The past year was a challenging one for, I imagine, just about everyone. Mine was too. The seminal events for me were the ongoing threats to democracy, in the US especially, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine (which I was convinced would lead to armageddon and still fear could), helping my mother sell her condo in Florida and pack herself up for the move to Seattle, helping my wife deal with her mothers deteriorating heart condition and nurse her back to health after the installation of a pacemaker and again after a cardiac valve clipping procedure. I sit at my mother-in-laws dining room table as I write.
The threats to democracy and the war in Ukraine provided an emotional undertow of fear and anger which permeated everything else and was, frankly, exhausting. The need to help my mother and mother-in-law has meant lengthy stays in their homes and away from my studio and tools for production of photography and writing. Also, the disruption of routines, though I have learned that my routines are fairly portable. It’s really being away from my accustomed tools and environment that is the hardship. The portable ones are not as good and in the case of my mother-in-law’s home on Block Island, the internet is horrifically slow making it difficult to do online things.
The hopeful signs of last year were that democracy has been successfully defended, in the US and Ukraine, though in neither case are we at all out of the woods. Still, I am more hopeful for the future of democracy than I was at the start of last year.
My brother and sister and I successfully moved my mom out to Seattle and though she continues to have her travails, neck spinal surgery being the latest, she is with my brother and sister and in a place where she is taken care of. My mother-in-law has also turned a corner and it is looking like we will get to enjoy her for a few more years at a quality of life level that is worth it to her.
My art production continued to be in the doldrums as it has been since the start of the pandemic. The major effort of the year, 52 weekly edits of photographs, had to be abandoned because of the aforementioned need to help my mother and mother-in-law. It is only at the end of the year that something new began to take its place. I let go of the need to produce a certain body of work every week so that I would have a sufficient selection of photographs to do a weekly edit. I now don’t worry if I have a day of few photos or no photos. As long as I make photos most days, I am fine. I wait for themes to appear and when they do, I focus on them, develop a body of work, or portfolio, and produce edits of them. At the very end of the year I began creating handmade booklets to present them in. This is a more flexible and satisfying way to create and produce.
I had the intention of doing more reading and note taking this year than I did. Still, I read a number of memorable books in addition to reading articles and blogs on an almost daily basis. I read Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, Sea and Fog and Paris, When Its Naked, both by Etel Adnan, Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan, The Lies That Bind by Kwame Anthony Appiah, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, Wild Swims by Dorthe Nors.
I ended the year with Sacred Economics which predicts the end, or at the very least, the diminishment of market-capitalism and its eventual replacement with a Sacred Economy predicated on gifts and relationship. It is the first time I have read anything that explains why the market-capitalist system needs growth (we always have more debt than production) and presents a plausible alternative and a way to get there. It has shifted my thinking about art production and distribution. I also started reading The Overstory a fictional book that ties in neatly with Sacred Economics in that it is an environmental novel about the incredible beauty and interconnection of nature and the ways in which the market-capitalist system is destroying it. I also began reading The Gift by Lewis Hyde, which is quoted in Sacred Economics numerous times. I am thinking the Gift will be my guide book to moving my art production into the gift economy.
A year or two ago I began to withdraw from social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Facebook and Instagram in particular became very unsatisfying places to be. That my friends will like my posts without having anything to say about most of them is dispiriting. As a result, I have made it a personal rule to never like without commenting. And, I am sorry, but I think I have had my fill of cat and dog pics for a lifetime. Like sunsets, it’s way overdone and a substitute for meaningful interaction. And so, I continued to move into alternative social media, specifically Micro.blog and Mastodon. I have also hooked up my Tumblr account to Micro.blog so everything cross posts. I terminated my Twitter account. I will keep my Facebook account because almost none of my friends have ventured into these alternatives, nor are they likely to, so it is still the best way to keep aware of what they are up to and stay in touch. I haven’t decide about my Instagram account. I barely use it anymore which is sad because I was a very early adopter of it.
As the year came to a close I managed to watch 23 Christmas movies, my thing at Christmas. And last night I made my mother-in-law a scrumptious fondue per her request. Accompanied by a bottle of Champagne. We were all in bed well before midnight, but then I haven’t stayed up for the New Year for a number of years.
I don’t do resolutions anymore. I do aspirations. Things I aspire to do, accomplish, whatever.
Artistically, I aspire to make this the year of making books of my work. Little chap books, as I like to refer to them because of their abbreviated nature and poetic intent. I have a number of themes in the cue. I also aspire to move my production and distribution of art work into the gift, or sacred economy. This is an approach in which the work is offered up as gift. To family and friends without expectation of return, to interested individuals at whatever cost works for them. In exchange, they can give me something they have made, or make a contribution of whatever amount of money it is worth to them. I will still produce limited edition prints and publications and support the limited editions I have already begun. But, I will develop art product that is not limited in edition and can be had by anyone. There is a lot of fleshing out to do with this system, but I am excited to experiment with it.
I aspire to read more this year. And take notes. And to share what I read thoughtfully. I have a lot of unread books on my Kindle. My aspiration is to have read them all by the end of the year, or read far enough into them to know I am not interested.
When I buy a hard copy of a book I aspire to pass it on to someone I think will value it and ask them to do the same when they are done. I will take notes as I need to and when I want to refer back to the book or re-read it, I will borrow it from the library.
I aspire to make greater use of the public library.
I aspire to continue to be present for my wife, family and friends. To enjoy them as much as possible and help them when they are in need of it.
I aspire to write more and share more on Micro.blog, pictures, micro posts, long form posts. I really want to deliver a set of Notes On Attention Paid.
I aspire to pay more attention to our garden, growing food, making it a nice place to be.
I aspire to do more to fix up our humble house. To honor it. To be a good steward of the property.
I aspire to work on connecting to my friends and community. To engage in gift or sacred exchange as much as possible.
I aspire to letting go of the things we own, but rarely or never use, by finding new homes for them whenever possible. We have so much clutter.
I aspire to support the artists and musicians I know personally in whatever way I can. Going to their shows. Making money contributions when I can. Buying their work when I can.
I aspire to pay off our (relatively minimal) debts and to develop a good cash flow cushion. I want to save for things I want or trips and not borrow unless it is to do major work on the house or purchase a big ticket item, like a car.
I aspire to visit my mother, sister and brother sometime this year.
I aspire to plan and execute more adventures for me, my wife and my dogs. I really want to do some camping this year. I really want to get out and see more of what’s around me. We had some success in doing that the past year. I want it to continue into the new year.