Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dreams, Initiation and Where do I go from here...

Some time ago, I had a series of dreams that tied profoundly to the connection of my life to Divinity. They were very Pagan in imagery and in form, but with subtle Christian underlay. To read through these dreams, which should be done before reading this post, check the tags "dreams, initiation". These dreams feel like a key to open a major part of my life - one that I have been moving towards for years.
Basically, there has been a growing call on my life towards initiation in the Wiccan/Pagan path that I have been walking, one that is dual with and inextricably wound around with my Christian faith as well. My pagan friends refer to the call to initiation not quite jokingly as getting "hit with the Oak branch"; as in Divinity swatting you upside the head and saying, pay attention, this is what you are called to do! It's been pretty apparent through many things, but in particular these dreams that I have been smacked pretty hard. And this is not something that you ignore forever.
Since having these dreams, I have spoken with several members of my community - the Back Porch Priestess, Dreamweaver, Priestess, and my Wiccaplace community. A point that has been raised from several different directions and in several different ways is "What is my connection to the Goddess as a woman who is going to initiate as Priest of the God?" In the third dream there is a moment of connection to the Goddess, the Divine Feminine, but the direct connection has been with Deity as Male, as the Lord of the Forest, ,Cernunnos and even beyond that, with Christ, who embodies this for me. But if I - as an androgynous transgender male and a lesbian butch female initiate in a dual God/Goddess tradition, that brings me to this question: what is my relationship as a man called to Priesthood with the Female Divinity, to the Goddess?
I was raised in the Christian faith. I still am a Christian. For me the two paths - Wicca and Christian are intertwined and bound inextricably together. So I did start out with the concept of Divinity as male, certainly, growing up in the church. But it did not take very long - somewhere in my early teenage years to come upon the idea -independently, on my own - that "God" was simply far bigger than anything that human words could describe. That even in "inspired" scripture, the idea of God the Father was simply a verbal picture that struggled to try to communicate relationship with God. So my image of Divinity grew beyond the idea of an "old man with a beard" that was pictured in art and in books for children. And the more I read, over the years, the more I saw in the Bible that there were as many feminine images contained of Deity as there were male. I was given Starhawk's "The Spiral Dance" when I was in college and was confronted there with the idea of Feminine Divinity that went far beyond the glimpses I had caught...but those glimpses. those sightings had already opened my mind and heart to a much larger world of possibility than anything I would find in the narrow barriers of the conservative church I grew up in. And I kept reading. History. Archeology. Art. And the more I read over the years the more it seemed as though the hint of the Goddess I saw shining through the pages of the Bible - censored, edited out and all but obliterated grew more and more evident.
Another very important book in this literary quest of mine was Riane Eisler's "The Chalice and the Blade", which looked at the rise of patriarchy, the existence of cultures that were gylanic and egalitarian that predated patriarchy and the existence of the Goddess as the Imprimatur of these cultures. Merlin Stone's book, "When God was a Woman" was another milestone, seriously delving into archeology and looking at the evidence and the record without the lens of patriarchal narratives blinding the interpretation. Finally, as I delved into the Bible itself, and into the original Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Chaldean - clumsily, as I do not remotely claim scholarship in those languages! - the very words themselves revealed Feminine Divinity - El Shaddai, with its link to the image of a woman's breast, Hokmah in the Hebrew and Sophia in the Greek - the Goddess of Wisdom who has existed from the beginning of time with God. The very Holy Spirit herself in the New Testament, carefully kept Gender neutral in the churches, scarcely more than a blind force that ministers barely speak of - the Greek for the Holy Spirit is Feminine Gendered!

Is there, in the Bible, a lost duality - a Goddess denied? Or does "God" simply transcend male or female - having aspects of both. In the book of Genesis, in the earliest version of the Creation story in chapter one, God is mention in the plural - "let us make man in our image", and goes on to say that we were created "male and female"...the implications are that God is perhaps more than "one" and that male and female are both found in divinity if they are found in human beings. The Spirit of God is said to move upon the face of the chaos before Creation, calling forth light and order - the Creatrix, the Feminine that is with Creator since before the foundation of the world?
She is named Hokmah, Sophia, Spirit...she is also named Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Innana, Freyja, Shakti, Hathor, Rhiannon, Rhea, Maat, the Morrigan...the list goes on. And I cannot doubt her existence. her duality, her individuality that is just as much a part of the One Who is the ground of All Being as "God", the male image of God is.

So, as I follow this path through to initiation, I will be becoming a Priest in this tradition. A Priest...not a Priestess. It is very clear from my dreams that this is how this is expressed in my life, as a male Priest for the God. So what is the relationship of a Wiccan Priest to the Goddess?

What is my relationship personally to the Goddess in the role of a Male Priest? To the Divine as Feminine? As I said above, my identity - or perhaps, identities - are as a transman and as a butch lesbian. This is significant and I need to speak of it for a minute, to be able to continue these thoughts. FtMs (Female to Male) transgenders generally are men in women's bodies. That takes a moment to think about. In reading and researching the subject, one of the most consistent points that is brought up is that FtMs are not comfortable in the lesbian community. Outer form to the contrary, they ARE NOT WOMEN. Many of them pass through the GLBT community on their way to transitioning. And they are poor fits as Lesbians. Lesbians, even butch ones, are NOT men. So this is something that makes me very different, in that I do feel comfortable as a lesbian woman. Its why I claim androgyny. claim both. (and anybody who wants to discuss labels, labeling and post modern narratives, go read my blog post "Pardon Me: Your Umbrella is Leaking- A Transgender Moment in Time", tagged "Transgender" and comment there!) There have been some who can only see the male in me, and there is some argument for that - it is my male "persona" that I am most comfortable with...I dress and present as male. I feel about a foot taller in my head than I actually am, and I can fool people very well when I cross dress in male drag. I am totally uncomfortable presenting as female - wearing feminine clothes absolutely makes me miserable. So it is not surprising that most people at a glance see the guy that I am and not the woman as well. My friends who are close to me know the woman...that I am tender, intuitive, verbally oriented and expressive in ways that are distinctly feminine. In fact, Hokmah, the Goddess of Wisom contained within the Old Testament is probably the aspect of the Goddess that finds expression in that intuition in me. Put a newborn baby in my arms and I turn very maternal. To absolute mush, actually. When I lived attempting to conform totally to the feminine image that society and the church require of me in my conservative upbringing, I was desperately unhappy...I cannot express that enough. But to see me as only male, to transition to one in totality, would be I feel, to lose and deny the feminine that is equally as important within me even though it may not be as evident.So, the ways I might relate to the Goddess as a woman are a mother in maternal feeling, in tenderness, in intuition. And there are plenty of strong warrior Goddesses that I relate to very well as a butch lesbian. Warrior Goddesses rock! But I will be initiating as the male transman - as a Priest. How does the male priest relate to the Goddess? Perhaps...perhaps as one who would serve her - not in a servile way, but in one who takes an oath - archaic language here, but it fits - of fealty, in loyalty, love and duty. A knight with her favor on my sleeve. Perhaps as the lover in the great rite - certainly if the God and Goddess are in all of us - and they are , see Carl Jung and the anima/animus that all people carry - as my Dreamweavers lover I am God to her Goddess, Lord to her Lady. Perhaps - and this is a new thought for me - as a Priest who can minister as one who knows both sides because of my unique juxtapositions of identities and how they are formed. I have already Priested several Circles as a Priest, to Dreamweavers Priestess. There is a deep feeling of reverence and connection to the Goddess in those moments, to the divinity that exists in every woman that I respond to as a male. The Winter Solstice Circle we ran together was a joy, in every way, for honored the male sense I have of myself, it honored the connection I have to the God, the desire I have to minister - to be a conduit for the sacred into this world. And it was a joy to be in the presence of Female Divinity, the Goddess, without Her being denied, bound, repressed or diminished. It felt balanced, whole to be in that position, Priest to Priestess, in the Presence of Deity as both Male and Female. Perhaps the role I feel as a male Priest of the God is to be a part of that balance, that other half...a balance I experience as a whole daily as one whose innerself contains male and female.

As a Priest - with definitely a quirky take on things! - I wish to serve the Goddess as any man wishes to serve the divine within any woman...with love, honor, loyalty and courage. And perhaps that is the best way to express it in the end. I am sure that this is not the last post I will make on the subject, as I begin to move towards initiation and have conversations with my community and my Priestess and with Dreamweaver. But this is a good place to start.

Blessed Be!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Once Again, Remember This Day...

The news is full of the report. Senator Ted Kenney has died of brain cancer after a career that spanned nearly 50 years in the senate...
Mass. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy dies at age 77
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer Glen Johnson, Associated Press Writer – 23 mins ago
BOSTON – Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the last surviving brother in a political dynasty and one of the most influential senators in history, died Tuesday night at his home on Cape Cod after a year-long struggle with brain cancer. He was 77.
In nearly 50 years in the Senate, Kennedy served alongside 10 presidents — his brother John Fitzgerald Kennedy among them — compiling an impressive list of legislative achievements on health care, civil rights, education, immigration and more.
His only run for the White House ended in defeat in 1980. More than a quarter-century later, he handed then-Sen. Barack Obama an endorsement at a critical point in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, explicitly likening the young contender to President Kennedy.
To the American public, Kennedy was best known as the last surviving son of America's most glamorous political family, father figure and, memorably, eulogist of an Irish-American clan plagued again and again by tragedy.
Kennedy's death triggered an outpouring of superlatives, from Democrats and Republicans as well as foreign leaders.
"An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of our time," Obama said in a written statement.
"For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts," said Obama, vacationing at Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.
Kennedy's family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday.
"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," the statement said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all."
A few hours later, two vans left the family compound at Hyannis Port in pre-dawn darkness. Both bore hearse license plates — with the word "hearse" blacked out.
There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements. Two of Kennedy's brothers, John and Robert, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued a statement that said, "It was the thrill of my lifetime to work with Ted Kennedy.....The liberal lion's mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die."
The article goes on to speak of his life and career - he had amazing successes, bitter family tragendy ( he was the only one of the four brothers to die a natural death) and painful scandals in his life. Be you liberal, conservative, or moderate, you cannot escape that this man did much good for his country and dedicated his life to serving it.
And that may be the greatest thing about him - his passion for his country and his willingness to place his life in service to it. It is an example to us all.
Fear No More
Fear no more the heat o' the sun;
Nor the furious winter's rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers come to dust.

Fear no more the frown of the great,
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dread thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave!

William Shakespeare

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Move Equals two Fires...part One

I am ashamed to say that this was the sad state of affairs of my art studio for quite a while. In it's defense, there was about 3 moves that occurred over time that caused this disaster. Not to mention a long period as it was building up when there was little I could do about it...I was struggling to barely walk with a cane with degenerative arthritis. But awhile back I finally got hip replacement surgery, and it was an enormous success.

Which of course meant that putting off dealing with the disaster lurking behind my studio door was suddenly NOT an option any more. It became something that MUST BE DONE. In the mean time, when I had moved over here some years back - boxes were shoved around. Dreamweaver finally was able to go and rescue stuff in storage from where she lived before - in another state! More - many more - boxes. My ex-husband but still friend over all these years passed away last fall, and we had the final duty of disposing of HIS stuff. More boxes. ( some of all of which went into a storage building on our property, which helped and we had Fiber Geek and GAFilk Friend to help us there with his stuff - and that is the story of part two of this post series! I always seem to be posting events backwards - perhaps that is because that is how life is perceived in memory...) About 3 weeks ago, or there-abouts, my dear friend Light out of the goodness of her heart let us sucker her into helping us finally, for once and for all, dig this out.

She came over on a Thursday night and we began organizing what to do. Friday morning dawned and she and I began moving boxes. First, we pulled everything OUT of the storage building and cleared it, to reorganize. Then we began pulling stuff out of the studio. Now...understand, most of what Dreamweaver and I have in boxes are books...paper back and hard back books. Between us we probably have about 4000 books. (yes, that is 3 zeroes and no, that is not a typo, as Light can now attest.) At first she was excited..."Oh cool! Books" By late Saturday, her joy as a bookworm had degenerated to "Um. Books. Yeah..." The bins with the books are, I might add, heavy. Some heavier than others. Eventually, the studio finally looked like this...some sweeping still to be done, but...we were getting there.By Monday, Lights reaction to me opening a bin and saying "Oh, surprise, books!" went something like this - "&%$@#!!" I now suspect along with paying her way to the GAFilk convention this coming winter - which is how we suckered her into doing this - I now probably owe her several, if not more therapy sessions to deal with her new found condition of Bibliophobia! Late Monday evening she went home. Exhausted, whupped and tongue dragging the ground. I would be more inordinately proud of my 47 year old self wearing out a 20 year old, except that the next day, Tuesday, I made it out of the bed as far as the computer chair in the living room, and then crawled back to bed. That was my excursion for the day! Yeeps.

I am still organizing, finding ways to shift things and arrange things. It's still a little messy, and a work in progress. However - I am painting! Instead of it being a massive jumble of stuff that stops you at the door, it is now a working artists studio, and functional...Most of my work is murals at sites else where. But it is absolutely imperative that I also function in my studio too, to produce work for sale. So, now The Barefoot Arts Studio is up and running...

I am working on a series of "cute animal" pictures based on the illustrative style I have used on the children's wing of a church school. I have been assured they should sell like the proverbial hotcakes. Feed back has been very positive from both the church, which is letting me sell the paintings there without charging a commission (!!!) and from friends and family who have seen the paintings in progress. This is the Panda bear painting - currently am working on Koala bears ( if you look close in the picture above, you can see the Koala bear painting on the easel).
Light, I want to thank you profoundly with all my heart for your cheerful willingness to work your ass off on this project - even though you seem to be very pleased with our offer to pay your way as a fair trade, I say to you, that you are owed so much more than that for your hard work, your unrelenting cheerfulness and your sense of humor which even the weight of 4ooo books could not dim. With Dreamweavers insane work and school schedule, and my own crazy hours and the limitation of some arthritis still, we could NOT have done this with out you, period. So thanks, with all our hearts for your heroic efforts above and beyond the call of duty or even friendship! We are looking forward to GAFilk with you next January! And I am sure we will all remember with fondness (or maybe not) the work we put into this to get there! We love you and never ever doubt it...we owe you, woman!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Special Encounter

In my previous post, "A Church Under Construction" (tags : GLBT, Transgender, Spiritual Issues) I told about our heart breaking day at church this past Saturday. However, in the midst of the pain and confusion I experienced, there was a small encounter that should not go unnoticed.

We ate lunch down at the church pavilion at midday, and of course, by that time, Dreamweaver had told me of her meeting with Mother L, and I was now sitting there, stunned and shaken to the core, fighting tears, and struggling to eat. Lunch was quite good - a salad, a roast beef sandwich on Asiago Cheese bread and so forth. As I sat there and wrestled my emotions and my food, I looked to my left and there was a small grasshopper on the picnic table a matter of inches from my arm.

Me being the kind of person I am, I stopped and spoke to it. I then pulled off a tiny piece of greens from my salad (making sure that the bit did not have salad dressing on it - wasn't sure it would agree with the little guy.) and cautiously placed it in front of the grasshopper. I fully expected him to hop away at the motion of my hand; these little insects can be very shy. he didn't. He sat there and eyed my offering, motionless. So, I went back to attempting to eat. When I glanced over a moment later, he had moved forward to the leaf of salad and begun to eat it quite happily! I was thrilled...OK, yeah, it doesn't take much to light up my day - I have a low happiness threshold! Dreamweaver, by this time, as well as other people at the table were now watching our little visitor eat lunch with us.

After lunch was over, Dreamweaver and I lingered alone for a moment before catching up with everyone for the next meditation. We kind of needed to talk, given our situation with Mother L. When we rose to leave, my little grasshopper was just finishing his lunch as well - and he had eaten most of it! Now fully expecting him to hop away, I reached down my hand in front of him, and instead of leaping away at the motion of my hand, he crawled on to my fingers and began exploring his way fearlessly across my hand, nibbling very gently at my finger tips. I was amazed! Grasshoppers have a pretty high startle reflex - any motion sends them hopping. Instead, my little fellow here was practically snuggling up to me, as though thanking me for lunch. I fished my cell phone out and tossed to Dreamweaver, and she got a few pictures of our grasshopper as he communed with me.

Finally, knowing we had to go on in, I stepped over to some long grass by the verge and held my hand down to it. He still did not hop away, but very carefully, after considering where he was for a moment, stepped with great dignity off my hand onto the broad grass blade next to him. As I stood up, he became nearly invisible, his natural camouflage shape and color blending perfectly into the leaf. I could only spot him because I knew where to look. I gently bid him farewell, and thanked him for making my day a little better, for sharing food with me, for existing in this world as the little marvel he was.
I suppose in away, I was really thanking God for that moment of communion with a fellow creature that I share this world with. It was a small wondrous moment of peace, of no great importance, save that it touched my heart, and allowed me to profoundly share a part of my world with the miracle of life. We are all of us such miracles - each of us unique and precious, whether we are straight or gay - which was the issue burning a hole in my heart at that moment. All connection is sacred and holy, even when we struggle at it.

I went back up to the church, with a small measure of peace sheltered in my troubled heart, able to connect once more with others.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Church Under Construction....

Part of me is saying to myself that this feels far bigger than it actually is, and that I have it out of proportion. The other part of me has been in tears off and on since yesterday, and does not expect to get through this post with out crying some more. However, writing things out and turning them inside out and upside down and thinking them over is a way to process and reframe and arrive at perspective and ideas for things to do. The other day, as mentioned in an earlier post on about Labyrinth, and the new look on my blog, we - Dreamweaver and myself - went to a "Quiet Day" at our church. Our church has a new sanctuary and has been under construction ( see the picture above), which is now finished. So our Quiet Day was in the new sanctuary, which is beautiful! The indoor candle lit Labyrinth was set up in the hall where the old sanctuary was, the out door Labyrinth was, of course and as always, available. A lovely lunch was provided...reading materials were provided. There were materials to make a sand labyrinth with. Communion was served. Quiet music...spiritual direction. A day to meditate, to rest and feed the soul...
Except that Dreamweaver and I arrived at the church with a storm in our hearts. The day before in our local paper there was an article on the second page about the Episcopalian Diocese in SC possibly splitting over the GLBT issues that are shaking the denomination and we were very concerned and rattled by it. Dreamweaver in particular was shaken, as she is about to be a very brave little Episcopagan and actually JOIN this church as a communing confirmed member. And as the very visible Lesbian couple in the church - and the only gay couple that we are aware of - we were feeling very unsure - like a target painted on our backs! Dreamweaver went to Mother L in tears for spiritual direction.
She received assurances that the church would stand by us, that we were welcome, that Mother L and Father M were on top of the situation...and then the conversation exploded in her face. Dreamweaver asked what could we do to help...and Mother L, without realizing she was putting a match to gasoline, made the statement that we should not have Public Displays of Affection - no putting our arms around each other, etc, until the church got "used" to us...
Dreamweaver caught up with me later on our way down to lunch and told me. I came to a dead halt and felt like someone had just punched me in the gut - HARD. Don't touch, don't look like a gay couple, don't make anyone uncomfortable...I live my life in this town with my head cranked over my shoulder gauging where I am, who is near, is it safe to be near my wife. GLBT people live daily with these decisions - can I put the picture of my partner on my desk at work, or will it get me harassed and fired? Can I put my arm around my lover, or is this area of town safe - could I get lectured by someone, beaten up, raped, murdered? Is the person in the corner someone who knows other people that I am NOT out to - will kissing my partner on the cheek and holding hands Out me to people I choose not to be Out to. Sean Kennedy was murdered a block from where Dreamweaver was working at the time - his murderer got manslaughter, served virtually no jail time, the rest of the sentence aborted. His ugly gay bashing phone call after he killed Sean was inadmissible in court. ( We live in a dangerous area of the country...
Church was my safe space. Years ago, when I first began attending, I caught Father M on the second time I was there and told him flat out I was gay, and asked if it was a problem...that if it was, I would just move on and keep church hunting. Father M hugged me and said that I was welcome as I am, and that there was no problem. Never have I felt so relieved, because I had fallen in love with this church. So for years I have been attending, quietly but openly gay- no flag waving, but no hiding either. My ex did not attend very often with me, which probably made it easier on folks to kind of ignore me, or not "see" what I am. Dreamweaver however, attends with me, and as I said earlier, is officially joining the church. Up until now, when our insane school schedules let us attend, we have sat together in the pew, with my arm around her, or holding hands, in the service, across the parking lot. I have felt safe. I have bragged that I attend a church where my love and I were welcomed and accepted as we are, a couple, a family, that we didn't have to hide, that this church has ministered to us as the Bible teaches - in love.
When I had my hip surgery, Mother L was at the hospital praying with Dreamweaver and my parents while they waited. When I got home and was recovering, the church brought us communion. When Gentle One and his wife who came to bring us communion saw our poverty and empty cupboards, he brought back enough groceries from the church to feed us for three months. When the electricity was about to be shut off, the church paid the bill. Indeed, my best guess is that over the last five years, they have financially helped with college book money, electric bill money, gas money, or just enough to keep the checking account from bouncing. Mother L, said this weekend that she wishes she could help us this fall, but the discretionary funds are empty and that distressed her. We didn't ask; but she knows our situation and we appreciated the fact that she wished she could help. In fact, a few times we asked for help, it didn't come from church money, but from Father M or Mother L's own wallet. Moreover, we right now have no means to give back the help that has been extended to us. Won't have it until we are out of college. (We both have had severe relationship/financial distress and changes in careers and have lost homes and financial stability. It won't always be this way. I have offered and will be donating a free mural to the church - I may not have money right now, but my talent and time is my tithe - when we move into our post college and grad school careers and stabilize, we will be paying forward by tithing to the discretionary fund account for those who come after us who are in similar condition). When I was under going one of the darkest periods of my life, I turned to Father M and received counseling, acceptance, and Christian love - the same from Mother L. This is a wonderful church - everything a church should be and more!
And all of a sudden, this. Don't be public. Don't be seen. Don't act like a couple publicly. I stood in the parking lot of the church and abruptly had tears pouring down my face. I kept telling myself the reaction was extreme, that this is a small thing, a misunderstanding, something we could accommodate if it would did no good. I could not stop the tears, or the feeling I had been stabbed through the heart, or that my "safe" church, my heart's home was suddenly no longer safe. I stumbled through the rest of the day, unable to focus on the meditation, only finding some peace and centering when I walked the indoor Labyrinth. D. who was in charge of the Labyrinth - keeping candles lit, providing writing materials, and spiritual direction - began her walk in on the Labyrinth as I was walking out. We came together at a turn, and I stepped back to let her pass. She walked up to me and hugged me, profoundly and deeply - I clung to her for a moment, feeling the love and acceptance heal me somewhat.
Later in the day I cornered Mother L. and went through the same discussion - poor woman! - wanting confirmation of what I had heard, to see where she was really coming from.
Mother L was a school teacher before she became an Episcopalian Priest. She is a very reserved woman herself. I think she is not comfortable with public displays of affection from anyone - that this extends not from bigotry, but from her own natural reserve and perhaps ignorance of GLBT issues. Just because some one is an ally, does not necessarily mean they are educated on all the issues and impacts of this culture. She did say that she did not want to make us uncomfortable, and to not worry about what she had pointed out if it did. She also admitted she would not have so counseled a straight couple...that last brought a look of sudden dawning realization to her face - the beginning of understanding of what she had just done. She was loving and compassionate, and when I said one of my dreams was for Dreamweaver and I to marry in this church and for her and Father M and Mother L to perform the ceremony, she lit up and said she wished with all her heart that someday that could happen. No. Not hate or bigotry. Or lack of acceptance. Only misunderstanding and cultural blindness. That was all we had time for, as the day was drawing to a close, and the final communion ceremony was about to start.
Dreamweaver and I went home afterward, feeling that we had not quite had the spiritually restorative day we might have had. Sunday morning we rose and went to church. I almost could not walk in the door. I chose for this service to consider what Mother L. had said about our visibility and taking time to let people get used to us. So I did not put my arm around Dreamweaver in the service, or hold her hand going into the building. And before the service was half over, I was crying again, and could not stop the tears from running down my face. I grew up sitting in church with my family - my dads arm around my mother, my mom's arm around me - it was a part of being together as a family in worship and community. And I felt that this was being denied to us. And yet, as we left, other members of the congregation came to us and hugged us and greeted us...our home is still our home. Afterward, Mother L came to us, alarmed and concerned and threw her arms around us, and wanted to know if we needed to talk...we said that we wanted to later - we knew she and Father M had a meeting immediately after with Episcopal church leadership to discuss the article in the paper about GBLT issues and the Episcopal church split. I am sure Mother L went to that meeting shaken and thinking hard.
So where are we now? We will be talking to Mother L and Father M about GLBT issues, and getting them information. We will continue to sit together with our arms across each other shoulders. We will not back down, but neither will we become militant, or angry. This is our church, our home. These are our community and family. And as those who minister to us have done so, we will minister to them regarding the truths of being Gay in this world and culture. I feel better today - talking about with Dreamweaver, writing this post, talking with friends (THANK YOU Alissia!) have gone far to ease my heart. I have a button on a vest that I wear that says the Mahatma Gandhi quote - "we must be the change we wish to see in the world."
Our church is a human organization and flawed, a family, and heir to all the miscommunication and misunderstandings that humans are capable of. It is a church "under construction" and love is how we build it. So with love, I will begin...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This Special Day...

Six years ago today, we came together in the beginnings of what would become our marriage. We were both fairly battered by life's storms and neither of us had a clue that out of the chaos surrounding our beginnings would rise the most stable, precious, tender, passionate relationship that either of us have ever known!
In the middle of that chaos six years ago, as I lost ( I thought) everything - my previous relationship, my house, my car, my career - you gave me back faith in myself, that I once again I could believe that I was a whole person on my own, strong enough to stand on my own two feet. You believed in me, when I could not believe in myself, and even more important, you believed in us at a time when we were separated and broken up. Your faith, your love and your passion gave me hope and courage to come to you and to build a future with you. Yes, I am a whole person...but I also know what its like to live without you in my life, and I don't intend to ever have to do it again!

I treasure the memory of getting down on one knee, ring in my hand, to propose to you on stage, live mike, before a rowdy bar of lesbians! I treasure the memories of quiet days spent together, talking, touching, learning each others hearts...I can even - now that I am safely here in your arms treasure and laugh with you over some of the darker humored moments of the chaos of our beginning - such as you mowing the car! (inside joke, I know). I treasure so many moments, both large and small, from thrilling to mundane that we have shared together...and I treasure the joy of looking forward to a life time to share together, by grace and love....
You challenge me every day to be more, to be better, to grow and dream and love me unconditionally, no matter what - even when I forget to put away the laundry, and get lost in an artists fog of creativity. You support my art and my dreams whole-heartedly, put up with paint everywhere, strange schedules as I work on murals and erratic paychecks. You come and sit with me and read to me and visit with me as I paint on walls...a wonderful shared thing!
You encouraged me to go back to school - one of the biggest, scariest steps I have ever taken - and have stood by me as I have struggled forward through power points, all nighters and 25 page term papers....
You have walked every step of the way with me through my own healing and recovery from trauma and abuse and never once flinched back from my own PTSD and flashbacks. You have honored my unexpected realization that I am dealing with Trans and GID issues, and are standing by me through this, despite your own fears and doubts - I believe they call that heroic courage!
You are my best friend, my lover, my share your spiritual journey with me, and walk with me in mine, creating a wholeness that is greater than the sum of it's parts. You keep me sane when my family makes me crazy, you let me cry on your shoulder at need. You think my boi self is cute and you are crazy about him, and you also love my feminine side when she giggles...
You accept me as I am. But maybe even more importantly, you unconditionally accept and love the person I am becoming, where ever my life's journey leads. I am so grateful that we found each other, that we are together, that our love is strong and has the experience and skills to survive and thrive for a life time...
Because I am going to spend that life time with you!
So, I guess the question is...whatcha doing in the next lifetime? Is that a date?

I love you with all my heart, and all that I am or ever will be.
Your best friend,
your lover,
your wife,
your artist,
your Tigger....

New Blog Look...More on the Labyrinth

Today at my church we had a day of silent meditation, music, fellowship and spiritual direction. The church's indoor Labyrinth was set up for participants to walk - see the picture here. While I will share in a different post the experiences of the day, at the end of the day, and before the Labyrinth was rolled up and stored, I managed to get a picture taken of myself walking the Labyrinth. (not something I would do during the actual meditation of the day, as it would be disruptive and disrespectful to others also walking the pattern.) The picture turned out perfect. I wasn't actually thinking of using it for my blog title picture, however, when I got home and down loaded the shot to the computer, I looked at it and went "Wait a minute, that would - oh COOL!" and began editing and playing with the picture and the blog settings.
So now my blog, titled "Walking the Labyrinth" is backed by a picture of me walking a Labyrinth! Happy blogger here! Hope everyone likes the new look!

There are two Labyrinths at my church - one is available as a permanent outside installation that is open to ANYONE to walk, any time. The indoor canvass one is rolled up and stored between use. Both are patterned on the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth in Chartres, France. In the 1200's, the Chartres Labyrinth was used as a pilgrimage site, and as a form of walking prayer meditation. However, the concept of the unicursal (one path - in and out) as well as the multicursal Labyrinth is far, far older. The tale of the Minotaur imprisoned by a multicursal labyrinth or "maze" built by Daedalus on the Ilse of Crete is well known. There are also many other labyrinths in many, many cultures across the world and many of these sites still exist. The purposes of the ancient Labyrinths can be speculated on - traps for monsters (the Minotaur), ritual journeys and ceremonies, prayer, sacred space...

Today, the concept of the Labyrinth is on the rise in this culture as a ritual form of walking prayer and meditation in sacred space...perhaps not too unlike its use in centuries past. Today is mine and Dreamweaver's sixth anniversary together! We spent the day at the church in meditation and walking the Labyrinth, sitting together in the center. Coincidentally enough, today is also another anniversary - eleven years ago, on August 15, 1998, I was the very first time I ever walked a Labyrinth at this very church, seeking to explore the concept. At the time I was not a member of the church, nor of it's denomination. I never dreamed that a decade later that I would be a member of that church! I found the experience of walking the pattern of the Labyrinth to be transformative...the following day, I wrote the words and music for "The Labyrinth Song" that appears on my side bar. For me, the Labyrinth is prayer, sacred space, meditation, ritual, all of that...and also it has become a personal metaphor for the journey of my life.

So, it is with much joy that I get to share with everyone the pictures of the Labyrinth, and I am thrilled that I got to walk it again, eleven years later to the day.
Labyrinth Song
W/m by Cameron
Spiral in, the journey takes us
Larger, greater, deep within
Than it's outer boundary marking
The lines upon the hearts of men.

Further up and further in-
Hear Creator's voice, a roar
Of all that lives and breathes and rushes
The beating pulse forevermore
Hear Creator's voice, a whisper
Beyond the living wall of flame
Beyond the rumbling roll of earthquake
As rocks themselves cry out the name!


Hold your hand above the center
Feel the power throbbing there
As the spiral draws you outward
Away from all you long to share
See your steps next to the ending
Know how close forever is
Yet the spiral pulls you inward
Away from unimagined bliss


Every step a painful journey
A throb of sorrow, a laugh of pain
Every tear you shed of gladness
Cleans the heart in bitter rain
Surrender therefore to your living
Dying daily, born again
Walk the spiral to the ending
To the Heart where it began.
(repeat refrain twice)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Be the Change...

Well, I found myself at it again. Last spring semester I spoke to my undergrad classmates about transgender issues, which was sort of a big step. It was publicly acknowledging another facet of my identity beyond being Gay, that I am trans, with a diagnosis of GID (according to the DSM at any rate. *snort*)
I was at that time nervous, and felt like I was really under a microscope. Fortunately, I also had fellow speakers to take over when I got tongue tied - a friend of mine whose partner is a successful FTM (post transition - unfortunately his work schedule kept him from attending) and my own partner, Dreamweaver. It turned out to be an excellent day, and I felt very positive about having done it.

A week ago, Dreamweaver was taking her graduate Sex Ed therapy class - a week long intensive that covered sexual issues that could come through a therapists door. Of course, gay and trans issues were covered. Dreamweavers teacher has an MTF person that she usually has come in to speak to the class, except that she could not make it. Dreamweaver spoke with the teacher and I suddenly at the very last possible moment, found myself speaking to a class room of graduate level therapist majors as a trans advocate. This happened so fast I did not have time to call my friends and get them into the picture with me and believe me I WANTED them there!

The difference between speaking to a graduate class studying therapy and an undergraduate psych class was amazing. Dreamweaver's class mates were focused on "what do we do as therapists" questions and asked a lot of them, all of them very perceptive and attentive. I was able to speak about the subject on a much higher level - I was able to address binary heteranormative issues and religious issues, and yes, people like me will come through your door, and not all of them want to transition. Yes it has affected my family ties, my job, my choices in life, even my relationship with Dreamweaver.

And I got in the point that I came to the class on fire to say - that sexuality, gender and orientation are so complex and varied, that no scale or box or schema can contain it...that each
person's combination of those things is as unique and individual as their own fingerprint! That is what I really wanted them to get out side of the boxes, and the diagnoses and the preconceptions they might have about the GLBTQ community.

It was an amazing, wonderful and affirming experience - and I truly felt and Dreamweaver affirmed after talking to her class mates, that I did make a difference. The following day, the MTF woman was able to come speak to the class after all, so they got to meet her. And then at the end of the day, as the class were presenting their book discussions, Dreamweaver got to talk about the struggle to find material concerning GLBTQ sexual issues on the bookshelf (not on line - on the shelf. Big issue there!) and one of her other classmates stepped up and came out of the closet as a gay in her discussion.

All around, it was a highly successful scenario, even if I did have to wing it alone. Hopefully next time I can get enough warning to bring my friends. I am not sure where this will all lead me, but I am feeling that stir of this is important - pay attention - this connects with things you want to do with your life. We will see where the journey leads next on the Labyrinth...

My cat Bearcub...

Just wanted to add this for no reason except that it is a really cool picture - it's the perfect cat photograph. This is Bearcub, dreaming kittty cat dreams. I always smile when I look at this, so I wanted to share it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Gift in Return...part 4 of the posts about my dad...

Some of you will have read this, as it was a response to Alissia's comment to part three on the blog about my Dad - "On Words and Silence", (tags: family, GLBT). When I wrote this response, I suddenly realized that I had found a way to reframe this struggle I carry with me of not being Out to my Dad in such a way that it made sense, and gave me a perspective that I could live with, and move forward with in love. That was so important, that I thought I would lift the comment I wrote and make a post of it - and I thank Alissia for her words that gave me the beginnings of this thought!
"I think I can live with him not ever knowing [ that I am gay and trans ] , rather than run the risk of spending last years we have in this life together with our relationship divided, separated, grieving and angry. I would rather see the lines here and there of color that mark that aspect of our lives, my dad and me, rather than see the memories drowned in darkness and sorrow.
Remember - with his views and his stubbornness, and his beliefs, unless we could pull off a reconciliation - which I am not willing to gamble on - he would go to his grave, heartbroken, shattered, thinking I am ''going to hell'', blaming himself for whatever reason why I might be *that way* silence is not selfish self protection - it is the choice for me to bear the burden of silence rather than him bearing the burden of knowledge.
True...he might come around. He might surprise me. Stranger, more miraculous things have happened. Lets put it this way - if I am ever Outed, one way or another - then that miracle will become all my hope and prayer and everything I will work for. But until then - he bore so many painful burdensome things for me - he carried me in a body cast up those stairs all those years ago and never counted the cost - maybe it would have been easier to leave me in my room those 8 weeks. Maybe it would have been easier to move me downstairs for the duration.
Instead, he normalized what might have been my darkest most uncomfortable moments, by carrying me down the stairs every morning so that I was truly a part of the family and up the stairs every night so that I could be in my own room.
My turn to bear the burden, when he is immobilized and frozen in time and space by his own blindspots and sociatal schemas. My turn to normalize our day to day interactions and never show the strain of the weight I bear in doing so. My turn...and my gift, back to him."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Found the Drag!

I found one of the pictures of me in drag - Medieval Romance drag. I will confess to a tiny bit of photo-shopping with light values, etc - the original is very dark due to location, a mediocre camera, and I was struggling with some spirit gum issues anyway...*sigh* There are some pictures of just me in the outfit - when they surface, I will post them. That doublet I am wearing needs to be seen!!! It was originally a costume from the New York Metropolitan Opera productions. ( got it from a friend - Christian Mystic - who got it from etc.)

With me is Luna - originally friend, then partner, then ex-partner and slowly becoming a friend again - we had a stormy relationship, and a difficult break up. It has taken time to heal, but she has come so far - and so have I. I am very, very proud of her! We do a nice bit of stage drag here - this is one of the fun times and memories I treasure!

I look forward to Halloween - Think I am definitely doing the Scot in a kilt thing. There will be pictures and they will be here! Dreamweaver and I will have fun!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Father...part Three: On Words and Silence

When I think of the contrast of words and silence, I remember this certain day over a year ago. It was a warm day, when winter began to loosen its grip on the college campus where I am studying for a new career. It had been cold that morning, now I actually took off my jacket. In the courtyard between the music and art buildings, small leaf buds appeared early on neatly manicured bushes and sunlight fell warmly across the sundial in the center of the square. I sat on a bench and turned my face up to the light drinking in the warmth. It was my long day, with a class in the morning and one later in the afternoon; I always stayed and did my homework. I was done with the morning’s assignment, and there were still hours till my next class. I picked up my cell phone and called my dad.
I could hear birds singing, and heard nearby the buzzing of first tentative black and yellow fuzzed bees as they bumbled around the early green shoots in the flower beds. The phone began to ring in my ear as the connection kicked in. I did not know yet in that moment, how this lovely day would change in an instant, or why it would remain marked in my mind forever after. Moments later there was the click as he picked up on his end and I smiled as his light tenor voice spoke in my ear.
“Hello Dad!”
“Hey there! How are you doing today? All going well, I trust?”
“Absolutely, Dad! Done with homework, waiting on my next class. How’s mom doing today?” I leaned back on the bench, relaxing into the routine of easy conversation. Mom was fine, her back was better. No, my homework was fun; I enjoy my studies so much. Their lawnmower needed a new wheel, and they don’t make ‘em that size any more. Yes, I have a paper to write this weekend, but it’s no problem, I know what I’m going to say in it already.

Our conversation wandered down familiar paths, the words comfortable and warm. Words have always come easily for my father and me. I remembered that the family story of our earliest “conversation” was his earnest attempt to teach me to say “doorknob” as my first word. (no one has ever understood WHY he wanted this to be my first word!) He evidently carried me around pointing at doorknobs for weeks, saying "Doorknob, doorknob..." as he held me in his arms. I was contrary from the very start –that summer, late in the evening while we were at the beach on vacation, he held me up and pointed at the soft white sphere glowing low in the sky and my first word turned out to be “moon”.

The shade spread across the little garden as I listened to his voice here in the present, lulled by it as though I was that little child again and not his forty-six-year-old adult daughter, sitting on a college campus for a second try at a degree. But as his words continued over the phone, I abruptly snapped upright on the wooden slats of the old bench. “Say that part again, Dad?”

“I said, didn’t you see that news report about the bill they’re attempting to pass in Washington about that whole gay marriage thing?” His tone had grown harsh and scornful. I felt my stomach clench. This was the moment that always destroyed the words between us; the dangerous words that I so carefully avoided at all costs. Here was the silence that lies behind out words -- the thing we do not speak of between each other. I tensed, with my eyes shut tight, lost in the darkness of his words. The harshest difference between us is here - me gay, and liberal and compassionate, him conservative, and paranoid and hating.
“No, Dad, I didn’t.” I kept my voice calm, still, normal. In my mind I was searching frantically for words, for a way to avoid the inevitable, as he spoke on.
“They’re trying again to push through some bill to legalize gay marriage. This country has gone so wrong!”

“Gays are ruining America right before our very eyes, every day! I tell you, gays are why God has withdrawn His blessing from out nation! It's all their fault!” I felt the air go out of me as though an iron hard fist had slammed into my body. I doubled forward, trembling as the trip hammer suddenly lodged in my chest beat heavily. The sunlight became harsh, and the shadows went jagged and cold. Dad’s voice went on, somewhere on the other end of the cell phone that I clutched so desperately in my hand. All I could hear were the words repeating endlessly in my mind: Dad, I’m gay. Dad, don’t you understand? Your daughter is gay! Dad, how can you say such things? Your only child is gay!
Of course, I never said the words. I took refuge instead in the silence. This silence over the years has become all pervasive, capable of ambush, gone out of sight until the worst possible moment – and then it is there. It comes to me at night and steals my sleep. It dams the flow of my thoughts as I try to write. And sometimes the silence rises when I answer the phone, and hear my father’s voice. This silence is the opposite of our words. It is the fear I feel when I try to imagine saying the words to him. I fear the loss of his respect and approval. I fear the destruction of our life long relationship. Above all, I fear to lose the words “I love you,” that we have spoken countless times to each other all the years of my life. Because for all his love and gentleness and grace, this is his flaw - his love is conditional, his views totally driven by the conservative world he grew up in, his stubborness to never yield and never for a moment see any other view point. And at his age and with that native stubborness he has, the odds are profoundly against him living long enough for us to reconcile and heal, should I ever come Out or be Outed to him.
I remember the silence of that day. How the odd stillness gripped the garden, as I listened to his loving voice speak words of discrimination and bigotry. I remember the silence of the words I did not say then. I still cannot say them. Dad, I’m gay. Dad, God hasn’t forsaken our country or our world because of people like me. Dad, don’t you understand that your words, though deeply and sincerely spoken, cause pain and anger and agony? Is he afraid I wonder? Does he have his suspicions of my relationship with Dreamweaver and the six years she and I have been together? Does he hide his fear in hateful, harmful words, because he, too, does not dare ask a simple question?
Somehow, I changed the conversation, shooting the rapids of dangerous words into much safer, quieter topics. Somehow, I kept my voice mild, calm, uninterested in politics and abstract condemnation. I felt like screaming the words at him – “How can you say these horrible things and cause me so much pain?” Instead our conversation ended as it always did.
“Talk to you tomorrow, Dad. I love you.”
“I love you too. Your mom and I are proud of you. Oh, and tell Dreamweaver that we love her too, and hope school is going great for her also.”
“I’ll be sure and tell her, I promise! ‘Bye, Dad.”
I remember closing my eyes and leaning back on the bench, my cell phone snapped shut in my hands. I remember the day feeling cold, the sunlight thin and weak. I remember the silence around me as though the garden had simply stopped. And that I put my head in my hands and wept.

My Father...part two: The Fine Pink Line...

My father stood in the shady driveway, a broad smile growing on his face. Watching my car maneuvering into the narrow space in the carport, he tucked his hands into his pockets, waiting for me to join him for the afternoon. I got out of the car and saw the grin spread across his face. My red hair must have flamed in the sunlight, for he unconsciously ran his hand through his own slightly thinning white hair. It had been years since his hair had been red. Then we were hugging, laughing together. When had his arms grown so fragile? How odd to feel that I comforted him…
“Hiya, Dad!”
“Hey! Are you ready to do some painting today?”
“You betcha! How’s mom?” we went up single file on the sturdy handicap ramp into the brightly lit floral patterned kitchen.
“She’s fine. She’s watching a movie, so we can go on downstairs.” He smiled again, watching me cross into the family room and kiss mom on the cheek. Today was a special day for him - he was finally getting me out to trying painting a picture together. Now he watched us talking, me bent over, holding my mother’s wrinkled hands, telling her not to get up and cause herself pain. Does he feel sorrow, seeing his wife’s fragile age? Time is inevitable. I straightened up, beckoning to the stairwell door in the hallway.
“Well, shall we?”
“I’m right behind you!” He replied. We carefully began the descent down the precipitous narrow steps. “You know,” I continued, clutching the handrail as my head sank down the stairwell past the rows of family pictures, “I’m not really a portrait painter like you are.”
“Oh, you can do this! Look at your murals. You do incredible things all the time!”
“Yeah, Dad, but those aren’t portraits!” I shook my hair out of my eyes as I crossed the den to the easel, and then stopped staring at the photograph. “Hey! It’s mom!” He had carefully arranged the canvass on the easel in the jumbled downstairs den, laid out the paint on the palette, placed the brushes on the table by the easel. He had found a photograph of his wife – my step mother – from years ago, when she had been a lithe sixteen year old with raven black hair and a sparkle to her brown eyes, and that too was hung with great care next to the canvas.
“Of course it is! Can you think of a better subject for us to try to paint a portrait of together? Her seventieth birthday is coming up…”he replied. I bent over and studied the picture and then slid gingerly into the left hand chair. I wasn't exactly sure how we were going to pull this off, after seeing the photograph, but he evidently knew what he was doing...
“I don’t know Dad. If I actually pull this off, I think I want to keep it myself…” my voice trailed off shyly. “Is that selfish of me? I mean, this is special to me, a painting we work on together.”
“Not at all! You should keep it.” He slid into the right hand chair and gestured at the canvass, wagging a brush handle in my direction. I took it carefully and waved it at the glistening paint, sniffing the air appreciatively.
“Oil paint! Nothing smells like oil paint! I have been using acrylic paint for so long on the murals that I’ve almost forgot what it smelled like! Um…where do you want me to start? You already sketched mom’s face.”
Smiling at my newfound timidity, he pointed to the forehead of the young woman in the lines of paint. “I thought it would be easier if we already had a drawing to work from. Save time and get to the good part. Start there. Use some of the white and the burnt sienna to start with, and we’ll match it closer to her skin tone as we go on.”
He caught the confused look on my face and then I bent dutifully to the canvass, the soft shurring of the brushstrokes against the stiff surface following the path of the paint I laid down. The following hours passed unnoticed as he patiently coached my efforts, took the brush and added his own streaks and dabs of color. He watched apparently fascinated by my choices in color, my patience with his excited instruction, my willingness to paint a section over and over and over again. He seemed to swell with pride as he saw in me his own talent that had driven him all of his life, now shared between us in an incredible moment of grace before a single canvass. I was getting tired. He watched a frown grow on my face as I stared back and forth across the narrow space between the photograph and the painting. He pointed a paint smeared finger towards the face in the picture pinned to the side of the easel.
“See? Look right there, right along the jaw line. I know it doesn’t look like it, where the skin tone deepens to a brown shadow, but if you will get some of the alizarin crimson and mix up a little hot pink, and use that for a highlight…” He paused as my frown deepened to a scowl. He took a deep breath and tried again, obviously beginning to worry.
“No, really, I know that bright a pink doesn’t look like it would work there, but it does.” Suddenly I threw down the paint brush on the tray, my paint covered fingers tearing distractedly through my now disheveled hair.
“Really, can’t you see the pink right along that line?” He pointed again to the photograph, seeing in it, I am sure, the beautiful young woman he fell in love with when he was eighteen, and they walked hand in hand on Main Street for the first time.
“No I don’t see the pink line, Dad!” He looked up, startled at the frustration in my usually calm voice, just in time to see me point to the exact same spot.

“Dad…it’s a black and white photograph!”

Startled, he spun and stared at the image pinned to the easel and then he stopped cold. It was a black and white photograph! It wasn’t even lightly tinted! All the vibrant color existed only in his powerful memory of the girl he had fallen in love with fifty-three years ago, the woman upstairs whom he stilled loved with all his heart; whose aging wrinkled face still held for him that subtle pink glow…
Horrified, he suddenly spun and stared at me. He had been trying to push me to paint a color portrait from a black and white picture! He froze, speechless, watching my face begin to twitch, then spasm, and suddenly I broke up laughing. It was irresistible as the evident relief swept over him, and he threw back his head and joined me. We howled and choked and snorted and giggled and every time he nearly got himself together, he would see me struggling to find my composure through the giggles and we would be off again. It was one of the great laughs, and it was a long time before we managed to calm down enough to pick up the paintbrush again.

My Father...part One

I have written a little about my family in "Remember this Day" post (tag: family). I wish now to post about my father. My mother and my step mother were and are equally remarkable people - but this post series is about my dad. He was born in 1926, the youngest of 9 living children...there was 7 years between him and his nearest sibling. He grew up in a world that those of us born in later decades can scarce imagine...few TVs or phones. Farm life - food came from the animals they raised and the plants they nurtured, not from a grocery store. Music was played on the radio, or seen and heard live - he still has his precious priceless collection of 78 rpm records that he slowly aquired as a young man who loved music with all his heart.

He served in WWII in occupied Germany as scarcely more than a boy at age 18- his older brothers were scattered through out that war, D-day, the Philipines. Italy...all came home in the end alive. He fell in love with young woman just out of high school - they were engaged and then separated by his shipping over seas. When he returned, they broke up, as all too often happens - too much change in a short time.

Years later as an army reservist, he was torn from his home, his fiance - a young woman in his church - and his life to go to Korea. Before he left, grimly fearing he would not return, he painted a portrait of his mother He was and is an awesomely talented portrait artist and painted it in about 17 hours flat, kissed his loved ones goodbye and left again for war. Before actually setting foot in Korea, before shipping out, he knelt at his bunk and prayed - "I will do what I must to serve my country, but please Dear God, do not let me have to kill any one." Not "save my life" but please do not make me kill.The next day he and several other men were offered a behind the line position as a staff seargent. They turned it, down, preferring to fight, believing the lie that Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori. Dad lunged for the assignment and came home, his hands innocent of blood.

The painting he did of his mother - part of it largely unfinished due to the haste he was under to report in for service - still hangs in his home today. He left it as it was, unwilling to change it or "finish" it - its partially complete state a commemoration of the time and place and reason that he painted it.

He married his fiance - my mother - in the 50's. They lost an infant son, my brother, and then I was born to them. He dealt with the heavy burden of a critically ill wife who had Lupus and a physically handicapped child (hip syndrome kept me from walking for 4 years.) with more grace and love and gentleness that I can begin to tell. During a particulaly difficult time when I was in a body cast from my armpits to my toes, he carried me up the 15 step flight of stairs in our home so that I could sleep in my own bed every night, wrestling me and the body cast up that narrow stairwell. On the ceiling of my room, he put realistic glow in the dark stickers of the planets and stars and the moon for me to look at since I could not move or change postition. He and I had long had a small telescope and used to spend hours looking at the moon with it. I owe my life long love afair with astronomy and space to him.

He lost his wife, my mom, to death in the 70's and shortly thereafter was reunited with the fiance of his school days whom he had not seen in 30 years. She was also widowed - they were married 6 weeks later.

Now he lives in retirement with her...he is 83, stiffer and slower to move, struggling with his own arthritis, caring for my step-mother with grace and love as she struggles with a degernative spinal disorder. Yet he is unfailing cheerful, joking and tender. He is a remarkable man. I have inherited his artistic gift, his genetics - our hands and feet are near identical - our body language is eerily similiar and our turns of speach. I have his stubborness and his pride and slow to kindle but fiery temper. I have his even temperment and his speach patterns. (there is also a lot of my mother in me - more than most imagine - but few see it). My Father and I speak on the phone nearly everyday - especially since I see the toll that time is taking on his frame as age advances. He comes of a long lived family - I probably have years yet with him, but I learned with the loss of my mother 31 years ago that the longest time is inevitably short when the clock of life innexorably moves to the final appointed day and hour for all of us. His time and mine are short.

I make sure that he knows I love him, that we share what we can across the unimaginable boundaries of the different worlds we grew up in. And I am not Out to him as being gay.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Family Gift

My paintings are on my blog...
And in my post "Remember this day..." (see Family tag) about my family the night that we watched the astronauts land on the moon there are two paintings of my grandmothers. My father painted those portraits. Another member of my family is a cousin, Steve Dillard, who in the 80's won the prestigious South Carolina and West Virginia Duck Stamp award.

Above is the South Carolina Duck Stamp from 1987, "Black Ducks at Dawn." I saw it when he was working on the painting and it was only half finished. I remember telling him, "Steve, you've won with this one!" He laughed and said that there were others just as good, and that the judges would probably just flip a coin. In the end, I was proved right.

The very next year, in 1988, he did it again, winning the West Virginia Duck Stamp with his "Wood Ducks" painting shown below. As I write this today, in 2009, as far as I know, Steve is not currently painting right now. I hope that he returns someday to the easel and his brushes and take up his gift again.