30, 2016

Empty Beaches of the Heart

Empty Beach, Polluted Heart
As I write this, the beaches in Florida are closed due to flesh eating bacteria and pollution. This is not the first time beaches will be empty due to toxic waters and it will not be the last time as we continue to advance as a species. This shot is in West Beach Indiana. The pristine and lovely waters and pebble covered beach of Lake Michigan....with a factory along the beach polluting the beauty and destroying that which gives us life.

We live in an era where experts have to study pollution levels in water to determine if it is safe to swim and enjoy it. We have acceptable levels of toxins in what we swim in and drink and need to live. 

The beach of the heart is the same way. There is the old saying, hurt people hurt people. We have been filled with toxins and we sometimes spread and pollute other waters with our fear, our anger, our low self esteem and our hurt. We do not do it on purpose, it just happens. We give people advice as to how they should approach the beach of the heart. "Guard your beach," "I never go to the beach anymore," "The beach does not exist for us," and "That beach just is not good enough," We have many other reasons to keep the beach empty. 

Look, end of the day, there are risks that we do not like to think about and other potential risks that paralyze us. 

We need to mindful of the waters we go into and what we take into our life. But it is the water that gives us life. It is the water that in the right setting gives us delight. It is the water that forges canyons and streams and rivers. We still need the waters and we still yearn for beaches.

We should swim and we should drink deeply. There is a difference between being aware and being afraid. Be aware, but do not be so afraid that you do not drink, for you will die without it. Be aware, but do not listen to anyone who tells you not to drink water or go to beaches, they are already dead. Be aware, but do not have an empty beach of the heart.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

No Life(Guard)

No Life(Guard)
I did not learn how to swim until I was 20. I was staying at a resort with a girl I was dating and she could not believe I did not know how to swim. So we went to one of the gift shops and bought some trunks and she took me to the pool. I looked about and was unsure about this. I pointed out there was no lifeguard. She said, "You have me."

Twenty minutes into my first time in the deep end I came up and looked around and she was giggling. I looked at her and asked what was so funny. She said, "I don't think I've ever seen you not in control of your environment. It's rather adorable. You should let go more often."

Then I realized she was right. This was exhilarating.  I was alive! I was unsure! I was exploring and learning and not in control. I was ready to not jump in because there was no authority, but I had her and I knew that nothing bad was going to happen.

Many public beaches and hotel swimming pools will still charge a premium for their services, but the lifeguard stands are more empty than they are full of late. The water can sometimes be dangerous. A mere cramp or not being mindful of the undertow can put you in trouble in short time. If we are alone, we may drown. 

Life is the same way. Authorities may or may not be there to protect us, but they will still want their cut. Alone, when things go wrong, we may succumb to the dangers of life. If we have at least one other person with us who will say with sincerity, "You have me," we don't need an authority present to get through life. We are also far better off together than we are alone. 

When you hear the words, "You have me," we are safe to let go of control (which is an illusion anyway) and we also have the ability to explore, delight and try new things. We can be a little scared, but knowing someone has you and is there for you makes it okay to risk a cramp. 

No lifeguard does not mean there is no life, it just means we have to rely on each other. 

Make sure the people you care about hear the words, "You have me". If someone ever says those words to you, embrace the safety and explore the wonder. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Something Old, Something Precious, Something New, Something Beautiful

Something Old New Precious Beautiful
This shot was taken on Saturday, June 18th, 2016 at West Beach in Indiana. It was taken with the Pentax K1000 my father gave to me for Christmas in 1983. It was shot with film that was over a decade expired and it turns out there is an issue with my shutter.

I love this picture. 

This camera, something old, has taken shots that have appeared in 4 yearbooks, 6 different newspapers and countless business cards, brochures, websites, magazines and other assorted media and has been untouched for almost a decade. 

This day, something new, was a day with a new friend who is a professional photographer who was scouting a location and a member of the artist guild I recently joined. New friendships and new opportunities to have my work shown in galleries, trunk shows and fundraisers in collaboration with good people. 

This shot, something precious, shows a bird on a beach captured in flight despite chemical degradation of film and a misfiring shutter.

This shot and the whole story behind it is something beautiful.

When I picked up the scanned negatives from my photo house print shop about an hour ago, the owner, Kevin, told me that he liked what I did with my two rolls of film and then went on to tell me that there is a collectors market for my camera even with the misfiring shutter. I looked at him for a moment and asked, "Know anyone who can fix it?" He smiled and told me of a place not too far away where I can take it to get repaired. 

"It won't be cheap." He said.

"It has been in my life for over 30 years. Something old is something precious and together we can make something new and beautiful. She's worth it. She's a part of my life." I replied.

"Glass half full, since it did not misfire on every shot, it may just be a lubrication issue, Pat."

"Either way, I would like at least another 30 years."

I have decided that I am going to get it repaired and that I will have it as part of my regular rotation in shooting. It is like an old friend or a love. Just because the years have worn something does not mean it has lost value. It has more value and is more precious and there are still new beautiful adventures to be had. 

The people in our lives and our very selves are like that. As the years wear us down with a few bangs and bumps and neglect, hearts may misfire. Maybe we just need a little tenderness or maybe we are so broken that we need to be repaired with some extra time and investment. Maybe we will never be what we once were. That does not mean we should be discarded. There can still be beauty made, like this shot. There can still be new moments and days and adventures and maybe some misadventures. 

Something old is something precious and can make something new and that is something beautiful.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Useful Beauty

Useful Beauty
I was talking to a friend of mine last night. We spoke about love. She says it is a fantasy with little use in a practical world other than to be a pretty thing to look at. Have you seen how many beautiful things are useful? Engineers and architects have this knack of making a thing not only useful, but lovely.

Governments and societies have risen and fallen. The world has experienced countless religions and isms and ideals. Technologies and fashions have changed rapidly.

Yet, the poets and the troubadours and the couples remain a constant.

This is more than just pretty. It is useful beauty that gives us light and water and life. It feeds our souls.

We can argue the existence of this god or that god or which political ideal is the best, but love has stood the test of time and proved itself useful. Passion has remained a constant.

In the name of love, romantic fools have done great things and inspired many.

I know this is not my best writing, but my heart wants to get into a fight with brains. You cannot write feelings well in a manner that cold hearts can understand.  If there was no love and this was all a sham, I honestly would not see the point. Existence without passion and beauty is just bland and lifeless.

A friend of mine died the other day. He and I used to speak about this kind of love. The two of us made it sound lovely and with one less minstrel in the world, I am struggling a little. This is the best I could do today. I hope you hear my heart.

I do not have much more to say at the moment other than this:

Love is useful beauty.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

StoryTelling Saturdays: Too Much Pain For Principles

One of the things that strikes me about beliefs and convictions is how quickly they melt away when things get hard. For a Christian, it is easy to claim bible passages about God being for you when everything is super. But when things get rough, enter bad choices and unhealthy decisions. Atheist Humanists will speak so beautifully about reason when things are swell, but when life gets hard, they will make quite unreasonable decisions. When the storm passes and we get through it without conviction, we will then return to our convictions and never see the disconnect.

Who you are when things go wrong and how you behave when you are in pain is your lived principle and the stated one is mere tubthumping. It is empty words and sentiments that hold no truth in your life when things go awry.

That anger? That alcohol? That wrath? That hopelessness and despair? Those bad decisions? That is who you are and those are your true self. The principles you claim when everything is sunshine and roses is some idea and a facade we wear because the primal nature of who we are is not something we want to face.

The person who drinks too much instead of prays. The person who wants revenge instead of love. The person who is divisive when logic and reason demand unity. The person who hates their enemies instead of loves them. The person who is a closeted racist when they see something they do not like. The person who has an affair when a relationship gets difficult.

This is who we are. This is a part of us. The ideals may reflect who we want to be. We will never get there with mere words, we will get there with actions.

When I drove a taxi, there was this thing I learned to keep safe when you are out on the road 12 hours a night. It was called the 'what if' game. What if that guy blows the red light? What if that pedestrian darts out in front of me? What if my fare has a knife and wants to rob me? When you asked the what if questions, you had to have an answer. Here was the crazy part? It worked. Because eventually, someone does run the red, a pedestrian darts in front of you, and someone tried to rob you.

So. What if that relationship goes south? What if the job falls apart? What if the test is positive? What if your loved one gets cancer? What if you experience hardship and heartache? You will. Do you have a plan to live the stated convictions or will you just react? Will you take honest stock of who you are so you can draw a map to who you want to be? You can either have that plan or run around in a circle like an overtired SIM who eventually wets themselves and then passes out in the middle of the floor.

The plans will not always work. There are some things beyond our imagination to plan for. We do not want to dwell on the negative when life is positive. But when you are in a good place is the best time to prepare for a bad place.

We all know how we behave when everything goes wrong and we all know the mantra that we cannot control events, only our reaction. We all know this.

We have fire drills when there is no fire. It prepares us to be calm and safe should a fire happen. We are told what to do in an emergency every time we get in an airplane in case something does happen. We do not want these things to happen, we do not dwell on them for negativity sake, we do it for survival.

Some will say they are in too much pain for principles. I know pain. We all do. I am not unsympathetic to pain. Our stated principles will fall short to the reality of our actions when we are in pain, it is part of the human experience to fall short. That is okay. We can do better. We can come closer. We just need to plan and to ask..what if. Because things go wrong.

Is there too much pain for principles? Perhaps at times. But we can sure try our best to live our stated convictions when shit goes wrong. And if those convictions and principles do not work in execution, we may need new principles and convictions and philosophies. We may need a better plan.

There is too much pain for poorly lived principles.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Snakes in the Garden

I was recently talking to two gentlemen I met while shopping from Haiti. We got into a conversation as I have been there. He told me with sadness that he felt things were better under their former dictatorship. After the US and the UN offered them "freedom", he said the chains of economic imprisonment took hold. 

When you go to Haiti, you see the lush landscape, beautiful mountains, ocean breeze. You taste the purest of sugars and sweetest of rums and there is nothing like a Haitian coffee and they have damn good Cuban cigars. 

Here is the dark side that makes my liberal nature clash with harsh realities. Since we have participated in the destabilization of their governments, the natural resources have become more unstable than they used to be and the beautiful soil hides the dark secret that many crops can no longer grow on it. The lack of education has created so much ignorance there is little hope for them to understand their situation and take control.

The UN truck in this photo feels like the snake in the garden of eden. I saw the UN troops the last time I was there in 2008. Many of them are good at 3 things. 1. Drinking beer. 2. Working out on the beach. 3. Having sex with 13 year old girls. 

Paradise is beautiful, but there is darkness under the palm trees. 

In our own lush gardens, be careful.

Don't let anyone upset your delicate balance and tell you their way is better when their way involves control. Stay educated so you know how to protect and restore yourself. Know that snakes in the garden do not look like a typical movie villain. Sometimes, the look like what we see as hope. 

Haiti has no natural predators. No venomous snakes. The only ones that entered there have two legs and came from other spaces.

Your garden is pure and lush and even if it has been damaged, with time and patience and care it can be restored and beauty can grow again. Embrace the beauty. However, beware the snakes in the garden.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why So Special?

Religious symbolism fascinates me. There is one symbol that I think is interesting because how many different spiritual flavors it covers. The lotus flower has been a friend to the ancient Egyptians, the Hindu and Hindi cultures, and the Buddhists. For these cultures it represents rebirth and purity. 

Every evening it retreats back into the bogs and under the lily pads and every morning they rise and despite sometimes being in dirty bogs, they rise beautiful and clean of any blemish from the bogs. So many people get tattoos and charms and pendants and clothing and accessories with this lovely symbol. 

But there is something even more lovely than displaying the lotus, it is being the lotus. You can be the lotus regardless your theism, atheism or life philosophy. Here is my humble opinion on how that is done. 

At the end of each day, retreat to safety and rest. Every morning rise. Constant rebirth and newness where you never stop dying to old things and come alive to new things. Finally, and here is the most beautiful and critical part, rise above the bog and shine with beauty that is unmarred by the slime and the silt and the dirt of life. Do not let it tarnish your beauty and never stop rising above it all. 

This last part is the hardest. We let the things around us get to us. The world is kinda boggy right now. People being killed by guns, political fights, refugees everywhere, rapists getting light sentences while the victim is shamed, social media has become a wasteland of misinformation and battles. Single moms struggle to make ends meet and believe the worst lie of all, they are not beautiful.  I could go on with the things that hurt and make the bog of life have quite the stench. It could fill novels. We already know the bog, what we need is the beauty. 

There is one critical trick to rising from the bog unaffected. 

Just be yourself. You are beautiful as you are. The lotus is a lotus. It does not try to be these things. It just goes to bed at night, wakes up in the morning, rises above the bog and is lovely. That is it. It does not try to be a rose or a sunflower or any other such thing. It is what it is and makes no attempt to be anything else. 

Rise and to be beautiful, be yourself. The lotus is the lotus. You are you and that is why you are so special. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Moment You Know

Waterfall's Moment
The day before I wrote this, I was walking with my son and we came across this waterfall. I was on a wooden bridge and I saw this scene with the light piercing through the trees. I knew I had a moment. Sunlight is a tricky thing. It and the clouds move fast so the moment is just that, a moment. If you want to make the most of it, you have to move swiftly.

I grabbed my camera, handed my son the bag, and lay there on the bridge on my stomach and shot as many as I could rapidly. I had the moment and I made the most of it and I have a wonder to share that I love and others may too. 

We have moments in life that we know are wonderful but we do not always seize them. I did not have my preferred camera for this shot. I would look silly laying on the bridge. I did not take my pain killers and getting up from that position would bother my back and my knee getting up. Those were my hold backs. They were not enough to tear me away from passion and desire and the wonder of the moment.

We all have our moments and sometimes we will make the most of them and other times we will let them go. Everything is in motion and nothing last forever. If we have a moment and we know it is beautiful, we need to ask ourselves a few simple question. Which is the worse fate? The regret of having missed the moment or stepping past our inhibitions? Which is the better fate? Having made the most of a moment or having stayed within the safe embrace of fears and inhibitions? Answer the questions as quickly as you can, everything is in motion and moments are always fleeting. The only comfort I can offer you is that we will have a lifetime of moments. 

Yesterday was the waterfall's moment and I got it right. That does not always happen. Don't let you get in the way of the moment you know. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Garden Needs

Garden Needs
This is yet another shot of the Garden of Eden in Willowbrook, Illinois on the grounds of Soderworld. It is 2 acres of beauty and wonder that used to be the back 2 acres of abandoned and neglected wetlands.

I often speak of love and life in relation to gardens. When we love together it is tending a garden. Of course it is work and of course there are weeds and of course there are parasites and predators and other threats to the garden. It is why we tend it.

Love, like the garden, gives us the very air we breathe. It gives us food that sustains. It gives us beauty and wonder and we can sit in the garden and take in it's delights. 

In the Quran, the Bible and even some Buddhist Sutras there is the tale of the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve (and sometimes Lilith) were given a wondrous garden where there was nothing to do other than give beauty names and delight. No weeding, no tending, no labor, no parasites and no threats. There was also no appreciation for what they had and we as a species were moved East of Eden. Some still have the impulse to garden and create that which is at the core of our beginnings. Others like to go to arboretums and botanical gardens that others tend and enjoy.

I do not care if it is a potted plant or a two acre garden. I feel there is more appreciation and beauty when we tend, weed, care for and nurture our gardens. When we sit and enjoy the garden we have made, we appreciate the labor that is love. 

Tend your gardens well so you can enjoy them fully. We have garden needs.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lion's Gate of the Heart

Welcoming Guardians
You see lions outside gates and thresholds very often. The concept seems to be based off of the Lion Gate of Mycenae. The lions had their feet curled over an alter and it is thought they represented strength. The strength that welcomes someone in to where we are beautiful and vulnerable if they are deemed trustworthy. You had to be trustworthy to enter the sacred spaces where we are weak to attack inside the fortified walls.

In the garden path of life we will encounter the sacred spaces of other people's hearts and emotions. There is an entrance to that space and we must prove ourselves to be trustworthy to be allowed in by the strong protectors. Our hearts are the very same way. The space beyond is precious and lovely. Almost everyone I meet has been violated and damaged by people we have let past the threshold.

Sometimes unwelcome invaders have gotten past the walls. Sometimes we make a bad call and let someone who is not trustworthy inside. The guardians outside welcome, but there is a time they have to be more than beautiful, they have to be strong and protective. They must also always remember what they are protecting. They guard not a wall, but an entrance. Entrances are meant to allow others into the beauty of the garden and the wellsprings we have to share. 

Be strong. Be wise. But please, do not make the entrance a wall, you have too much beauty within and your garden may need tending from someone who loves well. 

May the lions at the gate of your heart be strong, but may they also be wise and welcoming to those who are worth the risk. 


Saturday, June 18, 2016

StoryTelling Saturday's: A New Hope or the Last Hope

"It is the artists of this world, the feelers and thinkers, who will ultimately save us, who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing, and shout the big dreams. Only the artists can turn the “not-yet” into reality.
How do you do it? Find out what you can do well, uniquely well, and then do it for all you’re worth. And I don’t mean “doing your own thing” in the hip sense. That’s passivity, that’s dropping out, that’s not doing anything. I’m talking about doing, which means serving your community, whether it’s a tiny town or six continents."

These words were spoken by Leonard Bernstein in Massachusetts less than three weeks before I was born. When the Boston Globe recorded and reported these words, they stressed his message of hope in the chaos of our world and the artist's role within it. 

Less than three weeks later, a professional photographer would become a dad, my dad. 13 years later he would buy me my first camera and with that camera I would take photograph's that would appear in newspapers. Nearly 46 years later that same camera would be freshly cleaned and in a few hours will be at a beach taking pictures for artistic purposes. 

Last night I was at an artistic event surrounded by painters and photographers and thinkers and poets. It was an artistic jam the likes of which I had never seen. The spoken word artists, particularly a young man named Seven, moved me, inspired me and had me thinking about how I live my life.  

My father was a great photographer. I am a damn good one. My father was a damn good writer, writing is what I do uniquely well. At this event last night I met many people. Two of them had actually read my writings in Aquarius News and have been moved by them. I sit here near Chicago and write for a small paper in Atlanta Georgia that has inspired people near Chicago that I met less than a mile from my home. That is powerful to me and it makes me realize that there is a social responsibility to our words and our art.

As I look at the world around us I have to wonder if artists are a new hope or the last hope for humanity. Politics and religion and commerce have had their run and things are getting worse and every time we turn around more wars are starting, more shootings occur, more people are dying of poverty. It does not matter who we vote for, where we worship or what we buy, the death count keeps rising. It is not just humanity that is at stake. The balance of nature is getting worse as more animals become extinct and the ecological balance is askew. The very planet is experiencing the trauma of climate change under the watch of religion, science, politics and commerce. 

When the dinosaurs became extinct, it was due to a meteor. We figured out how to do it without one of those. We are dying and we are taking the whole world with us. But it is not over yet. There is beauty and wonder and love. 

I am leaning toward the idea of artists, feelers and thinkers as being the last hope as opposed to a new hope. We seem to be running out of time. 

The event I went to was socially conscience art and artists. To be invited to such an event was not just an honor or an opportunity for exposure, it was an invitation to change the word, but first I had to be changed. I get the joke now. I understand. 

I hope we can inspire each other to do more. I hope that I do. I hope we all do. 

May we save each other. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Love's a Call Away (but)

A Call Away
For those who do not know, payphones are alive and well. For those who may not know what a payphone is, before mobiles they were everywhere. You put money in it to make a call. We were mobile and had to find stationary phones. Sometimes they still come in handy. 

I remember one time I was in rural Pennsylvania on a long drive not long ago. While driving I was thinking and contemplating as I am prone to do on the road. There was a lot going on in my life and as I thought about it, the weight of the world crashed on me like a tsunami on the beach of my heart. There was someone I needed to call and talk to more desperately than I could remember. The fullness of pain and loneliness crushed me. Love was a call away but I had no cell phone reception. I was in the middle of nowhere and I was looking for the relics called payphones. I found one in a gas station/diner with a gravel lot. Love was a call away, but I had no change. I ran inside the diner and asked the waitress if I could have some change. It was a long distance call so I would need a lot of it. I tipped her for the kindness and went to the payphone. Love was a call away but I got her voicemail. 

All the courage and all the need I had melted because I needed to have a conversation. I heard the voicemail message. I heard her voice. I could taste the coffee of our last meeting as I heard her voice. I could feel the emptiness inside of the things unsaid but I could not say them. When I heard the inevitable beep I stood there for a moment and listened to the silence. I hung up the phone, smoked a cigarette, got back in my rental car and continued driving to Harrisburg. Love was a phone call away but I was afraid to speak my heart. 

1600 miles away someone may have stared at their phone and realized they missed a call. They did not recognize the number or area code. Love was a call away, but there was no message. A message that may have been a salve to a shitty summer.

If there's a call you have to make. Do it. If you have to overcome hurdles and obstacles and require the aid of others to make that happen, so be it. Life is a series of moments strung together and this moment is the only one that truly exists.

Love's a call away.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spaces and Memories

Spaces and Memories
Today is my son's sweet sixteen and golden birthday. Disney World has been our spot not once, not twice, but four times during his birthday. I cannot afford to take him on such extravagance right now, but one year we will go back I am sure. We are addicted. 

When I think of that place or I see the Disney logo or the mouse ears, a daddy's heart always thinks of his son. When we would stay in the resorts the cleaning crew would always fold the towels like this in the picture above or in other formations. It is, for me, one of our defining spaces. 

We all have those spaces and moments in time that makes us think of our ties to someone special in our lives. For many parents, it is their child. For some it is a spouse or a dear friend or significant other or parent. Maybe those spaces are spaces that are out of reach due to cost or distance, but we have the memories. Not the memories of the space, but the person you shared the space with. 

We have amazing memories in that space near Orlando. 

Here is the thing. If the shooting in Orlando reminded me of anything it is that life is precious and every day matters. For all the memories we cherish and all the spaces that have meant something to us, there is also today. 

If the person that defines a time and a place is still in your life, make new memories and new spaces. Every moment we are together is a new space and a new memory. It may not be exotic. You may be at a mini golf course or t shirt shop or having coffee, but you are together and they are special. Savor every space and every memory. 

In about an hour, my son and I will be creating new spaces and memories. It will be nowhere near the extravagance of Disney, but it is not the space that creates the memories, it is who you are with. 

Keep making them and keep cherishing them. 

Spaces and memories. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Keep Flying

Keep Flying
This was taken in 2008 behind the stick of a 1975 Cessna 172M over the Atlantic Ocean. When you are 8000 feet in the air and about 20 miles from the shore, not only is the idea to keep on flying a brave statement, it is a necessary statement. The only alternative is to crash into the ocean. 

Sometimes when you are soaring in the face of adversity people will tell you how brave you are and you do not feel brave. You soar not because you are this wonder of nature, you sometimes soar above the water and in the clouds because you have no choice. The alternative sucks. 

When you are in that position, obviously you should keep soaring, but give yourself some credit. Maybe they are right. Maybe you are brave. Maybe you are resilient. Maybe the very act of soaring takes skill and not everyone can do it. You are monitoring your fuel to air ratio, feeling the wind currents, and many other things. Maybe you are a single parent with multiple children trying to juggle finances and job and personal joy. Maybe you are a GLBT person trying to live your life in the face of hate and fear and judgement that i cannot possibly imagine. Maybe you are just a guy sitting in his bathrobe writing a blog trying to figure out your life as a parent and a person with dreams living in a current reality with pressing needs. Of course you have no choice but to fly and to soar, but it is wonderful that you do. 

Keep flying.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fountains of Life

Fountains of Life
I am still struggling. Writing daily and finding beauty is so hard right now. Since the events in Orlando I have lost count how many tears I have shed and more still come. As a parent and as a friend of glbt persons, I am struggling. It feels too big and finding beauty in the mess is too hard.
This shot was taken at Chicago area's Brookfield Zoo with my son about a week after he came out to me. The zoo has been our constant since he was 2. From age 2 to 10 we had a membership there and would go almost weekly. We don't need a map. We know all the places to eat. We joke about the bison burger stand being too close to the bison. Our favorite visit has always been an Amur tiger named Whirl who lost part of his tail when he was a mere cub.

For me, as a parent, this was the trip where everything is still the same. We still go to the zoo. We are still bonded by love. The only thing different is what I know that I did not know before. The only thing different is that he was brave enough, with a trembling voice and shaking hands, to tell me who he is. 

Some things were different. This is no longer a child, this is a young adult. A very brave young adult. Everything was different but some things were the same. What was different was understanding and knowledge and that only deepened the bond. 

The fountain is still there. The zoo is open as I write this. Whirl may even be playing with his ball right now. In the wake of these incomprehensible deaths, in the midst of these tears, there is still the fountain and the zoo. Even though everything is different and our understanding of the world has changed, some things are still the same and the bond has deepened. 

Today may still be a day of tears and anger for so many of us. But we all have our fountains and our zoos and they are still there. There is life there.

When the time is right. Please go to them. We need fountains of life. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Be You!

Be You!
In the wake of the massacre in Orlando I do not want to write. If I am being completely honest I want to get drunk or high or fall into someone's arms and fuck until dawn so I can feel anything other than what I am feeling right now.

I am feeling anger. I am feeling grief. I am feeling sadness. I am feeling pain. I am feeling fear. I cannot watch the news or look at all the stupid shit being posted on social media right now so I do not know if the stats have changed. The last time I checked 103 people were shot and 50 of those died because they were gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or otherwise queer or non binary or friends of these people. They were hunted down and killed by a monster because they were themselves. Some of them were killed because they were like my child. Some of them were killed because they were like my friends. 

Some of the reasons people are hated is because of who we are in things that we cannot and should not change like our gender, orientation, gender identity or race. Other things people are hated for are choices like how we dress or what we are interested in or our hobbies. I am a cis gendered straight white man. Very few people want to taunt me or kill me over these things. My hobbies are reading and taking long walks in nature and photography and writing. These are not things that many want to hunt someone down and kill over. I am pretty safe. 

There are others who are not. They are mocked. They are beaten. They are assaulted. They are treated differently. They are hunted down and killed in their safe spaces where they can be themselves openly. Justify hate all you want. Politicize this all you want. Ignore the core issue all you want. 50 people are dead for being themselves. They were not an issue. They were not a topic. They were human beings. They were someone's child and lover and friend and parent and brother and sister and so much more and they are dead. There are many people just like them and they are in fear for their lives and hurting and confused and some are recovering from gunshot wounds in hospitals. While that reality happens we are having petty little positions and arguments on social media. 

Is gay a sin? Was this really the biggest massacre? What is terrorism? What do we do about guns? 

Thank you to the beautiful people who lined up for over a mile to donate blood. Thank you to the spaces that are open across the world to help those hurting and confused have a space to vent Thank you to those who risked their lives to save others in the club while it was going down. Thank you to the first responders. Thank you to the doctors and nurses and EMT's. Thank you to those who love. 

About the only rational thing I can say right now in the convoluted mess that is my heart and brain is this.

Be you. 

I love you as you are. You are not a mistake. You are not a sin. You are not an issue. You are not less. 

Be you. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

StoryTelling Saturdays: We Survive Alone. We Live Together

I have kept a lot quiet in my personal life about some struggles. My circle of trust is small. Once you are in that circle, it is very hard to be removed from it. It is not impossible, but it is difficult. Those precious friends were there for me recently. After weeks of holding some very hard things inside and trying to do it all on my own, I finally turned to them and said...this is my life. It feels overwhelming and I don't know if I can do this. They were there for me in ways I cannot explain and I went from survival to life again.

When things get hard it is usually not because of one thing. It is because we have so many things happening at once and we are overwhelmed.

When I was a little boy I used to love a show called The Bozo Show. Occasionally they would have this guest who would spin plates on poles. He would have several poles and he would be spinning plates on them for as long as he could. Often plates would fall and break and he would pop another one up and keep going.

Life feels that way sometimes and we have an audience of people watching us sweat through this impossible task called life and every plate that falls feels like a failure. While focusing on one plate we are looking at all the others waiting to see which one will wobble and fall to pieces from lack of attention. The fear of failure is as distressing as the moment when a plate falls.

What if there was a friend to catch plates? What is people gave us accolade for doing all that we have done so well? What if we spun less plates and realized that life goes on even if one falls?

All of us are out there doing the very same thing. We are spinning all these plates in an impossible task, but we are surviving. When we are working together we do not restrict freedom, we discover it and we thrive and live....together.

Plates will drop. We will make mistakes. We will do our best. We will not do our best. We are all doing this same thing. It is up to us if we do it alone or together.

We survive alone and we live together.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Savor Life Anyway

Savor Life Anyway
One of my favorite pieces is one I did called "Tending Passion's Garden". There is a lovely bed with a slightly rusted bed frame in a garden under a chandelier. I had a small blackboard on the bed. I wrote different things on it and ultimately went with a shot of it as blank. The shot has a lot of wonderful elements. I poured my soul into that one in an attempt to capture in one photo what I feel about love and its analogous nature to a garden.. Anyway, the clever signs just threw it off. I liked the board and felt it added something to the shot, but not the writing. 

I did do a closeup of this one because it amused me. It also made me think. Lovers tending a garden of beauty and life together. It is a time of delight and you dare to place a bed in the middle of it and state something silly on a sign. A restriction in beauty. Passion's Garden limited by rules. 

We all have rules in life. Things we say we will do and will not do and we place a sign with a restriction in the center of the most compelling place of the garden of life. Theologians will get where I am going with the foolishness of it all. 

We do that in life. We place signs with rules in the midst of gardens with limitless possibilities. We restrict beauty and inhibit ourselves from fully embracing all that is before us. 

If someone you want to kiss asks you to kiss them, this would be a terrible time to listen to the sign you placed in the middle of the garden. If it is a hot summer day and you see homemade ice cream being served in your favorite flavor and the only thing holding you back is that it is not paleo friendly? You placed a sign in the garden of limitless possibilities. 

We need boundaries. It is why the garden in my shot has a fence. We need to tend and care for our lives in the same way we care for a garden. We have, within that space, the ability to grow so many things and enjoy lush textures, colors, scents and wonder. We don't need self imposed restrictions that limit our possibilities and our hearts and our passions. It can be ice cream, a kiss, a dream, an un pursued hobby or any number of things. The signs we put up are, I am too old. I am not good enough. I am not attractive. I don't have time. I'm bad at xyz. What if I fail? This list could go on for thousands of words and I would just be hitting the tip of the iceberg. I hope you get the jist. 

You have healthy fences with gates(possibly). You have a wondrous garden that will last several decades if you are lucky. Ignore the dumb signs you wrote and savor life anyway. 



Thursday, June 9, 2016

Not Alone

Not Alone
This picture is definitely not the crown jewel of my work, but it holds a special part of my heart.

A taxi driver is a very lonely existence. You are out there for 12 hours a night, 6 nights a week essentially picking up hitchhikers for a living. The exact thing we were told never to do from a young age. You spend the night isolated, broke and feeling alone. 

In between runs we had gathering spots where we would park our taxis. Some would nap. Some read. Many of us would sip coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk with our taxis clustered together. In those moments we were no longer alone. Sometimes, one of the dispatchers would try to tell us to spread it out. She did not understand that this gathering was the only thing that kept us sane and safe and alive. So we ignored her. 

We were no longer alone. We had the same experiences and the same station in life and the same stories and even knew the same passengers. We were together. We understood. Often the most beautiful thing would happen. We who had little would help out each other who also had little. We knew there was a difference between having little and having nothing and we lived close to that line all the time. 

We were community. More than any church. More than any online meetup group. More than any bond anyone else could understand because we were honest and raw. 

If you ever feel like you are alone and isolated and at the bottom, I promise you there are people just like us huddled together somewhere in the exact same position. The me too factor will not only breach the darkness of the loneliness, but they will sometimes even help with a few bucks, a spare cigarette or a cup of coffee. It will save your life and for a time. It will get you through another desperate night.  Ignore the authority on the radio telling you to not commune and find safe harbor. You are not alone. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

(Re)Purpose and Identity

(Re)Purpose
This Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor used to be a Woodstock, Illinois Police Car. It had a purpose. It was part of serving a protecting a small town in Illinois. Criminal suspects may have sat in it's back seat. It may have pulled over drunk drivers and stopped them from killing someone. It had a purpose. The purpose ended and it was stripped of the markings and the lights and identified it as a police car.

It would be bought by a Joliet, Illinois Taxi Company and will soon be made into a taxicab. People in need of a ride will sit in its back seat. Drunk revelers will take it home from bars stopping them from being drunk drivers and killing someone. It will have a new purpose. It will have a new paint job with markings and lights an meters and radios. It will have a (re)purpose. 

My personal vehicle shown in the snapshot from my cell phone used to be a taxi that used to be police car. It has found new life as my personal car. It has at least a third (re)purpose. (technically, my car consists of pieces of 4 taxis.)

There are a few thoughts that occur to me. The first one is that in life in so many different ways we will be told we are no longer needed. This can be a relationship or a job or any number of other things. When that happens, we will be stripped of the identity we used to have. Employee, partner, friend, etc. Some will see us as without use anymore. Without purpose and without identity. But new colors will be painted on us and new purposes will be found and we will find new life. This will likely happen more than once in our life. It will continue to happen. It will keep happening. 

The other thought that strikes me is that regardless the labels, regardless the purposes and identity there is something deeper. What we are. All of these labels are nothing more than paint and decals and lights placed upon us, but beneath it all is what we truly are. In this case, the Crown Victoria was once Ford's longest and most enduring fleet vehicle. It is the last of the rear wheel drive mass produced American passenger fleet vehicles. It boasted a powerful V8 engine and drive-train designed to last for 400,000 miles if given the proper care. 

What we do is not what we are. Who we are with is not what we are. What we are is what we are. Regardless the purpose, we are something strong and durable and with the proper care we will outlive our various purposes and identities and labels. It is wonderful to have a reason and a purpose, but beneath it all, we are what we are and that is even more wondrous. 

We have our (re)purposes and identity. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Vintage Use

Vintage Use
This is a vintage biplane as viewed from the fuselage with a taste of the upper wing and the propeller. It is a vintage plane if you will. The owner flies it on jobs almost daily. Sometimes it is crop treatment, sometimes it is a banner for an advertisement and other times it is to take people up to experience flying in a bi plane. When something is vintage, it is not considered old or worn out or less. It has value and charm and maybe even a bit of superiority to some of the mass produced crap out there today.

I love vintage razors. A Gillette razor made 60 years ago will last at least another 60 years and will deliver a better shave than the garbage out there today. People are rediscovering records with their superior sound quality and undeniable charm.

Many of us who are my age are facing hardships. They go looking for jobs and feel they have to dye their grey or look younger to avoid age discrimination. They go on dating sites and post pics that are at least 7 years old in the hopes of looking less....old.

I wish we would look on middle age or senior citizens the same way we see vintage items. Durable survivors with lessons to teach who may have durability, wisdom and beauty. Vintage items are useful, durable and even sexy.

Be vintage. You are more than useful. You are beautiful, durable, damn well constructed and sexy.

You have a tale to tell and have seen many things.

Vintage is not used. Vintage use.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

StoryTelling Saturdays: Painted Corners

Almost everyone I meet is intelligent. We are smart. Despite that, so many of us do dumb things and paint ourselves into corners. It is an interesting expression and you could understand how it happens. You are so immersed into the task of painting the floor that you do not pay attention to where you are and the impact your actions are going to have. When you have nowhere to go, you finally look up to be hit with the reality that you have been painted yourself into a corner. You have nowhere to go and no one to blame but yourself. Sometimes it is humorous. Other times it fees like the end of the world. Regardless, when it happens we feel trapped.

When I was a minister we ran a youth outreach. We had many special guests that slid under the radar to come to Lockport to meet with the at risk teens and young adults. YA authors, poets, producers, artists and others from all over the country. One of our visitors was a Playboy model and an MMA ring girl who also had a remarkable story of overcoming many obstacles and life. We had spoken through a mutual friend. She was going a shoot in Chicago so we made arrangements to have her be driven over after her shoot.

During the course of the evening she spoke about how to use a journal as a therapeutic device. She had told us that it is the story of our lives and gave us a real life example. She had told us that she had recently had a relationship end and there was a period that she did not know how she would get through the heartbreak emotionally. She took her dog eared journal out of her purse and flipped open the pages. She writes in shapes and designs having the words form pictures so no matter how dark the period, she also recognized there is beauty. She flipped through the past chapters of the story of her life and found the chapter in her life where she had been in a similar space in her life. She realized that she had, in fact, been in this place before and she also had the story that not only did she heal and move on, she had a road map. She could reflect on what she could do different to heal more fully. She had a new chapter to write.

Most of us get into our life messes because we are living in the moment and not thinking about where we are at and going until it is too late. Most of us have been in painted corners more than once in life and we will likely be there again. We have the story of our lives to find the path out. We have the cognition to learn from our past and create a beautiful future. We have our story of then to get us though now so we can go to the future.

I wish I could tell us all that there will be no more painted corners. There will be. They teach us and they are a part of our story. Painted Corners.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Gritty

Gritty
We live in a world of rules. Some are just and others are not. Some are established by governments, employers and others. 

The interesting thing about these rues and boundaries is how often the people who establish them violate them, but if you violate them, you are the one called out. 

I have often spoken about how life in the taxi and life in the night was brutal and gritty, but it was honest. Part of it was the rules. As gritty as it is, it makes sense. There is an order in the chaos. I often miss the chaos because I miss living in a world that makes sense. 

In the gritty world a person of faith lives their faith out even if they are homeless and dying from poverty. While in the civilized world they stop reading their Bible or living the sermons they hear just because things are stressful or not going their idyllic way. An atheist in the gritty world will not commit to the foxhole prayers that the ones in the civilized world do. They are equally true to their convictions.

In the gritty world if a person does not want to be treated or spoken to in a manner, they will uphold that code in how they speak to and treat others. If they speak or behave out of turn, they know that there is a consequence. I will not even get into the civilized world on that one. 

The civilized world is not very civilized and the gritty one has order. It may look a little dirty, and it is, but it is also true. 

If you feel a little dirty and gritty, then you may be honest. Embrace it. There is beauty there that others with false veneers will not understand. 


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Fragility of Trust

Fragility Of Trust
I took several shots of this bird. He was aware of my presence and I was honored by the trust. I kept getting closer to get more shots and then something happened. The fragility of trust was breached and he flew away. It was too fast and too soon. I will never see him again.

Our relationships are like that. So many of us have so many concerns and traumas or just need space. When we are the ones who push too hard we have to accept that we lost an opportunity. When we are the ones who flee, we have our reasons and most of them are self protective.

I have another picture in my library of a little girl holding a ladybug in her hands and there is one of my son with a butterfly on his finger. Those moments of trust may not last forever, but while we have that gift in the impermanence of life, treasure them.

We will flee in this life and we will breach trust. It is life. It happens.

While you have it, when you earn it, enjoy it and understand not only the beauty, but the fragility of trust.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Different Nature

A Different Nature
For the last three days I have been processing the beauty of the nature of Evergreen Lake. But there is a different nature within. The nature that is gritty and finds itself in back alleys and the urban nature. I usually do these in grey-scale because there is no black and white, but this time I wanted to show the colors of the street. The different nature within is also beautiful in its own right.

There is the nature we desire and the nature that our heart beats true regardless the grittiness of it all. We can be torn between the natures or we can see the beauty of the different nature. There are no elk, no lake, no trees and no ideals. But it is honest and it is real.

Today I am in that different nature. I am feeling the dark textures of the alley and the honest violence of the night. Today I am of the nature of the street that is active and noisy and full of a different kind of life than the idyllic serenity of the lake. That is not only okay, it is still beautiful.

I know the rules here. I understand the danger and the beauty.

The different nature still has color and texture and life. The different nature has a heartbeat and a rhythm. Both natures have danger and both have beauty. One is where we were and one is where we are. Both natures are very real and deserve to be seen as beautiful.

There are days that I need the lake and others that I need the alley. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who lives in a different nature.

Welcome to Moonlight From Ashes Media

Moonlight From Ashes Media is the home of PhotoJournalist, Columnist, and Artist Pat Green. Below you will see sample work of Pat'...