If you are a creative artist producing and publishing in the public arena, the focus of attention as a married couple will generally spotlight you. Your wife or husband can thus become a background character in the wings of your stage-like life. And although your spouse suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that are part of your creative career, the credit for endurance and any success is usually accredited to you alone. Your spouse is too often unfairly treated as second fiddle in a one-man band. Worse yet, they become subconsciously considered a live-in groupie.
Some spouses of creative artists survive the attention focused on their mates by generating very successful careers in their own right. They become doctors, lawyers, or Indian chiefs and thus can attain status by being introduced as such. But if spouses are creative artists, too, the competition for success usually overwhelms the marriage.
How can the career artist solve the perceived-worth dilemma of the partner when all the daily evidence points to the slavish demands of the art? Is devoted service to the artist’s production the purpose and destiny of the spouse’s life?
In our long marriage of nearly thirty years, my wife Pat and I have had to confront these questions. People in the literary and publishing trades who know us assure me that Pat makes me as an artist possible. Otherwise, by inference, I am impossible. I have to admit that their observations are valid. I am dyslexic; and if Pat were not a great copy editor, every one of my manuscripts would doubtlessly fall at least a letter grade. Pat also has infinite patience where I have only a fingernail hold on it.
I married Pat, however, for the presence of her inner light, her beautiful, unselfish, compassionate soul. All our friends and associates recognize her in this way; and when we are in the same room, I am second-banana to my beloved wife.
challenge me as the Anglo author, it was Pat whom they trusted first. It was Pat who was invited into the Cherokee Nation as the Chosen Daughter of a Greatly Beloved Cherokee Grandmother and was named Morning Song in a tribal ceremony.
Pat has been included in all our book research trips. She did a lot of the trip planning and backed up my location observations with photographs. As a former magazine editor of photography, I soon realized that Pat had a photographer’s eye for content and composition, and I began to rely on her pictures in the writing of visual descriptions in my books. Our trips together for her were sometimes respites from the household responsibilities that included three teenaged daughters.
Here are a few of Pat’s photographs that she had contributed to our book projects as well as some of her personal favorites.
For any married artist, your spouse is both your companion and your career partner. When you realize that you can have no success, no happiness, and no satisfaction from your art if your marriage doesn’t work, you will begin to celebrate your spouse as he or she deserves.