On Netflicks we recently very much enjoyed-
Queens- Spanish film about several gay couples getting married in Spain and their crazy families.
Legacy- photos of Native Americans from 1890-1920, music background, no narration, quite lovely in a sad sweet way to see what life was like
Overheard at the Putney Post Office today-
1st post clerk- What did the doctor say?
2nd post clerk- She said not to lift anything heavy.
1st post clerk- So you get to stay in bed?
John Calvi’s Year-End Letter 2007
I write this while preparing for my last few trips of this year and remembering trips over the last 25 years. The numbers surprise even me - 35 states, 4 countries, 5 prisons, 11 yearly meetings, 21 years teaching at Friends General Conference Gathering and Pendle Hill, with innumerable rape survivors, people with AIDS, and tortured refugees from every continent, an average of 24 trips a year, and working with as many as 2,000 people a year. At 55, I can look over my 2007 calendar and smile. But looking over all my travel calendars, I feel the need to sit down. My 2008 sabbatical comes just in time.
Three years ago I began to discuss the need for Quakers to take on the work of ending US-sponsored torture. In addition to all my travel work on trauma, I helped give birth to The Quaker Initiative to End Torture, which has now held 1 Canadian and 2 U.S. conferences and continues to grow.
I feel great accomplishment in all these years of healing work. I’ve worked very hard and surrendered my life to learning and healing. It’s not been easy - and goodness knows I am a reluctant student - but I am very happy with both the personal history of work and where I have come to be.
To accomplish all my leadings in the last few years I developed some very unhealthy habits - 15 hours a day of computer work and learning all I could about torture to teach articulately and gently. This was a productive choice that achieved much but took a toll on me. To recover, my sabbatical begins on Thanksgiving 2007 and goes to January 2009- no teaching or hands-on work during this time.
Beginning my sabbatical starts with changing patterns of overwork and desk time until my blood pressure and weight are lowered to healthy rates. I’ll be doing physical work such as painting the house. I am even going to stay out of contact with dear ones I’ve been working with a long time, a difficult but necessary discipline. I am doing all this so that my next 25 years of work will be even more graceful.
Please be assured there is no illness, burnout, or sudden financial ease leading to this sabbatical. I am not ill. Burnout is when you can no longer do your best. My work is still graceful, deeply appreciated, and much in demand. And sudden wealth does not appear to be a threat in this lifetime. This is simply a celebration of 25 years of trauma work, rest and rebalancing, and choosing how to begin again in 2009.
I hope you will support my rest with gifts during this sabbatical. My living has come mostly from gifts. I’ve been able to be of help to people surviving trauma because of the generosity of many over the years. Thank you for your gifts at this time too.
In the Light,
John Calvi November 2007
PO Box 301 Putney VT 05346-0301 www.johncalvi.com <http://www.johncalvi.com/>
John Calvi’s Calendar 2007 Completed
Jaunary 14 Putney Friends Mtg The Quaker Initiative to End Torture QUIT Putney, VT
February 2-4 Eugene Friends Meeting Annual Winter Retreat, Eugene, OR
February 5 Dragonfly Adventures Stress Reduction Klamath Falls, OR
February 5 Klamath Falls Friends Church QUIT Update Klamath Falls, OR
March 5-9 Pendle Hill Rest the Body, Live in the Light 800/742-3150 www.pendlehill.org <http://www.pendlehill.org/> Wallingford, PA
March 15 Friends World Committee for Consultation QUIT update Providence, RI
March 21-23 Univ. Friends Meeting Healing Circle & Friends in Need Seattle, WA
March 30- April 1 St Louis Friends Mtg – Bringing Light to Pain & QUIT ST Louis, MO
April 27-29 Canadian QUIT Torture Conference Ottawa Friends Meeting Ottawa, ONT
June 1-3 The Quaker Initiative to End Torture 2nd Conference www.quit-torture-now.org <http://www.quit-torture-now.org/> Greensboro, NC
June 9 Helping my dear friend Gene Garber to die at home with love Putney, VT
June 11 CONTACT: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures, SIT Brattleboro, VT
June 17 15th St Meetinghouse The Quaker Initiative to End Torture New York, NY
June 30- July 7 Friends General Conference, Abandon All Weariness Workshop, QUIT
www.fgcquaker.org <http://www.fgcquaker.org/> River Falls, WI
July 12-15 VT People with AIDS Annual Retreat- workshops & moderator, Stowe, VT
September 28-30 Missouri Valley Friends Conference Camp Chihowa Lawrence, KS
October 1 Attended/assisted a birth for my 1st time Memorial Hospital Brattleboro, VT
October 12-13 Quaker Hill Conf Center Midwest Healers Group Richmond, IN
November 2-4 Powell House massage/energy work - spiritual depth Old Chatham, NY
November 14-15 Dragonfly Adventures Stress Reduction Klamath Falls, OR
November 16-18 Abandon All Weariness, Quaker Center Ben Lomond, CA
February 20 – 22 Powell House Body as Temple for Spiritual Work Old Chatham, NY
April 24-26 Woolman Hill Spiritual Disciplines for Healing Deerfield, MA
May 29-31 Pendle Hill Restoration with healing touch Wallingford, PA
June 27-July 4 Friends General Conference Workshops Blacksburg VA
July 15-19 North Pacific Yearly Meeting Keynote & Friend in Residence Missoula, MT
August 3-5 New England Yearly Meeting workshops Smithfield RI
September 25-27 Quaker Center weekend workshop quakercenter.org Ben Lomond, CA
Please send a gift to my address below.
I will need your gifts during sabbatical to rest and prepare for another 25 years.
Definitions- tax law says a donation carries the expectation of work for which I am taxed.
A gift is given out of respect, affection, or charity, such as
my birthday- May 14, my wedding anniversary- August 28, or a Christmas gift.
calendar, and photos AT WWW.JOHNCALVI.COM <http://WWW.JOHNCALVI.COM/> (watch for new blog)
My website carries updates, photos, and a new blog soon thanks to Blake Arnall & Sehoon Ahn.
Please help me save mailing costs by sending your e-mail address to email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> .
The next Beethoven Letter in May 2008 will be in email.
PLEASE EXCUSE ME IF I AM DIFFICULT TO CONTACT DURING SABBATICAL, IT’S INTENTIONAL.
PO Box 301 Putney VT 05346 www.johncalvi.com <http://www.johncalvi.com/>
Through the open window the sounds of life come in all night long. There's a freight train about 1 AM that can only be heard by keeping still and both ears unblocked by pillow and blankets. There's a parliament of owls who appear at times during the day and are quite large. The summer sound of frogs surrounding the beaver pond are now being replaced with the last crickets and the wosh of autumn leaves swirled in the wind. A pine tree fallen half way to the ground is caught in hardwoods and squeaks a bit on windy nights to our east. There's the rare and fearful sound of coyotes yipping as they make a kill and the sound of deer outrunning dogs- thudding hooves. Some nights when we go out to pee and see the stars, deer bedding down in the sloping field think us rude and too close and leave suddenly, slipping fast and silent into the forest that surrounds us on all sides. There has been some crashing sounds at times that we can only think are bears taking down very dead trees. And some nights there is the sound of a live tree coming down by the beaver's good hard work. These are muffled and down in the woods. We had a bird of some sort this summer who sounded asthmatic and distinctly socially awkward whose calls joined the owls but had a tone of vagrancy and solitary life and would come near the house late at night. There is some sound of trucks on the interstate at first light, but one has to lie very still to sort out this sound from wind in the pines. I remember sitting on a mountain ridge in Colorado back in the 80's one evening and a friend helping me to hear the difference between the sounds of the wind and the river below.
After 4 days of wonderful food- Marshall roasted a whole salmon, and stacking firewood- John Meyer and I stacked the rest of the 2 cords for this winter while Marshall did a final paper on 2nd language acquisition, and teaching me how to play Scrabble, and telling the old stories again- John Meyer told the story from FGC gathering 1990 when he complimented Claude Branque on his beautiful eyes and Claude, ever the wild card, tapped his finger against his glass eye, making it click click click. I've never seen John M at a loss for words- he couldn't even think. Much hilarity. Talk of the future, musings of what might be. Now alone in the house, awaiting a client, dishwasher doing a final load, and making a small fire to take the chill off the morning air. How good to do life so fully, something I didn't dream as a young person. Hope this finds us all well and mining the Light.
This day is one of great luxury for me. All the house is cleaned, wood furniture oiled, trash and recycling gone, all is in it's place, a guest futon freshened with new sheets. Marshall has made a special menu that I shopped for this afternoon and now it's time to lay a fire in the woodstove and set the table as a dear old friend makes his way from a whole days drive away. Foot bath at the ready, hot towels to precede a face massage after dessert, and most luxurious of all - hours of laughing and catching up on news of one sort and another with this weekend visit. A clan member comes in off the road to share hearth and home bringing dear memories of years and decades of knowing one another- our best, our worst, our least, our most. And great delight is taken that in this time of now and in the space of here there is the luxury of sharing the path, no translation needed, rest taken together, a big old queen fest so happy to still be here and laughing.
I am heartbroken to read of Congo and the rape of women as a widespread weapon. This is the oldest form of torture and surely leaves the deepest wounds. I hold this knowing with a heavy heart for all women across all boundaries around the planet. There is so much good humans are capable of and yet there seems to be no break in doing the worst over and over.
As a comfort, I recommend the book, A Body Story, by Arla Patch, a Maine Quaker whose gentle photos and brief autobio story are honest about violations to her body, sexual and surgical, and her healing.
We are having a rainy day here in Vermont. The fall colors have come slowly here in the south. We've had no frost and green is still most of the landscape. I'm headed to the laundromat after doing a bit of energy work with a new mother- yes, I did get to help with a birth for my first time ever. This was an amazing opportunity to witness life and women giving life. I felt blessed. And so very happy to be only a visitor!
Hope this finds us all well and mining the Light, John
Here’s my mother’s tomato sauce recipe below for you gardeners with some extras on the vine. Hope this finds all very well and life good.
Carmela's Spaghetti Sauce
-Peel, seed, and chop 10 large tomatoes
-Cover the bottom of a stock pot with olive oil and bring to a simmer.
-Peel and finely slice 3 large garlic cloves to simmering oil
-Add a small handful of raisins
-Add tomatoes to stock pot
-Add a large handful of fresh basil chopped
-Add a large sprinkle of oregano and simmer 2-4 hours
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Maybe add wine, orange peel, cloves, sauté onion, fresh parsley
If you need a taste delight of true deliciousness, if you have too many tomatoes, if you need something lovely and cool in this summer heat, please check out Marshall's latest newly invented recipe on his food blog-
This is a gaspacho to remember with fondness and make for your nearest and dearest.
Wading down the slope from our little home, the weeds and shrubs thriving in summer heat, the small paths made by deer and others, I come to the grove of 30 High Bush Blueberry plants all now taller than me. High Bush Blueberries were commercially bred here in Putney 30 years ago at the nursery owned by the US Senator who came up with the solution to the US war in Viet Nam- "Declare victory and bring the boys home!"
I've come to pick blueberries for dessert with the neighbors this evening to go over banana ice cream. But I find only a few handfuls that are ripe and ready and dark and sweet. But mostly the birds and deer have eaten what is ripe. There are many many still green blueberries, promises for later.
But there is another problem- we have not practiced recent good plant care. John Meyer spent several grueling weeks clearing this patch of weeds and shrubs years ago and then Marshall and I laid down weed cloth covered with wood chips. But since that time we've done precious little. And now there needs to be major pruning, some transplanting, and another overhaul of removing all the non-blueberry plants blocking light from each blueberry bush.
Like many things, it just needs a little regular maintenance, a little time doing the small things so they don't grow into the chaos of overgrown, invaded, interrupted, and obstructed. Cleaning the refrigerator, spiritual life, communications with certain special people or situations, a health/healing crisis- all these need some small regular thing.
And life and the world just gets too busy and filled up and so some small thing that we know should have gotten done and for good reason goes amiss and undone and accumulates and builds up. Simplicity and priorities are still the underpinnings of so much important stuff, on the one hand. On the other hand, life is too full, there is too much going on, and the choices are difficult- when there are choices.
At times I am made weary simply by knowing that there is not more time and energy to do the compassionate thing for myself or my beloveds or some stranger or the blueberries. This afternoon as the sun sweats Vermont under 80 degrees and big humidity, I am thinking of the many dear ones whose health is in pain and trouble and I long that all my love and compassionate attention could be unobstructed and directed like a great river for more hours.
But maybe life is a long witness of these many imperfections in ourselves and others- the pain we can't touch, the call that never gets made, the life done alone in the difficult passage, the mystery that never gets understood. Might we come to understand these as part of the beauty of a complex creation by and by. I know my own impatience limits this learning for me most often in light of my own pain or the numbers of people I know of and want to reach.
Eventually, I'll get down to the blueberries with tools of destruction and make clear the way for light. By and by, I'll get down that list of calls I've been meaning to make. And I know that friend who I've been wanting to call me and hear my latest adventure in delight and despair will be in touch as they are able, as time allows, as we remember what is important, how it all connects, when we pull out of the busyness of all the too much.
Last night Marshall and I had friends to dinner, a mercy dinner really for a young couple just moving into their first home and a baby due in two months.
We were talking about pet names that couples have for one another. They share with us that at home in Korea there is a newish tradition of greeting ones true love with -Hello Myself. Surely, this must be one of the most romantic and spiritual expressions of love and unity.
Coming in from the QUIT conference which was wonderful which was soured a bit with 2 hard days of driving with too much traffic and heavy rains, very dangerous in spots, I come back into the dark bedroom of the 80 year old man slowly giving over his body to illness and getting ready to leave this life. All his care is good. The hard part just now is how do I slow down enough to leave the hyper vigilance of running a conference and 750 miles of interstate. I need to slow down to his speed as he breathes slowly and speaks slowly and needs only patience which I seem to have used all up in the 2 hours creeping traffic in front of the George Washington Bridge to NYC. I breathe deeply. I straighten my back. I try to stop thinking about details and particulars and soften my focus to notice color, tone, how it feels to be still. Such gymnastics within me as I sit and listen to his thrill that he saw a young moose stroll through his yard in "downtown" Putney. Changing my mind- be it slower, more compassionate, reaching for understanding, trying not to lose balance to fear or anger, or simply trying not to be as dumb as my bio family systems taught me to be- is a discipline more valuable to me now in my mid-50's than I ever knew earlier in life. Logic and reality have their place, but they mustn't be given too much space or they just take over. The reach for our best has a knowing that is non-verbal, non-linear, and a comfort as well as a surprise like much of spiritual life.
We ask that Light wash over all your children in pain, especially all the young who have been wounded and shunned. As we, the elders, hear anew that another escapes to live and another young heart is broken by trespass and lost of trust and meanness, we weep the old tears of loss and the new tears of our collective pain. We hold together in our love and our common experience that leaving and being cast out hurt deeply, but that the open road might bring us home where cruelty is laid down and hope restored. Wash us in our misery with mercy.
Turned 55 today- (somebody say, “Babyface!”). All yesterday sat around with cousins I grew up with listening and telling old family stories, much laughing. Today finishing up sending out 23rd Beethoven Letter and spent some time in quiet stillness and gratitude at the bedside of an old friend slowly dieing as he slept a deep and peaceful sleep. Quite odd to be a speed limit age, the breakdown lane? Odd too how long life is, how many memories there are, how many people I’ve been, how many circles of people I’ve entered into and come out of, how many old family and friends have died and how many people seem quite young. I am so happy with how my life has unfolded and so happy with how full it is and filled with what I’ve chosen. But mostly lately all I really want to do is lie down, which I did much of last week, thank goodness. Smootches to so many of you I’ve know along the way, John
I've been in a unique position lately, helping a lovely old gay man to die. I'm not a primary caregiver or a hospice volunteer. Mostly I'm just the listener, the nice "young" gay man who can listen to what he wants to talk about when he is done discussing insurance and nurses with the important caregivers. I'm the one he can talk to about his dead lover of so many years and about his relations with men in the years since his lover died. It's a bit odd for me to not have to offer anything other than listening, not have to work, just enjoy and show I am unafraid of his pain or his dieing.
Yesterday a hawk flew overhead with a snake in its talons. And it catches me wondering for it's meaning.
There are times I long for the time just to see and wonder without interruption, to see the beauty, to witness against loneliness, to be in awe of creation- that's true luxury.
Saw two deer streaking across the rainy field this evening
So lovely in the green grass.
Last hunk of snow in the driveway is nearly gone
Daffs in the field too.
There is a new cookie by Paul Newman's company- three flavors of Hermits
Marshall and I deeply prefer the Cinnamon over Original or Ginger.
Save yourself some trouble and just get 2 boxes- they go quick.
A friend sent his recipe for Hermits. They are the best. See below.
Life is good. Spring is here, finally.
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cloves
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (lightly packed) light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
3/4 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons plus
2 1/2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or leave it ungreased.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar together in a medium-size mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stop the mixer twice to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Add the egg and mix on medium speed until blended, 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl.
5. Add the molasses and mix until blended.
6. Add the dry ingredients and the raisins and mix on medium speed until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.
7. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a log 1 1/2 inches in diameter by 12 inches long. Arrange the logs on the prepared cookie sheet, leaving at least 3 to 4 inches between them.
8. Bake the logs until they are golden but still very soft to the touch and puffy in the center, 17 to 18 minutes. (The dough cracks during baking and it will still seem slightly raw on the inside even when the logs are done.) The logs flatten out and lengthen as they bake.
9. Cool the logs on the sheet. Cut into 2-inch-wide slices when cool. Each log makes 7 cookies.
10. Prepare the glaze: Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir them vigorously with a whisk until blended.
11. Drizzle the glaze over the strips or use a pastry brush to paint the surface of the strips with the glaze. Allow the glaze to harden before eating or storing the cookies.
Makes 14 cookies
As we hear news of violence and hatred, please remember to take a deep breath and connect with the Divine.
Shootings are terrible news to take in. Hatred within Quaker African circles are shocking too. These are each obscene and soil and burden us, even through our TV numbness.
Many die each day we don't hear of. What we do hear is a small part of each day's loss.
Violence and hatred are often a bad penny passed from one to another. Had our African brethren more food and safety, their mercy for people they don't know would be larger. This will not be relieved by policy or rules or doctrine, but from justice, which brings clarity.
Sitting by the window this end of day, I see rainwater melting snow and rushing down hill. It is the turning from Winter to Spring. Anyone too close to rivers will need to move uphill- towards some mercy, some dry ground. I sit here in reverence asking that there be enough dry ground for all- knowing it is only true sometimes.
Happy Easter Everybody,
Don't let the noise of Christianity distract you from the beautiful teachings of Jesus.
PS Springtime- great time to put your TV in the attic!
Well, I just want to say that if by chance you did happen to pull an old
circular saw out of the rubbish that your departing landlord had discarded
when he sold you the house and you found this saw to be only a little
dangerous because of this and that wear and tear and 17 years later the prep
school on the hill where your friend and neighbor was raising turkeys but
had forgotten to book the butcher in advance and so several of these turkeys
became quite large before their day of reckoning and he asked you to buy one
as a favor before they outgrew the cow barn and that turkey was larger than
any pan you had on hand and borrowing the neighbors pan where 12 for dinner
means most of the family is out and lo that pan did not fit into your oven,
it might just be that you could take that 40 pound turkey and wedge it into
the kitchen sink and then use the circular saw to cut that sucker in half
much to the disgust of your husband who really did grow up in a much more
proper family than yours and they never had the occasion for flying turkey
meat to be landing on the ceiling like sawdust but more sticky.
Notes on the Road-Old Chatham Meeting in NY is looking for a place to build a meetinghouse on the grounds of Powell House, the Quaker Conference Center- a lovely old mansion out in the expensive sticks of Columbia County south of Albany. When I think of all hell braking loose as Friends try to choose new flooring for the restroom, I can’t imagine bringing dozens of people together to decide on a building site. The meeting put up a billboard this fall showing a prisoner blindfolded and bound. There’s a quotation from Jesus about loving your enemy and the question, “Is this love?”
Across the dirt road from Powell House is a farm for rescued animals, including several horses. Walking out one moonlit night last month, I watched the horses about 11 PM, some grazing and some going to sleep. I tried to be very quiet- sleeping in public must be nerve wracking for someone rescued.
At another Quaker conference center I see deer on a late night walk. There had been some talk of mountain lions there years ago but now the deer seem to be in residence and slow to leave even in the presence of people. I try to walk quietly again and make myself as harmless appearing as possible (on my first hitch hiking endeavor in the early 70’s with only about 40 miles to cover, I used a sign that said “Harmless” and got lots of rides from laughing people). The Redwood forests of this conference center stun me to silence each time I see them. How anyone can be in their presence and not feel the reverence and how fraught with life they are, so much to teach mere people?
Blake, whose birthday is today, takes me from the Redwoods down the hill to the coast on Sunday. We walk the pier and I wonder aloud how I might find out if an old friend from Santa Cruz has died with AIDS. I tried the archives of the local paper online, but I am not a computer person and hadn’t a date to work with. It’s an odd thing to be having dreams of someone often and then stop, as though he has left.
Marshall and I both finish our work travels for the year and leave for a time of rest and visiting his family in Southern California. We leave early as an ice storm threatens the interstate path to the airport. How odd to be on our way to sunny warmth chased by ice. The very cheap tickets on Thanksgiving Day bring us through 4 airports and a dozen hours of travel. We both are accustomed to long flights and fill the time with books, ipod, writing letters, postcards, and journaling. Marshall always has 2 or 3 books he is reading and I always travel with writing materials. Some flights I just read my journal, which prompts more memory of detail than what I’ve written. In my head I begin planning an AIDS quilt for Bill Kreidler of deep rich velvets.
In California we stroll 2 very different beaches. We walk Santa Monica beach down to Venice. While the beach is stunning the whole way with Malibu to the north, the edge of the towns along the beach couldn’t be more different in people and buildings. SM has style and graceful old architecture and money and college kids and surfers. As you approach Venice, clearly there are more homeless and more drug dealers and addicts. There are also more artists and the old buildings are slowly being replaced by new money from big developers. I once saw a man juggling 3 chainsaws in Venice (the chainsaws going) and passing the hat like any street performer. In an empty parking lot some young men had skateboards and long ropes reaching to wind-filled mini parachutes pulling them along like sailboats. Surfers on the water had bigger kite-sails doing a similar dance but along the waves. We’ve none of this in Putney.
The beach in Santa Barbara is the end of a long sloping hill that comes from the mountains and fans down to the sea for maybe 10 miles. One can stand under palms near the surf and see snow covered peaks up under the clouds. The beach curves in a very tasteful and picturesque way from some rocky cliffs in the south and goes straight west to more cliffs after making a graceful crescent that embraces a long pier, a skateboard park, a marina, and a long park for walkers, joggers, and biking. The spacious beach has homeless there at all hours- men mumbling to themselves and carefully packing what little scraps of life they possess. The skateboard park also seems to be a preserve of males only. And how they defy gravity is beyond me. 30 or more skateboarders flying through the air more crowded than O’Hare airport and no crashes- amazing. You can walk 3/4 the way around the marina and see people caring for their boats like a different form of suburbia. And the boats are as different as houses- some so old and torn up one wonders how it still floats. Some so large and ritzy that I know it’s not only bigger than my house but has a better toilet.
The GPS in the car says the closest Quaker Meeting to Santa Barbara is in Santa Monica. I wonder if the FBI uses GPS to find Quaker meetings or goes on line to Quaker.org. We go into Los Angeles to see an exhibition of Joni Mitchell’s art. I am disappointed that it is not her paintings but images of war taken from a broken TV all done up in bright green. The message being isn’t war dumb and deceitful no matter the century. Yes, of course. But I wanted to see her paintings, especially the portraits. The catalog costs more than our monthly mortgage. But there’s news of an album coming out next year of her new songs, thank goodness.
There’s a music store in Marshall’s hometown near 5 colleges and the CD collection there is amazing. I could easily spend a wad there on things I never see back home. Marshall chooses a CD of Horowitz performing in Moscow. In the car we are stunned by it’s majesty and it makes me think we need to replace the speakers at home to truly hear how beautiful this music is.
We travel easily with his parents and it’s a happy relaxing trip for a few days away. It’s odd to have so many cycles or plateaus in ones life. I remember being a young skinny horny lonely school teacher with a full dance card and no true love, a guitar, a VW bus, and no place to call home. I still have the guitar but Marshall has replaced everything else in our 20 years together. What might another 20 look like?
I begin a time of rest without teaching or touch work from Thanksgiving to New Years. I’ve got to shovel out my desk and stack the rest of the wood before snow flies. And I’ve got to rest from another year with trips to 24 groups, going into my 25th year of this traveling ministry. How odd life is as it gets longer- does 80 seem even more peculiar as more change happens? Does a life hold together like a quilt stitched each year? The neighboring Malamute is put down on a gray day. All the neighbors come the night before to say good-bye as she is the nicest person in the neighborhood. I bring her last meal, her favorite- McDonalds cheeseburgers sans condiments. Marshall is there for the vets needle and the last moments to comfort her owners and witness with love. How very full life is and how various the mix over time.
I'm grateful to be home after my last work trip this year and grateful that I arrived home in time to be of help with neighbors to a dying Malamute dog who we all agreed is the nicest person in the neighborhood. I'm grateful to begin a time of rest and to be on my way to Marshall's family for Thanksgiving dinner- they say it's 90 degrees outside LA and we'll have to have turkey on the patio. I'm grateful that our neighbor took down 2 trees and has made a neat collection of firewood across the driveway, which Marshall and I are collecting up this morning. I am grateful to this nomadic electronic group and it's webmeister for its seeking deeply and not so deeply as we go along hoping to remember not to screw up too badly and to be thankful for as much of creation that we can bear to witness and to have mercy first at home and outwardly from there.
An amazing moment of wonder and contrition for me one afternoon meeting for worship- the vocal ministry was sloppy, the kind of dithering in therapy of the seeker refusing to see the obvious. This had put me in a curmudgeonly mood thinking, as Bill Kreidler often would reflect, if you can’t improve on the silence, then hush! Hush being a more polite form than what he’d say. And then from across the very large room comes a message from a mouth unable to form words to be easily understood. It’s a sort of sing-songy rhythm but no words could I distinguish. And for a moment I am thinking in my curmudgeonly state how pathetic to not be able to speak. But lo, the sound is vaguely familiar and then a woman sitting in front of me begins to hum the old hymn “There is a Balm in Gilead”. I open my eyes and raise my head to see who is giving this message and there in a large raised wheelchair without use of limbs is a small old woman with short silver hair who is glowing a radiant Light singing this blessing for all who are in pain and lost- there is a balm in Gilead and please take this comfort I remind you of. Well, it was the kind of stunning that makes one teary and humbled and is unforgettable.
How is it that some days just become tender as the messages come from here and there with this one having surgery and that one broken hearted and this one with some old loneliness and another with no mercy for herself? And maybe partly I had a dream upon waking that puts me in the frame of mind where many things of the now remind of sometime ago when the world was different and I was different and there's a tenderness to remembering even briefly. Just before school let out when I was in early grade school, getting off the school bus, I might catch a glimpse of old Mr. Roberts heading off into the woods with his ox cart to gather firewood, his two red-brown ox slow and powerful old friends of his who never needed the whip he carried. He drove horse teams for my grandfather when my family first came to the little Yankee town and were the darkest people ever to stay. My grandmother sitting by the pond shelling peas says quietly, "yes, I saw Buffalo Bill Cody when his Wild West Show came to town soon after I came off the boat from Italy. His hair was long and white and beautiful."
Did anyone happen to notice that the new Mr. Empire State Leather, a very butch number indeed, used to be a Vermont Lesbian truck driver who transitioned with some obvious success? There's a good interview him in the May issue of Out In The Mountains.
And speaking of trans, I've recently met a high school student who clearly identifies as being transgender and while he finds safety at school is running into trouble at home. Is there a Quaker trans MtF who might come forward as a resource person should this student choose to be in touch?
Spring here in Vermont seems to be coming slowly. I've recently been to NYC, SF, Seattle, and Ohio- all of whom have tons more blossoms and warm weather than Putney.
Dear friend, 23.7. '39
Friends have been urging me to write you for the sake of humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that any letter from me would be an impertinence. Something tells me that I must not calculate and that I must make my appeal for whatever it is worth.
It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success? Any way I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing you.
Your sincere friend,
M. K. Gandhi
Happy Solstice! Hope this finds the whole tribe of queer Quakers cozy and well, minding Light, and raising requisite amounts of hell as lead. M & I are about to take a break from heavy work schedules to visit his family and rest from a year of too much work. Recent holiday times of dinner with friends has brought some wonderful stories and much laughing. A friend who received a very personal video from her fiancé used the same tape to film vacation with her mother, while showing the film to friends, it seems there were interruptions of previously filmed revelations of passion. Whoops. Another friend living in Spain also went on to Morocco where he enjoyed a traditional steam bath for spiritual cleansing, but drew the sole gay attendant to assist him which made for a later date and then trying to find a mutual language which was maybe 6 words in French. Oui. A friend who decided to write about strippers applied for a job to see the backside of the business and lied her way into being offered a job after a short stint on stage and making up a resume and stage name, not Trixie. And left as soon as a job was secured with the owner licking his lips with a wet grin saying, We are going to make lots of $. Yes, good time to end research. Another friend who interviewed many Americans exiles in Canada resisting the draft during the American war in Viet Nam who now finally wants to make a book of it all and can't organize her thoughts nor find all her papers. Amazing stories of peoples lives. A friend who will marry soon when her man comes home from the military in Iraq and wondering how re-entry from the war will make things different and how to help him write about what he's seen and how to surrender to love after so many years of single life. Cold as hell here in southeastern Vermont and a bit more snow in the forecast. Just found out there's no cell phone reception in Death Valley. Hope everyone is warm.
2 movies –
The Girl in the Café- kind of a love story, including the love of justice, very funny, and sweet. 2005 British
Iron Ladies- this is a true story of a group of drag queens & and transgender Thai people winning a national volleyball tournament in 1996 as a queer team. Funny, touching. 2001 Thai
Big ol lovely moon here tonight as we await a big ol ice storm.
Would you please tenderly hold in the Light two nearby friends. One is a near homeless older woman who has lost her balance going off meds. We are trying to get her back on the beam and your prayerful images would be most welcome. Her name is Barbara.
Another is an older gay man here in the village whom may soon understand that the doctors are doing nothing as there is nothing to be done. I am hoping to be with him as he makes this leap of awareness. Your spiritual kindness directed his way would be a blessing. His name is Gene.
The circle of life is fragile except of course for being relentless. Hope we are all in touch with the love around us.
I never thought of dangly earrings as life-saving, but maybe I just don’t get out enough.
In Vermont there was a trans woman who was burned out of her home a few years back, her family was involved in the arson. She fled and we are poorer for her absence. Maybe safety is part illusion. I hate the idea that any of us have to worry or fear for our safety, that our beauty and gifts may not be seen by the wider community, that meanness should be part of what follows fabulous queerness. It brings out the Italian mama in me, which is fierce.
My father’s mother was once mugged by a man twice her size- he grabbed the handle of her purse and yanked- she held on to the purse until the handle broke off and they both fell over- she then took a scissors out of her purse and chased him down the street- that was in her 70’s and it didn’t change into her 90’s!
My Quaker-side wants us to live in the bright light of seeking and change-making. And maybe we need both fierce and tender to survive it all
I like this question of how to do the most good in a quick short message or action is a good one because there are often times, maybe not with powerful decision makers, when we only have a moment to do some good, to initiate change. My first consideration would be my listener- what do I know about them, their receptivity, their perception, their personal culture. I also would want to know their own ways of communicating. Some men welcome tenderness in their opposition. Some men have no respect for opposition until it shows strength. If one has to butch up to be heard, then how to present as strong without being threatening? Then I’d want to see what information can I offer which is at the core of catching attention, suggesting change, making my perceptions clear. What do I know that frames my perspective, which challenges another’s assumptions in a fair and honest way. And then, being an old Montessori teacher of young children, I’d pose it as a question, which tends to be respectful and effective in education.
Considering all this, if I had the chance to speak with Bush- which is very difficult to imagine- AND issues of old anger loom greatly-
Short version- Did he wonder if too many people were dieing from his decisions?
Longer version- I’d ask him if he really thought that country A could place horrible dictator in country B, then country A could organize sanctions withholding medicines so thousands of children in country B died, and then country A would invade saying it had come to teach democracy- did he really think that was possible to make peace and teach democracy after such history?
My imagination and wonder are usually more along the lines of what would I do if I had decision power. Here’s my current list-
-Chase the money changers from the temple- get $ and corporate lobbyist out of elections and legislating
-Universal health care
-Join the international court, offer all administrations for trials on international law- everyone who made war &/or torture goes first
-Break monopolies of TV, radio, and newspapers so our news sources went back to real news
-Take the US out of the business of war- bring all troops home, triple the vets health care budget, and offer college tuition, close all 700+ US military bases around the world.
-Take the $40 billion annual budget for the CIA and make sure no one was hungry, homeless, or without medicine in America
-Re-do the tax structure to make the 2% weep
I dream of peace and justice for people I know and places I’ve been and places and people I’ll never know. I think it’s spiritually healthy to see how it could be and hope and work and believe the best is possible AND know that it’s a vigil, a long haul, a good long spiritual work. What were we doing anyway?
I have just been wondering- I can't think of a time when I've had to "pass" as a straight person any time recently. Actually, I can't recall the last time I had to do this at all. AND I am also thinking that I probably couldn't do it any more. I think it might be like a muscle and "use it or lose it" I think is quite true for this muscle.
I am wondering, what are others experience with this? Are there places where you still need to pass and how do you manage it?
I had a friend in Cleveland who was a bus mechanic, big butch job with big engines and tools. He was outed in a newspaper on a workday and he had passed up to that point but all went smoothly and nothing changed.
Are there stories to be told here? I have the feeling that I don't have to speak or move and people just look and think- big old queen. It's freeing in a way and I tend to live and work in safe places. And I can butch up a tad when necessary but pass, no, not even with an acting class.
Just wanted to say that Peter Clay, who now lives in Des Moines, Iowa and works at a primate sanctuary, is taking care of a female orangutan whose legs don't move. Peter began doing energy work with her and she relaxed deeply and lay beside him exposing her entire back for him to work on. Good works go in many places quietly and by sharing them the horrible noise of the world is made less.
I agree with Janice that it’s important that we connect with neighbors and know our capacities. Winter comes soon. The end of oil approaches also. And political stability is not what it used to be abroad or here at home. Along with attending to local response, I think we all have a spiritual obligation to be involved in the democratic process and hold government accountable, especially when lives are lost. Where money is used and what decisions are made are all part what saves or destroys lives. If we think government is a large unworkable beast that we can no longer count on, we fed the problem. If we ask representational government to represent us accurately, we not only help ourselves but much of the rest of the world. The lack of truth in any large portion should be a call to all of us to let our people in Washington KNOW what we are thinking. I think reasonable people should expect change NOW. Please don’t let frustration, anger, or spin daunt our love of justice, hope, or seeking. Please mind the Light. Americans have a great responsibility for how American power is used at home and in the world. All this mess- the good people needing help, the hard working crisis staff and volunteers, the corruption and failure of authorities, all this is ours. It must be washed, cleared, and set right. At our best, that is the American way. And no matter how far one leader or another causes us to stray, we can bring it all back on to the path. Waste of life and resources, and theft at the treasury can be and should be corrected. If a president can be impeached for blow jobs in the oval office, then surely loss of life carries some greater forfeit. God help us all to be faithful to ideals rather than parties or individuals.
Marshall and I got away for a few days to Provincetown on Cape Cod this weekend. So good to get away from the desk, work travel, deadlines, and schedules. I've been going to P-town since I was first there with friends from high school about 1971. Hard to remember myself as not out yet, my eyes popping at the sights of muscle men and drag queens. My loneliness and horniness at 19 years old were large muffled forces awaiting invitation.
I guess in some ways, P-town, and what it offered me later in ways of coming out, became like some people's positive connection with a college town. A new me was born there and the experience of freedom and association of all things possible with a place made for a love of place.
I began going there on my own when I got my first car, a new 1972 VW bus. I introduced Bill Kreidler to P-town in 1982 just before I left for massage school in Colorado. Marshall and I went there on our honeymoon in August of 1989. I went there regularly in June between teaching school and teaching summer camp and then again in August on my way back to school. I slept in the bus, at the houses of friends, on the beach, and spent one morning in jail as sleeping in ones car in a public parking lot became illegal. My one time in jail was for illegal sleeping.
All these years later, each part of town hold memories of dear friends, old boyfriends (many too many of those), and finding my place on the gay landscape of the late 1900's. How many people do we get to be in the search of ourselves?
This trip I saw a seal at Herring Cove beach, quite rare. And a drag queen in a blue wig hawking her things on the sidewalk yelling, "DRAG YARD SALE" to passing cars, not so rare. I saw Jill Nanfeld. I saw a man I taught with 23 years ago. I saw a dear friend I met doing AIDS work in DC 15 years ago. Marshall and I went to the beach in the mornings and for sunsets. We also took a long slow drive out of the area by stopping at several beaches on the ocean side to see crashing waves and whales feeding.
A few days away at a favorite spot, even with the hubbub of high season (I prefer May or Sept), gave us some time to step without pace, sleep late, and indulge in a late breakfast followed by an early lunch, natch.
And now, back home, the nights are cooling. And gearing up for fall travel work slowly begins. First, I officiate at a Korean wedding for which Marshall will make the wedding cake.
Marshall and I have used husband since before we were married, we met in 86. Yes, you get to use the words you like as culture is changing around this and you get to teach people, like it or lump it. Mostly, I find myself saying this as a normal use of terms and then others get to pretend that it's normal to them too and by and by it is. Once after a speech, an old Quaker woman came up to me and insisted that I had referred to myself as wife when in truth I had only called Marshall husband- so set are our words. Blessings on your seeking. I know husband and wife have very different histories as words plus cultural baggage. Many women couples I know don't like wife and seek other words, many of them not quite hitting the mark. I like it when I travel and people say, "Where's that handsome man of yours?" "Your man" includes the animal gravity of love and simple acknowledgement of bond. Women have a hugely other experience of ownership and property enough to make a feminist out of any numbnuts horn toad. But we make and re-make words when we use them with love, respect, and dignity. You get to choose. When M & I were writing our wedding vows we wanted to say- "In the presence of God and these our Friends, I take thee to be my husband, promising, with Divine assistance, to be loving, faithful, and a delight as long as we both shall live." The oversight committee freaked over the word Delight, saying that there would be difficult days of conflict in marriage. But we stuck to our words and by and by it became clear that all the marriages/relationships of committee members were not enjoying as much love as Marshall and I share. There maybe no experts in marriage, though George and Elizabeth Watson did a workshop a couple of years ago called How to Stay Married for 65 Years. Hope your seeking goes smoothly.
Just a note to say that our Quarterly meeting is considering a minute that separates marriage responsibilities of legal sanction and spiritual recognition. There is a push here for meetings to attend to the spiritual and not sign state documents. The first marriage in Putney Meeting after M & I were married under the care of the meeting in 89, choose to not legally marry as it was not a choice for all. The meeting then went on to make this consideration part of the clearness process, not a prerequisite but something to consider. Each piece of work done for justice and awareness counts for those coming along next. While there has been much feeling about FGC being in VA this year, let's remember that many of the places we have gathered were not legally queer friendly. Light must be carried where it's needed or as Arlo Guthrie says, "You've got to have some dark to stick the Light into."
PS Home after 5,000 miles. Intermountain Yearly Meeting at Ghost Ranch was a wonderful gathering of people and a good village for me to work in for a week. Seeing old friends along the way was a delight, most especially to have Marshall join me in Santa Fe for a weekend. The drive back was done quickly through 12 states in 3.5 days. I saw one person driving the speed limit but he was on a tractor. Good to be home for 10 days before heading off to FGC. Hope this early summer time is good and smooth for us all. Hay is being cut next door. As the cow died, there will only be enough hay kept for the sheep, some of whom left via coyotes this spring. Fireflies in our field are a wonder of infinite numbers and twinkling. I loved seeing farmland all across the country. It's my favorite landscape.
Today one of our great old Quaker ladies in the neighborhood celebrated turning 80. Today one of our great older gents told me he had stage 4 cancer and didn't know what to expect. Today another great old Quaker lady in the neighborhood near 90 is deciding about whether to stop driving. Each is in a tender place of feeling life's changes, how it is precious and fragile. Each is a bit happy and afraid. I remember once sitting in a meeting house during worship. The old man sitting in back of me was having a hard time breathing and within months would be gone from us. Sitting in front of me was a new born who was also having a hard time breathing from a recent difficult birth. How fragile it all is. How amazing that life goes on with such strength and Light and then doesn't. Hoping that our love this day reaches all corners and the nets hold us all as we continue to fall.
The other day a friend was protesting the wall being built to separate Palestinians from their surrounding lands and Israelis’. When the Israeli army came to stop the demonstration, the Palestinians moved back, but my friend stood in protest and was arrested. The International Solidarity Movement was notified as was the Danish ambassador and his college as he is doing his internship in a graduate degree on conflict transformation. We knew he could be in great danger, could have an “accident” and turn up dead, could be lost in the prison system, could be “interrogated”. Such things have happened to his co-workers. Blessedly, he was brought to court in 3 days where his attorney made a point of explaining that his wife was an American Jew and brought forward numerous witnesses who endangered themselves by coming to witness on his behalf against the lies of the army that he had been violent. The judge released him saying he would have to attend a deportation hearing. That’s when the lawyer explained that the Israeli Supreme Court has said he has to stay in country until early May as he is the primary witness in the case against the army having shot an unarmed American in the face as he stood still trying to save someone’s home. My friend was with him and dodged the bullets that wounded his co-worker. Each day liberty is being pursued at the risk of life. Brutality sometimes finds a limit. And some days a friend is released and we at home with prayer and candles weep that in this great calamity some small justice was done and we are grateful. Blessings on all those who are without such a gift this day, all the un-released, the wounded, the taken away people. May our reverence for life grow bright and our care for the taken away people move us to compassionate works.
Finally, the last of our snow melted this weekend. Daffs are springing up and will flower soon. I've been listening for spring peepers from the beaver pond but I guess the ice is still too recent. Marshall is flying home after 2 weeks work in Texas and I am pulling the house together for a visit by his niece who is college hunting. Amazing how a visit reframes ones thinking that a guest room, or alcove in our case, is truly cluttered, when up to now it's been just fine. I am preparing to get the next Beethoven letter out and to attend the annual meeting of Friends World Committee for Consultation in Tempe AZ 4/15-17, asking them to consider creating a conference to focus on American torture. That weekend Marshall will roast wild boar with some neighbors in a cuisine adventure.
Reading all the posts relating to FUM and their treatment of gays, I am very happy to read so much truth in each posting. All these ideas weave the realities of what we have seen and what we feel. How do we each respond to insult? And can that response carry both truth and the integrity of respect for ourselves and others? Of course, this is an old discussion with FUM, decades old really, and who answers what depends on many factors. Today, with all the moving pieces of my life slanting towards 2 or 3 important works, I like that there is no one easy or right answer in how to respond to FUM in it's judgment of gay people. I like the toss salad approach that we feel many things and respond in various ways. The intention of listening appeals to me as much as the idea of civil disobedience at triennial. Because this is framed as a "sexual" difference, there will always be feelings and motives behind their policy that will not be known. Secrets abound amidst personal histories, especially with discrimination. So, this makes the buffet approach in responding all the more interesting to watch. I hope all on this listserve will continue to share what they are feeling, and seeing, and doing, and understanding as things shift. The reports of news from the inside will be as important as news from the outside in the world.
I recall an AIDS demonstration at the FDA in the late 80's. Our dear Friend and teacher Keith Gann was there from Mpls as a person with AIDS who wanted drug testing to go faster. There was a huge turnout and the FDA was closed down, ringed by activists doing various things. As the anger of the cops came up, a drag queen jumped atop a squad car with a large coffee and a big box of doughnuts and yelled, "COFFEE BREAK!" This brought laughter for a moment and injected some sense of common humanity. But inside the building, the real change going on was the employees looking out the windows, nodding their heads and saying, "those people are right, all the testing can be done faster and this is a health emergency." Bringing Light to a place of injustice is done in many ways great and small, planned and spontaneous, and not always known.
A friend in Putney lost his pig this winter to pneumonia. His wife wanted to put a notice in the paper so customers wouldn't be asking him all summer where Isabelle is, but he said no. He and the pig were very close and she followed him all around home and work to customers delight. I've put his name in for Person of the Year at the Putney town party. I think this would delight and surprise him. He was the lone African-American to settle here in the 60's, make a home, and bring us the delight of bi-racial children in a lily white town.
Hope this finds us all well and life is smooth or we are saying what we need loud and clear.
"FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE DID NOT SEND A COMMITTEE"
Yesterday in the radiology lab waiting room, there was man tapping his foot and bouncing his knee. I could see he was afraid, probably afraid of getting his x-ray and what he would find out about illness. I was waiting for my turn and reading some things I put in my calendar – Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Jesus. I was reading the Sermon on the Mount when I began to surround the bouncy knee man with compassion for his fear. I read the line, “blessed are they who know their spiritual poverty” and thought about my spiritual poverty, my impatience, my intolerance, my ignorance, all of which distance me from the Divine in myself and others and from the Divine herself, plenty of poverty. Holding the bouncy knee man tenderly was something I learned to do in this waiting room the last time I was here, that was 7 years ago for a mammogram. That test scared me, but I had a deep feeling that my breasts were not ill and to set my fear aside, I cared for the others in the waiting room by going into my calm and laying that calm alongside their fear as a gift. They were more afraid than I and I could do my fear later if I needed to when I had more information.
When they called my name yesterday, the nurse had me lie on a bed and look at the screen while she moved the ultra-sound gun along the side of my low torso. As I watched the screen, she told me what we were looking at. I could feel my fear tighten each time she asked me to hold my breath and take a picture of what was surrounding my kidney. I was not taking care of anyone’s fear now but my own and I was not doing well at that. Slowly it became clear that what I had feared most– illness, surgery, chemo, radiation, was not on my menu. I was clear of pathology there. We could see it.
As we leave the time of political conventions and come down to the ugly show of mud slinging and dirty tricks, I want to remind Queer Friends of 2 things.
- Fend off despair, enjoy the fight, and don't be distracted by the noise of popular culture (ie TV) as we seek a safer, cleaner, more justice US & world. Let us be happy at all the hard work there is to do.
- We lose gay teenagers each year. With the discussion of gay marriage coming up as a controversy and its being used by the radical right to change people’s votes, I want to ask you, please, as you discuss this in your homes, in your meetings, be tender and protective. Gay teens are seven times more likely to commit suicide simply from the inhospitality of the world. None of us here want to hurt our children. Let's join this national conversation in ways that help to lessen the wounds of our gay teens.
Thursday morning – I awake with a dream of helping the neighbor over a bridge. This neighbor will have a complete mastectomy early this morning. I light several candles in the middle of our little home. Marshall and I gather in reverence and I am in prayer all morning. Driving Marshall to work, I wonder how her surgery will feel tomorrow when I will visit to do energy work. I’m asked to write a magazine article on the spiritual consequences of torture. Reading that new piece of writing this morning, I am filled with a very caffeinated energy, a result of being in touch with all I know on this topic. E-mail brings a friends article also on torture. Her stories are more experiential than mine and I shutter to read of her life and am so proud of her clarity, bravery, and healing. I bring tomatoes from the garden to make spaghetti sauce before the neighbor’s son comes for energy work, my gift of touch to help him cope with his mother’s cancer. A phone call comes from a massage therapist I taught last year. Her son was blown up in Iraq on Easter. He’s just now out of Walter Reed hospital and home. She is having more feelings than she knows what to do with. After I finish the tomato sauce, I add some to my article about the spiritual call to oppose torture and the difficulties there in. So much happens between 8 and noon. So many women pushed to do the impossible each day. Holding in the Light is the main work of the day.
So sorry to hear of this pain. I think you express so clearly the pieces that many of us find in our own lives as we move from being the children of our own parents to their caretakers with the special twist that our love is obstructed by their limits and by our dual feeling of care for them and our need for their love for us to be expressed in more healthy ways. This is what should be taught in graduate school because the work is so common.
I have very few ideas on the topic and no wisdom. But here are a few things to consider. Do your grief and anger first at home. Yes, be orderly about this. Line the feelings up and give them turns and don't be afraid to say, "Not now" when you need to. This is to begin to separate your early needs to receive better stuff from your need to express your love for family in decline. Then, look over the whole scene, sitting down of course (and in my case, with French Fries) and scan for what in this maze of people and feelings and unknowns you might actually be able to help with in some direct way that will feel good. Limit this to giving that is appropriate to you. And then feel your love deeply and, holding that feeling like meeting for worship, go forward to do your loving. Of course all hell will break loose and then you can slowly come back to these reminders that you already know. Watch for the chance to be honest in new ways, maybe inwardly - maybe outward.
I am so sorry that this hurt is yours in such a large way now. How to un-obstruct our love seems to be a full time life long vigil and now particular and specific work is yours to see what is possible. I send much love and have every confidence that your light will shine.
I think something is in the air. In the last few months, I have talked with no fewer than 4 of our tribe who have fallen in love. Now, of course, there are various stages - checking it out, moving in, buying a house together. But there is definitely some sort of tide here of new love, maybe true love, opening hearts of some wonderful people who are quite surprised. Have you ever noticed how falling in love can't be scheduled and is never convenient? So, watch out. There's some movement afoot that drastically changes life.
So, there I was with the acupuncturist putting two needles into my belly and I was telling him to bypass the Ben & Jerry's I had after lunch and that's when the moose went by the window- a big young moose, just walking along the lawn, heading for the garden in back of the holistic clinic.
The night before Marshall was telling me he thought he heard a bear down by the blueberries one night while I was away teaching after FGC. These are more animals than we usually have come by. I wonder if it's a sign of some sort.
This morning my printer and I were not seeing eye to eye. And just as I turned it off in frustration, a large mirror on the opposite wall came crashing down and shattering across the floor of my little office space. Hours of vacuuming later, I am wondering if this is a sign of some sort.
In my family there was a tradition that if you dreamed of someone you called them the next morning to be sure they were OK. On more than one occasion, this resulted in talking to someone the day before they died.
There are days I wonder if something is a sign to move differently or change direction or simply to slow down or notice something particular to be more aware. I wonder if superstition is fear-based and if other traditions are more accepted. My grandmother would not allow a dinner table with 17 people. She'd send for the neighbors’ children if needed. So far as I know, all our family still keeps this tradition.
Maybe we understand so little that a few small things to keep us safe or seemingly to keep us a little bit safer like a sugar pill can only be expected in life which can seem so fragile.
In my prayers I try and stay positive and start out with thank yous before getting to the whiny parts of How dare you / I can't see any reason / why in hell/ etc. When I am not being chased by my own misagosh I can remember to ask "please help me see what you are hoping I will learn."
At 52, fewer things go bump in the night. But there is still that back of the mind - what would I do if.... Maybe this is where we can watch for the difference in our language of saying we are lucky or we are blessed. Do we think life is random or the Divine has some say in all things?
That's the news from Putney where signs say we'll have a hell of a yard sale this weekend.
Happy Solstice, everyone! It’s a beautiful summers day here in southern Vermont. The hayfield through the pinewoods to our west has the rumble of an old tractor getting ready to bale. I told Marshall it would be good for our bodies to go help the neighbors bring in a few loads of hay. So far, we’ve managed to get out of bed at the crack of 10 AM. There is a nest of crows nearby and the feeding of the young is a noise of some volume earlier than I would choose. Meanwhile the fireflies each night are numerous and fill the field, trees, and air with twinkling.
Last week I was at the Ghost Ranch at Intermountain Yearly Meeting with 305 Quakers from Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Someone should write a travel book going from yearly meeting to yearly meeting and describing the various differences, history, traditions, and notable characters. This is the 8th yearly meeting I’ve spoken to and they each have a different flavor, each an experiment in Quaker seeking.
I’m so glad Mid-Winter is going back to Ghost Ranch. The area itself is much given to reverence and awe for deep spiritual seeking. On this trip, I did get all the way back into Box Canyon, with the help of some pushy old Quaker ladies –“Oh, it’s just around the next bend” she said, again. There is a cathedral like place where the canyon begins with water and moss coming out of rock walls. Similar to a building in Rome, the high wall comes to an almost circular opening at the top, at least 100 feet above.
I am hoping to get down to the blueberry patch before haying this afternoon and put out some shiny foil ribbons to scare the birds off from eating the fruit. Tomato and basil plants are in and very happy. Firewood has been ordered. Now to plan some surprises for Marshall’s 50th birthday following FGC summer gathering. This year FGC is close enough for me to commute- an odd reality. What is more real- Putney in summer abundance, 2,000 Quakers making a one week village fraught with living, or more pictures of torture from around the world paid for by our taxes? I often make the mistake of thinking I can chose one reality at a time – silly old queen.
I want to mention 2 books I think are important. The first is Ultraprevention by Drs Hyman & Liponis. This book takes all the current information on staying well, especially for middle-aged people, and simply explains the science of nutrition and exercise to avoid the common illnesses so known in later years. I have lost some weight by this book. I’ve been off FRENCH FRIES for a month, talk about revolution!
The second book is called The New Pearl Harbor – Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin. He’s been the professor of philosophy of religion at the Claremont School of Theology in California for over 30 years. In this book he takes all of the important evidence collected by many journalists that doesn’t quite match the official government story of 9/11. He is not a conspiracy theorist. He asks that investigations be made to sort out the truth. As a teacher of ethics, he is excellently suited to map out what inconsistencies might mean regarding less than honest government reports. This is a calm, reasoned book. I think if enough people read it, there will not only be regime change at here home, but some prison sentences and perhaps war crimes charged too. I highly recommend it.
Is there a web/internet/music person out there who can tell me how one song of mine, recorded once, not well received can be all over the internet including Russian, German, and Spanish websites with lyrics and how another song of mine much better known only shows up once when I google myself, but I don’t get my own website?
My keynote to Intermountain Yearly Meeting, Schlepping the Light, will be printed in Friends Bulletin by halves first in July, second half in September. I hope to make a recording of this and my other talks for sale sometime soon.
I want to thank Friends generally for doing so much good hard social change and justice and peace work during our current horror of US leadership. On the one hand, I’ve never been so afraid for our democracy. On the other hand, every Friend I know is involved in some task of bringing peace and justice at home and abroad. My Avoiding Burnout workshops are full of people committed to change and going back out to do some more. If you are tired and will be at FGC gathering, I hope you will come by my deep relaxation sessions in the afternoons for some rest and restoration.
Marshall and I didn’t get married in P-Town last weekend. Turns out, we’d need blood tests, then fill out a form of intent, and then wait 3 days to wed or get a court order to speed things up. Instead, we sat outside town hall and cheered with a few hundred others each time a couple came out bearing their licenses. It was very celebratory. And there was a lovely feeling that our history is barreling along. Something the news people didn’t pick on was that the cheering crowd included many of Provincetown’s old guard, Portuguese Catholic families of fishermen, who were very happy for their gay and lesbian neighbors. What a delight that Civil Unions is now retro, so far in the distance as we move along. M & I may get married there on our anniversary later this summer.
I am just about to put tomato and basil plants in the garden and I am wondering what are the spiritual things YOU might do or say or think or feel as you are planting? Can some of you tell the listserve so we can all learn how Light can be brought into the task of putting in new plants?
The last thing I am wondering is why we are a list serve of hundreds and we hear from only a couple dozen? Is this the nature of groups in general? Is there a way that we can hear from so many that we never hear from?
All’s well here in Putney. The neighborhood is planning a huge yard sale. Curtis’ outdoor barbeque is open for summer. The new town library has begun construction. M’s college will have a drag show/bon fire as classes end. The chimney sweep came by for a cleaning and found everything set for next winter, now to find some firewood.
Hoping this finds us all having a day of Light and smoothness.
Just a quick note for some friends, who might remember that I used to do music. I got a call a while back from a radio producer from Texas who wanted to know if I was the John Calvi who wrote the song The Ones Who Aren’t Here. It was JD Doyle who does Queer Music Heritage on KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston.
We did an interview and talked over how I came to write the song.
JD has just let me know that the broadcast date will be May 24th at 10 PM EDT. The station is netcast at www.kpft.org <http://www.kpft.org/> and this show is already on his website www.queermusicheritage.com <http://www.queermusicheritage.com/> . It’s a one-hour show. The first 20 minutes is an interview and music with Janis Ian whose work I have loved since her first hit Society’s Child in 1967 and later At Seventeen and Stars. After me there’s an interview and music by Steven Franz of Florida.
Nice to be remembered for something I wrote 23 years ago. Hope this finds you well. Love, John
PS Marshall and I are off to Provincetown Cape Cod to celebrate my 52 birthday this very day and we might get married, there on Monday.
War brings out the worst in all people. We have always known this. We are now seeing how one army can torture and kill prisoners and this brings another army to retaliate. War eventually becomes a competition to see who can leave humanity farthest behind and treat people the worst. There are no winners only survivors and too few of those. This, among a long list of other reasons, always makes war the worst choice that can be made. International law, the rules of war, never hold. And while a few make billions of dollars, many others suffer greatly for ends never achieved. We must now all work together, not only to end the American war in Iraq, but to remove America from the business of war. We must stop sending our young people to capture weapons of mass destruction that do not exist. We must stop torturing people as we claim to bring democracy. We most stop the beheading of young men, ours and theirs, and bring this sickness to an end. I pray that the words of the great prophets of each religion will be heeded- it is the sacred work of each and every Christian, Jew, and Moslem to work for peace not war.
I don’t know if it’s the lovely spring weather and the comfort of winter being gone, or the fact that some recent films on the Palestinian occupation have shown life so uncivil and murderous, or the recent news of abuse of Iraq prisoners and the pitiful American responses. Or maybe I am just getting old enough to appreciate the small things that so many don’t have. But I feel a deep contentment for small good things in my life.
Today I worked with 20 people to relax deeply and avoid burnout before going off for international work. This evening I read to Marshall as he lay in bed with a slight fever. I read him to sleep from one of Jan Morris’ lovely travel books. Tomorrow I will work with a young woman hiding from a controlling husband. And work on mailing the Beethoven letter.
And amidst that, I laughed with the neighbors at dinner tonight over little nothings. Planned an escape for Provincetown, Cape Cod next Friday with Marshall as I turn 52. And talked with the neighbors cat as I went out to pee in the field where she sits waiting for field mice as the sun sets.
My little corner of the world has some pain and hard work. But it is beautiful and there’s plenty. There is such noise in the world and so much information of suffering and it makes me grateful for two things. One- that I can help a little. Two- that I can still notice the lovely small things in my life. And maybe a safe home and a full pantry are not small things. And maybe a good marriage is an outrageous luxury.
Dear Great & Holy Spirit,
Please help me to be merciful in my prayers on the lousy bastards robbing the country blind by these wars known and unknown. And help me not to be blinded and numbed in my heart as I learn how much the world hurts. And please may I recall enough of the beauty around me to keep my joy in balance with my grief.
I just want to say how angry and sad I am to give tax $ to this U.S. Government. I grieve what it will buy. Being low income is not enough for me. Below is a song Pete Seeger wrote on the topic some years ago.
"The Calendar by Pete Seeger"
May May the flowers bloom
A June wedding an empty room
July was very warm oh
August we beat the heat
fled the city for the beach
September back to school oh
October red and gold
November turning cold
December round the tree oh
January brought the snow
February skiing we did go
March my God how the wind blows
April cruel sweet April
Now they present to us the bill
For the killing of the children
For the killing of the children
Recorded by The Short Sister
Black Sox Press
I just want to acknowledge the story that Scott Simon had on Weekend Edition Saturday on national Public Radio. You might remember there was a terrible story of human apathy back in the 60's of a young woman attacked on a street corner in NYC. She called for help for a long time and no one, no one came to help her or even called the police, though many heard her cries for help. On the anniversary of this story, there was an interview with her lover of one year at that time. The woman recounted her loss mourned in secret after identifying the body for police. I just want to say to my lesbian sisters that I grieve for all the violence visited upon your lives, past and present. I am so glad that we have moved along this road together, that we have many victories to celebrate and so much more to do.
On another note, I have been noticing the visual images that come to mind during prayer. In the last decade or so, I tend to bring the image of the night sky when I begin my prayers. It's as though the infinite sky is the best match I can come up with to address the Divine, the Holy Spirit, the Great Spirit, or however one names the addressee for prayers. Seems to me, I didn't use to use an image but this one helps me keep from turning the Divine into some big ol white guy on a cloud who is the grouchy landlord of the Sunday School stories. I know that when big trouble comes, people, myself and others, have a hard time not turning to big daddy god to make it all OK. And I think this is logical, but shows the least understanding of the best of what Quakerism and Jesus have brought us. And I am wondering, what images help you all in prayer? Are there images, pictures, mind-forms that help you begin/get into prayer/reverence/Light?
With much love and respect for this gathered corner of queer Quakers,
PS Yes, most of the snow is gone and suddenly the temps have dropped and 2, yes TWO, snow storms are on their way to us. March is like a blind date, you've got to watch them very closely.
Oh dear! This reminds me of a conversation I had with Bill Kreidler about 15 years ago. We were both getting our first international invitations to speak and it was a relief. We were both afraid that we’d be remembered for the wrong things. Bill thought it was very funny that he was worried that a rest area would be named after him. And now I wonder, will I be remembered for my compost toilet life style?
The Short Answer- Marshall and I live on a land trust devoted to living with low environmental impact and the fellow who made our house put in a compost toilet plus shower and sinks.
The Longer answer, Marshall says Too long -
It does concern me just a tad that two such wonderful strong competent Quaker women were strolling and discussing my toilet. But life takes us on many paths and ours is not to question why we poop the way we do nor to judge but merely to sit and go.
Our house was built on a land trust, which was formed by some young hippies, old communists, and a smattering of Quakers between them. Also some help from the AFSC back in the early 70’s when Vermont was experiencing a great back to the land movement of young people. The idea of the land trust was that farmland would be kept cheap and people would live with low environmental impact.
So our house was made in 76 with the intention of not harming the environment. It’s small, passive solar, cement slab, poured concrete walls on 3 sides burmed into the hillside and the 4th wall mostly glass facing south. There is an entryway with our front door on the left and a door to the compost toilet on the right. So, it’s not outside and it’s rather fancy for an outhouse. But, to be sure, it’s a poop and listen for the drop kind of room as you gaze out the window at the south sloping meadow. There is a cross-country ski path going across our meadow so there might be the chance to wave hello as one sits, so neighborly.
Now, here’s the kicker. We rented the house without knowing there was no flush toilet. Who would think to ask, “There is a flush toilet, right?” No. We are moving in, Oct. 1990. I gotta take a dump. I find a room with a shower/tub and sink. There’s a nice red sink in the kitchen but where is the toilet? A neighbor laughs and says, “It’s a solar toilet. Go out the front door across the entryway to the white door.” Oh, dear. Marshall has lived in London, Dublin, Oxford, Los Angeles, Paris, Vienna, and Stockholm- get my drift? Cities. Here I had dragged Marshall out of city living into tons of quiet and no streetlights. This was asking too much.
But he is more adjustable than I and we’ve made friends with the making of “night soil” for the flowerbeds. When U.S. Senator Barney Frank was here and asked to use the toilet, he was truly horrified. His whole face said, “My God! Faggots without a flush toilet! Get me out of here!” But didn’t speak a word. It’s one of those little things that you forget until it’s midnight in January, -18 degrees and you get an urge. Or until you apply for a mortgage and the banker who thought up until that moment that you are a cute couple now looks seriously at you and says, “Why?”
Just to complete the record so there will be no gossip, we tend to pee outside which assures less stink in the toilet. Poop in peat moss doesn’t smell much and makes great soil. So, we actually are quite familiar with how beautiful the night sky is and the cycles of the moon and wind and stars and sounds from the woods as we step outside to pee. Sometimes there will be deer in the woods near by and just as the zippers are down there will be a great thrashing of branches and hooves. Not for the pee shy.
Sorry for the long answer. It’s not something I think about. I mean I don’t think of myself as a person without a flush toilet. I’ve told Marshall that when I am ancient, which maybe sometime next week, I don’t want to be waddling out with my cane to freeze my butt in winter and I’ll need a real toilet at least when he retires. But for now that’s an expensive proposition. Can you imagine writing the Beethoven Letter and instead of asking for help with a car saying the Friends of John Calvi want you to help him poop indoors, finally! “Oh yes, I remember him, something about a toilet, I think, or something earthy.”
Our next goal is a new kitchen for Marshall’s fabulous cooking and a washer and dryer for me so I can stop schlepping our dainties to the Laundromat each week. Then, a real honest to God flush toilet, low flow, bright and clean. Marshall says he had toilets on a recent trip to Japan that was also a bidet with a padded & heated seat & a dial to chose temperature, direction, and force for a butt washing so that toilet paper was just for drying. In those terms, I guess we are pretty 18th century.
I do tend to keep a stack of Architectural Digest there for ironic humor. Did you know Joni Mitchell use to have a house in Malibu? And there’s that great ancient poster, no longer made, “Because gay men and lesbian are………I am a part of the gay & lesbian liberation movement.”
This will not be a chapter in my book, by the way. I turned a corner after working on my book for the last 7 weeks. I had been laboring under the nasty old rumor that I was barely a high school graduate trespassing in literary territory on a hopeless quest that had gone on too long. This slowly began to lift as I went over 300 plus pages of writing I’ve done over the past 2 decades. This past week it shifted within me to understanding that this is a natural extension of my work as a teacher. And just as this great boost made me hungry to charge ahead and finish, well that’s when both the computer and printer got severe program illness and gave me a week of hell. Now we are all on board, well, and working. Marshall will do a great batch of editing this weekend.
I just spent the later afternoon hours with a couple of old Quaker ladies having high tea here at Pansy Brook Farm asking them about how they came to bring their Quakerism deeper into their lives. Along with my mother's china tea set and some goodies from the bakery, we spent some time wondering how one moved along in prayer from asking Big Daddy God to change this and that for what we wanted on to being in prayer without asking for outcome but surrounding a trouble in reverence. How does one make that trip? And we wondered how life-threatening illness, which they both had or have worked into spiritual ground from terror. Mostly I listened and they talked. I made some notes and will do some writing for a piece called Schlepping the Light. So good to have the luxury of time as the light of day fades to be with old friends and wonder about spiritual life and our learning, how did we make that leap, what encouraged us, how did trouble become homework and when did we stop being so impatient with ambiguity? Hope this finds us all with some moments to wonder real soon and some quiet to hear the guidance and some friends to laugh at ourselves with and some tea and goodies to remember the good earth on this cold gray sky day with spring no where in sight.
To stand and fight can be a noble and exciting witness to truth. And such witnesses can be in the service of the greater good when we stick to our truth, keep our integrity, and hold on to the principles of service.
It can also be true that to fight might bring us further in conflict, pain, confusion- no matter our good intentions or sacrifice. In some ways the difference lies within the monster we face but also in our response to that monster. What is it we are taking personally and what reverberation does it have to other earlier hurt? Can an insult be allowed to stand and see over time if there is any truth to it? Does bad behavior and poor decisions immediately bring us to decide to fight, as we are good at it as a life strategy or to flee as we hate confrontation and does either serve our greater Light? Can we see that there exists the possibility that to lay down a particular work setting might be the beginning of new situations that bring us closer to our best work?
Those of us who have had enough failure to hold tutorials can see the choices for learning abound. This includes not only the immediate vision of what has been and is now, but a very long term vision that suggests what will all this look like in 15 or 20 years.
Both the fight and the surrender can be done in the Light and be for the common good. Both need support and good care. Both can teach what it is we are meant to learn. It is my hope for all of us and especially for Lynn, who is a dear old friend and talented woman of power and good will, that our choices be with as broad a scope as possible and that we gather our support from what might be learned and understood so that future choices will have greater Light and less pain and confusion.
I send much love as we all go into another day. There are times that getting out of bed in the morning is extreme bravery and should be cheered. Other days, more than that is a lovely possibility.
Just wanted to pass on the names of two movies of quality and interest to gay men. The first is My Life On Ice. This is French with subtitles and shot in home movie style. It tells the story of a teenager coming of age and the subtleties of emerging gay life are artfully shown. The second is with in the collection Boys Life #4. 3 of the short films in this collection I found uninteresting, but one is an immediate post-rape vignette which I found to be quite powerful. As a male rape survivor, there are too few art forms that deal with this topic in intelligent ways.
Just wanted you all to know that when it's -15 F outside at sunrise, it's only zero in the outhouse. Talk about a quickie!
Also, I've lost all incoming e-mails from 2003. If I was supposed to be in touch with you about something, you probably need to remind me.
Yes, Marshall and I were visiting his folks in Southern California for the holidays. (memo to northerners- always marry someone from a warmer clime) I spent some mornings writing postcards in the backyard surrounded by rose and camellia blooms. Now we are facing the Gods of balance and freezer burn butt.
Hope everyone had good holidays, got some good gifts, got some rest, and had enough hugs and kisses to keep you off balance for just a bit. May this new year bring us all some new understanding as to how Light can be carried more gracefully. Love, John
PS I did 30 trips this last year and am now going to stay home for 4 months and finish my book. Light a candle for me please. I've never taken on such a big task.
And by the way, since husband Marshall turns 50 this July, I won't tell you that he went outside to pee in the bright morning light with only his slippers on this morning.
PPS Santa Fe Friends- I'll be speaking at Inter-Mountain Yearly Meeting in June at Ghost Ranch. Can someone out there tell me if there is a shuttle from Albuquerque to Santa Fe?
PPS In my travels, I seem to notice that there are more queer marriages under the care of meetings in the last year or so. Is anyone keeping track of these?
PPPS Great article in Rolling Stone, which I found on an airplane going east, about another prominent Republican opposing what the Bushies are doing to the country and the world. The turning tide will not be found in the major media.
"Mr Ghandi, what do you think of Western civilization?"
"I think it would be a good idea."
Something new is going on inside that I want to tell you about. I have this kind of slow almost sneaky feeling that my life has never been better. If I read this script ahead of time I would expect to feel unworthy or cautious. But I think what I am feeling is surprise that my interior brain posture or maybe mindset is fine with content and has moved out of longing and dreaming if only. I suddenly think- OK, if my life has never been better, would it be OK if it stayed like this to the end and the answer is yes, simply. It’s odd. Sure there are things I’d like to smooth out or improve but mostly it’s just fine as it is and actually quite good. How odd. Yes, I’ve been working hard to make a life full of what I wanted in the way of work, love, style, tone etc. But how nice to sort of feel that most of the quilt is made. I am wondering about this and sort of surprised by it. Is this the calm before the psychotic break? Now that would seem regular. But this seems more happy or living than I am used to. Odd. Anyway, just wondering about this and will let you know what I notice by and by. I do so wish that you were both in the neighborhood to come to tea and talk this over as my reality check. Do reality checks bounce? I wonder at the sources of this new comfy feeling- is it because my father is probably dieing or the car died and I could replace it or I’m too sleep deprived to worry as much as usual or happy in the life I’ve made or old enough to let a little contentment through or not being in therapy or maybe I’m just getting whiter whites on laundry day.
Last week, Marshall and I went to hear a young Bosnian imam talk about the war in Bosnia and his peacemaking efforts to make bridges between sides. Tonight, we heard one of Marshall colleagues at the School for International Training share what she's witnessed in Palestine over the last half a year. This presentation included an eyewitness account of the International Solidarity Movements loss of an American shot by Israeli Defense Forces.
As I hear these things and consider what I have seen myself in tortured refugees, the AIDS pandemic, prisons, and rape survivors, I am moved once again to note how trouble brings out the best and the worst in all of us and how these roles change and how our best and worst reach new heights each day around the world.
There are times when I think of our species as a large infection that needs cleansing. Fortunately, this despairing view from the bottom is dispelled as I encounter individuals who are doing holy work in some hell or other and revealing the bright light that people have to share. I'm not sure how people keep on amidst such horror nor how horror seems to be made so available. But I do know that it is a dance that we should be choosing to be in to lessen the pain and confusion so fraught in our world.
I send much love outward on this beautiful summer's night. Our stars gleaming here on this balmy night. Love, John
PS The outhouse is done. More snakes were caught. And we can once again poop at home. Onward and downward.
So, my car turns in a planter with a mere 210,000 miles on it, but not til I was doing 70 mph on the Massachusetts Turnpike Sunday afternoon. Anybody need a 10 year old car without a transmission? And I am going over used car loan applications and having a decafe when the call of nature insists.
Now the next door college boy is rebuilding the escape hatch to the compost toilet and I don't want to make a solid contribution during his employment hours but fortunately he's left to get tools. Sitting on the throne trying to rush my natural timing as it were when suddenly he comes back with a crowbar and is pounding some reluctant hinge on the outside of where I sit.
I am wondering, can it get worse? This is when he suddenly stops pounding, steps back and asks me what color rattlesnakes are here in Vermont. More later. Love J
PS Tales of Pansy Brook Farm is brought to you by Laughing Cosmos Industries, a Reality Company of the Universe Corporation
I've just seen 2 films I enjoyed and would like particular population feed back on. What do my lesbian and bi sisters think about "Kissing Jessica Stein?" I thought it was funny and showed some of that middle ground that excessively het or gay stories don't usually cover.
Also recently saw "Southern Comfort" about trans people in the rural Southeast of the US. I loved the candid stories and particularly that working class people in trailers were the focus. What did my trans brothers and sisters think of this film?
Sorry if these films are old news for some of you. The stagecoach with new videos doesn't always stop here in Putney.
On another topic. I am wondering if the topic of cursing, cutely referred to as "potty mouth", might in some cases be a difference in class used to oppress the non-owning classes. In my background of working class Italian-American immigrants there were clearly folks who were stuck in anger, alcohol, and power plays who couldn't express themselves well or without cursing. But there were also well, though self-educated people who spoke several languages and their cursing was occasional. It was usually a signal that they were very angry and using very plain simple speech which was clearly understood. Or it was a departure from being proper which the "native" New England WASP Yankees insisted on in the power structure and usually funny. Depending on use and discretion, it signaled a gathering or lessening of power. As we Quakers strive to speak clearly and honestly, do we censor ourselves in less than honest ways to fit a cultural model?
Thanks for this funny and wonderful posting. Yes, Eva Mondon is one of our infamous Lesbian Quakers here in Putney, Vermont. I’ve passed this story on to her. Eva would love to offer civil union to more couples, especially lesbian, as a Justice of the Peace.
She is not only famous in Putney Meeting as one of our former released Friends working with women survivors of sexual abuse, but also as a Peace Corps teacher in more than one part of the world and worked in sugar cane fields in Cuba where she jumped out of line to hug Fidel himself, and convened our wedding oversight committee in her spare time.
I am not sure Fayetteville meeting means to draw Rev Phelps back to town, but should that happen, please recall the plan other groups have used upon his visit. Use it as a fund raiser. Contact queer & AIDS & peace & justice groups in the area to get folks to donate x$ for every hour dear Fred is there. This way you can cheerfully welcome him and know that he is contributing to your cause.
Thanks for this news update. Yes, good to have news other than military news. Thanks for all your good work across Quakerdom. So glad you are in the parade of characters called Quakers.
Thanks for your note. Good question. A couple of thoughts come to mind. Of course, I can barely speak for myself and don’t pretend to speak for others but here’s what occurs to me on first wonder. On the one hand, there are petitions coming through other channels- NGLTF etc. So there is political response happening, by us, not here. Another thought- oh dear, another Neanderthal saying the same old thing for the same old reasons. It’s another noise on the horizon among many. Does it need my response? Is this a noise that spells danger or just politics or just noise or all the above? I recall one of the first gay newspapers I ever read had a headline story of a gay man jumping out a jailhouse window after he’d been arrested at a bath house in a general raid. He landed 2 stories below impaled on an iron gate. He was trying to escape having his name in the newspaper. I relate this to say, there is much each day that comes in the way of hating queers and one must choose what to take in, what to feel, what to respond to- like every other oppressed people. So don’t take the eerie silence here as not knowing, not seeing, not acting. It’s my observation that FLGBTQC is essentially a garage in the form of a nomadic village where we get our battery charged, oil changed, and windows cleaned to get back out on the road. More pragmatic and deliberate than a Holiday Inn and less intentional than political caucus. But these a just a few thoughts on a Monday morning after a chiropractic treatment where my head was torn off my shoulders to great relief. What else is within our understanding and observation here Friends? Love John
PS One other observation- it’s clear from the press coverage here that part of what’s happening is a deliberate testing of the changing waters in public opinion ie the Democrats have a potential Civil Unions presidential candidate. When the Republicans slam queers in the usual way, how does the public as a whole respond? Has the Aids epidemic, television, and various other changes caused there to be a shift in public opinion on queers or can this “monster” still be used to manipulate politics? Unlike the Trent Lott racist comments which cost him his position, this is more likely a taking of temperature for the coming elections. Just a thought.
Sorry to hear that family has been less than supportive for the wedding. Families do not always meet their job descriptions, goodness knows. Your love for one another and those of us who see this love will be the north star guiding what we all know to be good and true even when we are all swimming upstream against cultural currents.
When Marshall and I were married in 89, we had some family present and much family not present. I recall the day being so full of love that I felt no lack of it. If anything I had a hangover from so much delight.
I would remind you that public declaration of love is exhausting so plan accordingly and delegate everything possible. Also, let the crowds love deep into your heart during those hours as there are so few focused times times of receiving in everyday life. (Eventually, our clinics will become crowds of people alternately cheering, laughing, and praying.) And remember those of us who will not be there in person are somewhere on the globe shouting, "HOORAY HOORAY HOORAY!!!!!!!"
PS I take a moment here for everyone who wants to have true love and is seeing not much on the horizon. Keep the faith. No one knows when love sweeps in and surrounds our hearts and it can happen at any time. Don't push the river. Continue to make a life you can love and want to live for a long time and that makes your light shine brighter to all who can see. Nobody knows how it works to find true love and have your turn at it. And we also know it can come at any time.
I love and agree with all of Joe’s message. I also want to add that Quakerism is rarely an either or proposition regarding Quietism or action. And that there are personal cycles, which also will help us choose how we will respond. And there is also the long term development and unfolding of ones spiritual understanding. And just to make it all the more complex there are the various combinations of using both to support each other.
In fact, most of our Quaker forms depend on small numbers of Friends acting while the rest of us hold them in prayer. This is true in meeting for worship, business meeting, marriage, and yard sales. To be in one form or another solely and for extended periods is sort like only eating from one food group. There might be reason for it and maybe even good for a few folks, but mostly we need some combination of both. I would prescribe Quietism for anyone exhausted by the pain of the world and their own pain. But I wouldn’t suggest they live there forever. I think action is healthy and lovely but only when it actually is and feels lovely and healthy and wouldn’t assume that it’s the only way to be for everyone all the time. Passion too must be protected and cared for with quiet now and again. The balance is individual and it’s rarely static.
I think the whole world is probably better off because Joe got up out of bed today and went out into the world to make some good Godly trouble. Of course as a guy who has run 100 mile races through mountains, Joe is probably better at getting out of bed than most. (As for getting in to bed, that’s another story which I’ll be happy to tell another time) But if Joe wants to stay under the covers for a bit, I think this is also a spiritual discipline and entails some learning of balance in spiritual life. One person’s nap is another persons denial is another persons wasted time is another persons preparation is another persons luxury. I used to be a night person. I did the vast majority of my writing between 10 PM and 2 AM. Now I am kind of a mid-afternoon person. And after middle age? Will I be a morning person? And might I be around the planet long enough to not be drawn to such extremes? I think that would be a very long life indeed.
I truly feel personally honored by all the actions that are shared here among Friends. In our little town of Putney, 3,000 people, 200 folks came out the other full moon night to a candlelight witness against the American war in Iraq. Great pain can bring great light but usually only with great work and with enough quiet to feel the changes.
Dear Great and Holy Spirit
Be with us now
as we hear the cannons roar
the screams and bleeding
done in our name
weapons and soldiers we’ve paid for
May the strangers and friends
surrounded in this failure of humans
be washed with the Light
of the Divine
May the good will and kindness
of the common people
after the thunder
of ignorance pounds
we will never know
Forgive us our failures
as our species
learns so slowly
with so little reverence
A snowy day here in Putney Vermont. A week ago, at Mid-winter gathering in New Mexico, it was warmish and sunny. Marshall and I took a stroll up on a trail into Box Canyon. The colors of the mesas change with the sun's movement. It was so wonderfully different from New England. The sky was so much bigger and sweeping vistas capture the eyes in a way that doesn't let go. I'd forgotten how watching mountains can be like watching the ocean, hypnotizing.
We had a slew of folks new to gathering, one of the delights of being nomadic and having a new site. We were about 120 or so people. The pull into the silence was made deeper by the surroundings, I think. There should be a spiritual gravitational meter used to check places out. This place was great for centering.
Clerks did a great job of keeping process clean and clear. The altitude made some of us a bit slow at first. The food was goodish, though I was ready to get back to Santa Fe for some of the really hot stuff, the guacamole at The Shed has chipotle! Wonderful to see old friends and to meet the wonderful bevy of local lesbians who organized so well. The memorial meeting was good and solid with love. Good to get hugs and kisses direct to the bereaved.
Marshall and I stopped by the Santa Fe Meeting house on our way north. I fell in love with it right away, an old adobe home given to the meeting by an artist. So beautiful and homey and a lovely mix of old and new.
Marshall and I are sitting here at home as a large storm waltzes through. In the next 2 days we are expecting snow, sleet, rain, freezing rain, ice, and more snow. Here it is mid-afternoon and mostly I've only watched the snowfall. All travel is set aside for now. Marshall got to the post office just as the snow began. I filled the pantry yesterday, nothing like a storm for some good cooking time (unless the power goes out and we end up cooking on the woodstove which limits the menu a tad). I shoveled the roof some yesterday so we'd have some room to accommodate today's blessing.
Marshall's just found a new recipe for chocolate cake with no flour. It's in a new book, The Flavors of Olive Oil, by Deb Krasner, a local author. I think he'll make it after he gets done with the pot roast. I just finished milk and cookies, my cooking being more basic.
I really loved having gathering at Ghost Ranch. It was large, friendly, beautiful. And the sky was always doing something to enchant. I missed lots of people and there were so many great folks new to me.
I had a dream recently that I wanted to share. It made me very happy. I had been chosen to sing with Sweet Honey in the Rock. Short of finding out that I am Joni Mitchell and Pete Seeger's love child, it was the best of story lines. I came out on to the stage with a few other singers new to the group and Sweet Honey members came out from another part of the stage. We began to warm up with a song informally and some folks were talking and laughing and there were few people in the audience so I wasn't quite sure what was happening. Then it was time to begin and we walked off the stage into a very large trough of warm water running the length of the stage in front of the first row. That's when we really began to sing and Bernice smiled at me. I had the same small goodish voice and I was still white and still male but my voice fit in. It felt wonderful. And then I woke up smiling.
Seeing as how winter has arrived big time and we don't have TV reception here at Pansy Brook Farm, I am wondering what videos y'all might recommend on these long dark nights. Suggestions please.
Marshall asked John Meyer for John's favorite novel as a Christmas gift. John gave him At Swim, Two Boys. Marshall inhaled it and has been raving about its beauty relentlessly. Other recommended books?
And, while I'm at it, we've grown sick for the Washington Blade as a news source for national gay news. Other ideas for that?
Hope all is well on this very cold night.
PS I was shopping at a mall the other day and was severely struck by how
unattractive the general populace is. You'd think that anyone who really
wanted to lead the free world would get the most votes by promising to raise
the level of fashion, sensible eating, and free gym memberships for all Americans.
This would be ever so much more profitable than war and with more people getting cute and having sex, there'd be less time and money for war. Why do I have to be the one to think up all these things? Don't they know I am busy freeing the world of traumatized and tense muscles due to the war on sanity?
Marshall and I are here in Palm Springs with his parents and siblings celebrating his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I have loved getting out of the Vermont winter for 2 weeks and to be instead surrounded by flowers and palms and warm sunny weather. I am becoming less of a New Englander in my old age. I think winter should last about a month and be pretty with an occasional fresh snow to tidy things up a bit but no ice and plenty of sunshine. It has been hard to pursue this idea with the universe. Vermont is intent on beginning winter in November with the occasional hard freeze in October and dragging things on like a bad date into April. Much too to much so far as I can see.
It's great to see Marshall enjoying his family so delightedly. His nieces and nephews are big fun and he is a breath of fresh air for them. I enjoy the family too though my taste for crowds and being social for days is less and less. I find that my weekdays at home with about 5 hours of solitude are just about right. So I am a bit of a hermit married to a social butterfly and people lover. I grab some time here and there to sit in the garden and do a few postcards or journaling or watercolors. And I nap each day. This gives me some alone time without seeming to step outside family boundaries in too odd a way. I do tend to notice how odd I am, eccentric really, when I step into new waters of people not in my usual situation.
And now it is a few days later. We left California this morning and I am in flight from Atlanta to Hartford. We left Palm Springs on Wed January 1. We got a few hours visit in with Marshall's 93 year old Grandmother Ruth. I want to be just like her when I grow up. She is slow, quiet, kind, happy, and gentle in all parts of her being. If I live that long, I might get part way.
I worked on a few family members during this 2 week vacation. Nothing extensive, but some good energy work for the basic wear and tears of life- nothing particularly traumatic. As usual the work went very well and people were very grateful but I very soon afterward went into deep fatigue. I have also been having a period of disturbed sleep with dreams that wake me sometimes and leave me feeling weary of life. I'll have a deep afternoon nap that I can't say no to. I am watching this all to see what part is related to some kind of change I am feeling after doing energy work and what part may be processing during sleep which may or may not be related to work on people. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts. I expect to do a sleep test for apnea in Feb. My first work trip is not until the end of January so I can go slow with desk work for now. The naps and sleep-ins did restore me. And it may also be that I simply didn't have enough alone/quiet time in the last 2 weeks. Seems I don't quite know what I am feeling if there isn't some more space, like most people I guess but more so.
I have been setting up work for 03 and have a fairly full calendar but I've been late in contacting the Boulder Massage College about possible work there in May. I am still hoping something might be put together but it's late in the planning year for a Spring engagement. I hope to contact them this week and will let you know what might be happening. If that doesn't come through then M and I might go on to California and see his family.
Hope this finds you both very well and life is good in this new year for you. I send much love and hope to hear from you when you get a chance.
Thanks for the CD. I listened to Sweet Honey for much of the time I was getting ready to go west. I love that album and I am very happy that you thought to send it to me. Yes, I remember us going to hear them and the local gospel group also- great fun. I saw Sweet Honey back in March and loved the concert. Seems I am getting more and more fussy in my old age. My patience to explore new music is limited. I want to swoon soon after I hear the first notes or I hang it up. How did I become such an extremist? The hot, the quick, the best art, the Dear friend, the favorite whatever or don't bother me- so little room for learning a new taste. And yet a very high standard for anything that wants my attention at all.
I loved being in the desert and out of winter. I've just heard that we are heading into a snow storm and I am hoping the friend who is picking us up at the airport does better than her usual driving which is scary in daylight on clear slow roads let along the interstate in a blizzard.
Be in touch. Let me know how you are. And how life is in CO. I hope we can get some time together this year before we meet up at the home and I can remember who you are but am not too sure who I am.
Marshall and I are in Palm Springs celebrating with his parents and siblings their 50th Wedding anniversary. It is warm and sunny. Low 70's in the day. I've just been for a swim in the pool, which is right outside our door. There are palm trees surrounding us and a sharp steep desert mountain range just west of us. I dream of finding a way to be out of the cold for winters and in this warm sun. Maybe when Marshall retires, we will find a way to have a couple of months out of the Vermont winter which is not even as cold as your winter but just too damn long for me.
Yesterday we went to a vaudeville show with singers and dancers and jugglers and comedians. The finale was a big tribute to the military and war and Bush and asking the audience to stand and sing the national anthem. All of Marshall's family rose, hands over hearts, while we stayed seated. We might as well have suggested we all go pee on the blessed virgin Mary. There were several discussions and holding witness with in-laws can be dicey. But two stories came out that helped increase the understanding. Marshall's father was denied entry into world war II by a doctor hearing a heart murmur at his first physical. But the doctor at his second physical didn't hear it and so he was gone to Germany as the war was ending and was a guard in the courtroom at Nuremberg. The other story was that Marshall's nephew who is newly 18 didn't register with the selective service and no one in his family has discussed this or knows the implications. So we were able to divert what might have been huge misunderstanding towards some family thinking about immediate patriotic needs and less show business- odd how Quakerism puts one on the spot so easily.
I have been meaning to call and ask if you have received, listened to, and enjoyed the tape of our evening? I hope you like it. I think it is a clean enough recording to reproduce. I also think we spoke well enough of interesting ideas so that some people may be interesting in buying a copy. I'll be in touch to ask what you think.
We took a stroll today on Indian land in an oasis canyon. The palm trees grow along narrow rocky canyons where precious water flows from the ground. There are rattlesnakes, coyotes, and other friends of the earth making homes in various rocky places. The palms are huge and a large grove of them feels like a cathedral with cool air wafting along the ground. There is just a bit of water in a streambed and water plants grow profusely during this "wet season" in winter.
I hear the Indians here did some careful dealing of land and remain in control of some of the best land and make a good living off the white people around them. So good to have the story improved over the usual tale.
I have enjoyed being with Marshall's family although they are extremely normal and enjoy a jolly good time all together while my tastes run more towards being a hermit who comes in from the edge of the village every so often with a low appetite for crowds. Marshall is extremely social and delighted to be with nieces and nephews and it's great seeing them so happy together. To my delight, the youngest nephew, age 8, has taken to calling me Aunt John. The revolution comes slowly and with good laughs.
I send much love and hope finds you having good holidays, excellent health, and some good resting time.
Blessings on us all
and this weary old world
so full of people
whose lives we must know
to be good neighbors.
I am so delighted to awake to Marshall and John M in the kitchen cooking
up a storm. They've already made a sweet potato pie and an apple pie (I think we are postponing making the chocolate mousse cake until tomorrow). Oh yes, and a turkey.
We have a bit of snow here in Putney and there's a load of firewood that's just been delivered and needs to be stacked. I set out birdfeeders last night and this morning it's like an airport out there with many landings and departures. Marshall has minimal jet lag returning from Japan and brought home lovely yukatas for us. I love this time of being home together. I have one more trip this year and then a time of resting without travel work.
In my Thanksgiving prayers this morning, I am holding in the Light many lives with large change and hurt happening actively right now. I pray for the patience to learn amidst trouble and for mercy and Light to wash us all. And I am grateful for so much which is good and loving and beautiful and simple in our lives.
Hope this finds us all minding the Light, mining the Light, and enjoying delight as we move along our lives.
I just had a long phone visit with two lovely Quaker dykes far from here. They shall remain nameless but I will say that true love is a medicine beyond what any health care provider dreams of in billing. I think there should be a heavenly contract in large print that says- if one has to die early, one gets to be in love. It’s the least headquarters could do, in my opinion. Humans are such an odd species. We take the terrible and use it as an opportunity for great love. How else does one talk about the approaching with-in-sight end without losing ones vital sense of life now? This is a trick of magic, or better, a knowledge of Light no one should be allowed to graduate without. I am so honored to hear that love in the laughter all the way across the continent and know that even the impossible is made more doable with that lovely old Quaker crisis plan- “Let us see what love will do”
In general, my response to the elections is "God Help Us All". I am particularly concerned for the people around the world now made more vulnerable to American wars.
Locally, I'd like to mention that our county has elected a lesbian sheriff, ending an old boys hold on an office that didn't attend well to protecting women.
Snow last night. Marshall filled the wood box and started a fire early this morning. In a very quiet house, I am saying prayers for friends in other countries and friends closer by. Where is home when it comes to Jesus' teaching on compassionate response to suffering? We are all part of one another.
Glad to hear you are feeling better. And thank you for e-mailing us just before going to the emergency room, good of you to get the prayer support on the way to medical relief. Also, I am very happy to hear your report after requesting prayer. For me, part of being a pushy old queen is hating the suspense of finding out what happened next!
Yes, there was a snowfall Wednesday morning, mainly across Southern Vermont, the banana belt. Marshall, born and raised in Southern California, is always thrilled with the first snow. After all these years in Vermont, he still thinks that snow is exotic. The rest of us grumpy old New Englanders were less cheered by the lovely white stuff covering beautiful autumn colors. There was a thorough nip in the air, enough to remind me I need new snow tires, wonder when the two cords of wood we ordered last spring will come, and grateful that appointments for undercoating the cars comes soon.
We left early during the snow on Wednesday morning, Marshall has a conference in Quebec City. We drove north for 6 hours into warmer and sunnier weather. It's very beautiful here in Quebec. We strolled the old city this morning. My French is less than minimal. But my love of pastries and baguettes, confirms a certain loyalty. Maybe, now that it's colder here, I'll stop thinking that Vermont is the north pole. Ask me if I mind that Marshall's parents invited us to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in the desert in January.
To my sisters across country, I am so sorry that life hurts so much. If I could surround us all with more than Light and help smooth the road, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But I think we are in the graduate school of life to love one another and ourselves through the hard places. Whether we are looking at leaving or sticking around, there's plenty of pain either way and so much to learn in whatever time we have. I am hoping that we can become more merciful inwardly with each hurt, that trouble brings us to seek more light instead of wince, become impatient, or blame. This is so much to ask and yet, all the other plans fall short.
Please, as we screw up and become messy in the difficulties of life, don't insist on perfection- let it rip, be terribly honest, and then settle into the silence to seek Light. Don't postpone the screaming AND don't get stuck there.
I send much love to each and everyone one of us, John
Here's a prayer for us all as the war drums beat louder.
Dear Great & Holy Spirit,
Again the madness of violence resounds
Amongst your strongest children.
Vengeance and greed make plans
For the loss of life
Of our own and theirs,
Of all of us.
We who pray and work and
March and vote for peaceful moves
Mourn the limits of wisdom
Grieve the worst to come
Again, so soon again.
The last war, the one before,
All so painful and sad
So many dead,
So many wounded,
So soon again.
Wash us of our despair
To hold forth
And find the Light
As we go into
This next time again already.
Happy Equinox everybody! Hope this finds us all surrounded with what we need and the peace of mind to see it. Vermont is cooling off. Time to bring in the basil and set up a one day pesto factory. I am just back from MN & WI. Elizabeth Watson told a wonderful story of taking young gay men through Walt Whitman's birthplace home and bringing out the special exhibits for them. She also told the story of FUM inviting her to speak and then that being scuttled because of your beliefs in gay rights. She was told that FUM had a gentlemen's agreement not to discuss homosexuality. Elizabeth told them she wasn't a gentleman. Marshall is coming back from work in LA tonight after a weeks work near Disneyland. He says the air quality and traffic were horrible but time with his family was great. John M is happily ensconced at Pendle Hill on staff. Chuck M is on his way here this week for a conference. Liz K sent me a beautiful original watercolor and Ben Norris has his paintings on display at www.childsgallery.com I went to a wedding at the St Louis Zoo of 2 doctors, one of whom was a 3 year old in my pre-school classroom nearly 30 years ago, time flies when your hysterical. There is some talk of FGC being in Vancouver BC in the future, great city. There were lots of lesbians at the FGC WI conference, thank goodness, but not many gay men. Old Quaker ladies, you know the ones who make the world go round, seem to be in ever growing abundance, thank goodness again. I spent 4 hours at the Chicago airport last night and after much people watching, I've decided that almost attractive men are in the majority and too many women are wearing high heels that throw their backs out. That's the news from Pansy Brook Farm.
Thank you for such honesty and clarity. During the Civil Unions debate, all of Vermont was subjected to loud aggressive hate speech. It sent many of us into reverberations of old hurt. It was as much trauma as a car wreck or serious diagnosis or the broken heart of violated trust. I wrote the following to help guide us away from the worst shadows demons that denying humanity brings. I hope it is a help. You have been very brave in your witness. And you are quite right, now is the time for healing. How that will look and where it will bring you is usually a surprise. We all of us here in FLGC e-land send you much love to wash the noise of the world out of your soul that you may rest and restore. Love John
Did It Hurt to Listen? by John Calvi March 2000
for Out In The Mountains- VT's gay newspaper
The State House was full of civility. The press reports said so. But there were many insults. And if you listened to or saw or read these insults, they probably left a stain somewhere in you. It would be hard to be called an abomination, morally sick, the downfall of civilization, unfit, and mentally ill without having some sense of insult and slander. So what did you do with those words that hurt? What's happening now that you listened to those words?
For almost twenty years, I have been helping people to get well from trauma. I've been working with tortured refugees, sexually abused women, and people with AIDS. I have some ideas for getting clean and clear from the words that go deep and hurt.
What we do with words that hurt is part family history, the patterns in conflict we see growing up. A child sees how insults are shaped, their sources and meaning. A child also sees some options for response or non-response and the consequences. But as children, we do this learning without much conscious intent. We may learn things that do not help or are not healthy.
The other part of what we do with words that hurt depends on having a sense of our own goodness or not. I don't mean self-esteem, that relates more to the outward idea of how we fit in to the village. I mean the clear inner sense that at our essence we are good and that this goodness has power. This sense of goodness accumulates from the give and take of kindness and from the rules we decide are important and should be kept. It might have a spiritual frame or it might be modeled after the person whose light we're most drawn to.
The first thing to ask is: "Is there any part of this I can laugh at? Can I see any of the absurdity and laugh at it?" If we can do this, then it's generally a sign that we have found some way to accommodate the pain these words bring. It's as though we've made some understanding with parts of the process. This would exclude sarcasm, which is part anger and part fear. Real humor would show some sense of knowing truth about yourself and others. It could have a bite to it, but its power would be to reveal honesty more than to be used as offense.
If we have no humor possible around these hurtful words, then possibly the echoes of earlier hurt are very strong within us and leave no room for humor or understanding.
The next part is this: "Can you remember the first times when you were oppressed for being gay?" Autobiographical memory teaches us the obstacles we faced and the moves we made because of them. Can we connect the dots between the times we were separated for difference and the ways we responded over the years? Who were the allies? Where was safe space? And what did we tell ourselves about the oppressors and ourselves?
There are some frames we can put around hurt to consider its meaning. First is the personal or emotional, choices made about friends and honesty. Do you remember how it felt then and know how it feels now? How does this make up some of who you are? Where was there hurt along the way? What did you do with that hurt?
The second frame is professional and political, more obvious choices and strategies we make to keep our power in the world: income, living and work places, laws, and generally, keeping worldly options open. What do you know about the choices you made (and make) for strength and dignity along the way? What has that meant in your knowledge of power and its uses?
There is also the spiritual aspect to consider. The great teachers of shedding oppression--Gandhi, King, Buddha, Jesus, and Audre Lord, among others-- understood their struggle was connected to things greater than themselves. This gave them the rare perspective to not take insults quite so personally.
They understood that light would always naturally gather some dark. They understood they were to break unjust rules and then stand there and talk about it until all hell broke loose. Hell breaking loose all around them was the first part of the reorganization, part of the reach towards something better.
If you have the long view, the noise of insults might appear to be just so much static. However, if you are still ringing with the hurt of early oppression, there might not be much room for that bigger view. You know the person who has been out since before there were clubs to join, has gone on to make a life, help others to do the same, and has the scars to show for it. This is where that person becomes an elder in our tribe. This is not a matter of age really, but of passionate work and living and reflective attentiveness.
There are some practical ways to process all the hate surrounding us now amidst the gay marriage debate.
Talk to close friends about all you heard and how it felt. Can you remember details or general impressions? And what are your feelings right now? Can you say when you've felt this way before?
Can you learn how to get angry, let it rip, and then how to move out of it by watching very carefully where the peak is? Can you get playful with anger-- keeping in mind it's a steppingstone, not a homestead?
What are your sources of hugs and kisses in all their varieties? Be in close touch with the loved ones you trust most and let them know what's going on.
Watch for the usual signs of deep stress-- uncomfortable changes in sleep, dream life, appetite, digestion, elimination, fear, anger, and fatigue. Give yourself all you need to relax deeply whenever possible.
Watch for the things that rest the body, bring delight and joy to the emotions, and free the mind, and put these things in to regular use. Suffering is neither efficient nor attractive.
Stay very honest with all your feelings.
At the very least, I'd like to suggest we sit down with a cup of tea over by the window. Let's watch the snow fall slowly. Let's quietly go over where we've been, where we are, and know our paths. When people are trying to say who we are with insults, it's time to remind ourselves deliberately and consciously that we know what is and is not true.
This weekend Marshall and I will begin celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary. On August 26, 1989 almost 200 Friends, many from FLGC witnessed our vows. Our thanks to so many of you for being there.
A few years ago, I wrote Marshall as series of love poems. Here's one of the 30 or so. Hope this finds us all mining the Light. Thanks, John
New love Old love
One shouts One smiles
One hopes One knows
A few thoughts on dealing with on-going pain and fatigue-
Most people have some association, memory, or image that is a comfort and connects us to a calmer better time. It can be a gymnastic trick of the mind to make a quiet space in the day and bring in this idea with a deliberate focus with the intention of leaving now to feel another time. For some people this is a memory of the grandmother or the daydream of a special trip or a first love, lots of choices.
Lungs in particular often need the rest of great trust so whatever brings you a greater sense of trust can help you breath easier and rest more deeply.
On going pain is famous for lessening creative thought so don’t ask too much of yourself in the way sorting out all your own stuff, life is too hard.
Delight is a particular quality that has to do with watching for ways to love life. In whatever way you find yourself delighted this can be a way to have reality beyond pain.
As for fatigue and rest here’s my main idea- always lay down just before you get tired. And when we get bored with being still try this- lie in bed with sunglasses on, see yourself on the QE2, a lovely lounge chair on a sunny deck, Italy or Spain is nearby, and the only thing you can focus on is what you will reply when that very good looking Swedish stewardess comes along to ask, “What would you like for dessert?”
When pain is in one area, have some good stimulus in another area- for a headache, have a foot massage or hot soapy footbath. Also see about caring for this pain as one would respond kindly to a whiny child, surround it with embrace, mercy, and care to counter the accumulation of tension.
I cannot over emphasis the use of good old fashion grief to make space. So whether it’s the weepy movie that lets the sadness rip or the tantrum we throw at realizing our losses- all of it can make space for the next part of the day to receive beauty and care.
For some people it helps to have the simplest picture of what’s happening in the body- such as would be explained to a young person- Kaposi sarcoma can be described as the blood vessels opening up guest rooms and really they are usually just hallways.
Fear should be stated clearly to our most trusted loved ones. I’ve always thought there should be at least one tough old leather dyke in every emergency room, someone who could hear any horror calmly and look over while flicking the ashes off her cigar and say, “I know, ain’t it hell?” This helps us not to carry the fear unspoken, which is heavier.
Second serious illnesses can be more difficult. Sometimes there is the idea that we don’t deserve second reprieves. Of course we deserve it, but we need to say this out loud.
And the only other thing I can think of right now is that there really is very little of this that one does alone. Most of the ride we get to do with others but we must remind each other of this.
PS One more vital idea- Humor
Laughing even a little makes space in the body, thoughts, and emotional life so we can have space for the truth, the pain, the goodness.
For instance the other morning....
Marshall arises after first light, before dawn and tip toes to the window looking out over the field. He very quietly whispers, "There's two deer grazing in the field, a doe and fawn. How sweet and graceful. They are completely without fear and now the little one is nursing." He watches them and in the softest voice reports their movements. Then suddenly he's yelling, "HEY! GET AWAY FROM THE BLUEBERRIES!!!!!!!"
Here's the original interview I sent to Piedmont PFLAG. Their much shorter edit is in the newsletter. Thought you'd enjoy the spicy uncut version.
In other news from Putney- I found a rather large snakeskin in the green house- oh dear. We celebrated Marshall's Bastille Day birthday with a fabulous French-Cuban meal at Chez Henri's in Cambridge MA. I worked in another church recently and can only say how very happy I am to be a Quaker in the left wing of gayness. Hope this finds us all mining the Light and enjoying summer. Love John
***In the Light PFLAG interview with John Calvi April 2002***
John Calvi is seated by a window overlooking a south sloping meadow. The little house he and his husband, Marshall Brewer, share in Vermont is chilly on this April morning. John’s hair is brown, gray, curly and a bit messy. His round face looks a bit tired. Maybe it’s jetlag from a recent trip to England or from carrying firewood- winter in Vermont can be long. In a still moment, it seems he could use some time to stare out the window and think of nothing in particular. But as soon as he’s asked a question, his blue eyes sparkle and there’s a shift in energy and attention that is somewhere between charming and scary.
Why were you and Marshall naked when you met?
We met at the local gay swimming hole. There’s a certain lack of clothing there that insures the long walk through the woods will be worth your time. It was a beautiful summer’s day, the last warm day of summer in 1986. I had nearly become a resident sun worshipper and Marshall was there for the first time.
Was it love at first sight?
Well, more like four looks and three dates really. I’d gotten very tired from work in the AIDS epidemic and thought I was too emotionally exhausted to recognize true love. But Marshall was (and is) so sweet and fun that my heart was engaged very soon.
What work were you doing in the AIDS epidemic?
I began offering massage to anyone with AIDS in 1983 whether or not they could pay. So many men were dying so quickly that the massage was nearly all hospice work back then. When I got very tired, I took some time out to learn how I could do the work and not burnout. So then along with doing massage, I was offering to teach massage and ideas about avoiding burnout.
Was this the beginning of your trauma work?
No, I did a few years work with women who had survived sexual assault before I really got into AIDS work. I’d been a Montessori teacher with young children for 10 years. I found I could take what I knew about calm and quiet for a classroom and move it into a massage session. A good person in a safe space doing compassionate work on the terribly wounded became my goal and a life work.
So you are drawn to pain and trouble then?
No, not at all. I’d be perfectly happy for there to be no pain in anyone and sit here and look out this window until I was 100 years old. What I’m drawn to is trust, addicted really. It’s helping the very wounded who doubt they can ever trust, relax, or be happy again and finding a way to contact their hope which fascinates and thrills me. To have an oasis sneak up on you just when you’re sure that life is one big mud sandwich without enough bread, well that’s a delight to be part of.
So you are the oasis?
No, I help shape the package some and make the best delivery I can. But the real goodness that comes of the work is from a spiritual source, not me.
And what did you say when Marshall asked what you did?
I thought, “best not to scare him on the first date” so I asked him what he did. He was just finishing a masters degree in intercultural management and cross-cultural orientation with the School for International Training. He’s lived all over Europe, spoke German and Swedish and owned more clogs than a dance club.
How did you let him know about your work?
After we’d been together a while and decided we had to spend the rest of our lives together, he said, “teach me something about massage.” I said, “Feel this knot in my back? Put your palms flat there, take a deep breath, and think about how much you love me.” Well, that knot just disappeared and his jaw dropped and I said, “That’s something about massage.”
When did you know you had a gift to release pain from trauma?
Slowly over the first few years I noticed that I didn’t have any of the usual spa work- no tennis elbow, no diamond ring finger fatigue, no face lift cases. Every one who came to me without exception had been beaten, raped, shot, stabbed, blown up by a bomb or were dying. That was a clue.
Also my massage changed into a very slow dance and then became primarily energy work, a gentle laying-on-of-hands. I found I could move physical or emotional pain without a full body massage. This meant I could help more people.
So you can heal every one who comes to you?
Never. Some folks I can help very much and some not at all. Because it’s a spiritual work, I’m not in charge of outcomes. My job is to be well rested, open to guidance, and willing to witness great pain.
What’s the greatest pain you’ve ever witnessed?
I don’t repeat those stories. But I can tell you that I believe all pain can be healed. Maybe not by me, maybe not today, and maybe not in the way you imagine. It’s always a wonderful surprise to find that some large wound doesn’t hurt as much as it did or can be lived with more easily or doesn’t have to run your life. That’s a blessing when it happens.
Did you feel brave when you worked in prisons or with tortured refugees?
No, I was scared to death. I am a true coward. But the light guiding me was so bright, I had to go and the work was wonderful.
What really scared me was sitting in the Vermont statehouse during our Civil Union debates and hearing how much hatred some folks had for gay people. That was truly scary. Some fairly normal looking people claiming to be Christian talked about gay people like we had caused war, oil spills, inflation, and bad hair days for the whole planet. Some claimed Civil Unions would bring earthquakes and famine. The threats to government officials brought in more state police to our little capitol then we’d ever seen before. Concentration camps were clearly within their plans for us. They had no idea that the real gay agenda is to be treated fairly and get the beach each summer for more days than last year.
And in the end, it was these radical right-wingers that caused equal rights to win. There was a large group in the middle who wasn’t sure what was fair but they knew they didn’t agree with the whole idea of Christian hate. Of course Vermont is a small state with a little over half a million people. So people tend to know their neighbors. And they tend to know Eva down the road is a lesbian but the real question is whether she’s a good neighbor- didn’t she help with the rescue squad and does she let her dog bother the neighborhood. So we have a Civil Union law giving gay couples all the Vermont state law benefits and responsibilities of marriage. People are still working to remove that law.
Was it exciting to have a Civil Union?
Nope. It was like getting a fishing license. Marshall and I had been together for 3 years when we were married by our Quaker Meeting in 1989. It was a beautiful wedding. By the time we’d done some of the political and educational work to help make Civil Unions a reality, we’d been together 14 years. The law itself was thrilling. I am so proud to live where there is such progress and of all the people who worked so hard to make it happen. I think it’s a model of the best democracy has to offer.
Do you think of yourself as a Christian healer?
I think of myself as a Quaker healer. I’ve worked this ministry supported by Quakers, like Willie & Agnes Frye, for 20 years. I’ve had visits from Jesus when working with tortured refugees from El Salvador and visits from Buddha when working tortured refugees from Cambodia. So I don’t want to argue theology so much as be grateful that I have a wonderful life work.
What’s the hard part in this work for you?
You mean parts? Well, first it was very difficult to learn the disciplines of resting enough. And to make my compassionate work pragmatic- set limits, love life, and stay honest about my own pain. Then there is the whole issue of living on gifts. I decided early on that I’d accept donations so I could work on people who couldn’t pay. Most of my income is donation and most of the people I work on don’t pay me. I am not very good at suspense and there is a lot of suspense living on gifts. It’s a great spiritual discipline of living through grace- someone sees my work, understands that it’s important, and sends a gift. It’s not at all the way the world works but it’s how I’ve been living since 1984.
Are there other things we should know about you?
-I do know how to yodel just a bit.
-I wrote The Ones Who Aren’t Here (recorded by Meg Christian at Carnegie Hall and also on Suede’s first album) when I was thrown out of my family for being gay.
-I think George Bush is embarrassing.
-French Fries are my basic food group.
-I love being gay.
-I firmly believe that to be boring is a major sin.
-Marshall is a very fine cook and I do a passable job at laundry.
-I make about 20 trips around the country to teach each year and should have a website by summer.
-We have a compost toilet.
-I was a Montessori teacher for 10 years.
-I am celebrating turning 50 and doing this work for 20 years and will do this work without retiring until I die or the gift leaves me.
One last question- when you were teaching at the Guilford College conference on Quakers and Sexuality this Spring you talked about common traits of sex and spirituality. Do you really believe they are linked?
I was going to call my speech, “God is a Top” but Marshall talked me out of that. Mainly I wanted to present the idea that surrender is a difficult concept for many of us. But if you can learn surrender, using the strength of trust then it can be used to make your spiritual life, your love life, and your sex life better. If you learn it in one part of life then you can transfer that wisdom to another part of life and make your life more round, smoother, with more balance. Thanks for asking.
I just want to thank God and all her helpers. Even though I turn 50 next month, I just got back from the dentist and will make a half century without a cavity, indeed no more than cleaning, ever. I am extremely grateful. Extremely.
Thinking about the all the messages on racism and language, I remember a surprise about 15 years ago. Marshall had a job of bringing international professionals to meet with their US counterparts. I think it was when he was introducing the Argentine Supreme Court justices to the US Supremes and later to a group of black law professors. The justices asked the law professors what words they identified themselves by, whether black or African American was preferred. They all preferred negro. Our own use of gay is understood and used differently between generations and lesbians and gay men. Even within individuals, usage changes as we do.
I love the seeking we do on the listserve. And especially the honesty and disagreement. I would just remind us that there are rarely singular right answers for us all that will not change or will not offend someone. Intention and tone will always tell us more than text. We want building bridges to be a priority but it's also true that all progress comes from unreasonable people.
Governor Howard Dean
State Capitol Building
Dear Howard, March 1, 2002
Sorry to bother you. I know you are busy. I just wanted you to know that the Putney Town Report came in. It lists 85 Civil Unions through our town clerk from October 2000 through December 2001. We still don’t have any locusts, famine, earthquakes, plague, cross-burnings, or dying sugarbushes. Seems God continues to smile on us as we enjoy the fruits of hard work and good community. I mean for the most part there seems to be enough food and shelter to go around, mainly.
Of the 85 Civil Unions listed, only two couples are listed as Putney residents. The rest are from away-- one couple from Louisiana, two from Arizona, three from Florida, and six from California. There was one couple from Alberta, Canada, and one from Midland, Texas- God bless ‘em. It sort of reminds me of Vermont’s history with the Underground Railroad. People treated unfairly from so many other places came here on their way to freedom. I am proud to see the tradition continue. And I am grateful to you for helping to make it happen. I know principles can be hard to come by in government. I am glad yours were showing so clearly on this.
If you do run for president of the country, I will vote for you. Not because I agree with everything you’ve done. I don’t. But I think you could give the White House something it hasn’t had in years- a hard worker who hasn’t had everything handed to him from the country club set and a good looking guy who keeps it in his pants. Imagine what a nice change it would be to have someone up there we knew well enough to know when he was lying. That would be refreshing and make me think democracy was still possible.
If you do get to the White House, I’d like you to save a night sometime when the shadow government could hold down the fort and you didn’t have to stay in the situation room keeping score on some war where women and children were bombed into nothing. My husband, Marshall Brewer, and I would like to take you and your wife out to a nice little Italian restaurant on 18th St we know. I think you’d like it. And God knows, you’d need a break from all the flatlanders asking you about the best places for skiing back home.
Thank you for all your good work.
Sincerely, John Calvi
Marshall and I have just read a very wonderful book we’d like you all to know about. The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me is the new first novel of our dear friend Suzanne Kingsbury just out by Scribner. It is a story of true love of young adults, race, coming of age and unfolding into personal power and knowledge. But more than this, it is some of the most beautiful writing ever put into a book. We urge you to consider this wonderful new book for your reading-for-delight-of-beautiful-writing list. Suzanne would like you to support independent bookstores although Barnes & Noble has chosen it as a Book of the Month.
It is time to lock up the children. Once again, to keep them safe and at home, we must lock them up. I didn’t think the time would come so soon again but here is it. There is a bill before congress to reinstate the draft. Every late teenage boy will be in danger of war. And like so many other times in history the results will be certain- obscene waste of human life and outrageous cash profits. Our president’s main enterprise has been policies and laws to make wealthy people richer. War is the best moneymaker for the lucky few our country has ever had. If you love your sons, nephews, and grandsons, now’s the time to stop this madness. The new law would also make conscientious objectors receive basic military training. If a young man really believes in the teachings of Jesus and cannot take up arms, he will be out of luck. George Bush’s church believes in war and to hell with the others. The worse the economic down turn, the longer and more senseless our wars are. Raise your voices on behalf of democracy, justice, and peace. Don’t let this country club brat, this unelected president, this pretzel-choking impostor send a whole generation to war God-knows-where or for how long. Do nothing and lose thousands of teenage men or defeat this law and keep our children safe.
Happy Solstice everybody. Hope this finds us all cozy with what we need. I know there are these moments of contentment, calm, and peace that seem to get surrounded by noise, pain, and confusion. I find myself hoping, as I do so often in prayers, that everyone in pain, everyone having a hard time getting home, and all God's children in despair be washed with mercy and Light. I especially feel this for the very ill, the imprisoned, and anyone being hurt right now. It's a beautiful starry night right now here in Vermont and cold cold. And I feel my blessings of health, loving companionship, and home deeply this moment. And I hope these blessings for all. As the darkness turns towards light, may we hold one another close that we may all continue right on schedule towards our best selves and into one another's safe keeping.
I’ve had a wonderful year of work. I am grateful that after 22 trips to 12 states, teaching & touching many people, I can now spend some time at home to rest, clear my desk, write, and prepare for 2002.
I began this annual rest period about a dozen years ago when husband Marshall noted that I would do well to take the advice I offered so many, “Every one in trauma/crisis work should rest one week every three months, plus at least one month a year!” As you can imagine this is not easily done. How can we pay the rent or save the world at that rate? But the spiritual task of helping people to heal from trauma does not call for doing our most so much as it calls for doing our best. Our best is quite wonderful. It feels good to both giver and receiver. And the world needs our best now more than ever.
Having worked in 6 states since 9/11, I am very aware that many many people who’ve had past times of extreme danger, have been re-traumatized by the acts of war and the public discourse so full of hatred at home and abroad. To be very unsafe once is to know it again quickly when danger or the threat of danger lurks. Trouble, of course, is for learning, learning how best to respond for our own well-being and for others, for the present and for the future. The current troubles call for much learning. There is much good that needs doing. Our best is going to be needed for a long time. A young Islamic Imam, or priest, has recently taught me the tradition of saying grace before and after meals. Let it be the same with our work in caring for the human race and the earth. Let us surround urgency with reverence.
My calendar next year is already getting full as you can see. I will be using all of the occasions of work this next year to celebrate 20 years of doing this work and turning 50. I am so happy to have a work that I love, to be so well used in so many places each year, and to be able to focus on polishing this particular work into something shining. I am honored by the trust of so many and the opportunity for compassion.
I am also immensely grateful that I have had the support and care of so many people over the years. So many of you who have supported me prayerfully, financially, and with many other gifts, and have done so for several years- even when I was just beginning back in 1982 and not quite sure of the path. Thank you for being generous and loving and seeing my gift for healing trauma as one worthy of your support.
I hope this finds you well and enjoying this season. The cold darkness always moves us to Spring. I leave you with this blessing- May your breath be long & slow. May your eyes rest upon wonder & awe.
Late night Thanksgiving eve and the frosty air is chilling the moonlit night. Marshall and John Meyer are hard at work in the kitchen making pumpkin and apple pies for tomorrow, having already pickled onions, braised cabbage, sauced cranberries, and butterflied and brined a huge turkey. I’ve set a table for six over huge plywood covered by a freshly ironed linen tablecloth- a maze of cobalt Fiesta from years of thrift store collecting, crystal from Marshall’s Aunt Ramona, and silver from his Gramma Ruth. Tomorrow Chuck, Kenneth, and David will arrive to make a full compliment of every manner of gay Quaker man. I notice two things as I find just the right platter for white meat and another for dark meat- I wonder when did my priorities move from having a VW bus and a Martin guitar to having enough linen napkins for everyone? And how happy I am to be making the house beautiful and having Marshall in the kitchen dreaming up a new way to make gravy (one year it was champagne & fresh j!). Then going out for a moment into the cold night, I say a prayer for all those whose joy and safety are less than mine this evening. A prayer for everyone who can’t get home, for all who are sick, imprisoned, alone, being hurt, afraid, and without hope for tomorrow. Sending this out into the night before Thanksgiving so glad to be home for a rest after a long year of travels. Hoping this finds you all well and with ones you love.
I think you are very brave to speak your truth so completely. Yes, our first care must always be for ourselves. And then, as we feel able, to care for others. This has more wisdom than all other theology. I also think it's very true that we are activists in a wide variation of ways. To sit in prayer, to march, to organize, to speak truth, to write, to challenge the tide of hate in any way we can- is all activism and no one form of it counts for more than another form. No one does it all and everyone has to choose what they are able to do. And the more careful your choice at the beginning, chances are the longer and more you'll be able to do as time goes on. If we don't choose well at the start, we may court despair and fatigue soon into large work. All spiritual work needs our best, not our most.
I would also like to say, while I've go the soapbox so firmly in my open mouth, that I've been talking with a number of therapists and it seems that many many people are becoming overwhelmed with fear and discouraged that the world and the human race are in such increasing trouble. At times such as this, I would like to remind Friends that there are disciplines to keep before us so that the noise of the world does not arrest our connection to the Divine. We wouldn't want to lose our wisdom or our spiritual guidance for lack of regular quiet and careful listening. Please know those things that bring you back to the calm center and work them into regular disciplines. This might be increased contact with beloveds, physical work or movement, keeping quiet time saved each day, taking more time to tell the ones we trust exactly how we feel, and limiting our intake of sensationalized news- since the radio doesn't have pictures, it can be more gentle on the brain.
And one more idea- whether the pain of your life was witnessed in a war zone or in a family, when so much hatred is becoming public discourse the effects on our internal processes are the same. If fear or rage or fatigue is growing stronger within you, it may be time to attend to what you know about the pain of your life and take some steps toward self-care just as we would when events more directly involve us then the current crisis. I mean if you were robbed it could easily carry the reverberations of earlier worse trespasses and so we might get some help with that reverberation. All the noise of the world has gotten so much worse now, that we each might find ways of keeping our balance amidst such invasive trouble.
I have been thinking about the condition of having an enemy. I think like most trouble it calls us to learning. How is this constructed? What is my part in the construction? How am I understood by others? And what do I know about the opposition? One short idea is to offer the names of 4 films, all 4 about children in Islamic Arabic nations. I have found them to be informative and touching. Children of Heaven is about the relationship of a young brother and sister where the brother helps his sister to get new shoes. Color of Paradise is the story of a young blind boy and his father. A Time for Drunken Horses is about a young boy trying to keep his siblings together after a parent dies. The White Balloon is about a young girl and her brother in a busy city. If I remember right, all 3 videos are in Farsi with subtitles. The story telling is simple and the feelings are universal.
I feel these films also serve to inform me about the wealth we surround ourselves with unknowingly and how this might appear to those struggling for scrap paper and pencil simply to learn how to write. My own international travel has been meager and only for work so I learn from others witness. But I think we are called at this time to understand why this hate comes to us now, killing so many and how we can be targets of people we don't even think about. How do enemies get made? How can we learn and understand enough to lessen the condition that makes hate possible.
How is it that some days just become tender as the messages come from here and there with this one having surgery and that one broken hearted and this one with some old loneliness and another with no mercy for herself? And maybe partly I had a dream upon waking that puts me in the frame of mind where many things of the now remind of sometime ago when the world was different and I was different and there's a tenderness to remembering even briefly. Just before school let out when I was in early grade school, I might catch a glimpse of old Mr. Roberts heading off into the woods with his ox cart to gather firewood, his two red-brown ox slow and powerful old friends of his who never needed the whip he carried. He drove horse teams for my grandfather when my family first came to the little Yankee town and were the darkest people ever to stay. My grandmother sitting by the pond shelling peas says quietly, "yes, I saw Buffalo Bill Cody when his Wild West Show came to town soon after I came off the boat from Italy. His hair was long and white and beautiful."
We are settling back into home with some snow tonight and filling the wood
box up as the woodstove is the only heat with the sun covered by snow
clouds. Good to be home and yet missing warm sunny Mexico too.
I read over your last few e-mails and am pleased that in the face of life
threatening illness you sound calm and clear as to not being afraid and
choosing certain responses. My admiration for you has always been strong
and these responses in you don't surprise me.
I offer a few ideas for you in your spare time (God herself hasn't been able
to slow her down!). If your time has a limit, maybe taking a moment to
consider your years would be good preparation for all that comes. Could you
find some paper and sketch out an outline of your life? Childhood years-
where, who with, memories, crossroads, delights, horrors, special
people/places. Same for each period of life- high school/college years,
young adulthood, middle time, later time, now. I've been doing this in my
new workshop on knowing your own goodness as a way to help people look at
their lives by making a map and marking the crossroads, those times when
there was a big change.
Another idea- if, my dear, you are dying or going to die in the foreseeable
future, do you have some idea as to where and with whom and with what tone
you would like best for this to happen? Is there some way to prepare the
time/place/people/yourself so you can have what you want? Do you have
enough of your final papers in order now so you can truly let go when energy
I had a dream of seeing two deceased friends recently. There is a tradition
in my family that this is a sign of impending death. I woke up thinking, "I
don't want to die. I'm not ready. I want to stick around and get old with
Marshall. And it's also true that life hurts a great deal and I've had
plenty of hurt and the idea of leaving now is not scary. Though a bit sad
it's also a relief." I know that having a sense of an end in sight can be a
release into freedom. Do you have some of this? What are you doing with
this freedom? With this time? Reading long e-mails from old hippies who
won't let you alone for a minute without a zillion questions?
I am sorry if this is not the topic you most want to focus on. I am sorry
if I appear to be pushing the blue plate special on a grand dame who isn't
hungry for blue right now. Be in touch when you can. I am not worried
about you. I just want to share a few ideas and hold you as well as I can
from here. I send much love. Love John