Turtles, Rivers, Mitochondria, Figs

There are certain moments in life where it feels like a light has come on. Not sudden understanding, exactly, but sudden vision. Where before there was darkness, now there is light. You look up and realize, hey, my life can look different. I can improve my life. I can change things and those changes could totally transform me and my life for the better.

I think everyone can, and maybe does, experience this to some extent. But a really startlingly clear example would be queer people as they begin to come out. Finally opening up your heart–even just to yourself–enough to see that there could be happiness for you. That there is more than everything you thought your life had to be.

I can’t explain how powerful it is to come to a place where you can dream about falling in love when you have literally never been able to really imagine it before. It’s like being practically frozen and taking a sip of rich hot chocolate: you can feel it travel through you, track its progress across your body, feel a change instantly in a way that was hard to conceive of when all you could think about was how cold you were.

The thing queer people won’t hesitate to tell you is that coming out is not one moment, one choice. It’s a choice that, once made, must be made over and over again as you encounter new people, new situations, new realities. And therein, I think, is one of the most powerful lessons about these light-on moments.

I’ve written (to varying lengths) about our current situation several times the past several weeks. And I haven’t really known what to say but I keep repeating it over and over again, that I hope this changes things. That I hope we come out the other side of this better, different, more compassionate, more whole. But here’s finally something I can say that is, at least in some small, kind of psychological way actually actionable.

Think about your life changes like coming out. It’s something that, once you realize, you can’t imagine going back. Once you feel the freedom, you’ll do whatever you can to keep it. And as you move forward, you’ll always be on the lookout for moments when you might need to make the decision all over again.

Just as opportunities to come out come up all the time, so will opportunities that test your resolve on any change you’re trying to make. It’s not a sign of failure if you choose against your first decision. But if you’ve really seen the light, you’ll at least know what you’re striving toward, even if you don’t walk that direction every time. Once you have seen what life can be like, once you’ve granted your imagination permission to dream greater dreams, you can’t help but come out over and over again, even if imperfectly.

I guess I just want to encourage you in walking in response to whatever light-on moments you may have had in response to this pandemic. Whether related to your own life or social structures beyond your direct control. If your imaginations have been opened about what your life can look like, relish that. Exult in the joy of finally realizing whatever it is that you’ve realized. Give yourself grace in the months and years to come, knowing that change is hard and choosing over and over again is hard. But take heart.


I’m thinking about what I said last week. I know it wasn’t much but the thrust of it I think is about the most powerful change we can make. To love anyway. To forgive when we have no good reason. To be kind when we know it won’t be reciprocated. To be glad for a friend’s happiness instead of envious or melancholy that we don’t have the whatever.

These are all choices that we can make. Moment to moment, over and over again, until we die. And the best part is, they’re exactly the kind of choices that will treat us kindly when we fall short, and spur us to choose good more. The world is having a hard time right now, even more than usual, but we can choose to grow through it, choose to look different on the other side.

There’s such a beautiful natural analog to this in twisted trees and things like that. When the light changes or the wind shifts or the ground moves, they adapt. They don’t abandon where they’ve been but neither do they feel the need to continue in a course that no longer results in good growth. Their trunks and branches contort themselves so that they can flourish where they are, and every ounce of energy must again and again make the decision to support that new, different growth.

I encountered this poem from Jane Hirshfield entitled Optimism. I am thinking about what resilience means. Those parts of us which do not merely spring back but take a new shape, grow into something strange and twisted and beautiful. The sweetness of figs.


More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.

Catalog

Times have been such times lately. They continue to be such and I’ve found it pretty stressful even in the midst of my life mostly looking the same. But I encourage you to reflect very deliberately on what’s going on for you.

And perhaps you can take some time to catalog the things that you have been doing lately that you haven’t typically done much, but which have brought you joy. Art projects, baking, teaching your children. Mediation, journaling, calling friends and relatives regularly. Going on walks, watching comedy specials, supporting local restaurants. Gardening, reading, exercising. Whatever else it might be.

In the intermediate future, some of those things might be difficult to keep up, as life returns to a non-pandemic rhythm. But I encourage you to cast your mind forward to that time and think of how you can commit to keeping those joyful activities thriving.

On a more macro level, I also encourage you to think about the things that, as a society, we should not want to return to ‘normal.’ Doing the bare minimum with healthcare, housing, and the minimum wage. Unnecessary commutes, unnecessary prison sentences, unnecessary restrictions. Teacher pay, care for the elderly, racism. Lying and/or incompetent politicians, ridicule of expertise, disbelief of science. Pollution, individualism of the most selfish sort, failure to understand the interconnectedness of our communities and our world. Lots of things I hope that we change forever.

Now is the time. Think carefully about the life and world you want on the other side of this thing. Get it down while it’s fresh in your mind and find a way to hold onto the things you’re thinking and feeling. We can change things but it’s not going to happen on its own. We’ve got to do things with purpose. Take now to think about what that purpose is, or maybe what you hoped it had been and now realize it wasn’t.


I’ll be real with you, I don’t think much of anything will change. I’ve seen headlines and think-pieces on how the very nature of work will be altered moving forward. I don’t buy it. I hope. But while all our systems have been challenged, none of them have been overthrown. Those in power have rushed to their aid even as they have, to a greater or lesser extent, aided the common people.

But those powers that be will do everything they can to return to the status quo that they created and that benefits them. It sounds a little conspiracy-y to say it like that but it is what it is. Talking about changing offices forever? Doubt it. The people who built the massive office buildings won’t take kindly to employees who want to abandon them–even just for a couple days a week.

And for those who don’t work in offices? For the ‘essential’ workers who are outside of prestige jobs in medicine, for example? Lots of verbal support but it’s unlikely that the Republicans who supported our lovely stimulus checks would also support a minimum wage increase.

Hopefully, time and the world will prove me wrong.


I am not a policy wonk and I hesitate to make such pronouncements with any authority. And by ‘hesitate’, I mean ‘refrain entirely’ since none of my pronouncements actually carry any authority. But here we are.

I’ve just been sitting here. Working some. Enjoying the sun. Listening to a D&D podcast. Petting cats. Trying, as ever, to make and maintain friendships.

But I do hope that you take the time to make that catalog. Be deliberate about the changes you make. We aren’t all the ‘powers that be’ who can make the kind of decisions that transform societies. But in some ways, at least, we can transform our own lives. Let’s try to take this opportunity while we can. Be kinder to yourself and be kinder to those who have only had things worse since this whole thing started.


To finish us off this week, cats and poetry. The poem some distant relative of a translation from Hafez (but probs nowhere near something he actually wrote) and the setting of it by Dan Forrest has been haunting me for weeks. Enjoy.

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Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

The Sky

I hope that you’re ready for some more poetry because I have been reading [as freedom is a breakfastfood] by E. E. Cummings and here’s the part that I want you to know:

—time is a tree(this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you

Life is but a little leaf on the great tree of time. But even time itself becomes limited and small in the face of love which is huge and boundless and essential and everywhere. That’s my happy thought for the week. Love is the sky, immense and present, and that is what is getting me through.


I’m going to be real with you though. I have had more video calls this week than ever before–and all of them social, voluntary, and friendly (none of them for work or interviews). I’ve been trying to lap it all up like a parched camel because it’s kind of exactly what I’ve been wishing for these past several months while at home, not particularly close with many friends.

So it’s been awesome in most ways but it’s also presented some mental challenges for me. I’ve written before that I’m trying to stick to the facts, as best as I may know them, when it comes to friends. Being clear with sending and receiving signals, communicating openly so that I can put the lie to the thoughts that tell me that I’m the least valuable player in any social setting. And I think that I’ve made progress on that, truly. One would think that all this social attention has helped too but, surprise, believing lies doesn’t have to be logical.

While I know that the reasonable response to such an increase in contact would be to think something along the lines of ‘wow people do like me, it really is just time and effort constraints that have prevented greater contact in the past’ and now that there’s time, there can be socializing with me. But the thing that I think initially, despite my best efforts, is that either a) this is happening because no one has anything better to do ie I’m a last resort or b) it’s been happening all along but only now am I being made aware of it because people are trying to reach out to others in these difficult times.

I recognize these problems and I’m working on combating them. Just wish it were a little easier. With everything going on, my life hasn’t actually changed much because most of my time has been stewing aimlessly at home anyway. The inescapable frustration of underemployment. The diminished capacity of listlessness. Stewing really is the right word for it most of the time. I hope I come out of this as a really delicious soup because otherwise what am I even doing.


Anyway. Trying not to turn too inward, a tendency for me which the current situation exacerbates.

There’s a whole lot going on in the world right now and it’s important to pay attention to it. I try to take it seriously when I can offer support to other people. It’s hard sometimes to know what to do especially when notes of caution are added to my natural laziness (and selfishness) but I do still want to try to do things. I tell myself it will be better when I have a normal, full-time job and can establish a reasonable routine but we’ll see about that I guess.

In the meantime, if there’s something that I can do for you, please let me know. Just like a little check-in, or virtually playing some games with you, or bringing you groceries if you’re in the area. I’d love to write you letters, too, which you can let sit in mail quarantine for a few days before opening. Whatever I can do.


To conclude, some cute pictures of cat tongue because why not.

The line quoted at the start of this post is near the end of the final stanza. E. E. Cummings is hard to understand in the best of times but that stanza begins with the line, “worms are the words but joy’s the voice.” Whatever the words may be (worms? like, death? or nature? or just small, insignificant things? or???), the voice is joy. Joy is the voice and love is the sky.

I can’t get over that single phrase. Love is the sky. Love is the sky. Love is the sky. Love, love, love; sky, sky, sky.

Who Shall Command the Skylark

In times like these, my first and foremost offering to the great void of the internet that may or may not ever consume my blog must always be: cat. And as always, if you feel so led, please do feel free to share your own cat pictures with me because we must truly be here for one another when we possess such a commodity. In this case, as is not the case for basically everything else right now, sharing is caring.

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Over the past several months, I have kept going back to Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet and its soaringly beautiful way of describing the world. Recently, a line from the section referred to as On Laws has been on my mind.

You can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?

This week has been rough on a lot of people in a lot of ways. I’m not sure the best way to address any of those people or those ways. One approach is to provide relief in the form of humor; another is to give encouragement and solace; another is to take the opportunity to look out for the least of us and try to argue for deep change. All good, all appropriate in times and places, I’m just not sure that I’m quite up to any of those tasks this week.

I feel like I spend too much time in self-pity and it’s something that I’m deliberately trying to change but, like, not trying too hard. When I say that I didn’t get the job that I had been hoping for, I really do feel like I have gotten over it and I didn’t spend an undue amount of time torn up about it. But at the same time, while I’m not overly sad and I did try to manage hopes beforehand, I do have numerous expectations that I have to–once again–revise.

So I’m not sure what I have to say because honestly, my current bleh is only kind of tangentially related to the current global situation. I’m just thinking again and again about the skylark. And the singing, as Emily Dickinson knew, that goes on and on. That thing with feathers that sings whether the world at large or merely your personal universe is in the midst of storm. That indomitable bird.

If you yourself aren’t up to singing, take solace in this: no one can command the skylark to be silent.

This section of The Prophet is immediately (and very appropriately, given the whole of the treatment of the topic of laws) followed by a section called On Freedom. Would that we staying at home were more free in this time, would that all people were more free in all other times. If we are not free, do we begrudge others their freedom–rightfully expressed without harm to others–or do we celebrate with them?

That’s kind of what I’m thinking about now, having pondered that single line the past couple days. How can I be the skylark to another–how can I bring hope or freedom or joy? And in the circumstances where my drum is muffled and my strings are loosed, am I listening for the skylark’s song–am I able to rejoice with those who rejoice when I am down?

Maybe this is all beating a metaphor or three way past their limits. I can’t help it, I’m a poetic romantic and I have a lot of time on my hands. Regardless, that’s what I want to say to you and to myself in this time. Plenty of people are reminding us to wash our hands (as they well should) so I guess I’ll be here to remind us to sing or hope or be free or whatever it is that I’m trying to say.

Anyway. As we cross into April, and continue into an uncertain future, let’s all resolve to be cleaner, kinder, and more hopeful. And, of course, let us luxuriate in the time spent with one another–virtually or in person–and with our cats.

 

 

The Road Before Us

You know I’m always here for singing a chorus or two but today, the road that lies ahead involves something a little different.

I’ve written before about how The Road Not Taken is NOT called The Road Less Traveled. Because they were really worn about the same. But even so, it is about which road you choose to take. Sometimes, however, there are roads that simply aren’t open to you. There is no choice, less traveled or otherwise.

And so all that is left to do is to take the road before you. There is no fork, there is no turn, there is only the road that is already under your feet. Thank God that we have a chorus or two this Christmas season, at least, to help us along the way.


A phrase that I heard this week: “You cannot burn yourself to keep others warm.” I don’t know to what extent that may or may not be currently applicable to me– as either the burner or the recipient of warmth–but it was very arresting when I heard it. Finding that balance between extending yourself toward others and keeping yourself whole.

Interpersonal relations are hard. Also, being a personal is hard.

Even so, I’m glad that I do have people around me. I’m not always cognizant of what a blessing that really is. People who care about me. And cats, of course (pictures forthcoming, sorry).


You may know that I am an avid re-consumer of entertainment media. I do not know why it took me so long to rewatch Wonder Woman, having first seen it in theaters when it came out. And boy am I glad that I rewatched this week. What a excellent film and what a poignant tale in this regard: evil will never be defeated because it lives within each of us but every day and every moment, we have the opportunity to choose good.

And, of course, I truly do believe that only love can save the world.


A disjointed post for a kind of bleh week. Big disappointment followed by a flurry of effort followed by zero effort. On the plus side, considering some of the things I want to bake in the next few weeks so I’m very excited about that. Hopefully, there will be a large number of delicious home-made treats in my life very soon.

In particular, I’m hoping that my cheesecake will turn out better than my last few attempts. They’ve been nice but not quite mixed and a little underbaked.


The British parliamentary election is today and I’m very interested to see the outcome. Probably won’t be anything I love but what can you do. Also, apparently this is the first British election in December since the 1920s (and I’m just realizing that now you have to say 1920s instead of 20s because we’re going to be in the 20s again very soon).

It’s been so interesting and unfortunate to watch this whole Brexit drama unfold the past few years. I’m still kind of hoping against hope that it won’t happen but not hoping too much at this point. I will obviously have to look at real-time results because elections are I guess like sports games for me except with actual stakes that impact people’s lives very directly. Anyway.


As an update on the previous previous, made cranberry orange shortbread yesterday, it was delicious. I also painted my nails, which I haven’t done in ages. Tried to do something festive and it didn’t quite work but at least they’re red and green!

There are worse ways to take a road before you than pretty nails and tasty treats. And as for the chorus or two, I’ve got that in hand as well. Will be going to a choir concert on Saturday for the choir I was in for many years–half my life, in fact, by the time I graduated high school. There will be audience carols and, as an alumnus, I will get to sing a couple songs up front as well. Very much looking forward to it.

Plus, though it’s just been rainy here, there’s been lots of snow in the mountains the past couple days, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you!

I Beg Your Pardon

Before we get into Thanksgiving things, I want to have a little international relations moment. If you were unaware, the province of Bougainville–a part of Papua New Guinea–is currenly conducting an independence referendum. It is official, if non-binding, and it is highly likely that the results will strongly favor independence. Who knows what that may actually mean, in terms of Papua New Guinea possibly making them stay and that possibly restarting civil war, or a timeline of creating a new country. But I just thought you should know (and you can read a teensy bit more about it here).


I find the American tradition of a presidential turkey pardon for Thanksgiving to be just so odd. It’s also not as old as a tradition as I originally thought: a formal turkey presentation to the president started in the 1940s and the whole pardon idea didn’t really start until Reagan and it wasn’t a fixture until H.W. Bush. But, if you’ll bear with me a sec, I think that while bizarre, a pardon is perfectly in line with the holiday.

If we’re honest, we could all use a pardon or two. Not in an avoiding-execution kind of way or even a religious Jesus-is-merciful way (though also definitely that way) but just in general. We know none of us are perfect. And, when giving thanks for all that we have, I think it’s important to take a moment to pardon the ways in which each of us falls short.

It isn’t difficult for me to take things personally. Not typically in an offended sense but more just imagining that people are putting a lot more antipathy into their (in)actions toward me when, in reality, it’s just busyness or forgetfulness or misunderstanding. I am aware that I do this and it’s something that I’m trying to combat, slowly but surely. I hope. So if I come across as paranoid or overbearing, please consider a pardon. Not everything should be pardoned, and not everything can just be sloughed off. But still.

In the meantime, I turn to what I know to be evidence of people caring about me. Words and time and action and all that I definitely do have. The people whose love and care I don’t have room to doubt. For that, and for the surety that can get me outside of my own insecure mind, I am very grateful. The helpful side effect of this is that I end up thinking more about other people and their actual lives, rather than just being concerned with what they’re thinking about me, which I think is both healthy and productive. Empathy matters but it takes work, you know?


Anyway. I was having a conversation with a family member this past week and I was trying to assure them that the rest of the family did, in fact, love them. Beyond understanding. It’s just that my family is–as we all are–imperfect lovers. There is a baseline of love but the stress of a day or year or life can weigh down on us in ways that make us express that love in different ways–or maybe even not at all, the baseline still existing but being obscured.

Some of you may be familiar with Nadia Bolz-Weber, a pastor and writer. This week, she had this to say about Thanksgiving, family, and belonging: “…unlike your family, your identity in God is simply unaffected by the limitations of human beings’ ability to love each other well.”

I think, in a certain way, that’s what pardoning should be all about. It’s not ignoring misdeeds, letting people go back to doing the same bad things. It’s stripping back all the obscuring stress and actions and words and hurt. Revealing once more the baseline. Showing what’s really underneath: another turkey. Another human being, just like us. Another imperfect lover who might ask for a pardon.


I read Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol for the first time a couple days ago. I don’t know how I managed to get this far in being who I am without having read more than a few excerpts before but here we are. And, for any readers who may be uncertain, it’s pronounced redding jail.

There’s a lot to unpack in that poem and I don’t really want to get too into it here and now but if I may, I would like to draw your attention to one couplet. A theme that is repeated across the work, though Wilde himself wasn’t particularly religious.

But God’s eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone.

Whatever laws and punishments, justice and just deserts human society may invent, God will always peel back our layers and love us all the same. It’s good to be grateful for all you have today (and each day) but there’s a couple thoughts on extending mercy and grace–that is the real language behind pardons, after all. If we are to be thankful that we receive mercy then so too should we extend it to others, undeserving as they may be.

To echo St Francis, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

Ah! Beautiful

This week has been a week. Not even that it’s been tiring, mentally or physically, or even that a lot of things happened. But just. Interview on Monday, waiting on tenterhooks ever since, hoping to hear back. Worked a little. Daydreamed a lot about what my life might look like if I had a for-real income and maybe moved to the (widest possible extent of the) greater Seattle area. Tried without too much success to coalesce some thoughts around topics from the conference the other week. Read. Baked (just some simple soda bread, love a good no-yeast bread recipe).

Been trying to think about what to get people for Christmas. One gift is bought and one is chosen but not yet purchased. Everything else is still very much up in the air. Annoyingly, I’m the kind of person who prefers choosing the presents I receive (for the most part) in a desire to minimize waste and make everyone including myself happy. But when I’m shopping for others, I like to try and be creative and thoughtful. I recognize the dissonance (sorry, parents for whom that may be frustrating). But also, I’m not like oozing money at the moment.

I sometimes think I’d like to do something crafty and really unique. I did it a few times when I was younger (but not like, young-young). Don’t think it really went over super well because I’m not really skilled in any kind of crafty way. We’ll just have to see how things shape up this year.

Bleh, I’d rather not be thinking about how I still don’t know if I got that job yet. Here, have a picture of my rosemary soda bread (insufficient rosemary, for future reference).

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The thing about this job that I’ve applied for is that it’s like a six month temp position with no solid gateway into a full time position (though theoretically possible, not something to plan on). So even if I am hired at this place, guess what I’ll be doing yet again in just a few short months. Applying to jobs. Yech. Look, a distraction! My sister’s lovely kitties! They’ve been off the blog for too long.

 

In the midst of all of my nothing-really-going-on this week, I did have a few moments that stood out. A couple moments of friends reaching out. Just chatting. Feeling a little more connected than I have been lately. I like talking to my friends so much. If you are my friend, you can always talk to me. It will almost certainly brighten my day (as long as you’re not talking about how much you hate cats or some trash like that).


A while ago, I encountered a poem called The Republic of Poetry by Martín Espada. It’s a cute little imagining of a world concerned primarily with elevating the position of poets, and with propagating a love of poetry among the entire populace.

The final stanza indicates that the customs agent at the airport will not allow anyone to leave the country until they recite a poem for her that makes her exclaim, “Ah! Beautiful.”

What a gift it is to give one another something beautiful.

Too Much Tenderness

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Or, in other words,

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That’s probably too millennial for me but I still thought it was amusing. I wanted to start with a funny little something because I know I drone on all the time about love and it’s all both cheesy and kind of pointless. But the lead-in to that renowned section of scripture (not to say that it’s received short shrift) is fixed in my mind as a rationale for never tiring of saying the same things about love ad infinitum:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

I don’t feel like it’s wildly overstating the point to say that love is kind of the meaning and reason for life, the universe, and everything. Which, I’ll just say, is a little more satisfying an answer–as much of a non-answer as it is–than 42.

I heard this poem about love the other day and was deeply moved. I cannot recommend giving it a listen or read enough. It is by Kahlil Gibran and is so piercingly beautiful that I don’t even know what to tell you about it. I’ve rewritten this section a few dozen times, trying to decide which parts to highlight and what to say about them. Truly, the whole thing is remarkable so please read it. But I will offer something for you here as well because I can’t not.

Before we get to an excerpt, the thing I’ve landed on telling you about is a short line near the beginning and it encompasses, I think, the main idea of the whole work. The speaker says, “When love beckons to you, follow him,/ Though his ways are hard and steep.”

Some conversations about love are difficult to have. As Pete said, referenced in last week’s post, sometimes it’s difficult even to imagine love. Sometimes the road to finding love–within or without–is difficult. Sometimes we resist love because we know that there will be a cost. But when love beckons to us, we ought to follow. Not because it will be easy but because it will be valuable. As the poem describes, we must be threshed and freed, ground and kneaded, to become part of the feast love is preparing.

Sometimes, it’s annoying that in English there is only one word to describe how you feel about goulash, your brother, your significant other, and God. But sometimes, I think it’s actually pretty cool. Love is, as others have noted, a many-splendored thing that does not sit well in rigidly prescribed boxes. I think the trials and joys that love gives, and the multifaceted and varying ways in which we experience is, thwarts any attempt to classify it in language at all, so we may as well have only one to catch it all in a term of wonder, awe, and reverence.

This poem is really just a section of a much longer poetical work but I want to leave you with the final stanza of this part, generally referred to as On Love.


Love has no other desire but to fulfil
itself.
But if you love and must needs have
desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own under-
standing of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate
love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.

Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone

This is a very disjointed post, I’m not sorry. I will never get over the horizontal line feature. Anyway. We’ll start with cats (a very good place to start).

They are still, as ever, very cute. And I’m so pleased to have gotten a semi-decent picture of Bubba sitting still.


Events this week have included not a whole lot, other than the relatively unsurprising but still very disheartening news that I will not be moving to New Mexico any time in the near future. It was a distinct possibility, and one that I had staked rather a lot of hope (of necessity, since I have had no other leads), but it all proved to be in vain. I’m not utterly broken by the news but it was hard to hear all the same.

I had already started planning a little bit about what I would do if it didn’t come through but those plans are still very nascent and so who really knows what’s coming. It’s scary and uncomfortable and I hate it.


I was reminded of a series of Tweets I saw on Facebook (social media, what have you done). Someone named Julia Rodgers was responding to Christians who asked whether/how they can love queer people without being fully affirming. She responds, in part, “Love draws us outside of ourselves and moves us to think of other people first. If we keep returning to questions that are about our beliefs or our experience of them, we might ask whether we truly love them or are just trying to manage our anxiety about them.”

I don’t disagree that sometimes loving people means choosing for them something they would not choose for themselves–helping someone recover from addiction may be a good example of that. But imagine being told that, though all sin, you are so uniquely sinful that you are prohibited from falling in love. Not with a specific person or in a specific situation, just ever. So while choosing good for someone else is a thing, how do you know what the best thing is for someone? What does the fruit (to speak a little Christianese) of those choices have on the people you’re choosing for?

I’ve also never gotten the whole concept of considering homosexual acts different from simply existing as a homosexual person. God looks at the heart, I think it’s pretty clear: looking lustfully is the same as committing adultery, being angry with someone is the same as murdering them. My heart is so very gay. Either it’s a problem or it’s not, regardless of how I act.

I’m not expressing myself well here at all, alas. I just wasn’t expecting to be in this place again this week but, as I have seen and been told, you never finish coming out. Sigh. I am not perfect at love, so forgive me. But also, if you’ve asked the question above, please listen.


I read a new book this week (sorry, Far from the Madding Crowd, you’re on the back burner already) and it’s pretty good. It’s City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. I want to share with you three quotations, all from the same chapter, in fact, around one third of the way in. The first two are from a Buddhist monk-type guy who is talking with the main character about why he still performs acts of charity when his god has been dead for decades. The last is a while later, from the main character to an old lady from an opposing ethnic group.

“I never saw a country before […] All I saw was the earth under my feet.”

“Good can be done at anytime, anywhere, to anyone, by anyone.”

“I don’t have the time or the energy to hate. I only wish to understand. People are what they are.”


I would like to conclude with a poem by Mary Oliver (who sadly died earlier this year) that one of my correspondents sent me in a letter this week. It ends with a sentiment that seems to me–at least in my current state–both haunting and hopeful.

Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

Why You Should Be More Like a Bag of Tortilla Chips

I was reading an article the other day (I’m not linking it because I honestly don’t care that much) about how, apparently, there’s been a recent uptick in lawsuits regarding underfilled snack packaging. You know, like a bag of chips with four total chips in it. We’ve all been there. I guess it’s a whole genre of legal action, though I forget the name.

Then, just yesterday, I saw a bag of tortilla chips–Safeway brand I believe, if you’re curious–that was entirely opaque. You know, just a normal chip bag. Then I realized, most tortilla chips come in a bag with a little window. You can see the chips. You know how full the bag is before you buy.

And, this will tell you where I am in life right now, that Safeway bag of chips is now the topic of this post. Are you ready. Here it comes.

People are upset in those legal cases because they are surprised by what something has (or does not have, rather) inside. It’s shocking to purchase a snack product–movie theater candy was another popular choice because their boxes are bigger than grocery store boxes apparently–and end up with way less snack than the packaging would suggest.

I won’t get into how this is, at it’s core, why either capitalism is a failed system (businesses built on what is, at best, misleading and at worst, lies, are not enabling rational choice, the beloved principle of economists) or we are not living in a true capitalist society. It would be so easy for all chip bags to be translucent. Instead, surprise of the century, I’m going to make things personal and philosophical.

Here’s the thing: little cellophane windows in tortilla chips are what I feel people need more of in their lives. Openness, that is. Showing the insides. Not just so people know what to expect, and decide whether to know us or not, but so that we can simply be a little bit more known.

I know this summer, relational and social have been very difficult for me. Social is pretty much always difficult for me but that’s beside the point. It’s hard to be transient in the way that I have been for the past few years because getting to see inside other people’s bag of chips is a real challenge when you haven’t know them that long. The same holds true of online communities as well, where I have made some inroads toward relational but have again been stymied partly because it just hasn’t been that long. There hasn’t been that much contact.

And thus, the emotional response to the entirely not-see-through-able bag of tortilla chips. There are good reasons for having bags of chips with lots of air, or milk duds that only fill up the box part way. Things are delicate, sealing adhesives may melt the product or overfilling may fuse parts you want to be individual &ct &ct &ct. The question isn’t really “should there be any empty space” it’s more along the lines of “what amount of space is okay with me.”

The little tortilla chip window does not claim that there is not space. It simply shows you what’s inside and lets you make the judgement. And, it hopes, the window will be enticing enough for you to choose that bag specially.


As an aside, I have finally gotten to see these precious ones again. Bubba remains impossible to photograph reasonably, but Camaro is regal as ever.


Later that evening–after the whole chip bag revelation– I finally sat down to watch The Imitation Game which is a wonderful movie. I really enjoyed it and would recommend but it was, of course, very sad. The kind of tragedy that unfolds on several different levels morally, ethically, emotionally, and personally. Oddly enough, it resonated with my above musings as though the whole thing had been planned.

It is difficult to know people. Another mind is, and always will be, an enigma. We can only be ourselves and, far too often, being ourselves is a hard ask for people whose selves are different from the norm. Sometimes, letting people see inside your chip bag isn’t just difficult, it’s dangerous.

Yet we look all the same. We look for people who will let us in, show us their insides, and hope against hope that we will not find them underfilled. Slowly, and if all goes well, we find people who think the same of us. And call them friends.

Showing insides is hard, and I am so very bad at it. It bears costs but I do believe the risks are worth the rewards. So I hope that we can all take a deep breath and let some of our chip bag become translucent. It’s vulnerable, showing all that empty space, but how else are we meant to find the people who like us just the way we are?

Shel Silverstein, philosopher for the ages, wrote,

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through.
Then passed right by–
And never knew.”