Frickin Gratitude, ok?

Let’s talk about Gratitude. Let’s delve into the giving of thanks. 
Not the easy thanks. Not ‘someone held the door for me’ thanks. Not the ‘I got the job!’ thanks. Not even the intense gratitude when that semi misses your car by mere inches and you and your kids live to see another day. Those are all easy thanks. No matter the emotional intensity of the action that you are giving thanks for, you can’t not do it. When you survive, when you succeed, when you are given something, it is automatic, easy, simple to give thanks.
Learning to be grateful when life hands you pain… learning to say thank you for pain, for sorrow, for rejection.. that’s another matter entirely. There’s another sort of gratitude that you have to dig for. It’s way down deep, and it’s piled under a whole bunch of shit. The sort of thanksgiving you have to work for, and sweat for, and be really, really furious about finding. Learning to be thankful for the events, the people that make you scream with rage.. that’s the really hard part. 
Last week the Universe put in my path someone whom I’d behaved poorly towards a few years ago. Not terribly, I wasn’t cruel, nor did I intentionally cause this person harm, that’s just not in my nature. But I’d been callous, and casual, and (Those of you who know me will find this next part shocking) I’d been PUSHY. yep. Me. Weird, right? 
This person didn’t cause me any pain in return, even though I really think I annoyed the shit out of them at a time when they least needed distraction. Instead they shut me down, gently, but firmly. And then ignored me, entirely, until I gave up asking them for the thing they had that I really thought I needed. 
So here it is, a few years later, and we’re both a bit different now, and we’re put together again. And here they are, with a giant neon sign floating over their head that is blinking the word “TEST” in warning red letters. I’m not dumb. I knew what I had to do. I just really didn’t want to frickin’ do it. I didn’t really want to do the work. That word TEST, though, those letters? They were pretty bright and blinding and blinking like crazy, and they were hard to ignore. They kept me up at night, and I had the feeling that if I wanted to sleep, like, ever again, I should probably do the damn work. 
I think I filled a whole notebook before I was done. I wrote, and I thought, and I got mad, and walked, and I wrote some more. I swore. A LOT. I dug through all the shit, and I figured out what the damn lesson was. I felt all the fucking feelings. I did not do it gracefully, but that’s ok. Doing the work gracefully is not required. Thank fucking god.
Three days later, I figured it out. I found the lesson buried in the giant pile of shit. I grabbed my phone to text this person, to tell them that I’d finally gotten it, to explain everything and to apologize for being an ass… and then I stopped. This person didn’t need my apologies. 
I owed them my gratitude. 
The text I sent was very different, and a lot shorter, than the one I’d originally crafted. It was a lot more sincere, too. Because I wasn’t sorry. I didn’t like that I’d caused this person pain, but I accepted that it was part of the lesson.
 I am very, very grateful for the lesson. 

A Vision in Lava: Cameo Portraiture and Victorian Travel Mementos

Picture this: It is the early 1800’s, late in the reign of King George of England, or perhaps early in the era of his daughter, Queen Victoria.

You are a young person of means, a lady or gentleman partaking of a Grand Tour of Europe before beginning a career or marriage. As you travel, through France, across the Alps, into the heart of Italy and the origins of the Roman Empire, you seek souvenirs, mementos to bring home with you for loved ones, or yourself. A person with some wealth, you turn down cheap trinkets, and seek finer art objects to commemorate your travels.


Prince Maximilian and Her Imperial and Royal Highness Princess Margarete of Thurn and Taxis, married July 15, 1890

Archaeology is hugely popular with the aristocracy at this time, and the ballrooms and dining salons that you left behind in England were decorated with artifacts from Egypt, South America and Africa. With this influence, your eye is drawn to the classical figures, especially here in Italy, where ancient Roman gods and goddesses are depicted in exquisite sculpture.

As your tour brings you closer to Pompeii, the ancient city buried in a second under the lava and ash of Mount Vesuvius thousands of years before, you find just the thing! Your choice is a Lava Cameo carved from the ancient basalt.

Historical view of the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, Italy, with Mount Vesuvius in the distance. This image was taken in the late 1800s.

Historical view of the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, Italy, with Mount Vesuvius in the distance. This image was taken in the late 1800s.

Crafted by a master, your Lava Cameo is an exquisite depiction of an ancient goddess, and completely unique. Your Lava Cameo embraces the Italian culture, archaeology, and is an instantly recognized symbol of status, education, and refinement.

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That is the romantic story of the lava cameo, those distinctive works of art so prized by collectors. Lava cameos remained popular and collectible for decades, fading into obscurity only at the turn of the century, when photography became an accessible and easy way to record one’s Grand Tour!


One Person at a Time.

I feel like the world would be a better place if we had all grown up with an Elvis Room, a Portsmouth square, if we had all matured with a Barley Pub.

I spent Saturday evening in the company of friends who have been the bedrock of my world since I was a teen. Gay. Straight. Artists. Cooks. Musicians. Geeks. Parents. Black. White. Asian. Hispanic. Assholes. Saints. Diseased. Health nuts. Friends. People… All of us just people. People who started as strangers.

People who wouldn’t have known each other if we hadn’t had a place to go where everyone was welcome.

We weren’t always all friends. We weren’t always all tolerant. We weren’t born knowing each other. We worked at it. We introduced ourselves. We learned about each other. We learned about ourselves.

We’re still learning.

Do you want to change the world? Do you want the world to change?

Start small. Make your heart a place where everyone is welcome.

If you’re afraid, that’s OK.

Start with one person

The Fayum mummy portraits

Looking into these eyes is traveling through time.

A Blast From The Past

Some Fayum portraits, dating collectively to the period AD70-250. The numbers refer to discussions in the text. Some Fayum portraits, dating collectively to the period AD 70-250. The numbers refer to discussions in the text.

She is very beautiful. Her face is flawless: long and olive skinned, the nose long too, but neat and narrow, the brows crafted, the chin just firm enough to suggest a certain liveliness of character. She has dark hair, and one gets the distinct impression that it has potential for unruliness, but it has been called to order and fashionably styled, cut short over the ears in order to display expensive jewellery. A half-smile plays about her lips, and it does not seem too much to read a hint of amusement into her large brown eyes. It is easy to imagine meeting her at some elegant affair, for she seems alive – yet she is dead, and has been dead for rather more than 1,800 years [1].

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Nighthawks: A Writing Project

I first saw the painting Nighthawks when I was a kid. It was a featured poster in the new shop in the mall, where you could purchase an image of Spuds McKenzie driving a Porsche, or Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’ framed in black plastic while you wandered down to Orange Julius for a smoothie.

I fell in love with Nighthawks immediately, and later, with Edward Hopper in general. Hopper’s use of light and architecture speaks to me in every painting and sketch he’s ever done. Nighthawks, with it’s counter full of strangers, sipping coffee, caught for a moment in a light that was both indicative of the Retro Era, and also ancient and timeless, became a touchstone for me. Who were these people? Why were they sitting in this diner, in the dark, dressed to the nines?

12986947_1113554338712282_4936778188313512086_nIn my writing series Nighthawks, I imagine the stories of people as we see them, and as they see themselves, in one brief glance through a window. These character sketches are vignettes, post cards, poems, and the creation of people.

Hurricane Season

The wind cried “Mary.” It cried “Joseph” and wailed “Samuel” and “Sloan.” It whimpered about a King and bemoaned the one true lost love that was a pirate, or maybe a privateer, the wind couldn’t remember and probably never knew the difference, but the wind had loved him, more than anyone.

The land rolled its metaphoric eyes, and thought the wind might be a bit of a drama queen, especially when the wind had been hanging out in the Islands. It was always this way, with the wind, this time of year. A spinning cyclone of howling regrets and a flood of memories and she’d be gone again, leaving the locals to clean up the mess.