Photographic Madness

January 3, 2018


I let my mind wander in the wonder of all things Smith, -W. Eugene Smith, that is. Thanks to the December 2017 edition of HARPER’S and “Framing the Shadows” by Vince Passaro, I could walk into several frames of his life.

By the time I would hold in my young hands the weekly magazine, LIFE, Smith had already quit his job as photojournalist. At the age of 35 in 1954 he would continue a career with a passion and obsession for the perfect images. From graphic images of WWII to the soulful side of Schweitzer developing clinics in undeveloped Africa to the documentation of mercury poisoning of thousands in Minimata Japan, W. Eugene Smith would change with course of photography, scrapping rules and sacrificing everything, risking his life.

Master of the photo-essay, as detailed in the eight page article with photographs that will take your breath away,  it is said about Smith that “during his relatively brief and often painful life, he created at least fifty images so powerful that they have changed the perception of our history.”

True as that statement is, Smith was driven to madness for the perfect image. Whether it took two weeks or 2,000 shots, his was total abandonment for the sake of art. We may never fully know the man behind the lens, but we will feel his raw emotion that is captured in faces over his short 40 year career.


Three Little Words

December 27, 2017
Illustration: Beastfromeast/Getty Images
Three Little Hebrew Words

Kavod  is what happens when you’re exchanging the usual ‘How are yous?’ with a person you see regularly, only on this particular day she doesn’t respond with her normal, ‘Fine, and you?’ but instead says, ‘Not good’—and suddenly everything changes. Now the conversation is no longer brief and shallow like it has been for years, because now it weighs something, it is significant, it matters. She matters; you matter; the fact that she decided to be honest with you matters; the thing that is happening between you matters.”  “The word is often used in the scriptures to refer to that which happens when the monotony is pierced, the boredom hijacked, the despair overpowered by your sense that something else is going on, something that reminds you of your smallness, frailty, and impermanence. It’s that gut-level awareness you’re seized by that tells you, ‘Pay attention, because this matters.'”

Ruach “An explosive, expansive, surprising, creative energy that surges through all things, holding everything all together and giving the universe its life and depth and fullness.”  When we want to “talk about those moments, when an object or gesture or word or event is what it is, but is also more, at the same time, something more.” For example: “It was a meal, but it was more than a meal; just as it was a conversation and yet more than a conversation.”  “In our modern world, people understand spirit to mean something less real, less tangible, less substantive—something nonphysical, something that may or may not exist. But when the Hebrews spoke of the ruach, they weren’t talking about something less real; they were talking about what happens when something becomes more real, right before your eyes…The challenge is for me and you to become more and more the kind of people who are aware of the divine presence, attuned to the ruach, present to the depths of each and every moment.” 

 Echad   “A unity made up of many parts.” “We have an intuitive awareness that everything is ultimately connected to everything else. When you get a glimpse of what someone else has gone through or is currently in the throes of and you find yourself inextricably, mysteriously linked with that person because you have been reminded again of our common humanity.”  “We live in a dis-integrated culture, in which headlines and opinions and images and sound bites pound us with their fragmented, frantic, isolated blips and squeaks, none of it bound together by any higher unity, coherence, or transcendent reference point. This fragmentation can easily shape us, convincing us that things aren’t one. But everything has a singular, common source and is infinitely, endlessly, deeply connected. We are involved, all of us. And it all matters.”

Thought Patrol

August 28, 2017



They do not enter my head.

They are already there.

For if they did enter,

I would arrest every last one.

    Do not enter

The sign would read.

They cannot read.

They are not invited.

They are not welcome.


I learned long ago

I could hold my breath longer

than my unwanted thoughts.

I learned I can abstain from chocolate,

toxic relationships and unkind words;

But I cannot abstain from my thoughts.

Boots on the Ground

August 26, 2017


Living in Compton the Spanish crown

Rancho San Pedro, boots on the ground.


A ’33 earthquake rocked the town

One black resident, boots on the ground.


Courts did rule, folks were Compton-bound

The 50’s and 60’s, boots on the ground.


Left foot right foot hear the sound

Left foot right foot boots on the ground.


Pimps and hustling, deals going down

Gangsta lifestyle, boots on the ground.


Shots in the air voices drowned

Bullets cry out,  boots on the ground.


Gifts for guns layin’ in a mound

Combattin’ violence,  boots on the ground.


Left foot right foot hear the sound

Left foot right foot boots on the ground.



Stages of Development

August 24, 2017


Rolling on his belly                                                                                                                       Crawling on his knees                                                                                                                    Step by step and wobbly                                                                                                                Walking is a breeze.

A cane now guides his movement                                                                                                The walker scratches his floor                                                                                             Hunched over in the wheelchair                                                                                            Confined to bed once more.

Hope and Hallelujah!

July 17, 2017


My girlfriend is Anne Lamott. She doesn’t know it. We have never met. But I know all of her secrets. Much of the time, we seem to be in sync.  “Tender Mercies” “Help Thanks Wow” “Some Assembly Required”  – her books and I have connected. She has made me laugh, cry; she has stopped me in my tracks.

In her newest book “Hallelujah Anyway,”  we’ve become closer than ever before. Anne is always there when I need her. I needed her now and she delivered. She did not disappoint.

To quote Washington Post columnist, Ann Bauer, “for the purpose of this book, mercy is defined and endlessly redefined as both the giving and the receiving of general forgiveness, compassion, kindness, tolerance, understanding, charity and/or acceptance.”  Ms. Lamott drives this theme home, hitting hard to the point of exhaustion. But that is precisely what it takes to discover, understand and embrace mercy needed to survive this life.

I felt like a snake shedding layers of dried skin as I read this book. Peeling away the rough outer layers of protection, I was vulnerable. But along the way, amidst the raw feelings and memories of those strange and unhappy people who were my only of being nurtured, I found mercy. I offered up a dish of forgiveness and hallelujahs, anyway.

She Oughtta Know

May 12, 2017

IMG_20170512_105046.jpgInspired this morning to create a space for five minutes of special delight, because Helen Keller ought to know.

Face It – It’s Time to Grieve

May 10, 2017

It seems there has been a great deal of sharing sympathy going around these days. During these darker times, I often find myself turning to my neighbor. . .

Mr. Rogers always knew what to say in difficult situations.

I remember him giving advice to one of his puppets on loss. He said that it takes real strength to face sadness and to grieve. “Letting those tears flow when you need to, takes courage,” he would comfort the audience.  His gentleness encouraged viewers to talk about their feelings, reach out for help and seek comfort when you need it.

If it is your time to grieve, let your friend or neighbor be one.

Live Life!

May 8, 2017


What Did Helen Know?

May 7, 2017

IMG_20170507_115131.jpgThey took away what should have been my eyes, (“they” – who was this they?)

~But I remembered Milton’s Paradise.

They took away what should have been my ears,

~ Beethoven came and wiped away my tears.

They took away what should have been my tongue,

But I had talked with God when I was young. 

(Helen admits she had a conversation with God. Perhaps it was many years before this poem was written. What did she say to God? Was that the only time she spoke to God?)

He would not let them take away my soul  (He and them… He – God. Them – Who? Did she wrestle for her soul? Did she make a deal with God or the devil?)

Possessing that, I still possess the whole.