Category Archives: Family

themes on dealing with family issues

We Are Not Made of Stone

Why is that so many of us don’t feel that we can live up to our potential or achieve what we often feel in our hearts?  Though I feel appreciative that I have lived a fairly creative life and had the opportunity to follow my desire, I still feel I have lived in the shadows of self-doubt for large portion of it.  I always think so much of it had to do with my sexuality and going against the norm.  But the more I talk to others, the more I begin to see it’s really a universal issue that everyone seems to struggle through.  The older I get the more I regret how much of my youth was fraught with angst and lack of self-esteem.  While I was cocky and defiant, it always felt that something held me back.  I always thought it was a lack of hustle and not being self-motivated, but when I look back, my achievements were vast and I have experienced a life time of wondrous experiences.

As this project begins to wind down, I am looking back at the journey of what I have felt through its course.  I guess trying to find perspective and get to the core of what brought me here in the first place.  But in a sense, everything I have learned was something I already knew it has always been here.  I liken it to Dorothy’s proverbial return to home after visiting the wondrous Land of Oz only to discover, with the click of her heels, she was always where she wanted to be.  As a kid, her journey always had a profound impact on me emotionally.  I would cry so hard every year that my mother would threaten to not let me watch it and I would beg and plead with her until she consented and once again I would be utterly moved to the point of tears.  I now recognize Dorothy’s desperate plight to find herself is universal and see it in everyone else around me.  What a strange world we enter, with sometimes even stranger friends.  In their mythic land they accept their differences, a man of straw who is easily destroyed by fire, a hollow man who can’t move without the help of others, and the embodiment of ferociousness, intimidated by others.   Their real journey is that of self-acceptance and in the end finding their sense of security.  Being a gay man growing up in a strange land like Montana, I have always been keenly aware of the differences of others, feeling myself never really quite understood.  But have been greatly appreciative of “men who can dress in women’s cloths and mouth the words to other people’s songs”, others infected with a deadly virus that still creates fear and anxiety and is still greatly misunderstood, the straight acting and not so straight acting personalities, whatever that meant, and the imperfections in others.  It has always been my desire to be a part of a community of understanding and acceptance and of course appreciation.  Yet it feels like as similar as we all are, we push each other away, with these labels and still ostracize others for their differences.

Yesterday I wrote about a young boy who killed himself because he could not find acceptance and my heart aches deeply as I morn not only the loss of a kid not able to live a miraculous existence, but the ignorance with others that fed his doubt.  I still see the internalized homophobia within our own communities that becomes judgmental, condescending, and harmful.  I think THIS IS perhaps is the real limitation from us feeling what’s in our hearts and recognizing our potential.  Perhaps this is my gift as a photographer because I am willing to look beyond the difference with compassion and empathy and search for that truth within myself and my subjects and the culture that surrounds me.  After all, we are not made of stone.

What the Heart Has Once Known…

I saw a video on Facebook that actually moved me and got me thinking about this whole concept of gay marriage.  I have been very mixed on the subject, not sure where I stand on either side of the debate.  I sense my own security in my own relationship seems to be enough to bind us.  Everyone around us on both sides of our families acknowledge and respect our relationship and know what our ultimate desires are if something happens to the other.  Being gay and growing up in Montana I had never even considered the possibility of being able to marry someone of my same sex.  Working for UPS, they have a strong policy supporting same sex partnerships, and though I only work part time in the evenings for the company they acknowledge Glenn as my partner and give him full benefits along with me.  Of course we have had to prove our relationship and actually establish we were in a partnership.  But over the years as we have attended the weddings of all our straight friends our age, joining in union, and photographing the marriage of all my nieces, and then to see my father at one of the happiest moments I have seen him in decades remarry after my mother’s death, there is a tug in my heart to unite with a man I have adored for so much of my adult life now that I can’t imagine a life without him.  We committed in our early thirty something’s to watch each other grow old and that we have done.  This video captures all the stages of our relationships, with warmth and tenderness and told the story of my own life.  It reminded me of where I have been and I must say brought a tear to my eye to see the reflection of my life and know in the end I have been loved.

My fears are now more for the future now that we grow older.  We have built a life together sharing in everything.  But fiscally we are not bound.   Glenn was a student, when we built the studio and I could not put his name on anything because at the time he was more of a liability and it would have been detrimental to secure financing.  But together we have equally shared in the dream, labor, and completion of the project.  My fear is if something happens to me where will he stand?  Our hearts may say we are together but the laws of Montana may say we are not.  Will he possibly have to pay an inheritance on something he has spent his entire life working to build?  I saw this happen over and over years ago with partners when one passed away and the families kicking the remaining one into the cold, leaving them with nothing but adding to the already great sense of loss.

We know in our hearts what we feel is right and we have chosen to love, adore, and cherish each other already, shouldn’t this somehow be enough?   Here’s to you my love.  If the question ever becomes available “I do…” with all my heart and soul you have been the courage and strength of my existence that I have been thankful for since that fateful night in May so many, many years ago.  What the heart has once known it shall never forget!!!!

The Sense Memory of a Garden

Most of yesterday was spent cleaning out the garden.  It’s the final winterizing of the plants for the season.  I put my headphones on and listened to a couple of my favorite musicals and began to pull the annuals, cut perennials, and mound roots of things that need protection.  This will be my last garden post for the season.  The garden becomes my place of reflection and I typically delve deeper into my emotions and feelings when I am surrounded by its grace.  I have not always loved gardening, as a kid on the ranch we had an acre that was mostly vegetables and potatoes and it seemed more of a chore to maintain.  In those days we completely lived off the land, canned or stored everything in a root cellar to last until the next harvest.  We raised and butchered our own cattle and all the men in my family, except me were hunters always filling the freezers with meat.   The ranch was sustained by a natural water spring about a mile up the mountain that we piped down the homestead.  Life seemed so simple then.  But as a kid I think life always seems simple no matter where you grow up.  Yesterday, as I cleaned the garden, I began to realize how connected I have always been with the land around me, just as my father, grandfather, and great grandfather who homesteaded the land were connected.  I once had a friend in Dallas who talked about how the people from Montana have a certain look in their eyes that was recognizable, that was different from everyone else.  I hadn’t paid much attention to it at the time, but have thought about it a lot since then.  Becoming a photographer and creating portraits you become keenly aware of other peoples focus.  What I began to realize, that look my friend was talking about was the openness of one´s eyes to see beyond ourselves.  In Montana we grow up with our vision focused on the beautiful landscape that surrounds us, the mountains always become a point of focus in the distance.   Whereas, when I go to a city like New York, the focus becomes narrow, downward, avoiding, protecting our personal space.  In Montana we perceive the entire world is our personal space.  This focus changes depending on whatever environment which you are raised.  For me working in the earth grounds me and brings me back to center.  I have been focused for so long on something so narrow, upfront, personal and close to my heart, that I almost feel like I forget to breathe.  But working in the garden gives me perspective of where I have been as I am flooded with all my memories from all my previous seasons of the garden.  The garden holds our sense memory within our bodies as often as repeating a task stirs a reoccurrence of a thought associated with that task from before.  Several years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a summer of chemotherapy, though I didn’t have the energy that summer to garden much, I did make it out every day.  I was the only way I survived that summer from hell.   It is the place where I dare to dream in the solitude of my own head.  As a kid I loved digging the mounds of potatoes in the cool fall, there was something satisfying about pulling from that dirty earth something that would sustain you for a year.  So the Fall seasons for me, though they represent the earth becoming dormant, signify the bounty of sustainability for a new year.  I realize I am a man of many opposites and perhaps this is what I love so much about the process of a garden.  Granted, I no longer work the earth to sustain myself and buy most of my produce in the supermarkets, but the idealism of this life is still there and lives within my own hands.   At least with the land I know where I stand and to which I will eventually be returned.  My thoughts this Fall were on my accomplishments this year and how much I have grown and changed as I realize this has been my greatest year of self-acceptance.

The Changing of a Season

It’s official, it’s the first day of winter in Montana, and I woke up this morning to see the trees above my bed, through the skylights covered in a blanket of white snow. To me this signifies the turn of the season as this also signifies the turning point of another phase of my life and existence as an artist. The chosen sampling of galleries for the website were finished last night and many of the bugs worked out through out the day so it will be officially up and running tomorrow morning. I am cleaning up link adding articles, and getting the blog transferred over today. Wow what a trip this has been!!!!! A peaceful calm is settling into my body this morning as I ride the edge of nervous energy of anticipation. I remember this feeling well from my days of working in the theater. It’s the dress rehearsal right before the show opens, when you know everything is in place and you are ready for the audience to see the production and you are just tweaking and refining the details. In a sense my entire life has been a production of some sort. As a kid I was always producing something. I think back to my brothers and cousins and all those shows I made them create in the barnyard on summer eves when we were little kids, they some how always believed in my crazy ideas and followed my strange endeavors. Will I always be this creative? Probably so, organizing the senior citizens in what ever center I end up in our scooter carts creating some sort of show.

I finally got a good night’s sleep last night and sleep in this morning. The truth is I feel like I could sleep for a week.

It’s game day in Missoula and I am still not feeling too well from the nasal thing that I have been fighting all week and so I have opted to stay home and watch the game on television, bummer. Though today’s image isn’t naked, I have to be with the Montana Grizzles in spirit so I am posting some images I took a few weeks back so I can feel like I can be there in spirit. Now that I think about it I feel like the Griz players about to emerge into the arena through the cloud of smoke to a stadium of avid and adorning fans. GO GRIZ!!!!!

The good news is I am catching up with myself and getting all the stuff done around the house that I have been neglecting for the past week.

Lack of Intimacy In A Creative World

Sorry no blog yesterday, every time I sat down to do it I would get distracted by something else. It was one of those extraordinary fall days outside that was sunny and unusually warm for this time of the year. I had my nephew Brenden come over and help me clean the property and prep it for the winter. I somehow thought I would be able to put him to work and I would get to write and work on my computer. But he is not very experienced and I began to realize the work of pruning and cleaning the beds was only specific to me. It was so beautiful out that I just decided to stay and get everything caught up. Then we had Glenn’s mother for dinner in the afternoon, because I had a wedding consult at 5:00, to shoot a wedding next month, and had to attend the dress rehearsal for a University production at 7:00, for a shoot on Wednesday night. When I got home it seems a bit late to blog so I settled in with Glenn. This seems to be the extent of all of my days.

The production I saw the rehearsal for was called Grace And The Art Of Climbing and seemed to focus on a woman dealing with intimacy issues. It really got me thinking about my own life and I began to question if perhaps I too have intimacy issues of my own. I began to think about relationships in my past and how perhaps I have pushed so many people away. When I began to ask Glenn about his perceptions of me and how I function within our relationship? He genuinely said he was happy and realized I had lots to accomplish. Most of the time I feel so focused that I know I am not really present to him and our relationship, and often times it feels like I notice him in the distance watching me. From my past experiences it seems the points of my life where I have been highly creative are the points where the relationship begins to falter. I cannot equally focus my attention in both directions at the same time. That’s why in the fall when Glenn goes off for two months to work somewhere else I try to focus on huge creative projects and seem to get the most productive work accomplished. I think artists in general are people who suffer from relationships more then anyone else because we have to disconnect and rechannel our passion toward what we create. Life in art is not easy and I think this is why many artists are single and probably drink and or use drugs. When we are creative our intimacy is our art. I am lucky, Glenn recognizes this and allows me that creative flexibility with little demand in return, in fact supports, it by taking care of the everyday things that distract me from the creative process.

I am reminded of an incident when I first met Glenn and I was asked to work as an associate director for a large film festival we used to have here in Missoula. I was responsible for logistically pulling the entire festival together. I worked with a woman named Cinda Holt who had help Robert Redford organize the Sundance festival in it’s early stages and we created a similar festival here in Missoula for and with artisans behind the camera: art directors, cinematographer, writers, directors. We screened films for a week and brought in all the filmmakers including Kenneth Turan from the LA Times to facilitate the event. For this project I had to book the films, that spaces, contact all the people and logistically get them to and from Montana, arrange accommodations and coordinate the mass army of volunteers to make the project happen. For several weeks it was all consuming for 24/7 to pull the project off. The project was a huge success, but it about destroyed my relationship with Glenn at the time. He was so angry that he refused to attend any of the events I had just spent every ounce of my being orchestrating. This hurt me so deeply that my own partner would not stand beside me at a moment of my greatest achievement. I now recognize it was a defining moment in the relationship where I disconnected, perhaps we both disconnected. Our relationship has since grown. Now Glenn is my creative partner in all my wacky self-absorbed endeavors. My projects and creative life has since grown and some how we have all adapted. My days do not get any easier and my need or sense of accomplishment never seems to cease. I don’t promise it will get any easier, because I know that would be a lie all I can recommend it that you “fasten your seat belts because you are in for a bumpy ride” as Bette Davis says in All About Eve.