best meme EVER

OMG, can’t you just hear him saying it with a lisp, bending his wrist (and maybe stamping one foot) for emphasis??

If that offends, consider this: The Jesus person I believe existed was likely big enough to do exactly that!

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wild goose

I’ll be camping in a few weeks, at glorious Shakori Hills in North Carolina.  To my surprise, we haven’t camped since last year’s inaugural Wild Goose Festival.  How did a whole year go by with camping plans remaining only in the dream stage?  (Well, Sandy did start a new job, and we did buy a house.  We have been pretty busy!)

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to camping.  Which is nice to reflect on…

I am, however, somewhat ambivalent about joining a gathering that’s rooted in the Christian tradition, no matter how progressive, gay-affirming, and open to other faiths it claims to be.  Lately I find myself reluctant to assign any labels to my thinking, but it’s not so far off to say that my journey currently camps on the shores of agnosticism and panentheism, and looks out on the sea of atheism.  I don’t believe I’ll ever embrace atheism (drown in that sea), but reading those tides and watching the dance of those waves holds my interest these days, while talk of salvation and eschatology and Christian theology and biblical hermeneutics kind of nauseates me.

There are upsides awaiting me at this festival.  In no particular order:  there’s a lovely field on which to play frisbee.  My partner and I may be filming a project, which should be interesting.  It will be nice to have some significant hang-time with several friends.  I’ll likely feel summery-clean inside and out from the sun and tent sleeping and eating sparsely for four days.  As far as food goes, we’re again doing the “minimalist” camping thing, as we coined it last night in a preliminary camping meeting with a local friend who will be joining us.  That same friend is open to learning how to play hacky-sack.  I’ll get a chance to hear some good (and quite possibly some great!) live music.

Not least, I might get an opportunity to sit with and look at and get to know a few of the myriad of feelings that bubbled up at last year’s Wild Goose that I never really did articulate, either on paper or in my head.  The only thing I ever managed to put words around was this: it was remarkable to be with my partner, sometimes holding hands, sometimes sitting nestled together, in a public place, for four days, with a noted absence of attention.  No one did a double take, startled.  No one seemed to awkwardly try not to look.  No one openly celebrated our open hand-holding.  No one really noticed.  It was lovely, the absence of feeling as though I were in a fishbowl.

For that gift alone, I am glad to be going to Wild Goose (East) 2.

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wisconsin is on my mind

I heard something interesting on NPR this morning on the way to work…

Sidenote:  I often start conversations these days with “I heard something on NPR…”  NPR is wonderful.  But I digress.

I heard a brief bit this morning about the Wisconsin governor recall election.  A woman who lived in Milwaukee, apparently the poorest city in that state, spoke.  She talked about how painful it was to hear ads saying Walker has created jobs in the state while there are so many people who have still not been able to find a job, or who are struggling to pay their bills.  A business owner from an affluent village just a short way away from Milwaukee then spoke.  He talked about how Wisconsin had been on its way down to join the likes of Illinois, apparently one of the poorest states in the nation, and he agreed with Walker’s decisions to cut government spending and state workers.  In this business owner’s opinion, Walker had indeed created jobs, and had created an environment in which more jobs would be created.

So who is right?  Is Walker a savior or a scoundrel?

I tend to think the latter.

I know it’s not that simple.  I’m not actually a fan of unions.  I worked in a union culture once where a huge gulf existed between those who worked incredibly hard and those who worked hard at doing as little as possible.  It seemed to me that the former’s hands were tied by the union regulations, and the latter were protected from any corrective discipline.  Later I spent time in the school system of a big city, and I saw both extremes: creative teachers who needed the protection of tenure to survive a bad administrator, and exhausted (and sometimes just inept) teachers who used their tenure protection to miserably hang on to their jobs even though they had given up trying to connect in any way with the kids.

I know that it was oppression and abuse and corruption which created the need for unions, but I also know that unions and union-members are not free of corruption themselves.

Hard working (but admittedly privileged) white men are raising their voices more and more openly to express their frustration with social programs and taxes.  They truly believe that a growing number of lazy, unskilled, unintelligent people (“users” as Ayn Rand calls them) want to leech off their wealth.  Some of these hard working white men are men of integrity, insulted by accusations that they are greedy and power-hungry.  They are tired of being asked to pay for the past sins of slavery just because they had the misfortune of being born white and male, and they don’t understand why the poor — specifically black African Americans — aren’t able to rise above their circumstances, like Will Smith did in “Pursuit of Happyness.”  Florida’s Marco Rubio is their champion.

So, it seems, may be Scott Walker.

But…

I wonder if Scott Walker has ever walked a reservation.  I wonder if he has ever listened to Arundhati Roy’s “Come September” speech.  I wonder what might happen to his thinking if he were given the gift of truly knowing what it is like to live in poverty, to struggle to climb that invisible but insurmountable retaining wall between the projects and the suburbs, between the renter and the home owner.

What does any of that have to do with Walker’s actions in his short term as governor of Wisconsin?  I believe there really are two different realities, growing farther apart.  Scott Walker has education, housing and insurance — the three legs that hold up the American Dream.  He couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to grow up with the challenges that many in poverty do.  And I see no evidence that he has taken steps to learn anything about worlds other than his own.  I believe that his innocence/ignorance helps him make the decisions that he has made, and I believe that it helps make his supporters feel good about those decisions.

How do we bring these realities together?  I wish I knew.

Wisconsin polls close in about an hour and a half as I write this.  I’ll be watching closely the news about the election results.  It sounds like it’s a closer race so far than the recent North Carolina Amendment One vote… I hope the results are not as depressing.

With hope, closing with a fun picture of a real grassroots effort!

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wheelbarrow

One day when I was small, I apparently put a bunch of potato bugs in my wheelbarrow and gave them a ride.  I know this story because my mom tells it, not because I remember the day.  It’s kind of a surprise story, really, to anyone who knows me now.  As an adult, I’m closer to a full-blown bug-phobic than I am an entymologist.  That’s probably from all those years of living in the city, traumatized by a lack of camping and an understood constant vigilance against roaches and bedbugs… But back then, I was still young and untainted.

I do remember being fascinated with these slow moving mini-armadillos, at how they’d curl up into a ball at the slightest touch.

I remember patiently waiting for them to unfurl.  It was as though they trusted me and relaxed.  Until I touched them again, of course.

What possessed me to give them a ride?  I dunno.  Seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess.

I wonder what the bugs thought?

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. out.

Yesterday, for some reason (bored?), I found myself looking at my former church’s website, and I learned a few things that made me go “ouch.”  I learned that a friend of mine has joined their staff.  I also learned that they’ve added those infamous words “marriage between one man and one woman” to the section of their website on marriage.

Ugh.

(Don’t worry, this is not a post on gay marriage.)

Today, feeling a bit lighter after a minor facebook purge, I find myself pondering identity labels.  Specifically, I’m thinking through various identity labels that I have adopted, embraced, breathed in for a while, and then shed.

Here are three:

. heterosexual.  Actually, I’ve long held to a theory that human beings are naturally bisexual, born somewhere on a continuum between masculine and feminine and often nudged in one direction or another by the cultural and psychological environment in which they live.  I was long curious about physical love with other women, and I experimented some along the way.  But mostly I considered myself a heterosexual.  I pined after various men, married one, conceived and raised a child as a mostly single mom.  And then I met my best friend, life partner, lover… and she happened to be another woman.  I shed my heterosexual identity and I got to experience being rejected from the christian community.  But I found freedom and life in love.

. christian.  My family was Roman Catholic.  I was a questioner, mostly, until my early 40’s when I surrendered to born-againism for a few years.  I landed in a joyful community whose members were committed to learning and practicing healthy communication skills, in addition to their devotion to Jesus.  I loved their teachings, and I loved the music.  I didn’t think they were literalists or held to a conservative theology.  But when Sandy and I told them we had fallen in love, we were told to go.  In the two years since that parting, I’ve resumed my questioning and have come to see a flaw in any set of faith beliefs that are inflicted on others.  I have shed my short-lived (albeit intense) identity as a born-again christian, and I now more freely explore the ideas of faith, tradition, belief and truth.

. alcoholic.  I joined a community when I was 30 that taught me how to grow up, how to forgive, and how to be honest about my flaws.  The only requirement was that I have a desire to stop drinking.  I had that desire and I stopped drinking.  I was very grateful for the badly needed structure and life guidance.  But my evolution in thinking about the christian belief system has impacted my thinking about the AA belief system.  I see similarities in their dogma and rhetoric.  Both communities require particular beliefs and behaviors in order to belong.  Both are bound in fear of what will happen if one questions or disagrees too much.  I became curious about what it would be like to live free and unfettered of both.  And so I’m exploring what it feels like to shed my identity as an alcoholic.  So far, so good.

I want to live without apology and without fear.  There is an empty space where those labels, those identities, used to be in me.  Not to mention my identity as a hospital administrator, from which I walked away 7 years ago.  Or my identity as a single mom, which I have let go in two ways: my daughter is now a young adult, and my Sandy is a full partner in the work of shepherding that young adult out into the world.

I don’t want to rush to fill the empty space left by all those identities.  I don’t feel lost, like a hole in the donut.  I want to continue to play with being alive and awake and present to who I am without labels.  I am processing many feelings.  Some have already emerged named:  chagrin about the time and energy I spent evangelizing as a christian and as a recovering alcoholic; anger at past — and expected future — interrogations from friends who don’t understand or agree with my love, faith or drinking decisions; fear that I won’t be able to rise, unafraid and unscathed, above others’ judgments…  I don’t regret having experienced any of the identities I describe here (I would, I think, regret the christian one, except that’s how I met Sandy!), but I am paying attention to what it’s like not to have them glued upon my soul.

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a world lies hidden

Picture a summer day.

A few clouds hang suspended lightly in the sky, not enough to hinder the strong sun warming the back of the child’s neck as she lies stretched out, perched up on her elbows and kicking her feet in the air, peering close between the blades of grass down through the layers to glimpse dark earth below.

The seeming stillness in her view is betrayed by darting movements made just beyond her particular point of gaze. The darts signal an ant foraging. Or something more sinister perhaps, with pinchers or a stinger.

Or maybe it’s just one blade settling against another as they both grow in the nourishing sunlight.

Only this close up is that world of teeming darting shifting life apparent. At chair height, it’s just an itch against ankles. At standing height it’s a blur of lawn. The grass only looks greener from farther away. Closer up, the bare dark spots of earth show through. Closer up, the different shades and colors spark into focus out of the solid green.

Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who” comes to mind. (Not the 21st century movie, mind you, but the original untainted animated short from my childhood.)

The last scene is what arises, where the tiny being on the microscopic world, who had finally succeeded in communicating (YOP!) to the huge elephant-sized universe — symbolized by Horton — that he EXISTED, that they were REAL… suddenly that tiny being found himself in the reverse role, hearing the voice of an even tinier creature, equally microscopic to him as he was to Horton!

The rush of wind past his ears as his perspective shifted, widened, shrunk, exploded — as the hidden world became the hiding place itself — echoes in my own.

What if?

What if there is no bottom, and no boundary up? What if those worlds continue smaller, infinitely, exponentially? Could we — our bodies — also be a hidden world, as we contain a universe? Solar storms, tornadoes, political wars and international posturing and fights… what does it all matter if in fact we are not as big – or as small – as we think?

A world lies hidden, shifting, tilting…

That last image is of a piece of artwork crafted by Yayoi Kusama, a really neat artist from Japan.

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january sounds like…

January sounds like a good month to move. Well, not really. I mean, the chance of bad weather… who wants to carry boxes, and load a truck in the snow, tracking mud and wet in the houses (old and new), exposing things that aren’t intended for outdoor play to the wet and the rain?

Actually, we moved in February. February 4th. So it wasn’t really January. January that year, that move, was a good month to close out a home of 17 years. Photos, baby clothes, the crib I’d slept in as a baby and that also cradled my daughter. A lifetime collection of vinyl records. Clothes that hadn’t fit in years (body and/or style!). Layers from closet shelves and a full attic. Drawer-fulls of small doodads and pocket lint.

We put a lot of it, bit by bit, out on the curb — no, not the photos, but yes, the record collection! — and watched from the upstairs window as people would drive by, slow down, peer moon-faced at the items on the curb. It was such a thrill to watch their thrill as they poked and prodded and sometimes decided they needed what we had shed.

So that we could move. In almost-January.

And this year at this time, to our surprise, we are moving again. This time into a real house! I know of two other friends who are doing the same. One friend just lost her beloved dog. And one friend is looking to grow her family with foster/adopted children. Our closing/moving dates are all close to each other. It must be a good time to uproot, put roots down, to settle, to nest.

January sounds like a good month.

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when i heard it, i thought…

“When I heard it, I thought…”

That was the prompt at a recent writer’s group I attended. Nothing came to mind at first, so I just played with it until something bubbled up. Here’s what came out (only slightly polished):

.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

When I heard what?

A sound? Something striking, melodious, plaintive, caroling, spine-tingling and soul-risingly beautiful?

Or a startling jarring banging unexpected sound that made my heart freeze for a moment, and then trip-hammer furiously as I caught my breath and wide-eyed looked around?

Or was it a word, or a phrase? Something said by someone beloved that I’d dreaded ever to hear? Words falling down one-by-one to strike the cement and shatter hopes like glass…

Ah, but I know. It was the sound of the trees singing in the wind:

When I heard the sound of the trees singing in the wind, I thought it the most soothing, pleasing sound. In that moment, on a deck in the hills of Maine in the spring, listening to the tall trees’ song, watching them sway in slow motion gently, almost feeling the glancing light off the leaves play over my face… in that moment I wondered if it was among the trees, in the mountains, that I really belonged.

The dream of living on an ocean’s edge, light, lazy, warm, crashing waves, summer days, in a little house with billowing white curtains and wide open to the breeze… that dream was no longer singular, alone. I now wondered if, even having been born in an ocean town, I no longer knew that it was the best place for me.

The sound of trees singing unhinged me free.

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time warp

Recently I experienced a sense that the calendar pages were flying off the wall faster than they ever had before. It was a new thing, different than other time-bendy, speedy experiences I’d had. And I’ve had plenty of those.

I’ve felt that well-known phenomenon of the years seeming to pass by faster the older I get (sung about beautifully by both Harry Chapin in Cats Cradle and Joni Mitchell in Both Sides Now). And at various times in my life when my to-do and activity lists have been overly full, I’ve definitely felt as though time were slipping through my fingers. Heck, Christmas morning used to tarry excruciatingly when I was a kid, but once I grew up and had my own kid, the big day fairly mowed me down like a freight train in its haste to beat me before I could finish my shopping. (All that self-imposed holiday insanity is for a whole ’nother post!) Birthdays, too, used to seem wide and far apart, and multi-double digit birthdays were like to never arrive! But once they did, each year’s milestone seems to have arrived faster and faster.

But this recent time warp was different somehow. It’s hard to pinpoint when it began exactly, but it may have been around the time that the local occupies began. My partner and I went to Occupy Raleigh’s second General Assembly down in Moore Park in early October, and we caught fire and got all excited that night about getting involved. On the way home, though, we realized that there was an Occupy less than a mile away from our house, and that one of the principles important to us is putting roots down in a local community. If we were going to invest time and energy and heart into an Occupy, we wanted to do so locally. So we went up to Occupy Chapel Hill/Carrboro the following Saturday, and have stayed somewhat connected in the six weeks since (albeit most often virtually through the online minutes and the online forum).

As I ponder more this strange squeeze in time I’d been feeling, I start to wonder if it goes back farther than Occupy (which was brought to you in a way by Adbusters, did you know?). For months after the Tunisia uprising began with Bouazizi’s setting himself on fire, the news was full of sparks from that fire landing on other parts of the world. There are unmistakable links between the so-called Arab Spring and the Occupy protestors, if only in logistical and communication lessons shared. The world is shrinking, a revolution is growing, and it would make sense for all that to be wreaking havoc on the flow of time.

Another possible culprit: the weather. Tornados, sandstorms, earthquakes, flooding, severe drought… Even the most stalwart atheist might start wondering about the accuracy of apocalypse predictions! Could it be that the planet is about to tilt its axis?

I’m not sure what any of this actually means, myself. What I can tell you is that at some point in there, Daylight Savings Time kicked in, the GOP soap opera started overtaking the news bandwidth, and time seemed to have slowly returned to normal. I guess I’m relieved?

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panic

wondering if the pass will come
(don’t they all? … so far it’s true)
heart valve clamoring yammering,
hammering fluttering,
spasming uncontrollable,
like an eye twitch but far more
uncomfortable
if not more neon sign
noticeable
to passersby.

craving quiet time in space
wishing for air beyond this task,
for confrontation behind me
but,
cheeky,
I want even more
to see this millstone float away,
up and away carried by work well done.

ah if only I could offer such labor
loosely,
lightly,
with easy repose.

This is not my current state of mind — neither the towering task nor the panic — but it’s one I know well. For some reason that knowing birthed a poem a few weeks ago, and that poem demanded to be finished tonight.

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