It’s Always Been Michael, Never Mike

Self portrait of author in black and white.

Whatever calls you, whether it’s the ocean or art or family or democracy, isn’t out there. It’s inside you. Like all the cycles and rhythms we describe in this book, it comes and goes, accelerates and decelerates, falls away and rises again. Like a tide, inside you.

— from Burnout, by Emily Nagoski, Amelia Nagoski

I am assembling an outfit to express feminine me. I am building it around a lovely “Petrol/Teal” funnel neck sweater dress. I have spent hours on the internet shopping for accessories to go with it. The right shoes, the right leggings, the right pair of socks, the right bracelet. Masculine me settled on a basic uniform years ago. Black crewneck long sleeve t-shirt, black slim leg jeans, Hoka sneakers, black leather belt with silver buckle, grey or black over the calf socks. Masculine me isn’t into makeup and is happy with a five day stubble.

Feminine me is tossing masculine me’s uniform aside. Boring! She has brought purple, magenta, blue/green, and blue into the mix. Her preferred clothing purveyors are J. Jill and Poetry. She likes contemplating questions like, what color lipstick looks good on me? Should I get purple highlights in my hair? Should I get my brows done? What sort of eye makeup should I wear? She reads articles on hair styles, makeup tips, facial cleansing and moisturizing routines. Masculine me doesn’t seem threatened by this development. He seems, if anything, a bit amused, and quite willing to sit on the bench while feminine me blossoms, though he’s prepared to step forward if circumstances warrant it.

This makes it sound like I have split in two. That’s not how it is. My masculine and feminine are a continuum. They coexist in a yin-yang sort of way, moving to the front and back again in a fluid dance of gender expression.

It is hard to describe the feeling of letting my feminine flower. It is often intense. When I first started wearing lipstick. When I first wore a dress. When I first did these things in public. Each of these moments came with feelings that washed through me, sometimes as a gentle wave, sometimes in a raging torrent. Do you remember how it feels to fall in love? That’s how it’s feeling to me to get my feminine on. It’s scary too. I know some people won’t understand.

It is tempting to view this as “coming out of the closet,” but I haven’t been in a closet in any kind of difficult or conflicted way. It’s just that sometime during the past year, feminine me started asking for more space to be. In my mind. On my body. Amongst my community. I am lucky to have the luxury of giving her that space.

In retrospect, I can see she has been with me from the beginning. Michael, until the 1990’s, could be a boy or girl’s name. That means that from the day I was born, room was made for feminine me, in my name. I have always been Michael, never Mike. Mike is the Marlboro man as far as I am concerned. I have never wanted to be the Marlboro man. Perhaps the death of my father, an overbearing patriarchal figure, set her free. Perhaps being at a stage of life where I don’t really have to care what people think helped too. Perhaps, even, she sees that now is the political moment to smash the patriarchy.

I don’t know where feminine me is taking us. All I know is that she is presently at the wheel and determined to immerse us in the feminine.

This post starts with a quote from the book Burnout. It was revelatory to me when I read it. It helped me realize that my meaning-core is calling me to a hero’s journey to the divine feminine. I will read about her. I will write about her. I will make art about her. I will express her. Connecting with her will be the touchstone of my being for a while.

Joseph Campbell claimed that women had no need to undertake the hero’s journey because they were already in the place where that journey winds up. This seems to me to be a conflation of biology and gender, as well as a failure to understand the masculine-feminine continuum. The hero, Marlboro Man, and the divine feminine, Marilyn Monroe, are the yin and yang of Western Civilization. The divine feminine is not the goal of all hero’s journeys. And I believe that women often have need to undertake the Hero’s journey which may return them to the divine feminine or not. All men and women are capable of being the hero or the divine feminine. We need more women undertaking hero’s journeys and many more men connecting with the feminine divine.

May the divine feminine receive us all warmly and shepherd our growth. May we be among her many beacons of light to a world so desperately in need of her.

Reflections for 2022, Aspirations for 2023


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 and Mastodon. I have also hooked up my Tumblr account to 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, 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.