I could hardly allow a glorious day to pass in total silence. DOMA rocked and Same-Gender Marriage rendered legal (again) California. It’s a state of affairs only dreamed of just a decade or two ago. I will let others speak to the intricate legal issues or pour their hearts’ happiness gleefully across the blogosphere. Tonight clearly belongs to LGBT families and those who labored so long for them. I only wish my friends lost to AIDS, substance abuse, and assorted illnesses who also labored and created families were still here.
Still I cannot help but feel oddly proud it occurred during my 50th year. My favorite college professor, Stanley Balis, always taught societies cannot appreciate a major epoch until 50 years passed. It was why books on WWII exploded in the 1990s as survivors finally opened up. Its a phenomena repeated throughout historiography. Being part of a generation who moved from ” a love that dared not speak its name” to one “that will simply not shut up” was both glorious and painful. In other words an epoch (whether I view my politically active stages or my downtime on the proverbial sidelines).
Just the week I came home choking back tears and smiles after a bus ride home on Sunset neighborhood bus. As I told my brother, “we (meaning my LGBT community) already won.” Why? I watched four high school age boys giggle and flame all over the bus about their planned dates and summer jobs. Yet no one moved to censure or mock them. Having grown up in the Sunset my brother and I knew this would have been a near death sentence in the 1970s and 1980s. Yes, our neighbors included Sunset punks who carried their hatred on baseball bats they wielded in the Castro.
Nor was it confined to Irish Catholic communities in San Francisco. I can recall my very first day of (yes) Catholic High School in Southern California. In not so whispered tones folks talked of a boy stomped in the showers that morning for allegedly having an erection. I still can see the principal (actually a decent priest and very straight) running around handling it. Few expressed sympathy and all stated the obvious “he will have to leave now” [and he did]. It’s a memory which lingered in my consciousness and helped bury my nascent sexual orientation further into my soul’s recesses. I can’t help but wonder if other 14-year-old Catholic boys and girls suffered similar reactions when our Archbishop pompously characterized today as a great tragedy. Nah; this is now, not 1977 – the Church has zero credibility.
But time to banish those bad memories for tonight. It’s a joyous celebration belonging to all of us gay or straight.
Let me extend my love and heartfelt thanks to my brothers, parents, ex-in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins who cast aside generations of institutionalized bigotry to embrace me. Not only did it allow me to live my life like any other boring, middle class product of parochial institutions, it comforted many of my friends and acquaintances. Kudos to my countless LGBT fellow travelers who also reached out to their families (regardless of the results; y’all tried). Thanks to my supportive coworkers and political colleagues who endured the “strident years.” A deeper thanks to everyone for not falling victim to the AIDS hysteria and locking us all up.
Those boys wouldn’t have traveled safely and the Court would not have made its ruling without each and everyone of you. Hug yourself and everyone near you in gratitude. It’s a blossoming of all the love held fast through the losses.
Tonight technology driven by a sore shoulder brings you this post via dictation. I feel like a cheap episode of an old Star Trek. Of course all the episodes of Star Trek were cheap so I guess this puts me right at home.
Mind you the power amazes me given the state of computers just 15-20 years ago. I vividly remember a disabled friend typing via a pencil clenched between her teeth. Now folks perform high-level jobs without ever touching a keyboard or mouse. Of course ever since we crawled out of the caves we have improvised around our puny bodies’ limitations. We erect huge buildings, roar down streets in fancy cars and literally fly to the moon. Powers which have wrought great beauty and even greater destruction. Like everything else it depends on who wields the power and the circumstances surrounding them.
Still I find this power of speech particularly terrifying. Oddly because it has always come to me so glibly. As a child I live surrounded by relatives who verbalized everything. Looking back it went beyond merely filling silences. On all sides of my family we saw and experienced everything. Our glimpses became fodder for stories, jokes, and fights. I suppose the modern term is processing, but I prefer living. Yet when the time came to give my heart away it went to a woman who taught me to value silence. An amazingly gifted musician she experienced the world by being still enough to hear sounds beyond my range of hearing and understanding. Like many long-term couples we eventually drifted apart but not before I learned of worlds I missed by not listening hard enough. [Note: picture is not my ex – just random (also gifted) musicians].
I suppose the fear arises from using speech in everything I do. Like many in my family I always fall into the caregiving professions, no matter how much I try running from them. It’s closely linked with the whole world domination thing I have had going since kindergarten. Taught always to give back my family members and I seek to lift up the world around us. In my case I use persuasive skills –either verbal or written– to cajole, console, or scold. In my youth I sought justice and power. Now in middle-age I seek to settle or repair things. It no longer seems like a compromise given what I’ve learned of the world’s fragility. Mostly, much like the dictation, its learning to trust going with the flow. The faster you dictate the fewer mistakes you make. The more people and situations you quickly clean up, the better the worlds. It’s like bringing a little spring in the middle of winter.
So what so terrifying? It’s knowing how easily people use speech to do the wrong thing. It’s not just the larger questions of morality its seeing people ripped to pieces by someone else’s words. It’s knowing people so damaged they no longer trust anyone. It’s remembering, how like any other non-perfect human being, when I used speech to destroy people. With glibness comes too many glitches is or gotcha’s. With writing I feel distance and a chance to edit (unless I had the itchy send button finger going). Of course given my clumsy dictation skills I will always have a chance to edit. Still it harkens of a world where speech will grant instant gratification. Hopefully I will remember what my ex so wisely tried to teach me, just wait and listen.
Most of us exist in a dream state. We chase after our greatest desires, or fend off our current challenges, without giving real thought to what matters. “What” being our connections to loved ones.
Collective tragedies like the Sandy Hook Shootings, the Boston Marathon Bombings, and the Waco Plant Blast jolt our delirium. Instantly we morph into a community vicariously facing our greatest fears as we sit transfixed near flickering screens. During this collective outpouring we will hug our loved ones closer and dig deep to send what comfort we can afford. In time the closeness will pass as everyday life and loved ones reassert themselves, but painful memories defining generation remain. Dates like November 1963 or 9/11, remembrances of past wars, genocides, or plagues (AIDS), and the seemingly endless mass shootings will drag us back to the original horror.
However, nothing prepares us for the loss of a truly loved one. Even if anticipated the loss brings us to our knees. If we are fortunate, friends and family help pick us up. Still it remains a journey each of us must walk alone. A bleak journey designed to get us to accept a seemingly unbearable loss. Time helps but memories matter more (once we pass the ones loaded with regret). In time hopefully we regain strength enough to once again pass along the love so generously bestowed on us.
Before a torrent of losses of persons both known and unknown, I might have admonished everyone to grab a hold of their loved ones. (Obviously I recommend this approach on all possible occasions.) However, much like the now cliché quote from the movie, “we can’t handle the truth” we can’t handle the ecstasy accompanying the emotion. Truly grasping what losing a dearly loved one means would render us besotted, unable to leave their side. Most likely we would lose them along with our ability to continue as a species.
Still we must train our senses to capture the ecstasy when it arrives (often by surprise). It’s not the big events I remember spending with my mom, loved ones lost to death, or former friends and lovers. Often its an ordinary day spent doing ordinary things or perhaps a silly day where responsibilities got tossed. At the time it filled me with happiness but didn’t register large in my life. Now these moments are a lifeline. Pay attention to them and soak them for every bit of available joy. God knows we will be back in front of our flickering screens soon enough.
Growing up with a Canadian mother brought me great joy and profound insights. I learned life survives ferocious winters, hospitality trumps even the most mean-spirited, and no person arrives on earth better than anyone else. As the Canucks among you can tell, my mom came from the Western Prairies (a bastion of both radicalism and independence).
Her greatest gift lay in teaching me to seek out kindred spirits. Inspired by her favorite book “Anne of Green Gables“ this meant looking inside a person to find their core values and beliefs. In the process you disregarded differences in race, class, and gender. Looking back on my mom’s amazing life she never faltered from this approach however far it drove her from the path planned out for her. As a result she created a beautiful extended family which still benefits us long after her passing.
It hit me again tonight as I visited other bloggers’ sites. Like my mom, WordPress gathers a pretty diverse bunch. These bloggers write for various reasons: to capture beautiful images all around the world; to save souls through politics or religion; or to share their hard won knowledge and experience (without payment). At their core, each seeks to bring beauty where perhaps none currently exists or wants to show the beauty our busy eyes currently disregard.
One of the cool things about aging is you really grasp how little trappings matter. You have been fooled once too often, survived losses you once assumed insurmountable, and humbled by how the little things make you the happiest. It’s truly what the cliché “youth is wasted on the young” means. But of course, the cliché disregards the lessons one must necessarily learn to get where light shines through darkness.
It’s late so I’ll wrap up now. However, let me give a shout out to kindred spirits in my life (both real and virtual). Most importantly let me say love you to the woman who got me out of bed to write it. Miss you Mom. Here’s one of your favorite places (SFJapanese Tea Garden)
Growing up as a bookworm gave me a strong affinity for older, elaborate homes. My favorite tales featured hidden passageways, transport to other worlds, or (as I aged) bodies crying out for justice. None of these things frightened me because each promised the fictional release my brain and spirit craved.
Later – as I pursued my passion for social justice – I looked to history both for inspiration and justification. The large homes I had avidly scoured for secrets became reduced to symbols of excess (especially after learning my relatives toiled downstairs to run them). Smaller, run-down homes I once barely glanced at achieved heroic status as examples of working class ingenuity.
In time – lots of time – I removed both the dreams and the judgments. Having come from a working class family I could see the skilled labor and fine materials poured into the more elaborate homes. Frankly the same went for the smaller homes clearly built from Sears Catalogs and salvaged items. In each case I could appreciate how these efforts allowed them to stand through the decades.
While I will never forget or forgive the excesses poured into some homes (both old and new) while many people barely survive, I cannot help but photograph them. In glancing at my favorites, however, I realize I need to capture the smaller, older ones. This will be quest.
Apologies for those attempting to follow the blog tonight. Even without the ADHD, picking a new theme would whiplash me. So many selections, so little ability (on my part) to make them perfect.
Photography grounds me by forcing me to see, stop, and focus. Prior to picking up the camera again these words rarely entered my vocabulary. Constantly moving always took me somewhere but too often I ended saying why here.
Still downsides exist with being a photography newbie. The more I learn, I realize the less I know. Seeking inspiration in others work proved humbling given the talent out there. Catching one image well often meant not seeing other available shots. Or worse, taking the same shot over and over. Shrug.
Still sometimes it all comes together when you least expect it.It’s kinda like life.
Woody Allen aptly stated “eighty percent of success was showing up.” However, as someone who showed up most of her life, I want a little more out this next half. I want – no need to – like where I end up (even if it will only be on walks behind my camera lens).