I met James many years ago, when he was a strident poet with a pastoral bent and I was a struggling novelist. We argued, laughed, and bonded over borscht and vodka while we completed our MFA degrees at the University of Arkansas. Both single, we commiserated over the difficulties of finding a great life partner as we navigated jobs, family, and the daily grind of life.
He gave me great advice when I decided to spend some time teaching English overseas, as he had been an ESL teacher in Japan and Malaysia, and when I met my wife in Ukraine, he was one of the first I told. So when he talked about this new woman in his life, Tania, a few years ago, I was excited for him. They met when Tania came to Kentucky for a program that enhanced the English of foreign English teachers. She was from Ecuador, but that didn't stop James from realizing the special bond they shared, and when she went home, their bond only grew.
So it was no surprise he called me asking for advice about getting her and her beautiful daughter visas to come live with him. He had been with me as I navigated the immense bureaucracy of USCIS trying to get visas for my wife and stepdaughter. So I was with him as he battled through the process over the winter and spring, finally securing a fiancee visa for Tania and her daughter. Of course I was there to photograph the wedding.
This was a relaxed, intimate wedding in the heart of bourbon country, and it couldn't have fit James and Tania more completely. As the sun set, we trekked out to Shaker Village, where James had proposed, and we walked up the hills of the preserve to one of his favorite places. Pristine natural grasslands on the rolling hills of Kentucky, this was where James often came to keep himself centered, and it helped me understand his connection to nature and his connection to his beautiful bride. Thank you, James and Tania, for sharing the weekend with me. And for the great local bourbon, which is almost gone!