Saturday, July 30, 2016

On Mirrors and Changing My Mind

I wrote a blog about darkness. Worked really hard at it, then I deleted it and started all over.

I changed my mind.

I was gonna write dark shit because I am butt hurt that some things have not worked out the way I wanted them to. I think self examination can sometimes be like a make up mirror. They have two sides to them. One side is normal and the other side is this wickedly cruel magnified mirror. When you look in that mirror you never say, "Good Lord do I have great complexion!" No, you pluck things and see every imperfection on your face and everything is horrible.

But look in a normal mirror and those things are not what stands out. The entirety of you and your life is actually not as horrible as that make up mirror.

I have a few marks on my face. I have made some mistakes that have hurt people and myself. I have some melodramatic things that I need to pluck, but there are some good things.

In my case they are as follows.


  • I have an amazing son.
  • I have a wonderful friend who runs her own vintage business.
  • I have a wonderful friend in Detroit who can write and drink any man I know under a table. 
  • I have discovered a family in the artist community. 
  • I have made many new friends and rekindled some old friendships.
  • I have a best friend in this world who has seen me as I have have seen her since 2008 and the transparency is delightful.
  • I may not be terribly good at dating, but I am a terribly good friend. 
  • I don't have much money and my car looks like an escapee from a junkyard and no one who loves me seems to care. 
  • I have two part time jobs in amazing places and with amazing people and I am starting to get good at this art thing. 
  • I don't need viagra yet. 
  • Even at what I consider my worst, some still say they wanna be in my life. 
  • I weigh less now than I have in years and feel great sans some constant back pain. 
  • People believe in me and I am getting back to that space myself.
  • And much much more. 
Are there things in life that are deeply wrong? Are there things I have said and done that look ugly in the magnified mirror of self examination? Yeah. I will focus on them from time to time, we all do. It sucks that upon self examination the mirror can sometimes enhance the ugly and not the lovely. 

We can spend so much time looking in the magnified mirror that we forget to look at the larger picture and realize that we are not only beautiful, but we are surrounded by beauty. 

So I deleted the dark shit, put the make up mirror away and changed my mind. 

I know a lot of people who need to do the same because you are beautiful too. 



Friday, July 29, 2016

We Need The Rain Too

We Need The Rain
The storms in life. We use the analogies of feeling cloudy and weathering the storms of life. Today the storm was looming and everyone at work was talking about as were our visitors. When is it gonna happen? How bad will it be? Will we handle it and be safe?

When the storm hit and the rain came I looked outside and saw the people still outside scatter and seek shelter. The lighting was ominous and I almost got stuck in an elevator when a power surge hit. 

It was hard and bad. 

Then I saw something else. I noticed the flowers in our garden outside the museum/gallery I work at part time. 

In this heat, the storms give them nourishment that they need to thrive when the sun comes. The sun comes and the flowers convert them to energy as they take in the carbon dioxide and nourish us with oxygen. While all of this happens, the flowers roots grow deeper into the ground to seek the waters the storms give that it needs to live.  The water helps the flower absorb the nutrients in the soil. Without the water from the storm, it would have nothing to reach for when the roots grow. The flowers need both the light and the storms to thrive. 

We need the rain too. We need the storms and the rain just as we need the light and sunshine. We need it in a different way than we need the light, but it is part of the cycle of our nourishment and  our wisdom. It teaches us, it tests our roots and is part of what feeds our roots as they grow and our petals' colorful beauty radiates in sun and in storm. 

Let the storms in life feed you. Let the roots you get from the days of light make you strong enough to survive the very storm that is part of our life. 

I am not a guru. I am not a shaman. I am not a priest or a zen-master. I am guy trying his best to figure it out. I do know this, we need the rain too. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dreams to Embers

Dreams
Dreams was a restaurant and bar. The family that owned it had great service, good food and they kept the apartments above the restaurant reasonably priced. They were an integral part of the community. Then one day, Dreams burned down. For years the building sat with the burned out hulk of Dreams burned down and dilapidated. Not too long ago dreams became Embers. Named after a glowing hot coal or piece of wood that remains after a fire. 

Our dreams are like that. They can be beautiful and wondrous things that can, in mere moments, burn to the ground with a hulk of burned out memories. The memories remain for us like a burnt out hulk. The memories of what a marriage or relationship was supposed to be or a career path or any dream that we wanted that burned away. 

Sometimes, if we are clever and creative caretakers of our hearts, we can take the burning embers of the rubble and use it as kindling to warm us and allow us to see and rebuild. We can always rebuild and have new dreams. Sometimes it will be the original idea of the dream with a twist, the new Embers is a restaurant and bar with apartments above. Sometimes we will have new dreams we will start building. 

If your dreams have burned, I am so sorry. It has happened and will happened. Use the embers in your heart to build. It can be a revision of the original dream or it can be something completely different. The heart needs dreams and hope. 

Dreams to Embers is a lovely cycle if we allow it to be.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Moment...

The Moment
I am about to tell you two stories. Before I do, I need to tell you a story. If you go to my CV you will see the three mentors I had. Two things all three had in common was a preference for making use of natural light and shooting in full manual. I still hold to both of these conventions to this day. 

One day, about a month ago, I took a day to myself to explore the world without a plan and shoot. I was at a small regional airport shooting some restored WWII fighter jets and a bi-plane. I was situated on one knee setting up a shot manually of restored aircraft lined up. I was focused and I focused and I had composure as I set my composure. Then I heard it. The sound of a single engine aircraft taking off behind me and to my left. I wanted that plane taking off. In the middle of my plan a moment was happening that I wanted to seize. I stayed calm and I never removed my eye from the view finder as I used the sound of the plane's engine to track its location. As I moved the camera up, I adjusted the shutter-speed, aperture and focal length. She was exactly where I knew she would be and I depressed the shutter once. I knew I had it. The shot is not spectacular and will not win any awards, but it is how the shot came to be that I was proud of. 

I had a plan and I was in the middle of executing the plan. I recognized a moment. I stayed calm and focused and used my life skills to adjust the plan on the fly and seize the moment. I captured the moment and for the rest of my life I have this shot to remind me of the day I lived in the moment. 

This morning I was reminded over breakfast of the moments I missed because I was self absorbed in my plans, forgot my training and life skills countless mentors have taught me, and missed the beauty. There is no capture in the mind and heart's eye to enjoy for life. There is merely a missed moment. No apology or explanation will change that and life is not a movie or a book where the protagonist can recapture the moment and win the day in the third act. There is no Deus ex machina to wheel onto the stage to resolve everything to your liking. There is only the knowledge and the recognition that you missed a moment. 

Now you have a choice. You can live in regret, or you can accept the results of your actions and inaction and learn how precious every moment is. Life is short. Recognize the moments, stay calm, and change the plan so you have a lifetime of delight.  

I may be a troubadour by nature and at times a jester in the king's court, but I will be damned if I take the fool's path and not recognize the wonder of the moment. Over the last few months I have made completely new friends, taken drastic career changes. I would like to say I have reinvented myself. That is not true, I just found the core of who I am and chipped away the bullshit. Anecdotally, it has been rumored that Michelangelo said of his sculpture of David that he just chipped away the stone that did not look like David. In life, I have rediscovered my "muchness" by chipping away all the stones that do not look like Pat. I am not done yet. It happens in moments including this moment.

The moment we seize.

The moment we miss.

The moment that contains beauty and wonder.

The moment is all we truly have.

The moment....

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Umbrellas

Under My Umbrella
I love umbrellas. I think they are cool. When I was a little boy watching the sci fi British show called "The Avengers", I thought John Steed was the biggest bad ass ever with his multi function umbrella (I also had a crush on Emma Peel). On the other end of the spectrum, the Penguin used his for evil. But I digress.

We use them for protection. We use these fragile devices to protect us from the elements of rain and sun when we are out and about. Wind can bend them or blow them away. Inexpensive ones may not open or close well. 

I am going to cut to the chase here. 

Some of the things we use to protect us are thin and they are fragile and sometimes fail us, but they are elegant, beautiful, and overall, they work. We may not be able to fend off ninjas with one, but they do keep us relatively dry and give us shade when we need it.

Know that some of the things you use to guard your heart are fragile and also know that it is okay to close the thing and sing in the rain or get a little sun. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Letting Go

Letting Go
I have seen many Buddha statues, but never one so whimsical as this one in a friend's garden. To me, it shows the serenity that comes after you have let go of the attachment that causes the suffering and have taken the path to release from the pain.

I am not a Buddhist per se, but though learning zazen (Zen) meditation, I have learned the basics of Buddhism. At it's core are the 4 noble truths. At it's basic they are as follows.

  1. Life is suffering or suffering exists.
  2. Suffering exists because we are attached to our desires and even our pain. 
  3. We can end the suffering when we detach from the desires we cling to.
  4. There is a path we can take to achieve that detachment. The Buddhists call it the 8 fold path. 
This is not the best description of the 4 noble truths, but it will do. 

There was this one time I had someone look at me and point out that I had sad eyes that she wished she could make go away. I did have sad eyes. I had anger that I often let out in poor directions. I always had one foot out the door in everything I did. I had pain and I was so attached to unfulfilled desires that I was never present in the wonder around me. I was lost in the past that I could not be present. It was not that I could not be, I made the poor choice to be attached and I missed so much. 

Now, you can be attached to the fact that you were not present or you can let go. Let it all go.

I want to move forward in this life, I think we all do. But to do that we have to let go. We have to let go of the unfulfilled desires. We have to let go of the pain and the guilt and the regrets and the ghosts and so much more. The funny part is that as soon as we let go we tend to find new things to cling to. That is okay as long as we are aware and we endeavor to be present.

I don't want to miss another smile of my child. A beautiful day. An opportunity to stare into another's eyes and not have sad eyes. There is so much to see and so much I want to see, but that only that happens if we see what is about us right now. 

It is all right to make plans or wish for something. But in the words of a dear friend of mine, we have to enter into those moments with hope, but no expectations. 

As I let go, I enter this week with some hopes, but it is only going in without attachment to expectations that you can be present for whatever wonder awaits. 

Letting go of pain so you can reach for now.

Letting go of expectations so you can be as content as a cute garden statue.

Letting go.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Prepping and Planning and Being Present

In a little less than 10 hours I have my second gallery showing at an art show.

I have been prepping and planning for about 2 months now. I decided on my message about Summer and Fun in the Sun. I sought out the right model for 2 of my shots. We worked with each other's schedules. We did the shoot. I worked on the photos on my computer converting them from RAW to JPEG. I went to my photo lab and worked with the owner on what I wanted from the shots. I matted and framed them all. I descried them and priced them.

I dropped them off at the show.

I have updated my website on the about section, the store section and added a CV tab. I am in the process of working on a portfolio, that will not be ready by the show, that will be ready soon, though.

There comes a time when all the prepping and planning is done and all you can do is be present. Sometimes can excel at the prepping and planning and struggle with the being present. There are things beyond your control no matter how well you have prepped and planned and no preparation or plan can cover every eventuality (like two of your pieces being on the top floor in the back and one being right by the entrance creating visibility issues in traffic flow). You make the best of every opportunity and you work with what you have.

You have prepped and planned the best you could have. Conversely, you may not have prepped and planned as well as you could have. It does not matter. The time for prepping and planning is over, now you have to be present in the moment and enjoy what you have worked so hard to do.

All too often, people do not do that last part. Be present and enjoy. They spend the whole time thinking about and second guessing the prepping and planning that they never spend time in the moment that they prepped and planned for. It is a viscous cycle of planting and tilling and never one tasting of the fruit in the garden you tended. There is no point of gardening if you never take of the harvest.

So as I get ready to go to work and then to the gallery and remind myself to be present, we all need to be mindful of that. We can work and work and work, but if we are not there to taste of what we worked for and just move on to the next project, we will never know the taste of the fruit we made. This is true of art shows, projects, relationships, vacations and so much more.

Be present, the time for prepping and planning is done.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Be Prepared for What You Can't be Ready For

The Unexpected
This photo was taken on a small ferry during Summer. The journey is short and the water is shallow. I am pretty sure one of average height could stand waist deep in it. Yet, there are flotation cushions to keep us safe. Safe from what? That is exactly the point. We don't know, but we are over water and there are things we need to be prepared for that we can't be ready for. 

In life, none of us can predict what will happen next. It is why we have flotation devises, fire drills, lock down drills, are advised to have flares and a first aid kid in our cars and so much more. We need to be ready for the things we don't know. 

What about our lives and our hearts? How to we be prepared for disappointment, heartbreak, loss, perceived failure, stress and other things we cannot be ready for. 

There is a delicate balance. We need to believe in the possibilities that drive us to hope and to dream, but we need to be ready for the things we cannot anticipate going wrong.

I do not always know that balance. I do know when I am on a plane, the flight attendants give us 3-5 minutes about how to be prepared for things that go wrong and the rest of the flight is overprices beverages and snacks. Maybe that is the balance. Do the best you can to be prepared for the unimaginable and then imagine better things and enjoy the journey. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Blessing and the Curse


Blessing and Curse
I took this shot last summer in downtown Joliet. 

I love cars and most of us need them. Even if we do not own one directly, many will still use a taxi or a rideshare app or a friend to drive them somewhere. They take us where we need and where we want to go. That is the blessing. The curse is, they never break down in a convenient time. The repairs are rarely inexpensive. We scramble to figure out where to go. 

There are so many things in our lives that are that way. Friendships, romantic relationships, jobs, and even food (what sustains us and we need to live and so yummy can sometimes make us sick or even unhealthy).

In all of the blessings there is the beauty and the joy and even a sense of freedom when everything is working out. When the curse comes into play, there is frustration and anger and maybe even fear. 

The funny part about us is that we focus on the cursed parts more than we do the blessings. We take it for granted that our car works most of the time. We take it for granted our friends are there for us and true. We take it for granted that in a relationship the sex is good, the romance is real and the pleasure receptors in the brain are being fed. 

The best we can do in any of these things is maintain them well. Pay attention to what is going on. Care for them....and if there is more problems than not we may have to consider replacing the car or doing without for a time. 

It is my hope that if a car breaks down you do not stop driving cars. It is my hope that if a friend lets you down you do not stop making friends. If love breaks down you do not stop loving. If you have a bad meal, I truly hope you do not stop eating. If you need to fast or do without for a time, I get it, I do. 

There are many shades to life, but it is not all black or white. Even this photo is many shades of grey. This is the blessing and the curse of life. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Abandoned by Choice

Abandoned
This used to be a dry cleaners at one time. Back in 2006 when I was looking for space for a new church, the owner of the building did not want me, he felt he could make more from the location. I know someone who wanted to open a small diner/coffeehouse there once and she was rejected the space for the same reason. Just the other day I met a man who three years ago wanted to make the space an art supplies store that also would teach painting and pottery and so forth to people.

In all three cases you had people who had money and a plan that would restore the space. Here we are a decade later and the building is still crumbling and abandoned and neglected.

We can sometimes be that landlord and the building is our heart.

We are abandoned and neglected and we, for whatever reason, refuse to allow anything in there that may fill us, restore us, give us a purpose and invite beauty in. 

I am not saying we should invite anything and everything and everyone in. But we do need to take a chance on a tenant be it a friend or a lover or a hobby. We still have to be a good landlord of our heart and screen tenants well and we may have to evict someone or something because it threatens the space or does not honor it. That is fine. To not let anything or anyone in will only lead to one road, a slow and crumbling death as the heart deteriorates from neglect. 

We often get abandoned and I am sorry. I know what that feels like. But please. Do not be abandoned by choice. That is neglect. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Steps We Climb

Steps We Climb
I took this at Chicago's Botanical Garden's earlier this year. I really love it when people build man made items to blend into nature. There is a college I once saw in Northern California that almost seemed to grow out of the redwoods. I used to know an architect. I would have loved to have talked to her about some of the things I saw in the botanical gardens to learn about the intention of design that happened. I have learned that architects do quite more than I thought they did. They think about everything right down to the placement of the light bulbs and drawers. In this case, someone put some thought into this and ways that I will never know, but I appreciated the beauty and enjoyed walking uphill with wonder as to what lay around the next bend.

When I reached the top, there was an amazing view of an island and a lake with oriental designs and a walk downhill towards waterfalls. 

Uphill climbs are arduous sometimes and to be offered beauty along the path and a reward when you reach the precipice is more than we get most of the time. I remember once climbing 5 flights of stairs in a smelly stairwell because the elevator was slow. Winded and my nostrils smelling things I wish I had not, I get to my floor and the stairwell entrance was locked. I had to retreat, go back all the way down, and wait for the eternally slow elevator. No flow, no scenery, no reward. 

We have goals. Those goals are often represented as a climb up to reach a peak where we will have arrived. We do not know how many steps we will climb, what obstacles we will encounter, or if there will be a reward or a locked door when we get to the top. There is something I do know. If there is a trail, or a stairwell or even an architecturally designed natural stone steps designed to blend harmoniously into the surroundings, others have not only been where we are at, they have achieved the goals of going the same places we wish to go. 

There is one more thing I need to say. Someone else may have built the stairs and designed what is on top. Some may have put more care into creating the path than others, you may need help along the way, but this is your journey and you have your reasons. Do not let others tell you how to do it. Do not let others make you feel badly for the road you choose. Do not let them guilt you, manipulate you, or treat you like a child. They need to worry about their own damn path. There is a difference between friends who keep us from danger (hey, there is a loose rock and a cliff you cannot see) and those who are just not understanding you (those shoes are a hideous color, do I get to share the credit for your climb, you need to instagram this and we need to take a selfie)

The steps we climb. We have our reasons and we have our choices and others have been a part of it even if we never met them or know of them, but it is our journey. The steps we climb. 





Monday, July 18, 2016

The Flames Behind The Woods and Letting Go

Flames and Forests
Have you ever noticed how hard it is for people to let go of the past? When we are still having feelings for someone we used to be in a relationship, it is said that person carried a torch or a flame for someone. The light of their love or what they thought was love is still burning. It is not just past loves we hang on to. We hang on to past hurts and traumas and people we used to be close to and miss and eras like maybe school or a job we had or a club or church we were part of. Fond remembrances, pain, or a mixture. All torches with flames still burning.

When you see these people with flames or holding on to any torch of any manner they seem lost in the woods. Part of that is because the light they cling to is illuminating where they have been and not where they are going. 

Just as an example. I remember one time I had dated someone and we had broken up and I had tried to date again when I still had feelings for the person I had broken up with. It was unfair to me and unfair to the new person. I was never present with her because I was always looking backwards. When that ended and I realized why and what I had done I now had two torches in my hands full of woulda coulda and shoulda and no room to carry anything else while lost in the woods. I had to make a choice and learn to let go. 

Letting go is not forgetting the pain we have in life. Letting go is not forgetting the love we have shared with others. Letting go means freeing yourself of the burden so we can walk forward. The flames of remembrance can still burn, but they can serve as torches showing us where we have been and come from as we move forward in life. Letting go does not happen in an instant either. We may have to pause and stop traveling and process to carefully place the torch on the path and honor it.

The love you may have shard with someone? That happened and it is okay to remember it fondly. Just do not let it get in the way when that woman in stilettos or man with the wingtips get in the way of forward. Do not let that time you shared stop you from being the best you if being single is what is best. 

The trauma you experienced? That happened and PTSD is very real. Your parent(s) did that horrible thing. That man did something unspeakable and hurt you. These things happened and you can never forget, but you can live forward. 

I suppose what I am trying to say is this. Our memories and our torches can actually help us navigate the woods. They can show us where we have been. The things we have overcome, the joys we have shared and so much more. The torch can still light and give us something to reflect on. Of course I wish I had been fully present with the new smile that I saw. Of course I wish I had not let the abuse in my past ruin that day or that moment. I can now look at the torch in the distance and say...yes....I have been there, now where am I going?

If you have remembrances, be they good or bad, that is all right. They are part of the most brilliant light of all that ignites and lights the flames. You.



Saturday, July 16, 2016

StoryTelling Saturdays: Today Is The Day

For me, today is the day I meet new people and try to raise funds for a good cause.

What is today for you?

Today is the day you roll the dice and tell him or her how you really feel.

Today is the day you quit that job, break the golden handcuffs and peruse your dreams.

Today is the day you leave and are hurt no more.

Today is the day you register for that class you always wanted to take.

Today is the day you try that new dish.

Today is the day you go to the gym.

Today is the day you quit smoking or drinking.

Today is the day you put yourself first.

Today is the day you love yourself.

Today is the day you make time for delight.

Today is the day you journal and stop beating yourself up.

Today is the day? It can be. All you have to do is do it.

Today is the day something happens, today is the day we do or do not do something. Today is the day we hurt or love. Every day is that. Will you make today be the day or let today be the day. Today will be the day, but we can choose what day it will be.

Today is the day.


Friday, July 15, 2016

The Dark Lonely In Us All

The Dark And Lonely
Of all the urban landscapes I took when I was a taxi driver, this one feels the most lonely to me.

Tomorrow is my birthday and it is a time of the year that I am always a little off. I get dark and I prefer to be quiet. Everyone wants to send sparkly cards and smiles and brightness and even the ones who care about me think that will somehow make my birthday bright because that is what they think a birthday should be. All it does is make me uncomfortable and year after year I deal with this. 

I know this is not pretty and most of my stuff is, but stick with me. 

When I was a kid, from 4th grade until the 8th grade, I lived in hell. My mom had married a cruel man and that is about as far into the details of that era as I will go. Suffice it to say, birthdays were not days filled with cake and parties and friends. I had no friends. Not really allowed. One day, about the time of my 13th birthday, I gave my grandparents a call on the phone. I said two sentences.

"He hurts us. Come get me."

My grandmother just said, "We'll be there in 30 minutes. We're coming to get you."

I grabbed a little blue suitcase and stuffed it with some clothes, some star wars figures and some hot wheels. I had all I needed and the rest I would never see again. I came into the kitchen and told my mom I was living with my grandparents now. They came. I got in the car and I moved back to Bolingbrook. This cry of freedom did not come with ticker tape parades and glitter and rainbows. It came with PTSD and feeling guilty that I was away from my mother who was still in hell. It came with another shitty birthday alone. I had not been to this town in years and it was summer and I was not the same person that left in the 4th grade. I was different. It would be another two years from that point that I would not speak in a quiet monotone, that I would stand up straight without a slouch, that I would have friends again. 

Darkness was familiar to me and so was the lonely. My birthday served as a reminder of a man who would tell me how worthless I am and while other kids had parties with cards and invitation and games and laughter, I was alone. For whatever reason, the birthday sticks with me more than any other day as a reminder. Maybe it is that my life before those years was filled with parties and cards and games and cake and all that stuff.

When I was in high school and my twenties I would not even tell friends when my birthday was. When I turned 21, one of my friends solved that mystery and the next thing I knew my picture and the announcement that I had turned 21 that day was all over the local Met paper and everyone who saw me was telling me happy birthday. It was confusing and scary and I felt exposed. 

In my adult life, I am a person who knows that man was wrong to do what he did and say what he said and I know that I am no longer a little boy sitting in a dark closet or cleaning up his own vomit after he was punched in the stomach. I live for love and life and light and the good things. On my birthday, however, I am mixed. 

The weird part is this. How others make this about them. This is an annual darkness and I am not sad, per se. I am in deep introspection and in a space that I cannot describe well because I do not have words for it. I have been this way every year on my birthday. I likely will be for life. Those that try to make the day sparkly and full of glitter and bright colors get upset when they cannot get me to smile. This is not your story, it is mine. This is who I am and what I am and I cannot describe it. I have told a very select few people what for me would be the perfect birthday. That is not something for the masses here. 

This year I will be at a charity fundraiser selling art and half the proceeds will go to help lonely children get a better playground in their space. For me, this feels right. They need something in their dark worlds and I need the money. I also understand what some of those kids have been through. We are kindred spirits in some ways. 

So here is the thing. If you have a dark season. Know that you are not the problem. If others do not understand, this is your story and not theirs. You know that you are okay and that even if today is dark is lonely, that it is a passing night or storm or season and you come out of it just fine. If you relate to what I am saying, you know this is true. I just wanted to say it for both of us. The dark lonely in us all is okay to visit if we need to process. It is who we are and we are beautiful.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Blurred Perspective of Beauty

Blurred Perspective
Confession, this is not my best shot, but I love what it made me think of.

We all prefer to see things clearly. We want to be able to understand and see where we are now and what is going on. We also want to see the road ahead and know where we are going clearly. Hell, sometimes it is nice to look back and see and understand where we were and why.

We get so frustrated that we cannot see clearly that we miss the wonder of the blurred perspective. In this shot I am in a lovely garden in a bird conservatory behind a waterfall. If I allow myself the blurred perspective and accept it, I will smell the water from the fall as it pours down. I will feel gentle droplets splash on my ankles and feet, I will take in the pure oxygen and the freshness of the air and feel the natural light on the back of my head helping generate endorphins that are a natural anti depressant activating the body's opiate receptors.  

If I allow myself this acceptance in the blurry perspective of beauty, the past will not matter and I will be far better prepared to handle the road ahead because anxiety will not hinder me with a refreshed mind and invigorated body. 

My friendships are dear to me. If I call you friend, then you are in a very special place in my heart. My friend, Deanna, calls it my inner circle. It is a small and beautiful space. I have a friendship that is in a very unique space right now. If I worry about where we came from, there may be anxiety and confusion. If I wonder where we are going, then I will try to control that direction or fear certain outcomes and that will affect my behavior right now. If I accept the blurry perspective of right now, I will enjoy the moments and the conversations and realize every time I talk to this person I enjoy the time together. Should we have an opportunity to spend time together over a drink or a brief interaction online or any other encounter, it is wonderful. Accept that there is no clarity here and no idea what the road ahead looks like and no matter what, the road ahead will be good. 

We try to see too much. We try to control or worry about too many things. We need to accept the wonder of now and see that what we cannot see helps us see better if we allow it to. That is the blurred perspective of beauty. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Driftwood


Driftwood on the dunes. It is not something many think about. It is a nuisance to many. Just useless wood in the way of a stroll along the beach. It was just useless wood that found its way on the beach through the winds and the tides and the waves to lie lifeless on the beach.

It is just useless driftwood that provided shelter and food for birds and fish and other marine life. It is useless driftwood that when it hit the beach has continued to provide shelter for birds and plants and other living things. This useless driftwood is also the foundation that sand dunes are composed of. Some artists and craftsmen take this useless driftwood and incorporate it into lovely furniture.

If you ever feel like you are floating adrift in the sea of life or washed ashore to be an eyesore in the way of the beauty of others, please remember this fact.

You are as useless as driftwood.

That may make you and I the most important and beautiful part of the beach of life.

Driftwood.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lament Not the Storm

Lament Not The Storm
There are periods in my life that may not have gone the way I intended, but I refuse to regret them or lament the storms. 

Take the taxi for instance. Some of my dearest friends have pointed out how that period almost destroyed me and I was lost. That may be true. The work may have been dangerous, the hours long, the pay barely human under the almost legal guise of independent contractor, but it was also the time of greatest discovery of who I was and how humanity worked. About a year ago my book released and it was about my life in the taxi and it was beautiful. 

My best writing and most serene moments came in the midst of that time. 

How could I regret one of the most beautiful things that ever happened to me? How could I lament getting to know the people that I now know in the depth that I know them?

Of course things do not go the way you plan them. Of course wonderful things come to an end. Of course there is often pain after the pleasure. That does not mean there are not things contained in that time that were beautiful. The pain does not make the pleasure and the profound wonder any less real. 

If life is truly a series of moments, then treasure every moment that beauty ever offered up to you. The moments that followed that may have not been as wonderful do not change the beauty. 


Flowers wilt, yet we still place them in vases. We savor, for a few moments, their vibrant colors and aromas. 

Lament not the storm, treasure the beauty instead.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Why Roses?

Red Rose
While I take pictures of flowers, I rarely display them. They are done all the time. In today's world of "smart phones" their natural beauty is diminished with filters and effects. I suspect a filter would want this rose to be brighter and more red, but that is not the nature of this particular strain of rose. It is wonderful as it is.

Roses are interesting things for romantics. They have developed a life of their own that other flowers do not have. A single red rose represents love, a dozen is gratitude, twenty five is a gesture of congratulation and fifty is symbolic of unconditional love. Bon Jovi wants to lay you down in a bed of roses, the Scottish and Irish want you to know that red is the rose that does many things for his bonnie lass, Poison will remind you that every rose has it's thorn, and the list of poets and minstrels goes as far back as Shakespeare and continues in pop culture. 

Some of us like lilacs, sunflowers, irises, the lotus and other flowers more, but the rose continues to inspire lovers and poets and musicians and storytellers. It has developed it's life and it's legend even if some of the etymologies are lost. 

The red rose, poetry, lovers, minstrels, troubadours and so many other aspects of romance are older than many religions, philosophies, nations, civilizations and cynics and will likely continue to outlive them. Does that not tell the cynic and the non believers in courtly love something? Does it not suggest that David Bowie was right when he said, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return"? There is a reason why so many people remember Susan Sarandon in "Shall We Dance" when she says she wants a witness to her life. 

There is something beautiful in love. It does not need filters, it does not need special effects. It is as lovely as is and it's natural shades are authentic and the thorns guard the beauty as the fragrance draws in. 

Why roses? Why love?

Because we need something more real than religion, more wise than philosophy and more proven than science.  



Saturday, July 9, 2016

StoryTelling Saturdays: The Day Romantic Love Died

Last night my grandmother passed away.

It was death by caner and it was a slow one at that. So in many ways, yesterday was a good day. It was an end to the pain and the suffering of one who lived a very full and long life. It was also the day romantic love died.

She has been spending the last week or so talking about my grandfather a lot. He passed in 2007. She has been talking about seeing him again and being with him again with a girlish smile on her face like a young lover waiting to see their sweetheart again.

She was without him before when he, along with many other young men, went off to war after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She got to see him again when he got home and in short order, they did like so many others and started making babies.

When they started their love story she made sodas at a pharmacy and he was a pinsetter at a bowling alley and also worked at a grocery store. They would go to Riverveiw on dates. He once beat the hell out of a guy who spoke badly of her. He went on to be a golden gloves boxer, a soldier, and an airline mechanic. She worked in the post office and a few other things and was even the lunch lady at my school when I was young.

For over 50 years they were married and they had joys and sorrows and tears and fights and laughter and children and loss and gains and so much more.

Here is my point. 1 year of courtship, 52 years of marriage and 9 years of separation by death and there was still a gleam in her eye about the prospect of seeing him again. I hope there is some form of afterlife so they can have their sweetheart's dance again. I am sure they will also find something to argue about as well and it will be a delight.

Here is the thing though. Romantic love is not fiction. It is not dead. A sweetheart died and may have joined the other sweetheart.

For every person that tells me lifelong love, romantic love, and the whole thing is just a fiction, I think about the gleam in her eye. I think about the elderly couple I once saw outside of Panera Bread with his feeble arm lifting her over a curb with tenderness and care, I think of my Elizabeth Taylor loving English teacher who finally got to marry his boyfriend of over 30 years when it became legal in Illinois and I think of others that I know.

Romance exists. True love is real. Sweethearts can grow old together.

It takes work. It takes hard hard work. It takes ceaseless wooing and affection even when you don't want to cuddle. It takes patience and understanding. Some people say it should not be work, it should all just happen.

This is why I always go to the example of a garden. Gardens are beautiful and if well tended, can last for decades. Gardens get damaged by storms, bugs, predators, and there are weeds.

You have to tend a garden. It is work. You cannot say gardens are not real. Gardens should not take work, they should just happen. If you want to grow something beautiful, there will be days you will have dirt under your nails, sweat on your brow, sore knees, blood from thorns, and other hardships. But that is not all a gardener does. One who tends a garden gets to enjoy the beauty they have created while sipping morning coffee or having evening wine in a manner others who just look at gardens can never appreciate. A gardener gets to taste the sweet fruits of love that grow from the vine they created and savor all of it's flavors and sweetness.

I know that there are liars and sociopaths and abusers and horrible people out there. I know they can make someone so wounded and traumatized they may not ever want to try to plant seeds of love again. I will never make light of PTSD or abuse.

I will close with this.

If you want to say I am afraid to garden. I was hurt gardening. I had a horrible partner to garden with. Gardening is too much work for me. That is fine. But do not say gardens and gardeners are not real. Do not say it does not exist. Of course it takes work, but it is beautiful. I wish more people would plant the seeds, tend the gardens, and wear matching sun hats. It is a beautiful world when sweethearts prove the poets and the minstrels right.

Last night a sweetheart died. We lost a gardener. Romantic love died so it could live on. May some of us be brave enough to tend the garden of love, passion, romance and beauty. It exists. But you have to make it.

I am born of the garden. I was their fruit. It is as real as I am.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Heroes




Forgive me, but I have no electricity right now so I am having to do this from my cell phone and I do not have my personal library of photos available to me.

Obviously, I did not take this picture. It was taken during WWII in the Philippines. The young Army Air Corps man on the right is my grandfather. He served his country, his family and United Air Lines well. He also filled in for my dad after my dad left. He was my hero. Strong and quiet and good.

He passed on Thanksgiving of 2007 and I was in the room when he breathed his last. Selfishly, I miss him today. Especially if something is broken or I don't know what to do. He always seemed to know.

My grandmother is counting her final days. It won't be long as cancer does what cancer does. She speaks of him often lately. I don't know what happens when we die. I hope she gets to see him again the way she speaks if it happening. She seems to speak of him as a young one speaks of their sweetheart. It is adorable and bitter sweet.

Me? I am sometimes like a little boy or a young man who just needs wisdom. So I sometimes close my eyes and remember not only the things he said, but what he did. We need that.

Many of us had someone that was not only a hero, but a moral compass' magnetic North to keep us from getting too lost.

May we not only remember our heroes, but do as they did and be our own heroes and a hero to another lost heart in need of a compass so they may sail true in the sea of life.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Wisdom of Forgetting and More.

Entry to Hell
For those who have read my book or my prior blog, you know that I used to be a taxi driver on the night shift in the Chicago area. There was a regular I used to pick up that we will call Mrs. N. She was in her 70's, a bit of a nite-owl, and used us frequently in the dead of night. 

One night I had her in my taxi and she was telling me about a break up her niece had recently gone through that was hard on her. Mrs N told me how she tried to console her. "Ya know what I told her Pat? I told her that if you want to get the taste of a man out of your heart, taste another man." I pointed out to her that she has not done any tasting since her husband died and without missing a beat, she said, "I don't wanna taste anything else and I don't want to forget. The pain that comes with remembering would be worse than the agony of forgetting." I asked her if that was the best course for her niece then. "My advice will never cause her to forget, but it will get her to move on. The next day happens no matter what, sitting on your butt not doing anything won't change that. I see these people all the time who stopped living. All they see is the bad things that happened to them and they wallow in it instead of having good things. They say they can't do good things like laugh or love. They can. They just wont. I lost more than I got, but I never stopped trying to get more. More love, more friends, more memories, more fun, more beautiful things. I tell ya, people are stupid when they like to be unhappy."

I had nothing more to say that night and I have nothing more to say now.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Journeys

Journeys
This is a car I rented last year for a Journey. This car and my son and I journeyed through Washington DC, Baltimore MD, and Harrisburg PA. 

Through our travels the car was in good repair, the weather was clear and the other drivers were safe. 

There have been other journeys, some shorter and some much longer, where the road was not no smooth. I was not fresh. It was not safe. 

I have driven in storms where I could not see the road ahead due to snow or rain. I have looked to my right and seen a funnel cloud and I once drove without headlights in the dead of night trying to get the car home. In each journey there have been choices. 

Sometimes the destination was not important so I had the luxury of staying home. Other times I was overtired and had to travel, but the reason I was overtired was that I made poor choices prior to the trip and the lack of self care now led to me endangering myself and others not only in the car but around me. My lack of responsibility before hand and my lack of responsibility to travel anyway was sometimes an even more perfect storm than the ones I have driven through. 

Sometimes we push it too far and we essentially get lucky and arrive safe and sound. If along the road you see a car wrecked in a horrific fashion, you will see someone else was not so lucky. I once saw one of those in the dead of night as crews were putting small bodies in black bags. It was a chilling reminder that was forgotten.

On our roads, no matter how alone we think we are, our actions before the road and on the road have an impact on others. Sometimes we may get lucky and nothing will happen, other times the results are tragic and even deadly.

Do no harm. Not only to others, but to yourself. 

Plan well knowing you cannot account for every twist and turn. Be prepared to rest. If you are not rested, don't be a hero for that may make you a villain in someone else's story. 

The road of life always has risks. We cannot eliminate the possibility of heartache, pain, storms in life and the actions of others. All we can control is our actions and the best way to secure those is maintenance, self care, and remaining calm. 

We should never stop taking journeys and sometimes we have to take a risk or two. 

We are all on journeys.

May they be safe.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Happy Spaces and Safe Tribes

Accepting Space
This is Downtown Baltimore shot from one of the balconies at the Baltimore Convention Center. You can see the balcony of the other half of the convention center to the right.

Every year my son and I go there for an event called Otakon. It is a fan con that is largely Anime based and is a celebration of Japanese art and animation. 

It is a space where my son is happy and safe and embraces the fullness of life and delight. Every year we go and every year I have no idea how I am gonna afford it and it always seems to work out. We will be going again in August.

It is a space where the community of fans do not care if your cos play is "good" or not. It is a place where it does not matter if you are gay or straight or bi or trans or fat or short or tall or thin or black or white. It is a space where the only thing that matters is common passion and love for an art and entertainment. 

Ironically, there are street preachers and Christians outside judging the beauty inside and the people. They offer literature and invitation to a better way. A better way of walls. A better way of judgement. A better way that is sometimes deadly to the precious lives within where they would not be wholly accepted as they are.

I wish they could see that these young people have already found a better way that we could all learn from.

We all have spaces that make us feel happy or community where we feel safe. I hope we do. 

Go to those. Embrace your tribes. Find that oasis in the desert and thrive in it every moment you are there. If being among the tribe and meeting the tribes makes demands of you, exhausts you and empties you, that is not your tribe, that is your codependency. Your tribe fills you, not empties. Our countdown begins soon and this year, we both need it. We all need the happy spaces and safe tribes. Even the nomads.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Freedom All Should Have

The Freedom of Youth
Some days it is a struggle to see beauty so I have to go through my photo library and find it.

This is one of those moments. 

Two children sitting on playground equipment facing the wonder of trees and mountains and talking about the things that children do. They may intuitively understand the wonder and they have the freedom to just sit and enjoy.

This is the freedom all should have. Freedom of peace. Freedom of serenity. Freedom of life with equality. Life without oppression. Life of beauty and wonder.  Life of exploration and imagination. The freedom to grow up without school shootings, rape, judgement over sexual orientation or gender identity. The freedom to not be abused and to be cared for and cared about.

This moment of beauty is precious and it is a freedom that must be embraced by not only all children, but all beautiful souls. All of this and more are the things that fall into the beauty. The threats to those freedoms are us. When we want to toss children out of the country, when we want to deny a child a right to use the locker room or washroom of their identity, when we defend rapists more than we do victims, when we turn the other way when we see abuse, when we despise someone because of their race or gender or faith we threaten this beauty for all. We threaten the freedom of hearts to bask in wonder. 

The freedoms all should have need to be protected by changing our hearts.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Storytelling Saturday's: On Being and Ducks

Around the turn of the century (I have always wanted to say that) I was a Linux Migration Consultant. Client end encryption was my specialty. After 9/11 there was a seminar hosted by two CIA agents regarding social engineering and data breaches as it relates to corporate terrorism. I was asked to attend.

At one point, the female agent spoke about listening to your gut if someone's behavior felt off or suspicious. "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it may not be a duck but it sure as hell spends time with the ducks and may be influenced by them."

After the session I asked her to elaborate more on that. She told me that people are tofu and absorb the flavors around them. If you surround yourself with unhappy and joyless people, you will become like them over time. She explained this is why undercover ops are so psychologically gruelling. To not absorb the flavors around you.

Then she spoke of her marriage. She has been married for almost 30 years at that point. She told me that they almost divorced at one time. The reason? Everyone around them was unhappy. They were hanging with miserable and unhappy couples who did not believe in love and romance and the institution.  "We were surrounded by unhappy ducks so we absorbed them and became them. When we started spending time with swans who were beautiful and positive...we became more like them and we believed again. We hoped because we were among the hopeful. We loved because we were with lovers. We laughed because we were surrounded by joyous laughter. It is not weak, it is human nature. If there is something you desire to be, spend time with people who are like that. If you wish to be positive and you are surrounded by negative people, it will always be difficult."

Friday, July 1, 2016

Whimsical Delight

Watching Me Watching You
When I took photos of this bird on West Beach, he took me on a stroll. He knew I was watching him, he knew I was paying attention and trying to get a picture. He never took flight, he just kept moving his little legs along the sand and every few seconds would stop to look at me to see if I was still there.

This was one of the moments he stopped. I was hoping to catch him in the moment of take off and he would not fly. He just kept this little chase going. Sometimes I would stop and he would too. If I moved he just kept right on moving. The game eventually ended and we went our separate ways.

It reminded me of playing peekaboo with my child when he was a toddler. It reminded me of playful flirtation when two people look across each other at a room or a table. It reminded me of playing fetch with my dog when you pretend to throw the ball and you don't. It reminded me of so many of those moments where two have a moment of whimsical delight. 

Whimsical delights are moments in life and they are almost always brief. They are the moments we stop worrying about all of our problems and get lost chasing a bird, staring at lovely eyes with a wry grin, stepping into a child's world or playing with a dog or a great many other things. Whimsical delight is something a child's heart does often and as we get older, we do it less often. We still do it and those moments lighten the load and the heart. 

When caught in the moment of Whimsical delight, allow yourself to enjoy it. Like life, it is fleeting, but it is good. It will not change your world, but for a few moments you will be lost in one thing. You will be present without being aware. You will be in the moment without effort. You will be immersed in whimsical delight.