Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Great Night!

Hello you who have come here.  Thank you.  I haven't journaled in a long time.  Tonight was a very special night, and I feel like writing.

Allow me to frame the changes in my life just a bit.  Thirteen years ago I left the ministry, the church, and my first marriage.  Since then I have remarried, moved from teaching to counseling in public education, retired, and moved from 30 years in San Francisco to a small mountain community near Santa Cruz, California.

Three and a half years now after retirement, I have created a new life as a photographer.  Tonight I had a show opening, my 18th I believe, in a little over two years.  It is a fine art nude figure photography exhibit, featuring 25 images.  For the first time I came home tonight encouraged.  More people than ever came out.  The place buzzed all evening.  Lots of good friends came by, and folks from previous shows.  There was lots of good energy, and sales were encouraging as well.  It felt like a party.

A young man asked where I saw myself with my photography in 5 years.  Great question.  I replied that I saw myself focusing even more on only the very best of my images, and being recognized for my photography.  Tonight felt like a wonderful piece of that.  It is growing.  And I am encouraged.

Thank you Janis and Amy for hosting my photography, now for a fourth time.  You have been with me from the beginning.  You have seen me grow as a photographer and welcomed my work, from erotic photography, now abandoned, to the fine art images that are now my vision.

And I thank each of you who read this.  Below you will find one of the images from my latest show.    It's title: "Indigenous" - Be sure to click on it.  I hope you enjoy it.  I'll try not to wait so long to journal again.

Peace, light, and love.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Day Off The Grid

Well, Frank doesn't do this very often, but today I truly stepped off the grid.  San Luis Obispo was my destination yesterday, and tomorrow I will head back home.  Today was for stopping and breathing and meditating and soaking up the sun and the waters of the ocean and natural hot springs.  I headed down US 101 only about eight miles south of San Luis Obispo and spent over four hours on a clothing optional beach called Pirate's Cove.  The day was spectacular.

I enjoyed the water.

along with many others on this glorious day.

And I observed once again something that settled in even deeper today.  I have often said that this country is repressed about sexuality, which I have used as a reason why so many can't relate to my nude photography.  Today, for the first time, I did the u-turn and reflected on my own repression.  Why is it that someone like myself, who has photographed many women up close and personal, still finds the desire to sneak in a photo from afar on a nude beach?  Why do I so often wrestle with the question of whether my nude photography is appropriate as art?  Why do I worry so much about what others will think of my work?

These people on the beach today taught me a lesson.  They played volleyball and talked and laughed amongst themselves in ways that were truly natural and easy going.  It didn't make any difference what kind of body each had, or how young or old they were.  There was a lack of self-consciousness and a comfortableness with each other that reminds me again of how wrong so many of us have it when we relate to our beautiful nude bodies as something not perfect or as something that brings awkwardness and even shame.  These people are not perfect either.  I'm sure they have many of the same hangups and problems that we do in our lives.  But in this one very deep and basic way, in this area of how we feel about our very bodies, they have so much to teach us.  I really enjoyed my day on the beach.  I found the one small spot of shade that there was (I am not a southern California boy!), closed my eyes, listened to the rhythm of the waves, and followed my breath in meditation for almost four hours.  Sure, I did some people watching, and the people watching I did was a meditation in life as well.

On my way back from the beach, I stopped at Sycamore Mineral Springs and rented an hour of time in a natural mineral spring wooden hot tub.

You know, I have never understood why people, unless they can afford to on a regular basis, go to get a massage or to soak in a hot tub.  In my mind, if something is healthy or good for my body, and if it's not something that I can do regularly, then why would I pay to do it just once?  Well, today I got it!  I laid for four hours on a beach doing "nothing."  Then I soaked and meditated in a hot mineral bath for an hour.  Even if I were never to do this again, it was an incredibly relaxing and cleansing and as you can see, thought provoking day.  And that makes it totally worth it, one time or many!

You see, you can teach an old dog new tricks!   :o)



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thoughts on our Country

There is in this country a tumultuous struggle taking place.  In many other countries it is visible in much more raw and visible ways, strikes, riots, mayors of Mexican towns being killed in broad daylight, armed conflict in the streets.  In this country it is usually visible in much more "sophisticated," subtle, and political ways, but the struggle is no less tumultuous.  The future of this country is at stake.  In what direction will we prevail, the direction of fear and hatred and bigotry, moving the agenda backwards to satisfy the powerful, the rich, and the entrenched, or forward with the kind of change that empowers all beings with education, equality, housing, and health care.  We have spent unspeakable amounts of money on war and the war machine, we continue to give tax breaks to those who haven't even begun to pay their fair share, and yet when we even try to begin changing our priorities to those very inhabitants of our own country, we incur the wrath and venom of fear-mongers.  The Sarah Palins and Glenn Becks and John Boehners of this world will see no connection between this senseless act and their own gun toting, bullseye, militaristic language.  Shame on them, and shame on us if we do not repudiate their leadership and vote them out of office and boycott their networks and their advertisers.  America, we are at a crossroads.  What are we made of?  What direction shall we walk?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Dancing Young Man

The Dancing Young Man

 Sunday afternoon, December 12th, 2010

It's been quite a day already.  I had tears behind my eyeballs, even as I left the house this morning for a second day on my own.  Two things contributed to that, I believe.  One, I had not heard back from two people I had suggested seeing today.  I was feeling a bit invisible.  Then, here I was, heading to Rainbow's End for a second day on my own, to sit in front of my computer, editing and posting images.  Good stuff, but I knew that I really had no other alternative in mind.  Should be meditating.  Should be hiking.  Should be outdoors on this gorgeous day.  But there I was, on the computer again, feeling narrow and stuck in a rut.  I did another beautiful piece of monochrome editing work (Maria) until about 1pm, and then decided to just get up and get out.  The tears were still there, just behind.
Thought I was headed for the Quaker Center, the labyrinth, maybe a little hike, and some meditation.   Knew I needed grounding.  On the way down Highway Nine I realized that what I wanted was the ocean, that place where my truth resides as a shining globe inside a shell at the bottom of the sea, as I was shown during my Shamanic class.

I ended up at the marvelous little clothing optional beach along West Cliff Drive.  The tide was in a ways.  Sat in the sun against a cliff and meditated and journeyed.   Asked the boy who I once was, turtle, bat, wolf, and teacher to join me on this beach not that different from the one we have gathered on many times.  I told them that I felt adrift and unanchored.  Again I asked the question of why I need to be noticed or acknowledged to feel visible. 

The boy who I once was reminded me that as a young person I was like Joshua as a child, open, wide eyed, excited about everything, seemingly scattered only because I lived much more fully in each moment, pretty unaware of anything else.  The boy I once was went on to tell me that this is why I have a negative reaction to those I see as being filled with too much exuberance and neediness, trying to do everything to make themselves seen, because it reminds me how much I am missing those very things in my own life.   The boy I once was told me that it was ok to not like the neediness, but that these things can be had without neediness, without clutching, without being driven.

Pretty smart kid! 

Turtle talked about being the ground upon which I always walk, whether I am on the earth, wood, or wearing socks and shoes.  It is always turtle upon whom I walk.  "I am your anchor," he firmly reminded me.

I am already grounded.  Stay mindful of that.

At first bat did not know what to say.  "You are stuck," he finally said.  "You're serious, you just don't play much or even move much.   You gotta move, man.  It ain't dance, right now it ain't even hiking.  How about basketball?  How about you get out in that driveway of yours and just move and jump and play?"

I can do that.

Wolf, curled up at my side, acknowledged his age and mine.  “Things are slower.  You do get tired.  But speed is not the point, just be present in each step, mindful of each step.  It's the quality of each step, not the number or pace of steps, that is important."


Teacher, what did teacher have to say?  I don't really remember specifically.  I believe it had something to do with simply doing things not for the notice of others, but just for myself.  Hmmmm, I'm remembering.  He said that even in doing them for myself, it should not be to feel important.  "Don't do things to feel valuable, just do them.  It's not, I am editing to seek another's or even my own acknowledgement.  I am just editing.  I am just walking.  I am just creating.  I am just eating.  I am.  I am.  I am, not I do, I do, I do."

Wow!  Pure and simple mindfulness.

As this journey came to a close, I moved back into meditation, and then opened my eyes to just sit there and look out at the ocean.  A young man and his girlfriend arrived on the beach.  She sat on a rock as he undressed and walked down to the water.  He was young, with his hair in dreadlocks.  He began to dance and jump around at the water's edge, to get the blood flowing in his body before entering the cold water.  Then as he began to dance and move out into the waves, he would let out wonderful high pitched whooping sounds as each wave got more and more of his body wet.  Then he ran in circles on the beach, spun himself around and around in a dervish, whooped, danced, and frolicked back into the sea.

I could not take the smile off my face as I watched him.  I had the thought of taking off my own clothes and joining him, but didn't want to interrupt his solitary time out there on the beach, and . . . I had a reluctance to get wet and cold.  Some other time I told myself.  It's enough to just watch and enjoy this.

And I felt old.  And I felt the several pounds I have put back on again.  I acknowledged my unhappiness with myself.  And then, as the young man walked back to chat with his girlfriend, I found myself taking off my clothes, told him that he had inspired me, and headed for the water.

As I began to enter the ocean and to make little whoops myself, I turned to see the young man returning to the water.  "How does that go?," I yelled, laughing, as I began to jump up and down and wave my arms as he had first done.  And that began to open me up.  I moved out into the water, finally submerging myself completely into an oncoming wave, whooped, hollered, danced, and laughed.  It was delightful!

Later I returned to my clothes, grabbed my camera, and asked the young man if he would take a picture of me, which he did.  Then he put his arm out to me and invited me to take hold.  We spun ourselves around and around faster and faster and faster, laughing and shouting it up the whole time!

I thanked him and then walked up the beach a ways, and the tears came.  What a good cry it was!

Not a bad day, huh?  Came home and had a salad for dinner.  Tomorrow, basketball.

I am writing.  Will I publish it?  Probably.  But it'll be different this time.  I didn't write this for you.  I didn't write it for me.  I just wrote.



Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This'll be a short one . . :o)

What a week past!  Two photoshoots, one of them art expression changing, a colonoscopy, shaminism class, honest feedback from an artist friend, complete redesign of websites, ten images of Marya for Open Studios, a night out with guy friends tonight, Joyce and I growing individually and together, well, it just doesn't get any better . . :o)  Love.  Frank.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hi good folks,

I must admit that the last couple of days have been a big processing time for me, but I I have gotten my "mojo" back and am flowing again with my figure photography.  I am trying new techniques with my editing and am beginning to see that I need to create ALL kinds of different images for ALL different kinds of folks.  Here's one of my latest, called "Constellations."  (what do you see in the stars? . . :o)


At first, I felt like I was kind of "selling out" to take my real life, beautiful, realistic female figure photo images and convert them into images that are more "artistic" and palatable to the public, but the more I work with my images and create different kinds of looks, the more I realize that this is not only what people may be more comfortable with, but is also something that I feel more creative and artistic with!  Whatever!

Isn't life a trip?!  Always evolving, always changing, always staying on the edge of creativity and finding yourself!

Love ya!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

It Should Have Been A Happy Time

Sunday Evening
March 28th, 2010

It should have been a happy time, and it was.  I was recently asked by the Outreach Manager of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County if I would be willing to donate "Jody in the Desert" to their upcoming Silent Auction Fundraiser.  I happily agreed.   Joyce and I attended the event, which was held this afternoon and evening.  Here's Ann, the woman who asked me about the donation:

And here's Jody on display:

It has been a strange week.  Several incidents this week have caused me to second-guess myself as a figure photographer.  I have shot landscapes and seascapes almost my entire life, since the age of eleven.  It has only been since February 2nd, 2005 that I have turned my attention to figure photography.  In those five plus years I have worked with over twenty-five models in a variety of settings, including studios, rivers, and the desert.  It has been a wonderful five years of learning to work with models, lighting, and equipment.  I have produced images that range all the way from the explicit and erotic to the artistic and fine art.

Now that I am retired from public education and am living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I have built a saw shop, frame shop, gallery, and studio on our property here in Ben Lomond.  I was accepted into Open Studios last October and will be applying again this year.  During the month of June I will have a twenty-one image one-person show in Santa Cruz.  Tonight "Jody in the Desert" sold and helped raise money for the arts in Santa Cruz County.

I should be pleased, and I am.  But I came home this evening with a deep sadness, and it has to do with people's responses to artistic images of the nude female figure.  I understand people's problems with the explicit and the erotic and I have moved my efforts away from those images and more towards that which can be considered art by a broader range of people.  There is no question that sexuality and women have been victimized by exploitation, to such an extent that many people are afraid to appreciate that which is natural, sensual, and beautiful.

My artistic figure photos have now been on display in three galleries (my own included) and tonight's fundraiser.  When I attend the artists' receptions for these events I observe the differing ways in which people view my work.  Most, and I do mean most, won't even look in its direction.  One gallery owner told me that people would sneak off into a hallway to flip through my artistic figure portfolio.

There was one woman tonight who viewed "Jody in the Desert" in a way that brought me a smile.  Here she is:

I know that artists have to have confidence in themselves as they continue to experiment and grow in the expression of their work.  One artist friend of mine says that when her pieces of art are on display, it feels like she herself is hanging there naked on the wall.  I am just learning all this, and I have to tell you, given the incidents of this past week, it is not easy to remain confident.  Especially in the area of figure photography, with all the hangups that so many people have about anything sensual, I have felt several times like just hanging it up and quitting.

I am currently experimenting with several pieces of software that take a photograph and produce from it images that are more like oil paintings or pencil drawings.  I am very pleased with the results and don't feel like I am compromising my art in doing so.  I see what sells at silent auctions and in galleries and at least in my experience, it is not sharp, clear, lifelike images of the naked female figure.  You can take the same image and remove it just a bit from "reality" and stand a much better chance of having your work sell.

All of which reminds me of the story I heard while working in a photography studio when I was a teenager:

"At first I did photography for myself.  Then I did it for my friends.  And now I'm a whore.  I do it for money."

Would I like to make some money selling my photography?  Yes.  Am I open to experimenting with different techniques that make it look more "art" like?  Yes.  But when the day comes that I am creating an image the way I am creating it, only because that is the way I can sell it, then I will pack up this adventure and quit.  That day has not come, and I hope it never will.

Frank Leonard

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Much to my surprise . . .

Much to my surprise, life has taken off on a roaring start again.

It began with an awareness that the submission deadline for Open Studios this year is the end of April.  So I've gotten a great start on coming up with ten of my best outdoor figure photos.

Then came an email from David, who had also worked in the photography studio of Trini Contreras, a good twenty-five years after I had.   Trini is now passed away and David had done a google search with Trini's name, and ended up finding me and my website.  He liked my work, we met yesterday, shared some great stories, and agreed for me to have a one-person show at his beauty salon/art gallery during the month of June.  Twenty-one framed images.  The very best from my lifetime.

And then, tomorrow night, most to my surprise, I am starting Level 2 Studies in Shamanic Practices.  I wasn't planning to do it, but I came to realize, despite any misgivings I might have, that I really liked myself a lot better during the seven weeks of Level 1 training.  There's been two weeks off now and I am ready.  I learned a lot during the first class, and I've learned a lot in the past two weeks.  I need to work on myself some more.  I had probably lost eight pounds.  I'm sure most of them are back on.  So it is time for health, rest, hard work, play, and growth.

Anyway, here's a few pictures that tell a short story of where things are right now:

The foyer, for the present time, is completed.  I didn't get the window seat built that we want.  In the meantime, two very special chairs to Joyce and me are serving quite well.

This is a picture of Trini Contreras on the left and George Lee on the right.  Both were incredibly wonderful men, and both mentors to me in learning photography as a teenager.  I was Trini's camera assistant and darkroom worker for a good two or three years.  Then I went to work at Webber's Camera Shop, where George was the manager.  His delight for photography and his infectious laughter are his hallmarks to me.  Now, forty-five years later, I have returned to the Santa Cruz area and am living in Ben Lomond, up in the mountains.  I have built my own saw shop,

frame making shop,

and photo gallery and studio.

Once again, it is time to go to work.  And it is good work.  It makes me happy to be able to use my brain with the computer and editing, my eyes with the taking of new images, and my hands with the sanding of wood and the construction of frames.  It is a great combination.  Picking the best images that I have taken in this lifetime and putting a show together.  How fun!  The next several months will be intense.  Just the way I like it! . . :o)

Thanks for getting here to the end.  I hope my journaling finds you well and happy.  If you have any thoughts in response, please feel free to email me.



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Time Is Now

the time is now

i have for these almost sixty-three years
built this stage upon which
i am set to act

for this particular life formation
i have learned the photography
gathered the equipment
built the sawshop
the frameshop
and the gallery

it is time to do my craft
it is time to devote my days
not to more photoshoots
though special ones
will come along
not to the gathering
of tens of thousands
of more images
but to the work
to the editing
to the hours working and reworking images
to the framemaking
to the artisan's handiwork
to the dust mask upon my face
and my clothes covered in shavings of wood
to cutting the glass
to assembling the frame

the time is now
it is eternal preparation
and no culmination
all dressed for the party
but unable to walk out the door

the time is now

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Way Or The Highway

It has been eleven years since I left the Lutheran ministry, the church, and the faith of my youth and middle age years.

During those eleven years I have been a middle school teacher, a middle school counselor, and am now retired, living in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, and enjoying, among many things, the reemergence of photography as one of the passions of my life. I have just completed the construction of a photography gallery on our property, which will have its Grand Opening on October 3rd, 4th, and 18th, 2009. I am a landscape and female figure photographer, and recently had ten of my outdoor figure photos accepted into Open Studios here in Santa Cruz County. Open Studios begins October 3rd as well, so my Grand Opening will be happening at the same time as people from throughout the County visit local artists in their studios. I worked hard to have all of this come together at the same time. I am very excited about it all.

Okay, that's scene one.

Scene two took place two days ago, when I received a message from someone who had worshiped in the House Church of which I was the minister. She and I recently reconnected on Facebook, and I guess it took her a while to get to some of the writings on my website. Here is the message I received from her:

Frank~ wow... I don't really know what to say... I wondered why you never responded to any of my little correspondences since my first seeing you on this site ( till now) but after reading one of your particular "writings"...( a question of God?) I guess I can see why you haven't ... We are TOTALLY on different pages... and I am very sad at the news... I will continue to pray for you but I do not want to be on you newsletter list... I hope you will understand... at this point in the "FACEBOOK" friendship ...we will have to agree to disagree... someday I hope we can have a conversation about how you could just walk away from Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior...unless He never TRULY was in the first place.... but you will probably just delete this and that will be the end of it... I hope not...but if it is... I'll know why.... *******

Here was my reply:

Hi *******,
You have jumped to some assumptions that just aren't true. I was delighted to connect up with you as a friend here on Facebook. There is no underlying reason why I haven't responded to any of your posts, although it seems at least in my mind as if I have. I remember writing how you and ***** have both stayed as young and happy looking as I ever remember! Anyway, that's not the real point, since your real problem is where I am in relation to Jesus. You know, it's funny, but as with so many things, if you've never been something that's one thing, but if you've been something and leave it, then that's the worst for people. Joyce and I have good friends who are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists. They're all good people and we love each other dearly. Their friendship has nothing to do with what religion or not they have. It has to do with who they are as caring people. I'm the same me. I am as happy and devoted and caring to my family, friends, and community as I have ever been. There's no need to agree to disagree, which makes it sound like a constant backdrop of tension. Instead, I'd rather see it as all of us celebrating not only those things we share in common, but also all the other things that bring so much beauty and diversity as well.
Love you,

I emailed a couple of my friends who are atheist and shared the correspondence between me and *******

Here, in part, is the response I received from one of them:

Frank, it appears that someone wasn't paying attention... I recently made contact with an older cousin that was very close to my mother. We hadn't talked for many years, but I had a couple of questions. One of hers for me was whether i was still a strong christian, and I told her I had only been to church for two weddings and two funerals in the past 30 years or so, and considered myself a strong non-christian. She could hardly speak. Sometimes, i soften it a bit more than other times, but I get along great with some friends with whom I went to *********, like **** ******* (minister) and ******** ***** (ditto) and others, while other friends and former friends treat me like I have AIDS, the old, "you can catch it from breathing the same air" kind of AIDS. Or swine flu. Or being Gay ... or something. Fuck 'em. They're not worth all the effort it takes to try to explain the rationale, and they don't listen anyway. Keep up your good work, and get better. We just need to live our lives and care for those we love as best we can. Best of luck for your open gallery days. Sell a shitload! ******

And here is my response to that, which I share in the form of this blog post:

******, I think you are absolutely right. We are sometimes treated as if we have AIDS by some, as if where we are in our lives could rub off on them. I do believe that it comes out of a fear of the strength of their own faith. My best example of this came from my mother. When I left the church, she said to me, "I don't think I'll ever be able to confess the Apostle's Creed again." Now, this may seem harsh to some of you, but my reply to her was, "Mom, if your faith is dependent on my faith, then you have placed your faith in the wrong place. Your faith is in God, not in me. To make your faith dependent on mine is to place it in a false god."

I have known people who don't do what they really want to do until their parents die. So I was not willing, at fifty and sixty years of age, to lie to my mother or to play games with her. It wasn't easy for her, but I have to believe to this day that while she disagreed with me and felt pain over the changes in my life, she respected and loved me for being authentic and honest and loving.

Scene three. So, I'm sitting here thinking that none of this is having much effect on me, and I'm thinking that my atheist friend's advice is the best, it's not worth all the effort it takes to try to explain the rationale, when I find myself, as I'm varnishing frames that will hang on my gallery walls in just a few days, bursting out in tears, and anger.

The tears would not stop. I literally came into the house from my shop to share where I was at with Joyce, before the tears and feelings passed and all I would be reduced to sharing with her was a postmortem. I shared with her the thoughts I am about to share with you, asked for an evening alone, and went back to my shop, where the tears continued to flow.

Scene Four - "He who tries to explain, even against the advice of his good friend"

I want to know where people get the feeling that they have the right to judge another, even if there is nothing that person is doing in their life that is violent, or unkind, or illegal, or insane. I am living a very good life. We have property of our own in the mountains. I am launching a photography gallery business, which is one of the passions of my life. I served children in San Francisco for twenty-two years as an elementary teacher, a middle school teacher, and a middle school counselor. I was good at working with children. Prior to that (actually there was an overlap of twelve years), I was a Lutheran minister for twenty-five years, serving parishes in Monterey and San Francisco, California. During all those years of ministry, children were my prime focus, especially as a youth group pastor. Ministry and education and working with children were some of the most natural things that were ever a part of my life.

Since retirement a little over a year ago, Joyce and I are developing a wonderful group of friends here in the mountains. We were even asked and agreed to lead a couple's group, which incredibly and surprisingly, has turned out to be a real strength of ours. We are helping couples, and ourselves, learn how to do the u-turn and realize that everything that comes up for us when our partner triggers anger or frustration in us has not to do with them, but with ourselves.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is, I am a good fucking person! I always have been and I always will be. I wish no one harm - Joyce and I lead insects out of the house rather than kill them! I am compassionate, honest, authentic, loving, and have an open heart. I care about the environment (with Joyce's help, who reminds me to turn off my shop lights when I leave . . :o)

Speaking of Joyce, here is the comment she just made to me, "You know, most of your life you have been a white, Christian male. And maybe this is one of the first times you have experienced prejudice or judgment. Women, people of color, gays, they all know what this is like on an everyday basis." She did not say this with judgment, but as something more for me to think about as I compose this piece of writing.

And I agree, although it is certainly not the first time I have received judgment. But there's something different this time. I am enjoying these mountains and the simple pleasures of life. I have, for the first time in my life the privilege of pursuing my love of photography as full time as I desire. I have wonderful family and friends. And out of nowhere comes someone who has not seen me in almost thirty years, who has the whatever it takes to judge someone for not being where he used to be.

Which brings me to a very surprising thought that came up this evening in the middle of my tears. In the last eleven years (except for working with children in public schools) I have not wanted to be a spokesperson for god or anyone else. I came to find that I had no answers to life at all, except to love and to connect and to express and be creative and to serve. That is probably one of the reasons that people to whom I had been a minister were most disappointed in me. But tonight I had a new thought. You still want me to be a role model? Well, what if I am? What if having someone as a teacher means not locking them into ANY box, but allowing them to grow and evolve into spokespersons for larger, more inclusive views of life?

Scene Five - The Sermon

Friends, exclusiveness in this world is going to kill us all prematurely. THERE IS SIMPLY NO MORE ROOM IN THIS WORLD for one-way kind of thinking. Several nights ago I spoke the Good News of the Christian faith to my second Dad, when he was struggling considerably with his health, and didn't think he was at peace with his Lord. I told him the Good News is that while he may not feel at peace with the Lord, the Lord is at peace with him. It was one of the most beautiful exchanges of my life. Here I am, a non-believer in a God or Intentional Creation Maker, reminding him of the Good News, and it did not diminish me in my own eyes. It wasn't just doing what I needed to do, it was being who I needed to be for the person sitting in front of me who I love. I have to speak his language. I have to help him in the only way I can.

What does that mean? It means there is no one way. If we have love, if we want to be of service to others, if we want to create and find expression of words and images, if we want to connect fully with anyone who wants peace and not war, then it makes absolutely no friggin' difference whether I am Atheist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or gay, or a woman, or a person of color, or anyone else who is the scorn of another for their beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, color, culture, religion, atheism . . .

That is the only heaven, my friends, that I am sure of. That is the heaven we mortal human beings have the capability of creating here on earth. I am no fool. I know it looks like the bad guys are winning. But that is not a given. It all depends on how many of us are willing to stand up and be a part of showing that what it means to be human is to love one another.

As I love you,


Please send all email intended for Frank Leonard to: - Thank You!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Message from the Hopi

Message from the Hopi,
people of peace . . .

You have been telling people that this is the eleventh hour. Now you must go back and tell them that this is the hour.

And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water? Know your garden.

It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and so swift that there are those that will be afraid.

They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time of history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

Banish the word 'struggle' from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

October 7, 2001
The Elders
Oriabi, Arizona
Hopi Nation

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For

Midnight, May 19th-20th, 2009
Cuzco, Peru
"Be Careful What You Ask For"

Once again I have awakened to realize that I have a piece of writing to do. Yesterday, I posted on Facebook these words,

"We have had but one storm this entire three weeks in Peru (we've had fantastic weather), and that storm found me by myself on top of Machu Picchu (the others had already left the mountain). I found cover in the doorway of a ruin as hail and rain poured down. From my dry spot I was looking out and taking amazing images of the Andes Mountains. When the storm abated, an UNBELIEVABLE rainbow left me in tears as I caught images of those magic moments!"

Well, the fuller story actually begins several days earlier than that Machu Picchu rainbow experience, and ends only after I had reached the bottom of that mountain on that day.

A few days before we arrived at Machu Picchu, Joyce and I saw a shaman in Ollantaytambo. The ceremony was for Joyce, and I had agreed to accompany her. Well, to make a long story short, I was invited to be a part of the ceremony as well. The intention I set as we progressed through the ceremony was to be able to see in the ways I want to see, not only for my photography, but also so that I might be as authentic a person as possible, for myself and for others. The words I remember using were, "to be cracked open like a ripe watermelon," a phrase that goes way back to the beginnings of my relationship with Joyce.

Well, it's only as I look back on that shamanic experience, together with my experience at Machu Picchu, that I realize the power of what we ask for, and the power that lies in those places where our ancients have walked and worshipped.

The tears began as I caught those magic moments of that rainbow on Machu Picchu. When those moments had passed, so seemingly did the tears, that is, until I boarded one of the last buses off the mountain. I moved to the far back of the bus and sat looking out the window. There was a young couple also sitting in that back row and we chatted briefly. When we had finished chatting, I turned my face back to the window and the tears began again. They grew deeper and deeper and did not stop until I had reached the bottom of the mountain. A multitude of images and memories flooded through me, from past vacations when I was helping to raise a family, and from my present life. These were tears of joy and tears of regret all mixed together and tumbling out of me like a ripe watermelon cracked wide open.

Somewhere in that half hour journey to the bottom of the mountain I forgave the last person that needed forgiving for the failure of my first marriage. I forgave myself. Unbelievable, after ten years, I finally forgave myself.

I don't know how to understand what I have shared here. I don't know where causes begin or answers are found. What I do know is that this trip to Peru has been an awesome and incredible experience. In a few hours Joyce and I and our friends will board a plane to Lima. And then the next day we will board a plane to San Salvador and then San Francisco.

It is my intention as I return home to be even more the person I want to be, a person of vision, a person of art, a person of love. And I also already know that intentions are an incredibly powerful thing. Be careful what you ask for, and be sure to ask boldly.


Cuzco, Peru

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Dream

My Dream
Frank Jay Leonard
Lima, Peru
May 6, 2009 - 2am

I have awakened early this morning from a dream that came from somewhere very deep within me. It flooded me with a kaleidoscope of images that felt ancient. Actually, the images were from more present times, but the knowing I was left with feels as if it exists in the earliest memories buried within the genes and chromosones of my biology.

There are so many wisdoms and knowings that lie within me, of which I know virtually nothing. My immediate thoughts upon awakening had to do with the psycho-therapy work that Steve does, the knowledge of which I have from Joyce. It is unimaginable that the intensity of the images that came with this dream, their clarity and detail, could be attributed to anything that even comes close to thought or logic. This was not thought, but image.

That knowledge alone almost left me unwilling to get up and write. Whatever this dream means, it is not about words, but image, and image is the home of the artist. What I experienced this night is not meant to be expressed by me in writing some other book, though that too would be art, but through my eye, my camera, and my photography.

Today we visited the Museo Arqueologico Rafael Larco Herrera and saw paintings and carvings of the early Incan and pre-Incan peoples of Peru. There was a collection of erotic sculpture art from the Moche people. While there where no sexual images in my dream, I know that what I saw today churned up the most ancient and primordial of connections with my ancestors.

One knowing that comes out of this for me is that I am an artist, and that my gift will not only come from the thousands of figure photo images I have already taken, but also from those few that communicate a vision and understanding of what it is that I am attempting to capture. A few of my images maybe begin to come close. I think of one image in particular that has raised a very wide variety of reactions in people, from appreciation and enjoyment to disgust. It is amazing to me the incredible differences of interpretation that each of us bring from our own experiences, values, and biases to such an image. I want my images to carry the power and vision of an artist who is at the heart and core of his work.

There were so many images in this dream that I will continue to process over the next several days I am sure. There was a flood of images that evoke feelings of freedom and wildness and capture and escape. There were flashing images that spanned decades of human passion, endeavor, and conflict. It was epocal in nature. I awoke breathless, almost gasping for air.

I think maybe I am ready to return to bed, to lay beside my beloved Joyce, to not worry about whether I fall asleep or not, and to let my mind and body sort more through what all this means - but this I know already - this dream is about my connection to those ancients from whom I am descended, and it is about my art. I want to not only become more passionate about my art, but to focus my eye and my skills towards producing that which has not yet been seen.

One last point. The times I have traveled to Mexico have always left me feeling like I was home. I know already that Peru feels the same way. These are my people and this is my home too. What we will see as we move into Machu Pichu I cannot even yet imagine, but I know that it will continue to evoke stirrings and wrestlings within. My eye, my eye, my eye. I must begin to see more clearly and deeply that which I am stirred to photograph and to share with others. I do not want my new gallery to only include images of pretty landscapes and women. I want it to be an expression of something at the core of life, sensuality, connection, beauty, and of the earth.

Frank Leonard
Lima, Peru
May 6, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tall, Gentle, Slow

tall, gentle, slow

joyce and i jokingly referred to our easter sunday outing
as a trip to a pagan service
let's see, pagan, what does that mean?
i guess it means anything other than the religion
with which any of us were raised.

in my case, that would certainly not have us starting out
by facing the four directions
to drumbeat and word,
then taking a drum beat silent quiet journey,
during which we were to internally go to our teacher
and ask a question,
then sharing with each other our internal wanderings.

it certainly wouldn't have included planting a tree
with each of us having a role of preparing,
digging, planting, watering,
or witnessing.

it was a beautiful day
subtle in many ways
and it brought a shift in me.

it had actually already been coming for several days
i had sent out a facebook invite that very morning
to every person i had previously assumed
might be estranged from me
the response has been beautiful.

i won't tell you the whole story of that pagan day
i will just tell you the conclusions

i don't have a teacher anymore.
the one i had doesn't want to be a teacher anymore
and i totally get that.
i don't either.

i left teaching in the church
after twenty-five years
and now i have retired from public education and counseling
after twenty-two years.

the truth of the matter
is that i already know what i need to know
does that mean i always make good choices?
health care is the best example
i know exactly what i need to do
it's not knowledge i need
it's backbone.

i came away from that drum beat journey with three resolves
to walk tall
to walk gently
and to walk slow.

that is what i am going to practice.
love you

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Business or Hobby? A Life Choice

Business or Hobby?

I look at my life, which has been crammed plum full for the past eight days, and I wonder, "Why this pace? I thought this was retirement." I am so excited by so much that I am doing, launching a new website and constructing a gallery/studio on our property. At the same time I am realizing that something is not right here. Finally, today, it became clear for me. I do not want to build a business. I want to enjoy my photography as a hobby. In some ways, that won't change anything. I will still be doing the things I enjoy doing. It's just that I want to slow it down even more.

I don't want another job, not even my own. I want to play and I want life to be enjoyable. I cringe when Cap (my 82 year old second Dad) says, "Oh, that's too bad," when I am telling him I need to get two more inches of earth out of my future gallery/studio.

I enjoy the labor. I don't need to "arrive" anymore. The promised land to me has to do not with destination, but with journey. I want to enjoy the journey even more fully. If I make some shekels along the way, great. If not, that's ok too, because I want to now limit myself to the $245 I have coming in a month for Social Security. In these tight times I feel ok limiting myself to that and not dipping into family funds at a time where Joyce and I are realizing that we cannot spend as we once did.

It's going to be good for me. I need to ask again the question of whether I want something or need something. It's going to be good for me to have to choose between being able to do another photoshoot or buy the next round of 2x4's for the gallery. It is going to be good for me. I know that. I want to live my life and my hobby in the ways that count most. For me, those "ways" have everything to do with learning to enjoy the two inches of earth that need to be removed.

Love you!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

It only makes sense to me . . .

It only makes sense to me
that life emerges wherever the conditions are right.

To think that some god
decides where life is going to happen
and where it is not
is absurd,
if you really think about it.

Any god there is,
any divine there is,
has to come from within.

If I offend you,
I ask you to excuse me.

but still
I need to say it.

If I'm wrong, you be the judge
I'm ok with that.

But just think about it -
The process of evolution
is the mechanism for it all.

That's where the energy comes from
from the genes and cells and chemicals
that make up this universe.

But even the inside can be misunderstood
and false gods can be set up.

When a god becomes intentional,
some entity deciding what is good
and what is to be created,
then we have moved into fantasy.

It just is what it is.

The energy of life
can just be so much fun!

I finished an online course today,
and I have another tomorrow.
I live in the redwoods.
I am retired.
I am in love
with Joyce.
I do and love photography,
and am beginning the development
of a professional artistic photo site.

Life is good.

But it is not good for everyone.
There is friggin' pain in this world,
inflicted every second of every day
by unthinking or foolish or mean people.

Life is not guaranteed
to turn out good.
It takes work on all our parts
to make it happen.

We could end life as we know it on this planet,
but as I have said before,
it already has and will continue to emerge
wherever conditions are right
in many places in this universe.

Which brings me back to where I began.

Life emerges wherever conditions are right.
It really cannot be any other way.

And where does that leave us?
Simply with the fact
that you and I
have consciousness.
We are the recipients
of the gift of life.

We need to take the biggest advantage
of having this gift.

Had my father not saved me in that river
I would not be here,
and my sons would not be here.

But we are here.
We are all here.

And as my mom would say,
we just need to love,
and not give up to those who would laugh
at such a suggestion.

It IS all about love
and there are many ways that lead to love
many paths.
When sincere and honest and loving hearts
focus their attention on anything,
change can happen.

We just have to have more people seeing it the same way.
Enough of that happened to elect a new president

but we get lazy.

Prius sales went down when the price of gas went down.
We are so shortsighted,
and I do mean we.

The problems will have to get bad enough
and consistent enough
before we will truly pull ourselves together.

It took George Bush
to elect Barack Obama.
It had to get that bad.

I think the gifted people
are the people who can maintain
a steadiness of purpose
and energy
and commitment,
even when the pressure is off.

Who can be role-models for the rest of us
who wait until it is way too clear
to truly act.

What a damn sermon.
A dear friend called me preachy
ten years plus since I left the ministry.

I guess I am.
You don't have to buy a word
of what I am saying.
That's ok with me,
but I cannot stop myself
from saying it.

I love you all,


(On the 200th Anniversary
of the birth
of Charles Darwin)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Atheism, Belief, and Energy

January 4, 2009

It was important to me, especially during a particular period of time, to call myself an atheist, even though I never said it quite that bluntly.  It was in that time after I left both the ministry in which I had served 25 years, and my first marriage of 28 years.  My dear friend Greta says the atheism didn't surprise her at all, that she knew that was something natural for me to go through.  Am I through it?  Not really.  May never be.  But I don't call myself an atheist anymore either.

We are just beginning to understand, if that's even the right word, the energy that connects us all with each other and with the cosmos.  We are all of one piece, one thread.  And despite the ways in which human beings divide themselves from each other, either because of religion or nationality or sexual identity, despite the ways in which this world seems at times to be at the brink of disaster, I still believe that the world is a good place and that people are by nature good.  
Life may not survive on this planet.  We may blow ourselves up before life gets to run its full course here, but life will continue to happen somewhere, even if not here.   We could not be that privileged.  Life emerges when conditions are right, and it emerges anywhere those conditions exist.  Life is not given from the outside, but emerges from the inside, from the cellular structure of all things.   

In that sense, there truly is no god, someone outside of us, managing, or blessing, or blaming anyone.  The generating energy of this universe comes from within, not from anything outside of us.  It is not granted or taken away from us because of what we believe, or don't believe.  It is an integral part of every cell that is in us. 

In that sense, we are god.  But if we ever, and it is so easy to do, if we ever let that go to our heads, then we are doomed.  There always has to remain the attitude of thankfulness, that the life you and I have is pure gift.  There is not a thing that either you nor I did to be born, or to be given this life.  Afterlife?  I don't know.  I don't think so.  But even without, this is the one life we have been given, and we need to live it with all the passion and excitement and commitment and service that we can.

As I sat outside tonight, in the clear, crisp air of my mountain home, I counted the many blessings of my life.

My life is gift.  My wife and I are enjoying living and owning property in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  I am retired.  I have resumed my lifelong passion of photography - and writing - and I can even feel the draw to resurrect my clock driven 10 inch reflecting telescope out of moth balls.  Life is just busting wide open for me right now.  I finally, finally, have the time, if I use it well, to put my life together in ways that are rewarding and serving.  I served my cats in the fence I built today.  As with most projects, when they are done, I have a hard time not just sitting and looking at them.  And I did that tonight.  

That completed fence brought more tears than I have cried in a long, long time, and they were tears of gratefulness.

You know what I want to do.  I want to eliminate steps and rough ground between the house and the frame shop.  With Cap, we just purchased a rolling chair for him.  In just the last several days, we have gone out more with Cap than ever before.  We all went to New Year's Eve breakfast and had a marvelous time.

I want that distance between the house and the frame shop smooth, and I want in the Spring, when the weather turns warmer, to roll my second father on a regular basis out to the frame shop, where I can work and we can talk and I can seek his advice.  Life is good.  Joyce and I recently have seen  the movies "Milk" and "Doubt."  It doesn't get any better than that.  Great movies!!!

May be a strange way to end a journal post that started out talking about atheism, but wherever you or I are in our lives, whatever we may believe, may we continue to celebrate life, to see good movies, to read good books, to be with friends, and to serve others.



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's been a strange three or four days . . .

It's been a strange three or four days,

and yet, not bad.

The organizing thing for me has kicked into high gear,

from hanging files and category slots,

to getting back onto an electronic calendar,

something I haven't attempted in many years.

For the past three days I have been living my life

the way I want to be.

I have been organized, getting good rest,

eating well, even exercising,

and getting things done.

Then this afternoon

 I allowed myself to get stressed.

It was not fun.

And it's ok.

I have seen the way it can work,

and when it works well,

 when it works efficiently,

then everything else

has a chance to fall into place.
 Priorities can emerge

from thought and reflection.
 Focus can pave the way

to producing beautiful pieces of art.
 Time can allow it all

to actually have a chance of taking place. 
The difference, I believe, is intention.
 Do I live my life openly and spontaneously,

simply waking each day

 and letting come what may?

  Or do I plan it, and organize it,

 with intention?

  That is an important question.

  I don't have it fully answered.

  But I am pretty damn sure that it takes planning

 to avoid walking blindly

into things we should have seen coming.
 Some spurious thoughts to my friends

on this eve of New Year's Eve.

I love you,