Fall has always been my favored season. The cool winds begin to play with the leaves, improvising their own song. As the nights go by, the trees begin to participate in the song of nature. It’s a great time to get out with loved ones and take a hike. Come see us in the Nantahala Forest sometime!
“Calling words” become action. There is an attack happening on women. That was obvious as soon as the Republican nominee first opened his mouth. The problem is, that the words that this nomine uses to call others towards hatred have begun to have it affect from the ground up. Many of us knew this would happen. While it’s happened before, those of us who are lesbian have become accustomed to a certain freedom and action and receiving legal rights. My friends and I like the freedom.
Now it is time for us to call words of action out to our women warriors to write calling words. Now is the time call forth others to gather together and fight harder against this insidious repression of women and women’s ideas. While the obvious oppression is against all women, especially women of leadership and power, the more problematic on my mind is how it affects our lesbian community, our queer community, and all women who love women. Last week, the lesbian community learned of the loss of the editor of afterellencom to a company that took over the website and relieved her of her duties. This is a tragic loss to our community in my opinion. It was one of the few safe places I could go online when I first came out. This does not mean it has to be the end however.
It is good to discover that the original owner of afterellen has been able to move to autostraddle. This corporate takeover is still a sign of things to come if we do not stand up now. I encourage all my fellow writers and bloggers to support our community by writing your own blog about sites still available to our lesbian community. While I am more familiar with after Ellen and auto straddle, I recently discovered two new blogs written by a younger generation. It is a time for us to continues to support the older revolutionary sites, but also to embrace the new. Perhaps it is the time to handle hand over the baton. Only time will tell. For now those of us who have battled for rights for the gay and lesbian community must continue to hold strong. We can also encourage this younger generation to continue the fight so that one day it will no longer be a fight. So that one day we will no longer have to consider a fight for the right to love who we love. Love is love is love is love is love. Nothing more true can be said and we must continue to share that message.
In this day of shootings and riots we forget the power of the word. Yet it must be remembered that it was the words of Hitler that called people to atrocities. It was the words of the fascist the lead whole countries into battle against the in innocent. It is the words of the Republican nominee that is calling forth more hatred more racism and more oppression. We can call forth the words needed to support strong warrior women who will stand up against oppression hatred and racism. As I started this particular writing, my thought is to address the lesbian community because that is the one whose rights (or lack of rights) I know most personally. We have fought a long and hard throughout my life for the right to marry. We only had that right for around a year and a half and already it is threatened.
It is the nature of any battle, that the oppressor while losing will find a way to route what they consider the enemy. I call forth any of you who are being targeted to write words to call forth any meek who will stand up. They may be meek by nature, but they also may have the heart of a warrior. I am from a family of warriors, yet I am by nature a peacemaker. My warrior family would not have put up with the things that I have put up with. I am not sure how they would’ve handled it other than voting, but they didn’t have to worry because they were white and middle-class. That means they did not have to fight, their rights were assumed and taken for granted. While I am a white woman and still middle-class, I have also lived in poverty and felt the effects of oppression. I have lived in communities where oppression rules.
I have seen firsthand the damage that words of hatred, racism, and xenophobia have on entire communities of people. While most of the meek find it hard to stand alone, we must let them know that they are not alone. They have us and that we will all stand up together against this regime that is quickly taking over our rights as women. Please understand that this is not to call those who continue to be meek any negative name. We need the meek, they are our peacemakers. Because of my own nature, I do understand however that there are those of us who are meek by default. Yet, we have a warrior spirit to stand beside the Warriors in the battle. Perhaps those of us who are from warrior families can support the wounded, take over when they are tired, write blogs and articles books about what we have been through. Words matter.
Words do have power. Words have incited wars. What is more important as I write this, is to let you know that words have also called forth beauty and worlds. Most of my readers understand that I have been a pastor. The power of words that comes to me first is that Christian and Hebrew Scriptures that start out saying that God called forth the world. God did not wave hands or a wand. God did not ask someone else to do it. God called forth. God spoke and it happened. I call you forth to make something happen in the name of women.
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Bearing the unbearable is something we all have to do in life. Grief happens. Death happens. Nothing lasts forever in this world (except maybe plastic). My dog, Bear, was an amazing dog. She was part chow and part blue heeler, and she got the best attributes of both breeds. These are the first sentences I’ve typed about her in past tense. You see, last week, I had to put my best dog down. She was 15.
She never liked having her picture taken, but I kept trying. It was harder when she was young to see her face. She was black everywhere but on her toes. There was a bit of white with speckles (from the blue heeler) on her toes and a white mark on her chest. Sadly, I don’t have any good photos of her until she was about five. Even then, she was so black that in most of the photos you can’t see her eyes. She had soulful brown eyes. Most of the time though, she turned her head when I took her photo. That means there are a lot of photos with the back of her head.
I do have a few where she posed for a treat
… or a present.
Bear really loved presents and would open them herself. Yes, sometimes it was because it was about a treat or a toy. It was also about quantity. She was always miffed when the humans got more presents than the dog. It was funny that she counted presents, “1, 2, 3, more than the dog.”
She was smart and another dog lover told me a dog as smart as Bear could count up to 3. As the years passed after his comment I noticed that she did count. When family visits here in the mountains, we go out to eat. Upon our return, Bear always counted the people, “1, 2, 3, the rest of the family.” How do I know she counted? She would use her nose as a counter touching the leg of the first three people (usually me, my wife, and mother-in-law). After three, she was okay and would go back into the living room.
Bear knew everything about me that I didn’t want anyone else to know…not even God. Of course, God knows, I believe that is why Bear was sent to me. Bear was sent to me because I needed to know that some creature loved me with all of my faults. First it was Bear, then my wife. After learning to accept their love, I began to see that I have been loved all along. Who knows why I could not see love from others until Bear, then DJ? All that matters to me is that while my wife is my Holy Woman, Bear was my angel.
Bear was my lead dog. Other dogs knew that too. There were several times a male dog tried to dominate her. She would have none of it. She didn’t fight back, but she didn’t let any other creature dominate her. There were times when she was a typical Taurus. She was born in May and I put her birthday as May 5th because 5 is my favorite number and Bear is my favorite dog. Well, was my favorite. It’s hard to move my love for this dog into the past tense.
We have, no, we had 15 years together. I have never had a dog that lived that long before. I’ve grieved pets before, beloved cats and dogs. The thing is, no one, no pet I ever knew wanted to be as good as Bear. I think her love helped me be ready to trust my wife when I first met her. Bear was my guard, my guide. If Bear didn’t like a person, you knew to be wary yourself. When she met DJ the first time, she got out of the car and promptly fell at DJ’s feet. She was usually too dignified for such displays of love. My angel guide was telling me that DJ was the one I had looked for all of my life.
I wish I could say that love has saved the day. In a way, it has…saved all my days in fact. I am a better person because of love. My life is better because of love. Yet, it is not perfect and is as fraught with pain as any life. Well, maybe less fraught now that I live in love. The fact is, this dog was larger than life for me. My big dog now fits into a box I can carry. Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust happens to our beloved pets too.
Grief happens. I look on Facebook and see all the battles that my friends and family face. It’s the one change that we can count on; a life that seems large disappears. Even though we may believe in an afterlife, loss is hard. No one ever promised us that life would be easy or that there would be no hurt. All I know is that my heart aches at the loss of this beloved creature named Bear. I don’t regret loving this dog one bit. For every moment of sadness I feel, there are thousands more of love and joy. My only hope is that one day I might be half as good as this dog. If I can be, then another person will feel loved. Rest in peace my sweet dog. Rest in peace.
“The relationship between a dog and a human is always complicated. The two know each other in a way nobody else quite understands, a connection shrouded in personal history, temperament, experience, instinct, and love.”
― Jon Katz, from his book A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me
If you or someone in your family is having challenges with grief, there are resources available to help deal with loss. In Jackson County we have a great Hospice group to deal with loss of humans. Hospice in Sylva can be reached by calling Westcare Health Center.
For a more personal approach to grief, I highly recommend Kristin Moore at Keystone Behavioral Health. I first started going to Kristin to deal with the loss of my dad. She has helped me through that loss and when I talked with her about losing Bear and all that means for me, she is just as helpful in dealing with the grief of a beloved pet. You can get through your grief.
Things keep piling up. No matter how much I clean, give away, or throw out things continue to accumulate. Thousands of photos stored. Coats that I still might wear. Books I might read again or I might not. The books become friends and we all need friends even if we must dust them off now and again.
Paring down bulky items, I donated two music trophies to Goodwill. They were probably antiques because I hear trophies are no long metal. I took off the plates with what the trophies were for and I put them in some drawer. The purpose in saving them, only a reminder that I once won awards in music. The softball trophy I keep on my shelf still. Most people know about my music and how I used it. Few people know I was once good at softball. It felt important to keep the sports trophy as proof of my identity as a dyke. Silly isn’t it…or sad.
What do I have to prove at my age? Who will care about my memories or accomplishments when I’m gone? My diplomas hang now in the music room at church, my icons of hard work and dedication. My fellow musician, another childless person, is excited for the opportunity to hang her credentials with mine. At least one day perhaps someone will see our contributions as vital to the life of the church.
This is not self-pity to think on these things. My family is still sifting through the junk accumulated by my pack rat of a dad. He’s been gone a year and a half, almost two. My mother seems to have just as much stuff. When it’s my time to go, I want it not to be a chore for whoever must empty my remaining space. Can I leave treasures instead? Handwritten notes from friends and family. Books that speak of the goodness of life. Things that might matter to a stranger as well as a family member?
My life is strong and I think on these things because I never want to hoard, but also because I live with a 94-year-old who continues to distribute her possessions to the proper family member, someone who would appreciate an item for its history or use. She’s not being morbid about it, only practical. Still, when it’s her time to go, there are things that no one will want; things that are too painful to see and remember loss or things that only she liked anyway.
What should I keep in this transient life? I will keep love remembered and forget the pain. I will keep the joys, but also the sorrow for,wherever there has been sorrow, Joy eventually took its place. Sorrow is also a teacher, even if the lesson is not one we wanted to learn. I will hold on to my friends and family members and embrace forgiveness. I never needed those grudges any way.