Patience from Death

November 4th, 2011

My mother has taught me a great deal. In truth, she made me. For instance, one thing she imparted to me is my love of words.
Often the lesson was unintentional and came to fruition long after the lesson ended. Many of these lessons were finally understood while sitting on various pillows on my therapist’s floor. Others were simple sad/joy unexpected aha moments as I meandered through my days.

But now I am right in the thick of this life lesson. The lesson of death’s patience. Even after months of expectation, now with her gaunt skeletal face and withered limbs, unable to speak, to rise – her final passage still waits. As do those who attend to her. Our impatience with the unseen plan, suffering the guilt of selfishness in wishing her release, we try and make normal the visit, where normal does not exist. Yet death’s truth, the finality and reality of the eventual and its illumination on living, being normal suddenly seems unnatural, ignorant.
The lesson is the perverse savoring of a loved one’s life’s passing. The playing out of the conclusion of someone you have known intimately and whose absence will color the rest of your days.
Sitting bedside holding her hand, stroking her arm staring into her eyes as they bore into your heart, fading from conscienceness then returning. Sitting back searching her face for the words she can’t speak. Then there is the time outside the room, watching TV, cooking, taking a walk, always carrying the expectation, the guilty anticipation, the waiting, in your body. Exhausting.
Each morning a mixed feeling to see her eyes open watching.
But then she makes a gesture, a squint or smiles, and there is my mom.
I knew I had to be here. Selfishly I figured I could be of help. Turns out different.

It Echoes in here

July 24th, 2011

I am coming to you from the bottom of a deep hole. Pretty dark down here.

To arrive at this juncture has been a long journey of choices, lately not so good ones. The main impetus for the descent was/is paralysis. Rather than work my way up I decided it was easier to not try. And necessary to this paralytic choice was, and remains to be, a numbness of the senses. Hence I don’t really feel a great deal of pain after hitting the bottom. Maybe I didn’t really drop that far.

So I’ve been here kind of doing what I can to maintain myself and my current path of paralytic idleness, similar to a child playing with his toys while his parents argue. Rather than face the prospect of his world collapsing the child will immerse himself in the world he makes up, right then and there. Truly in the moment. The fantastical yet very purposeful world of trucks moving around, hauling dirt, building tunnels and mastering the environment can be, needs to be, and is fully engaging, all in the name of waiting until the real world is fathomable. Even though I am playing in the real world and much of what I have done hints at being engaged, it still remains a means of idling. Trouble is in this current stage of my life it really is my job to right the world, and waiting for it, or for someone else to do it, well, is just stupid.

So when my wife shines a light on the utter stupidity of my situation, I am shamed, yet expectantly not experiencing a lot of pain. Certainly not enough to actually grow a pair and do what so many other worthy fellow humans have done and face their unbalanced life and make it right. A friend asked me what would it take to make me crawl out of this hole – losing the house, or losing my marriage? I chose to ignore that train.

The train I had taken is one shared by many. You move along with your life, make choices that fit, ones that profit you in some way. Specifically job choices – you find something that you can do and along the way opportunities arise that are a no-brainer and you ‘advance’, improving your material growth.
I had certain talents, intrinsic skills, that proved to be useful so that my first ‘career’ path fell into the above playbook. Ba-da-boom, things went smoothly.
Then they didn’t. When assessing the new status, I figured I could adapt the playbook to new chosen fields of endeavor. Figured wrong. The first ‘career’ was successful because of an external very comprehensive initial training, correlating intrinsic skills and a fairly predictable playing field. The new playing fields, though very shiny with possibility, had only very minimal introductory training. The fields themselves keep morphing, which is very annoying, but at first consideration was thought to be a great way to keep things fresh with constant opportunities to learn. The trouble turns out to be my intrinsic skills, it seems I am not one who can juggle, constantly. Turns out my intrinsic education is good for distraction and static playing fields. At least that is the impression one has when sitting at the bottom of a hole.

The light has been turned off for now. Another day (not a ‘new’ day) is here. We’ll see.

Extremes exist because of the middle

January 7th, 2011

In Black&White photography the extremes of the deep, fall into, black shadow and the blast of bright, paper white brilliance can only achieve their embracing status when defined by the vast grayness that lies between them. It is how the photographer travels between these extremes, positioning and harnessing the multitudes of gray values that defines the message of the image.
The beauty and the intent of the image relies minimally on those two extremes, but are most assuredly dependent on them for their polar stances. Without them the message is muddy and uninteresting – yet readable. Without the delicate and necessary layering of grays between extremes, the message more often than not is lost. Even the graphic use of just black and white (of which I have experimented) is limited to a simple bold statement that is sometimes not easily grasped by the majority of viewers, but very entertaining in its obfuscation.

Just to drive the point home:
The stability of our country, our world, is dependent on a vast middle class that seeks to protect their own, yet oftentimes feels the need to protect others because they understand they themselves as being the ‘others’. The extremes exist because we need to define the edges of what can be, we need to see the endpoints to adjudge the whole, to maintain the message.

Photographs and Context

May 16th, 2010

Photographs we take are often a means of recording and documenting a moment used to reference a larger segment of time. Fine art images play upon the collective information stored within a culture to play out a intended story, though as individuals we have our own unique stored memories that enhance or complicate that story.
Many of the images that come to mind around my father are photographs taken in various places we lived before he died when I was twelve. Along with those images I have snippet memories larger than a moment that expand those snapshot memories to give me a larger picture of my father, though for the most part still fractional.

My photography has always been about opening up that snapshot moment either by capturing at unusual times or with different “eyes” (night photography; infrared or high contrast film), expanding the moment (long exposures), or working with a series of images like my latest Over Time studies:

Over Time

After being ejected from the city my new environs were surrounded by the rolling hills of the east bay. On my walks with my new best friend Ginger (a Queensland Healer) I chanced upon one hill that from the trail presented its rounded evenness in a very captivating manner. Each new time The Hill looked different, equally captivating and so I ended up photographing it often wondering which one would represent the feeling I had standing there in its presence. As you can see Over Time began to take shape. It wasn’t just The Hill but the many times I returned and the many moods I was in and the varying times and weather that I found myself pushing through. Once the project began to take shape I expanded it to the other two subjects I had been enthralled with in this same walking space.
Putting together images of one subject Over Time expands that snapshot memory, drawing upon the collective and individual stored information, to give The Hill, The Pond, The Tree a much bigger voice about their unique presence.
Though not conscience at the time of this project (poor thought process from a schooled artist) I was unconsciously influenced by other artists from Cezanne and Monet to Misrach on the effect of portraying a subject in time.

Plant Mind

April 22nd, 2010

Work has fallen off so I’ve time to get the garden in summer shape.
Found this in my readings. Thanks to ‘eleven eleven’ from last year’s LitCrawl at City Art Gallery.


Bamboo Speaks

Mind moving beneath the soil. Not a kind mind, but lovelier, and tricky, thinking in every direction. And more of life and more of life and more.

Paul Lisicky (eleven eleven, Issue 7, 2009)

The Path

April 13th, 2010

My creative path has always been one based on a conversation with myself concerning the wonderment of experience. Adolescent estrangement, the green of the Pacific Northwest, watching the life energy leave a body, photographs I’ve taken, Teri – all these and more open questions that are not readily, nor succinctly explained. This is a continuously expanding and deepening conversation.

The first medium I chose to explore this conversation, and foolishly thought to attempt solution, was Mathematics. This came only after realizing I was uniquely not intimidated by the language. Of course there were many side shows going on – sexual obsession, drugs, friendships – but they, for the most part, only added to the wonderment; Mathematics as I progressed seemed to offer a viable solution by isolating and explaining the core of the palpable. I was intrigued by the idea Leibniz’s development of the language of calculus was in some ways a means to prove God’s will and hence God. That certainly had merit, no?

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January 6th, 2010

Loreena McKennitt traveling from Canada to N. Africa following the roots of her muse – the Celts.

Her music is wistful, wanting, in a quiet learned sorrowful way, with the soft underbelly of longing. I am pulled in immediately then sent on an introspective solo journey to my center.

Seek the dias in the midst of the cacophony, sit quiet and listen, soon the distractions will recede and you can spend time with the flow of you, alone. I so miss that.

This year has not started well.

A good friend is shocked to be told “Get your things in order.”

Truth talk on the mesa above the strait that shakes the foundation of a life lived, though of late without the enthusiasm that used to sustain.

The ugly face of life’s economics stares at me. I must give fight.

In all this I am thankful to the woman who still chooses to remain my companion in our trek. Her perseverance, generosity of spirit and love sustain me, give me hope and a lovely reason to wake in the morning. I seem to need less of the rest, for better or worse.


October 26th, 2009


This is a photograph of the end of a deserted hallway in a concrete ski lodge. It is very still. The block of elevators are at rest. The overlarge wall mirror echoes an empty corridor of worn grey carpet stretching down the hall. Harsh artificial lighting illuminates the absence, making deep dark hollows daylight will reveal tomorrow. It’s three in the morning and everyone is in their rooms. I took this while on vacation. I do my best work on vacation, because I do not expect familiar, I am open to the possible.

In these absences I take photographs of ghosts. As in this photograph my parents are not there, very persistently not there. My mother, in a long slim dark blue dress with a fake mink brown fur collar, stands stiff with indignation staring straight ahead, stubbornly waiting for the elevator. My father, who looks so sharp and certain in his tailored suit, ignorant in his drunken willingness to please, shifts near her, trying to understand again. The way they argue, like annoying mosquitoes, trying to make their words invisible. She speaks to the elevators, he to his feet.

My Two Story Fall from the Porch

October 23rd, 2009

We had a five foot square porch off the back of our second story flat on Hill Street in the Mission which had an exceptional open view to the sky and a very passable view of a section of the city. The incident to be related occurred about eight years into living at this flat.

Now over this time our ever frugal landlady had refrained from any non-emergency maintenance because of her dread fear of being taken advantage of unscrupulous handymen, for instance the ones who had painted the house prior to our move in. None the less the house still stood solid, a testimony to the craftsmanship of 1879.

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October 13th, 2009

And so it rains all day. Steady drumming and dripping. Gray, often unable to see across the Strait. Just all day.