What to say about Boundless Nation?
Those who know me personally – as well as those who have continued to follow this blog despite having never met me – know that I’ve undergone a personal transformation. I’ve moved around, lived in interesting places, and challenged myself to create offbeat work and art. I’ve redirected my life’s path while being completely honest with myself along the way: honest about who I was before and who I am now, where I’ve been and where I’m headed. I’ve severed ties with negativity as much as possible, ended relationships from the past, and begun new ones, too. This personal transition can be best summarized by saying that I’ve required myself to gauge and identify what really matters most.
Through a great deal of hard work and hard-earned experience, my perception of myself has greatly improved over the past three years as well. And perhaps more importantly, I’ve remained to feel good and happy to be alive in all I set out to do. Sure, I’m not all sunshine on the daily; but overall, I’m pleased with what I have in life and optimistic about where it’s going.
So, as a result of this extensive reconstruction of my life, I’ve experienced a renewed focus to help others. Ten years ago as a college student, I was quite idealistic, altruistic, and concerned with serving others. Involved in politics and the non-profit industry, I believed I could singlehandedly influence the world with positive change. But, young and inexperienced, I over-estimated the likelihood of my individual impact – whether that impact was with regard to our country, the global economy, the environment, or even just the internet. So much has changed since then. I am different, the world is different, and yet, here I am.
I’m lot more realistic than I use to be. I’ve learned what it means to be humble. And I’ve failed at a lot of things without letting it be the end of the world. I’m softer, more understanding, and perhaps even a little more wise.
When it comes down to it, one specific experience served as the pinnacle for this major shift: 36 days, alone in a rural setting, watching the sun rise and set each day. It was a level of solitude that allowed me to peel back the layers of my life in a deeper way than ever before, forcing me to recognize the good and the bad. In the process, I let go of things that held me back from being the better person I wanted to be. The time I spent with no company other than myself signaled a restart; a refresh; a wake-up call to find a new, better way to progress. I haven’t been the same ever since.
And people noticed. I was a different person: happier, healthier, and kinder. Through various social circles, people began to reach out and ask what happened, and how they too might feel better about their own lives. As if the qualities I had taken on were not only benefiting the way I felt about my own life, it seemed to be infectious. It’s propelled me as things have unfolded over the last few years, raising my awareness for more people to feel better about themselves and their path.
The world we live in can be complex and unfair, making it extremely difficult to maintain a sense of balance and purpose in the face of harsh external realities. Maintaining your own emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental balance – especially in the areas of work, family, and interpersonal relationships – requires constant monitoring. It takes great dedication to cultivate your own sense of happiness, and even more dedication to sustain it. Because of this fact, I suspect there are many who don’t know true happiness: to wake up with it everyday, for extended periods of time, feeling calm, healthy, and excited to be alive. Our personal burdens make it difficult to consider this possibility.
That’s what Boundless Nation is all about. It’s my attempt at spreading the happiness I feel, and attempting to help others help themselves. Everything that Boundless currently is, and could eventually be, comes down to the individual will. It’s up to each of us to find our own way towards whatever it is that truly sets us free. Then, we can be our best selves for ourselves and, ultimately, for each other.
I have great expectations for Boundless Nation – and with a healthy amount of reasonability, I’m putting it out into the world so that it may unfold to its greatest potential.
Here is the website and venture as it stands today:
Connect up, join the movement, be your best-self, and everything will be okay.
This is just the beginning.
Today is the 33rd anniversary of the birth of my current human form. It’s my Birthday as conventional thinking goes. 33 years is one way to think about. It’s definitive, linear, concrete, and formal. But, today I’m thinking about my birthday in a different way. I am a human who is the product of 90,000 generations of human evolution. My genetic make-up has been growing, changing, and developing here on Earth for 4.54 billion years.
I have 7.046 billion relatives. My diverse and expansive family has very different attitudes, customs, cultures, beliefs, experiences and emotions. We are all like unique individual snowflakes floating around our world. And yet my families’ DNA the building blocks of our bodies is 99.9% the same. We might all be individual and unique snowflakes, but at the end the day we’re also all still just a bunch of snow.
Today is my birthday and I am 4.54 billion years old. My human bodies mass is 99% made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Another 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. Each of these elements were created in explosions during the death of large stars billions of years ago light years away from where I sit now. Trace amounts of these elements help my body function and are a part of my being. I am literally made up of stardust. We all are. In that sense I’m fairly old thinking within our human created convention the linear framework of time.
Today is my birthday I am 13.8 billion and 33 years old today – give or take. That might seem kind of old to you, but I don’t think of it like that. Today is my birthday and I am neither young nor old. I am nothing, I am everything, there is no such thing as time – I am simply alive. For that, I will celebrate this day.
In a few days I’m moving from the Twin Cities where I’ve lived in various spots around town for the last 9 years. I’ve moved away before. In college I lived in the Caribbean for a while. My first job after college was in Washington D.C. working in the Senate. A year after that I lived in Austin, TX. Each of these moves were for different reasons and gave me some cherished life experiences and friends. Looking back now on the places I’ve lived in the past I can see and feel the distance between who I was then and who I am now. In some ways I’m not so different. I still have a lot of the same interests, mannerisms, beliefs, and the same kind of energy about me. But, the ways in which I’m different now are important and I feel more whole. I feel more complete in my being- if that makes sense. When I was growing up into my teen years and beyond into my 20’s I had a lot of confidence and didn’t fear much if anything. I was good at getting situations to end up in my favor. When looking back if I didn’t want to be completely honest with myself I could soften my perspective on my past by thinking of myself as a kind of energetic motivated eager charming fellow trying to make his way in the world. Which is partially true. But, if I am being completely honest with myself I’d also have to admit that my confidence wasn’t so benign and that more or less I had an ego problem. As in, I often actually felt like I was better, smart, or some other version of superiority than many if not most of everyone else. And that my motivations where often selfish. And my charm was a tool for manipulation. If I could get something from someone that I wanted, then why not? Although, I never took advantage of women. I hurt a few of them, but never intentionally.
Regardless my over active ego and manipulative charm work well for me for a long time. Generally speaking I got what I wanted, did what I wanted, and lived how I wanted. And I suppose I wouldn’t say I was a totally crazy ego-manic, but in the past I never would have or could have admitted that I had any sort of issue with it, mostly because I wasn’t self aware enough to even realize what I was doing. It’s just who I was. On some level I suppose I was born that way.
It took me a long time of failing and hitting a lot of the same walls over and over again to recognize the patterns that were showing up in my life and in the end finally being able to openly and honestly see my own part in them. It’s a super humbling experience to admit to yourself honestly that you’re a huge part of your own problem. It can hurt to look into the mirror and not have an excuse for the truth that is staring back at you.
The trick for me when I finally saw my whole self, the good parts and the bad parts was to not get too down on myself. Just taking it in for what it was. Seeing my own truth without putting any judgement on it. Taking stock of what was my reality. The reality that I had created and that I was living. And once I got to a place of real clarity and real honesty without judging myself I asked myself the only thing you can in that situation, which is, “What am I going to do about it?” Or rather “who am I going to be now?” My answer was simple. I wanted to become a better, more honest, more sincere, more humble, more healthy, and more happy person. I wanted to become the best person I could be.
My real hard look in the mirror moment happened about 3 years ago now. Since that time I have actually become a better person on some level in all of the ways I had hoped I could. And it’s a funny thing because the better you become and the better you feel the more happy you become and the more happy you become you just want to keep on going… and be as happy as you possibly can as much as you can. The feeling of deep and genuine soulful happiness is amazing. It has it’s own layers too. When you feel that way and you live that way things start to work out for you in amazing ways. People want to be around you. Other people want to help you. Strangers are nicer too you. Things line up for you. You feel lucky because you are lucky. You’re lucky to be so happy and so healthy- you’re alive. But, not just breathing, but alive in your whole being. You beam and everyone and everything around you knows it, feels it, and either loves you for it or tries to tear you down. But, when you’re there feeling super pure, super honest, genuine, good, kind, giving, loving, happy and alive – you are doing and being exactly what you were born to do. You were born to live in a way that makes you most happy that isn’t hurting anyone or anything else. That’s it. It’s so simple and I think we all know this, we all know somewhere inside of ourselves we’re suppose to be happy.
But, it’s funny how we get so lost in our lives. We chase other peoples dreams. We follow the rules of our society or our work place that we know are wrong. We lie and cheat and steal because we can get away with it. We overlook our flaws and over inflate our accomplishments. We do all kinds of things and live all kinds of ways so we don’t ever need to actually be completely and fully honest with ourselves because if we were it would mean we’d have to do something about it. It’s easier to pretend that nothing is wrong than try to fix something that might require a lot of hard work and pain in the process. But, if we all had the courage to admit our mistakes, admit our flaws, take ownership and responsibility over our own issues- the real things holding us back, we’d find out in the end that true freedom is on the other side of those walls. True freedom and happiness lives only on the other side of our own walls the ones we have created for ourselves. Your only limitation is yourself. It’s ironic really.
You can get there. I feel like I’ve made it. I’m happy. Not all the time and not everyday, but somehow I’m deeply happy in a way I never knew before and I know that it’s real. And living what I feel makes me want to see everyone else get here too. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about all of us feeling better. Being better.
So if I’m finally completely happy then why would I move?
Because now it’s time to celebrate. It’s time for dessert. It’s time to be free. And live exactly the way that feels most right. I’m living to fuel my happiness.
When I look back at my 2013 there are two fairly distinct thoughts that go through my mind. One being that the year seemed to go by more quickly than previous years. Of course the year did not go by any quicker, but I think it felt that way for me because I was more active in certain aspects of my life especially in my work. I worked a lot more in 2013 than I did in 2012 or 2011.
The other thing that stands out for me so clearly at the end of this year is how much I can see where my life is now was a part of a longer continuation over the last few years of a very deliberate, mindful, and intentional path I’ve been on internally, and in every other aspect of my life.
2011 was a year when a number of things hit a wall for me. Which of course had been building up for a handful of years leading up to that dramatic year when nothing seemed to work and I was getting hit from every angle. That build up and crash had happened to me before in other years and in other ways, but something was different and more final about it then. Without going into the longer version here (which I will share at some point in the future via a written essay) I will say that my response to this cyclical build up and crash was also different. In 2011, I took off. Like, really took off. In the fall of 2011 I spent close to 300 hours for 36 days in a row alone. Again, I’ll save the full story for another day, but having that experience changed my life and is an important part of the story behind my 2013.
During those 36 days I asked myself a lot of questions. Specifically, why is it that these ‘walls’ keep happening to me? What is the pattern here? Why is my life not working out how I want or have planned for it too? And after many hours alone I finally figured it out. The answer isn’t really that shocking. I realized, “Oh, I get it. All this shit that is happening ‘to you’ isn’t coming from some external place, no one, and no things are creating these problems for you. – You are your own problem.” Again, I finally got it. I realized that when I looked closely enough at my problems I could see clearly my own part in them. Once I finally could see things for what they really were from a truly open and honest place I had to decide what to do about it. For me, that answer came fairly quickly and clearly. I needed to change. I wasn’t too judgmental of myself and didn’t try to hide from my own issues either, but I was very humbled by the process. I had to look in the mirror and own the parts of myself that basically sucked. It is a hard thing to admit to yourself your own serious flaws and then commit to trying to do something about them. It’s embarrassing and can make you feel like a weak or even a bad person. I had extended moments where I thought, “Wow, I really am a bad person.” But, again, I got past that and realized that no, I wasn’t actually a bad person, I just needed to become a better person. The question wasn’t about how bad or good I was. It became about how much better could I become? That’s where I ended 2011. How much better can I become?
That question was my focus for the next year. 2012 was an amazing year for me with a lot of personal growth. I slowed way down. I became way more intentional about what I was doing with my life and why. I devoted more time to the people, places, and things that I cared about most. I continued to reduce my possessions. I spent more time outdoors and climbing. I became a much happier person and was even more honest with myself and with other people around me. I stopped trying to force things to work and was more open to the things that already were working. And I continued to ask myself the same questions over and over – how can I become a better person? I also started to feel a stronger and deeper sense of appreciate for all of the good things that were in my life my already. I found myself looking at small little things or moments in a more positive light and noticing things that in the past I would have surly taken for granted. Ultimately, I became a better more happy person. It felt like a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders. The happiness I grew into during last year was more foundational than I had felt during other happy years in my life previously. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that in 2011 I finally ‘woke up’ to see things inside of myself and outside of myself from a more aware and honest place, or in other words I had experienced an ‘awakening’. And that in 2012 as I worked towards becoming a more happy and better person I was also becoming more spiritual.
Looking back over my 2013 I see how the shifts I had gone through over the last few years have carried over into this year and another level of happiness arrived for me. This past year I felt a type of balance I’ve never felt before. My life just flowed. All of the elements of things that I care about came together in my work, climbing, gardening, spending time with my best friends and family, travels, finances, and my daily life just came together. Sure, I had crabby moments, tired and hungry moments, some stressful days, and not everything worked according to plan. But, I was still happier than I’ve ever been in a deep foundational kind of way. And I still had many moments of overwhelming appreciation for just being alive. Sometimes I would take a drink of water and go, “Man, I’m so lucky to be able to drink clean water.” I’d almost get emotional about it. I mean, shit, I never use to be like that. I never thought twice about how lucky I am to be able to drink clean water. But, when you do think about it though, you know you are lucky.
Looking back on 2013 all I can see and think about is how unbelievably lucky I am to have lived this past year and experience everything that I did, in good health, with people that I love, and doing so many of the things I’m so passionate about.
I know that life changes, nothing stays the same, life isn’t fair, I will struggle, fail, and I will fall again, but I feel at least for right now, I’ve finally found my balance, my foundation, my happiness, and the right kind of appreciation for life. All I hope for this coming year is to stay mindful, awake, aware, and focused on maintaining my balance. And helping others find their balance too because happiness is worthwhile when shared.
Going through all my images from 2013 felt almost overwhelming at first looking back on all that I was able to do, see, be, and create during this past year. My whole year was wonderful with hardly a dull moment. Here are bunch of other images from my 2013. I’m very grateful for all of my experiences and look forward to whatever the new year might bring.
The ice road to Madeline Island.
Out the window of a friends house looking at his barn in the woods.
Snow shoeing adventures on the North Shore.
Ice fishing with my dad.
I shot the 2013 30 Days of Biking group photo again this past year. What a group of inspired folks!
I saw a few shows this year including a great Garrison Keillor show with my parents this past fall.
I got my car stuck in a snow bank on Christmas just to have my cousins help me out!
A few of my cuz’s matching at Christmas.
I chopped a decent amount of wood this year as well. You know, keeping up with my man tasks. Ha!
At the sold out Prof First Ave. show. Supporting my brother-in-law who manages Prof and co-owns his record label Stophouse.
I was given a princess cake for my b-day by the fine folks at Phillip’s Garden. How did you guys know that’s what I wanted?
I went to a wild and weird river show.
Did some walking and standing at various airports around the nation.
I found this bird in my front yard randomly one summer day and took him to the animal shelter.
I watched a house burn down in St. Paul as a part of an art exhibit.
I gave a talk at the spring Ignite event about – Energy Vampires!
Somewhere up there…
An amazing breakfast with amazing friends in Delta WI.
Lady helped pick out some of my work clothes this year.
And looking cute.
I got an awesome super powered crystal for my birthday.
Learned more about the energy in my body!
Appreciated some rainbows and all the great energy around me!
During this past year I was able to attend a few special weddings and I was also honored with the task of officiating a handful of weddings as well. Below are images from some of these weddings and the memorial service for a close friend who passed away this year. Gay marriage was legalized in MN during 2013 and I was also lucky enough to attend two marriages that were formerly not legal in our state. It’s good to see that in some aspects of our society things can change.
My friend and fellow photographer David Mendolia took these great shots from Andy and Busola’s wedding one of the weddings I was honored to officiate this past summer.
Their wedding was outdoors in a beautiful location. I’m very happy for these two.
Another wedding I had the honor of officiating in 2013 was for Ryan and Karen. Their wedding was wonderful with a large gathering of friends and family in a very cool art gallery space. These two are a happy pair. Kate Sommers took these photos.
On a more sad note these images are from a memorial service for my dear friend Harry who passed away in 2013. Harry lived a good life and his memorial celebrated and honored him in a way that he would have appreciated with a gathering of friends, dogs, family, food, and stories. He will be missed.
Harry’s Daughter Kate listening as friends share stories Harry would have loved.
Here’s my sister Claire and I attending our mutual friends Jake and Chris’s wedding. It was a fun and grand affair!
They pulled out all the stops. The wedding even included ariel dancers!
Minnesota was the 12th state in the nation to allow for gay married in 2013. This was Jake and Chris’s ice sculpture to honor that milestone.
In 2013 I transitioned my primary business away from photography towards other ventures including welding. But, I was still able to get in a handful of photographic and written features for the Clark Loves Me project. I started the Clark Loves Me project in 2012 and will continue it into the new year with some new features like video content. Here’s a look at some of the folks featured in 2013.
Andi Dickson of Six Speed whose agency sponsored the Clark Loves Me creative project in 2013.
Patrick Rhone who is a MN based author and minimalist expert.
Anne Lappe is a nationally recognized best selling author who writes about sustainable food and agriculture.
Count LeShoc of Transylvania Television.
And font designer and artist Chank Diesel!
2013 was finally the first year after many years of wanting to get into wetplate photography that I actually was able to start doing it. I was extremely lucky to be able to buy all of Robert Maxwell’s (the famed portrait photographers) wetplate gear from him before he moved from LA back to NY. This is a sampling of some of the wetplate work I created this past year. I look forward to being able to do MUCH MORE this coming year. It’s an incredible process and I’ve got a special ‘surprise’ project in the works. I can’t wait until it’s ready for the world to see! In the meantime here is some of the work I created in 2013.
Test shots of Osama and I
There are seven sets of chemicals involved in this process and each of them needs to be mixed by hand. I’ve become a chemist!
Wet chemicals on plates of black glass.
What it looks like behind the camera.
Putting a plate of glass into the camera with the wet chemicals on it. Ready, set, shoot!
In December I got a chance to get back to Austin, TX. I lived in Austin 8 years ago and haven’t been back for 7 years. It was a much needed trip to visit the friends I’ve missed. The town has changed more than I could have imagined, but it was wonderful to see all my friends doing so well. The trip was amazing.
My friends and brothers Jon and Jeff Ray made a movie this year and it premiered while I was down there so I got to see it on the big screen! It was awesome!
Me, Jeff, Jon, and Dusty. The original gang back together!
And a brit!
Inside the theater on opening night!
Jeff and Jon doing a Q and A before the show.
Natalie and Leanne Stott chilling at the Driskell before the show.
My bro Nate rocking it out at a Christmas party.
Classic texas… on the walls at the BBQ.
Texas does at least one thing right.
Inside my buddy Nate’s airstream guesthouse after a night of hard drinking. Whoot!
Spyderhouse Coffeeshop still the same!
Nate’s adorable kiddios.
Nate bossman. Representing one of Austin’s largest pedicab operations.
Breakfasting it up!!
Natalie’s alter of love!
This past year I was lucky enough to sneak away for a few really great outdoor climbing trips. I was able climb up on the North Shore and a spot in Southwestern MN called Blue Mounds. Both places were amazing and the climbing was wonderful. But, it’s about more than just the climbing it’s great to be outdoors especially with good friends. These kinds of trips are the highlight of my year.
On top of the rocks at Blue Mounds there are cactus – in MN! Who knew?!!