As some of you have already surmised, the pictures people are starting to call "The Willa Cather Portraits," show Maria, but these photos are not really only about her. They are my way of talking about love in a world that no longer knows how to talk about love or wishes to.
What is it we talk about in our world? Money, power, fear, conflict. You can go a long way watching the news before you will find a story or conversation about love. As an older man, talking about love has always been uncomfortable for me, as it is for so many men.
All the more important to do it. I want to talk about love every day, but I rarely find the clarity or strength to do it. Apart from everything else, the world sees older men as having left love behind to worry about their health and retirement funds.
But what I've learned is that health is about love, and to be loveless is to be broken and incomplete. There are many ways to love – you can love animals, work, nature, people, family. I tried living a loveless life, it was a dark and barren place.
Being love is frightening, the stakes are high, the risks great. Ask any young man what will happen to him if he talks about love to his friends, his father, his brother, his classmates.
I am never easy talking about love.
Mary Oliver says that to live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it, and when the time coms to let it go, let it go.
You do not have to be good, she writes. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."
There are many easier things to do in the world – hate, argue, judge – than love, but easier is not better for me. The best things in life are difficult. My Willa Cather Portraits, everyone of them, are love letters to Maria. And my own never-ending dialogue about love.
I think it is important that we speak about the sappy, cliched, sissified subject of love, the subject real men always run from. It is believe that the Duke never talked about the meaning of love, not once in the 178 movies he made. Do real men talk about love when they gather? Or do you have to stop being a real man to think about love?
Love for me is ACCEPTANCE. Loving the worst as well as the best of another human. And accepting it all.
Love is about TRUST. Secrets poison and corrode love.
Love is about ANGER. Love is never perfect, intimacy brings contempt and frustration and fatigue. Argument is the Mr. Clean of love, it washes – flushes, if you will – the sludge and detritus out. Love without anger is a bomb waiting to explode.
Love is CONDITIONAL. Unconditional love is good for dogs, but not for me. To be loved, I must meet many conditions; I must be encouraging, faithful, considerate and I must listen.
LOVE is about COMPROMISE. I get things, I give things up. All the time. Rigidity is an enemy of love.
LOVE is about FAITH. And HOPE. Love is the song of our better angels, it is the antidote for hate and rage and cruelty. One day, our presidential debaters will talk about love. Love is the FAITH in another, a sacrament.
When it is over, I want people to say of me that I was a bride married to wonder. And I was the bridegroom, falling in love with the world.