At the end of August I was challenged by a friend to post three things every day for seven days for which I am grateful. I have taken such challenges before and as with those instances I took it seriously. Mostly. I began this particular challenge on September 1, 2014 and completed it on the 7th. Here then, is the list in its entirety.
1. I am grateful for art – that includes words, pictures, sounds, movements, ideas. Art can heal your soul and it has healed me on more than one occasion.
2. I am grateful for my dog, Max. He is the best friend anyone could want or hope for. I made a promise to him to be his guardian forever. I will keep that promise.
3. I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to stop and evaluate and reevaluate my life situation. Most are not afforded this luxury and I am mindful of the blessing that this is.
1. I am grateful for being different. For being a man attracted to other men, for being a human who sees value in nonhuman things, for not being satisfied with superficial spoken language as my only means of communication. These things and others have conspired to make me, I believe, a better person. That may, though, be up for debate.
2. I am grateful for people like Harvey Fierstein, Ellen DeGeneres, Brian Sims, Jesse Jackman and Dirk Caber who, despite their divergent occupations and interests, or perhaps THROUGH those things, have challenged and broadened the understanding and perception of what it is to be homosexual in the United States. Not only the folks I’ve mentioned, but many others who crush stereotypes, enrich EVERYONE’s lives (if we will allow it) and deconstruct and redefine what it is to be gay in the USA. Thank you.
3. I am grateful for people who do not fear honesty, loyalty and true, active concern. They are few and far between and there are many imposters, but the real ones, when they appear in my life, I will cherish and will both vocalize and demonstrate my gratitude.
1. I am grateful for some of the muscle-heads at the gym. These are the guys that have obviously been working hard at building their bodies since before high school and who have gone far beyond being fit or filling out their jeans and t-shirts and are now bulging. Some of these guys seem clueless and aloof, but a hand full of them are not only friendly but also approachable. This is so different than my experience way back in school in the 70s where a (then) skinny boy like me would be teased and bullied for not being athletic, and teased and bullied if I TRIED to be athletic. Now, at age 56, I work out 5 or 6 times a week, and a few of these guys have actually reached out and offered assistance and encouragement. I’ve lost about 50 lbs since early this year and I have about 15 more to go, and these big ol’ boys with the shredders and goofy grins have made me feel like I fit in. Thanks.
2. I am grateful for my dog, Max. He always makes it on to my gratitude lists. He is approaching 16 years old. He’s a beagle. He is my best friend and he has taught me responsibility, humor and unconditional love. I have promised to be with him until he is ready to go. I gladly sacrifice other aspects of my life to make sure he is happy, comfortable and treated like the prince that he is. A dog is perhaps the best instructor of the valuable lesson of attending to the moment. Now. (Agora) Thank you, Max. I have more to learn, but when it’s time, I’m sure you will let me know.
3. I am grateful for cotton t-shirts. These are perhaps the most sensible article of clothing for men that has ever been invented. No buttons to fall off, soft, useable for more than just covering the body, can be sexy, can wipe up messes, can be used for advertising; they can be warm or cool, they can be casual dressy if worn with slacks and and a sport coat, or relaxed when worn…by themselves. And everything in between. I love t-shirts. I am grateful for them. I am serious. They matter.
1. I am grateful for blank books. Bound stacks of paper that allow me (and others if they so wish) to hold them, caress them, fill them if we so choose, with words, pictures, diagrams, smudges, nonsense, secrets, lies, clues or to hold leaves and flowers pressed between their leaves, to be opened like a timid and forgotten flower some time in an undisclosed future.
2. I am grateful for books that have already been filled. I am a bibliophile. I enjoy the object “book.” The thing. And what makes them more amazing is that they can contain other worlds, different windows, oblique reasoning, strange sensibilities. The creation of a book is an art that must pull successfully from multiple frames of reference and, with a nod of consent from the conspirators of the omniverse, an amazing thing coalesces into a portable portal. Embossed leather bound with gold leaf and oxblood stains, hand stitched fine laid paper, precision printing or careful calligraphy conspire with a lattice of words and images, language and logistics to create this, this thing, for which I am grateful.
3. I am grateful for books yet to be conceived. In some still forming mind there are thoughts and notions and movements of spirit that, one day, some day, will spiral through intent, action and force of will to birth a new book. A book that will twist at least one person’s perception and change their path from one of little to one of major consequence. Or another book might be born that causes a soul to lose faith, to cry in the dark and to shrivel and die. Such is the power of this thing: book. Even one that has not yet been dreamed.
1. I am grateful for forgiveness. I am certain that in my years of existence and interaction with other beasts of the plain that I have benefited from this particular grace, for I am no faultless creature. It is a certain byproduct of involving ones self with others that some line of propriety will eventually be crossed, and the decision to forgive that trespass by the scribes of that boundary is one they can pour extravagant concern into or toss aside as a tissue blocking the path of a bulldozer. It is all up to the one that has set that particular limit, no matter how arbitrary. So, in light of this first gratitude for the 5th day of my assignment to present publicly three items of thanks across the span of seven days, and being fully aware that it is, in fact, the 6th day, it seems that I have, in the literal sense, committed a sin in having missed the mark. For this transgression I offer both this identification of forgiveness as something I am grateful for and plead my case and request the bestowal of this self same gift. Yes. I was lazy and I did not present my list yesterday. I alone am at fault and there is no justification save the vicissitudes of self discipline. My bad.
2. I am grateful for cool days where the sky is an uneven grey, the wind occasionally blustery, and carried through that refreshing air upon the undulating breeze, there is a fresh, all too rarefied scent, oft times fecund and capable of invigorating a dormant engram like steady breath on a glowing ember. Such a wonderful set of conditions that startle a hidden memory which then quickly blooms and alters my view, if only for a moment, then settles back down to sleep, leaving me to enjoy the crispness of the day.
3. I am grateful for chocolate. ‘Nuff said.
1. I am grateful for Leonardo da Vinci. He brought sublime structure and mystery to living the life artistic.
2. I am grateful for Rembrandt van Rijn. He brought reality and humanity and divine light to the soul’s most elevated visible expression.
3. I am grateful for Pablo Ruiz Picasso. He elevated the living of the life artistic to the most glorious universal state of being. He raised the valleys to the skies, he leveled the mountains to the plains. He took all that came before and rearranged it into something new. Something magnificent.
God, I love art.
1. I am grateful for the persistence of memory. As Proust points out, there are many facets to the act of remembering and the state of remembrance, but in the end, it is the mechanism by which we can touch those things which are temporally behind us. But memory itself, a moveable buoy that accompanies us as we swim through this river that is tethered to past experiences, that persistence gives me a bit of comfort in what otherwise is essentially a lonely journey.
2. I am grateful for the people who have tried but failed; I am grateful for the people who have tried, but I have failed. Thank you for trying, and I am sorry.
3. I am grateful for anyone who has read these statements of gratitude. I’ve tried to take this challenge seriously with a bit of humor to sweeten and savor the trek. If you’ve read these posts, you’ve given me a chance to express some ideas, and that is something that I will be grateful for at every turn – the opportunity to express myself. One of the most important elements of what I do as a person, as an artist, as a soul, is to describe what I am experiencing in as many ways as I can so that others, if they observe and perceive and understand what I have done, can nod their heads in agreement and thus validate my perceptions and maybe my existence and my life. Because, if someone else sees, feels, understands just one corner of the reality I’ve constructed for myself, and with that nod, they confirm that, yes, that is the way it is for them, too, then I don’t feel quite so alone. It’s a tough one. Thank you.