Thank you Evergreen Longhouse!

I was just looking back and realized that a long post I had written wasn’t saved and posted correctly aside from the title!

Anyhow, to sum it up, I had written and submitted my final grant report for a National Native Creative Development Grant I received from the Longhouse at Evergreen State College. It was great to look back and realize that I have expanded my scope a lot with my art over the past year and a half. And it is nice to have the encouragement and financial support provided by this type of recognition. Thank you Evergreen Longhouse!

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“Saying goodbye is the most difficult thing in the world…”

I was looking for something tonight that caused me to end up digging around in a box of old papers and photographs. One of the things I found was a DVD my dad had made out of some old 8 or 16 millimeter film footage from my first birthday. Its the only childhood home videos I have and there is only about two and a half minutes worth of film.

Watching this again, as well as looking at some of the pictures and letters, I realized that most of the things saved in this box of mementos really only have meaning to me anymore. Both of my parents are dead, as are almost all of the family friends who made up my childhood family. Sure, I have friends and family that I’ve made along the way, but nobody any longer who really knows the first portion of my life. I recognize this is something that eventually happens, but it doesn’t seem as usual for people at my age.

I looked at old photographs of my parents, from their childhood to adulthood. How much do I really know about these people? I looked at photos and documents they had saved of their family members, people who I don’t know. And I realized that the photographs I have, the ones that document my way through this life will end up the same way someday. Since I doubt I’ll ever have children, it isn’t like I’m going to pass these items and their stories along to anyone else. Or at least not to anyone who has a vested interest in listening.

One of the things I ran across was a letter from my father. It is very brief and undated, but I think it is something he sent to me in 2003 after I had moved to New York. I didn’t end up staying longer than a few months, and I’m sure I didn’t put a lot of stock into this letter at the time, but it has another layer of meaning now that he is dead, especially considering the tumultuous time in the spring of 2010 when his physical and mental health took a drastic turn for the worse.

A bit of history: I ended up stepping away from the situation in 2010, which was what it seemed like he wanted at the time. And once out from the eye of the storm, I realized that I didn’t need or want to go back inside. The last time I saw him was probably in February or March. I spoke to him once by phone, probably in June. And then nothing. A few days after Christmas, I got an envelope in the mail from his partner that had a copy of his death certificate, showing that he had died weeks earlier. I never knew he had fallen, or that he had pnuemonia and spent the last weeks of his life in a hospice.

As a teenager, my father was the reason I didn’t stay with my mother when she died, like I secretly wanted to do. Instead, I delivered the letter to the hospital she had signed that instructed them to take her off of life support. I did this while my father waited elsewhere in the hospital, unable to look beyond his own grief. I walked down the long hallway alone the same evening I returned from spending time with a family friend and learned that my mother’s situation was more drastic than I could have imagined. He protected me from the truth until I came home, and then I suddenly had to take on the tasks he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do. I was fourteen. And suddenly at thirty-two, he again had made the situation such that I was left with the realization that I didn’t get to be there for either his or my mother’s last moments of life.

There’s a lot more to this story, but this isn’t really the place to pour all of that out. After my mother died, however, it seemed that we both kept leaving each other. He left me to move to Seattle and I stayed behind in Renton to try and at least keep my day-to-day life at school the same, even if I was living with neighbors from down the street. A few years later I got married and started building my own life, leaving him as a spectator on the sidelines. Later, when I divorced and came out as gay, we started to forge a new relationship as adults. He had never really come out himself, but after my mom died it became pretty clear that he was also gay. And yet, I was in my early twenties and still learning about who I was. I moved to New York, then I moved back. Soon after I again moved to the east coast and then came back again.

After I went back to school, my life started to seem more stable. It seemed like I was on a track to do something. I was in a relationship with a man I loved, and still do. My dad’s health was clearly going to be an issue as he moved into his early 70’s. I tried to talk to him about what he might want in the event of an emergency, but he brushed off my questions. And then, when the situation occurred, whatever plans he had put in place for me to help him he disassembled, either from his own delusions or due to the influence of his partner. I’ll never really know. And then, less than a year later, he was gone.

Anthony,

Saying goodbye is the most difficult thing in the world for obvious reasons, many of which you are too young to understand at this point. I am going to be lost without you in a world that often is too confusing for me to understand. Please take care of yourself. I need you very much.

Love, Dad

Rebecca Solnit, Robohontas, and the Dream-Tale (aka 2011 Sucked!)

The photo is of a business card that fell out of a book I was reading recently. My late professor, Jon Gierlich, had given us a copy of one of the chapters from Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost for a class project. I ended up buying a copy and read most of it a couple of years ago. (I’ve probably written about it on this blog previously.) After he passed away last fall I remember another teacher who had helped sort through his belongings had his copy of the book, which seemed, to me at least, almost like a talisman.

Last week I started reading this book again, which was something I had been meaning to do for several months. I’m glad I did! I love Solnit’s writing and the meandering paths that these essays take. They read like a combination of history and dreams, which is a fitting description for memories in my opinion. Partway through, the business card with a picture of King Tut’s golden mask on it fell out while I was sitting on the couch reading.

The picture is so striking and vibrant (which I’m sure was the point when Cairo Collective chose to place it on their cards) that it felt like some sort of a sign. But of what? In any case, it seemed significant enough that I snapped a picture to try and save some part of that moment.

This time I did finish the book. It has essays that are interspersed with smaller stories, each of which are titled, “The Blue of Distance.” These little stories explore the color blue and its meaning. They are almost like ocean waves lapping against the shore in a sense, at least that is what the rhythm of the whole thing brings to mind.

I rememer thinking of it the last time I was reading it as the type of book I wish I had written. This time, I didn’t necessarily feel quite so, well, jealous I suppose. Instead, it seemed more like the type of thing to motivate me to write. Not because I would write something like it, but because I enjoy reading and writing, because I need to process and record things from my life, because I finally feel like I have stories that should be told.

Of course, I have yet to embark on this writing. I forgot that it does take time and effort. It has been so long since I’ve been an avid reader, and the main things I write nowadays are emails to clients at work. But I do have a story to tell. It belongs to this world and the dream world. It is forming in my head, swirling about, trying to find form. I don’t know exactly what shape it will take, but I hope that I do get it out, even if only a fraction.

This past year has been so difficult for me personally. I keep things together at work and in public for the most part, so I doubt many people really know how dark things have been at times. I was raised in an environment that trained me to be hyper-aware of what other people might think, to always keep up a happy facade, to do whatever possible to avoid conflict.

Late spring and summer this year were very rough. The holidays also were difficult, which surprised me. My mother went into the hospital a few weeks before Christmas and died on New Year’s Day almost twenty years ago. And it was a few days after Christmas in 2010 that I learned (in a horrible fashion) my father had died earlier that month. I guess I got so good at avoiding my feelings, that I thought that was normal. But no, they still managed to catch up with me after all.

I haven’t been feeling motivated to create any art lately. For a while I kept telling myself that I was going to start up soon after taking a break, especially on my Robohontas project. Yet, I haven’t managed to find the drive. I question what my goals for making something are. Who is it for? What does it mean? Why am I making this and why is it feeling like an obligation?

But I’m thankful for the things that are starting to revive me. Bryn is a trooper, I have no idea what I would do without him. The people I work most closely with every day at my job have helped to keep me sane in the midst of turmoil. Jon’s lessons were/are invaluable, many of which I no doubt have yet to learn. And Rebecca Solnit’s writing that gives me hope.

And so, it has been more than a month now, and I’m not forcing myself to do anything. I’ve thought about writing a blog post for a while, and this is really the first task I’ve done. Probably the first step in moving towards writing my dream-tale down. In fact, I believe that this is the next step for Robohontas. The photoblog will probably come back to life at some point, but now that I’ve done so much with her over the past year, it is time to really sit down to listen and find out what she has to tell me.