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Joy in the Morning – A Valentine to Myself

“It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
~Mary Oliver

I rise early on this rainy morning, excited about the book I’m editing, excited about the essay I’m writing. There is joy in the morning. This often happens for me as a morning person. Classical piano music plays as a light rain falls on this Thursday morning. A day before Valentine’s day, I think of a new gentle friend I’ve met and how nice it would be to share a cup of coffee with her in the beautiful morning of classical piano music. Along with thinking of sharing a cup of coffee with a beautiful woman, my mind also considers a question asked by a different beautiful new friend. Here is the scenario she presents:

You meet someone and there is instant attraction. There’s no denying the connection, vibe and energy between you. You go out a few times and things are great. There’s also no denying where this is heading.

You want to be upfront and honest, so you decide to sit down and have one of ‘those conversations’ with her. You say, ‘this is my stuff’…  What is it you’re saying to her?

~Audrey Negron

At first, I didn’t know how to answer it AT ALL. During the day, I found myself pondering the question and how I would honestly respond. This morning as I washed dishes, the question turned over in my mind again and again. I thought of the pain when my ex-wife asked me to leave

because I was disabled, and she couldn’t deal with it. How does one come back from that? Being called “disabled” and having my physical ability limited was not my choice. How does one outline that to a new person especially when we know that aging and its natural course doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be better with time?

 

Then, my mind hears the piano music again and I remember the letter sent to me complaining about how much time and energy I spent on music; that I performed outside of the house and taught lessons, directed choirs. I’ve been a musician all of my life. At a young age, I

Me playing guitar.

knew that the life of a professional performer was not the life for me although somewhere in my training, I became a performer. The life of the professional performer required too many sacrifices of self: how one dressed, presented sexuality, no time at all for loved ones. The life of a professional performer was one that would take too much from my soul. As a result, I chose the life of a professional choir director and teacher.

When my ex sent that letter, I could NOT believe it. I asked her why she even got into a relationship with me if she did not want me to share my music? Later she apologized, but those types of things cannot be unsaid. That was an attack on my soul. I say an attack on my soul because I cannot imagine a life without music. So, what would I say to a new person if there was mutual interest? What would I say about that? That my first love was music? And, would that be true?

I ask if that is the truth because I don’t know which came first, my love of G-d or my love of music. In truth, they are somehow tied together for me. As I typed that last sentence, one of my favorite pieces of piano music plays, Debussy’s “Suite bergamasque, L. 75-3 Clair de lune. The pianist is Lang Lang.

My first thought is of my sister. This was a piece she was assigned when we took piano. Then, as the piano piece proceeds, I feel the flowing of our Carolina streams and see sunlight dappling the water. It causes worship to rise in my heart. Not worship of my sister or the pianist or the composer, but whatever entity brings that music into being, I want to know THAT ONE! That being who causes poetry, music, and sisters to be formed, I want to know and give thanks to that ONE.

Morning at Church of the Holy Cross, Valle Crucis, NC.

Therefore, my next confession is that I am religious. I tried on the “spiritual but not religious” cloak and it was well, weird. I felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes and not my own hiking books. The truth is that I’m both spiritual AND religious. Each day is a day of searching for what it means to live an artistic and sacred life. Many cannot deal with that and I understand. At this point in life, I know I also cannot compromise that part of me any more than I can compromise being a musician or lesbian. There are some things you just know are TRUE about your life.

Those truths may or may not work for another. This is the beauty of life, self-discovery. You be free to be you and I can be free to be me. Alexis Ffrench plays “Bluebird” as I type about the freedom to be.

I’m not one to be caged. When you meet me, the first thing that usually starts is short jokes. LOL, I’m okay with that. Sometimes though, people think that because my physical being is small that they can put me in a box, but my soul will not be contained. Don’t expect me to be anything other than who I am.

In truth, I’m a poet, peacemaker, healer, but when someone puts me in a box, I will fight, and I can fight because I come from a family of warriors. I’ve also discovered and must admit that I may suffer fools a bit in public, but not for long. At 58, I admit being tired of the nonsense. My goal is to be a peaceful warrior, but my choice would be not to fight at all. If I had my way, each day would be spent with art, music, poetry, children, and friends. Yet, politics happen, hunger is daily, and dishes must be washed. The mundane can be beautiful too when those in charge are not power-hungry.

Though this essay is about responding to my new friend’s question, it is also a Valentine of some sort. I’m unsure what type of Valentine because the day itself has never been a good one for me. Yet, I want to love a special someone again I suppose. No, I know I do, because I love to love and care for another. Time and again the lesson that I keep learning is that first, I must learn to send a Valentine to myself. That is the hardest thing of all. We all must learn to love and accept our own flaws before we can truly love another. As I ponder Audrey’s question, I know the task is essential. Especially now, when all I know for sure is that I can offer is love, a song, kindness, and joy in the morning.

from “A Wave” by John Ashbery

When the Sun Went Down
To have been loved once by someone—surely
There is a permanent good in that,
Even if we don’t know all the circumstances
Or it happened too long ago to make any difference.
Like almost too much sunlight or an abundance of sweet-
sticky,
caramelized things—who can tell you it’s wrong?
which of the others on your team could darken the passive
Melody that runs on, that has been running since the world
began?
Yet, to be strapped to one‘s mindset, which seems
As enormous as a plain. to have to be told
That its horizons are comically confining,
And all the sorrow wells from there, like the slanting
Plume of a waterspout: doesn’t it supplant knowledge
at the different forms of love, reducing them
To a white indifferent prism, a roofless love standing open
To the elements? And some see in this a paradigm of how it
rises
slowly to the indifferent heavens, all that pale glamour?

French Translation by Michael T. Bee
… de “A Wave” de John Ashbery c’est une chronique de haibun. de nombreuses émotions complexes à la fois
comme l’adolescence ou tomber amoureux

Quand le soleil s’est couché
Avoir été aimé une fois par une femme – sûrement
Il y a un bien permanent là-dedans,
Même si nous ne connaissons pas toutes les circonstances
Ou c’est arrivé il y a trop longtemps pour faire la différence.
Comme presque trop de soleil ou une abondance de sucreries
gluant,
des choses caramélisées – qui peut vous dire que c’est faux?
lequel des autres membres de votre équipe pourrait assombrir le passif
Une mélodie qui continue, qui court depuis le monde
a commencé?
Pourtant, pour être attaché à son état d’esprit, ce qui semble
Aussi énorme qu’une plaine. devoir être dit
Que ses horizons se bornent comiquement,
Et tout le chagrin jaillit de là, comme l’inclinaison
Panache d’une trombe: ne supplante-t-elle pas la connaissance
aux différentes formes d’amour, en les réduisant
À un prisme blanc et indifférent, un amour inexorable debout
Aux éléments? Et certains voient en cela un paradigme de la façon dont il
monte
lentement vers les cieux indifférents, tout ce pâle glamour?

 

Beautiful Piano Music for your soul (playing this morning)

At Last (Solo Piano Version) Alexis Ffrench

Underwater Dream Eluvium

Keyboard Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056: Harpsichord Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056: Largo Hae Won Chang & Johann Sebastian Bach

Chopin: Nocturne No.2 In E Flat, Op.9 No.2 Daniel Barenboim & Frédéric Chopin

Olivia Belli – Max Richter: Departure (Lullaby from “The Leftovers”)

 

 

 

 

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A Definition of Butch: by Searching4Self (Permission Granted)

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Thinking about Butch

©2019 Pamela Lewis. Used with permission.

 

What happened to the butches? This is often heard in the lesbian community and it got me thinking about Butch. This is not about Butch Cassidy either. As I age and care less what others think of me, I become more of my butch self. I’m also going to capitalize “Butch” as a gender identity because I have been a butch with a little “b”  and now I want to be more myself. I’ve been butch my entire life, but what people like to call “soft butch”. It was a way I could pass as straight. It made me feel safer.

 

Stained glass windows at Sagrada Familia (Gaudi)

As I finished seminary, I was more comfortable with my Butch self because I was in a field that was important to me. I was confident in theology and the work I would do as a pastor. Though I still had to “hide” in other ways, I gave up eye makeup. I still wore dresses, slips, hose and high heels to church or a business meeting though I hated them. Being a pastor in the Lutheran Church was one of the most rewarding and blessed vocations of my life. Of course, I lost that vocation when I came out to the Bishop of my NC Synod. The ELCA at the time had not caught up with the UCC or Episcopal Church in the ordination of Lesbians as priests or pastors.

 

As soon as I was removed, I got rid of all my dresses and almost all suits with skirts. I wore mostly dress suits because my professional look was more tailored. Kept a skirt and jacket that mom had bought me for my ordination in case it was needed for a family funeral. At the time, I wasn’t out to them. Yet, the more I came out to family, friends, and anyone I needed to, the freer I felt. I gave up all things “femme” and even stopped shaving my underarms and my legs. I’m not a hairy person to begin with.

Throughout my life, I’ve chosen to remain in the South. In particular, I love the state of North Carolina. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like our state politics and as a whole, the state usually elects bigoted white men as senators. Though, in truth, the senator representing my new county is a bigoted white woman. What does this have to do with how this article started at all you may wonder. How did politics get into a conversation about what it means to be a Butch? It means more than we could ever have imagined.

 

On one hand, I knew this. On the other hand, I don’t care for politics and in my life have avoided discussions about it. Barely knew enough to vote responsibly when I was younger. Then, a dear Coptic priest from India told me why it was important to become more interested in the politics of the U.S. Our foreign policy affects whether his people can eat. Though I can’t say I’m a political junkie, I am becoming an activist. At this point, I may be willing to say that ALL women should be activists. All people of color should become activists or at least all should become MORE INFORMED!

I’ve been reading Jill Soloway’s memoir, “She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy”. In truth, if a trusted politico friend had not sent it to me, I would never have known about it much less read it. There is so much in this book that is helpful. Not only in understanding the challenges of artists, but also of our Trans community. In the book, she admits to making mistakes in different ways, but by the end of the book, you also see how they correct that and also how they are transformed. It is a powerful book.

 

Since my divorce, I’ve asked my own questions about “who am I?” Who am I without my wife? Who am I as a differently-abled person? The only thing I know for sure is that I am claiming my art and my Butchness. When I first moved to my new town in the mountains, I happened across an Instagramer named “butch-is-not-a-dirty-word.” I bought two sets of stickers they had for sale on Instagram. One said the same thing as above. The other says, “Butches Against the Patriarchy.” Man, I love those stickers. Have I gotten brave enough to put them on my car yet? Nope. You see, I live in the South. I do have subtle stickers on my car that the LGBTQ+ community will recognize as rainbow stickers. They are subtle though.

 

After my separation and divorce, the only place I could find that is affordable is set in the midst of not only a large group of Republicans but many of whom are part of the 1% wealthy who buy vacation homes. I keep asking G-d what in the heck is She thinking to do that? They don’t want me here. Yet, the people in my town are wonderful. The more I get to know them, the more I accept that we are all merely human beings trying to do the best we can to get through this life. We are neighbors and friends first.

 

Yet, one of the things that Solloway does in her book is to encourage each of us to become more involved in the changes needed for our country to become a better place for all, not merely some. She and Eileene Myles, another activist, spent time writing what they called “The Thanksgiving Paris Manifesto” and they believed in it so much that Solloway bought the website Topple The Patriarchy.

 

One of the things I’ve been doing in the past two years is accepting and adapting to these truths of mine. Sometimes there are old truths (butch), and sometimes there are new (differently-abled).  I’ve finally decided that if others can’t deal with it, okay. This is who I am. I am embracing my butchness. I like being Butch. Have even been brave enough to wear ties to the church. I didn’t care what they thought. I wanted to look good. Also, I am religious. So be it. I tried changing but I was miserable. Some people would say “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Tried that too and the fact is, I am both.

 

I am becoming more of an activist and my wife didn’t like that at all. She was too fearful. I am not any longer; tired of hiding and always being afraid of who I am. This creative person works as hard as possible, though I am differently-abled. It took me forever to get used to my limitations. Yet, I am finding beauty in them too. In my haste to work, get a lot done, please people, there was so much WONDER that I missed. I am claiming the wonder and the mystery of life.

 

I’m claiming ALL of my life regardless if WHO I am makes others happy. We can’t make others happy anyway. It took forever to get that lesson. Now, I am happy to be me. For all you Butches out there, I want you to claim you too. Because

 

Claim it!

 

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Ornery Muses and Love, Sweet Love

Photo by They Might Be Fierce – Jordan Venditelli

As I finish a music project for a local church and print off a book draft, I have to laugh at how ornery my muses are. At first, I typed that they were uncooperative and realized that wasn’t exactly correct. I’m not having a creative block. If anything, they are hounding me about so many things I can’t get it all done fast enough. My body just doesn’t do fast anymore even if my mind does.

 

You might ask why I am calling the muses ornery or uncooperative if my creative life is thriving. I state this because about a year ago I wrote to let everyone know that I’m working on a new book about dogs. At the time, I was bold and said I hoped to have it out in 2019. It is now June and the draft of the book I’m working on is about prayer, not dogs. How in the heck did that happen? For years I’ve wanted to create a prayer book but couldn’t quite find the right format. Why, when I wanted to focus on a book about dogs, did it suddenly show itself now?

 

Who knows really? The creative process is what it is. One thing that comes to mind this morning is something I realize that I must also admit. The easy thing to admit is that I’ve always loved dogs best and always say I’m a dog person. The harder thing to admit is that this doesn’t mean I’ve always done the best thing for my dogs. It wasn’t because of desire to do right, but I had a lot to learn as a young dog owner. My current dog, Birdie, would say I still have a lot to learn, but she’s a bossy little thing. She is fifteen pounds of love, but also fifteen pounds of bossy!

 

Also, writing the book about the dogs has been harder than I thought it would be. Not only because I will be required to confess to the error of my ways but also because of how dogs are always connected with places and other loved ones. Memories of dogs open up memories of life with others and when those others have been lost and the dog has been lost too, well, sometimes I get tired of writing about loss.

 

The music project I planned on doing this year (a CD of hymns) has morphed so many times into other recording projects that I’ve lost count. The good thing is that it’s empowered me to encourage others. The difficult thing is that I need to practice my guitar more often…even when Birdie wants to play dragon-pull.

 

This day I will be facilitating discussion on a book at church. Writing books means one must also read books. Reading books takes away the time for writing books. Also, some books I’ve read lately have been extremely well-written or exquisitely poetic and my tyrant brain says why bother?

 

When I get discouraged the beauty in life is how the muses or the universe, or G-d, send messages to let one know to keep on going. Creativity has been my life’s work. In that creativity there has been a theme of love. As long as I’m creating words of love, songs of love, paintings of love or the result of love, the world is a better place. Here is a short video of what I’m trying to say.

The corrections are that I was not 7 or 8, but junior high age and the version of the song playing was sung by Dionne Warwick most likely.

 

Please visit Abigail Rose Clark also has a wonderful post about love and the importance of loving yourself and working for your own well being called “Beyond All Binaries” where she asks these good questions:

 

Where do we think we need to be good to be loved?

Where do we think we need to be right to be worthy?

Where do we still buy into the belief of right/wrong, good/bad, worthy/unworthy?

And how do those beliefs influence our relationships?

 

 

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A New Poet to Consider – Jordan Vinditelli

Over the weekend, I met a wonderful new friend, Jordan Vinditelli. I hope you will take time to read their blog! I was especially moved by the poem Staying Safe which is reprinted here with permission.

Image by Omar González from Pixabay

Staying Safe

Kiss your partner before you open the door.
Make sure the blinds are closed.
Once you step into the harsh outside world,
don’t show affection and don’t look back.

Walk.
Fast.
With your keys poised between your fingers,
like your life depends on it.

When you get home,
lock the door.
Check out the window for moving figures.
Double check the lock.

Suffer through the heat at night
because it’s safer than
opening the balcony door.

Check your pronouns before you open the door.
Make sure your clothes are cis.
Once you step into that office suite,
don’t lower your voice and don’t reveal yourself.

Work.
Hard.
With your body on display for all to verify,
like your livelihood depends on it.

When you get home,
lock the door.
Check out the window for moving figures.
Triple check the lock.

Suffer through the heat of day
because it’s safer than
revealing yourself.

Take off your binder before you get to the door.
Make sure you look like the girl they raised.
Once you step into that house,
don’t even think about coming out.

Laugh.
Loud.
With soprano voice singing femininity,
like your stability depends on it.

When you get home,
lock the door.
Check out the window for moving figures.
Quadruple check the lock.

Suffer through the heat during visits
because it’s safer than
coming out to your family.

Secure your Pride gear before you open the door.
Make sure it’s tucked away on the way to the parade.
Once you step into the rainbow sea,
don’t stop scanning the crowds for guns and familiar faces.

Stay
Alert.
With your partner held tight in your arms
like your love depends on it.

When you get home,
lock the door.
Check out the window for moving figures.
Quintuple check the lock.

Suffer through the heat in the closet
because it’s safer than
losing all you’ve ever known.

Put on your clothes before you open the door.
Make sure you’re comfortable.
Once you step into the harsh outside world,
don’t return the stares and don’t react.

Live.
Normally.
With your head held high
like your sanity depends on it.

When you get home,
ignore the lock on the door.
Don’t check out the window —
there’s probably moving figures.
Again, ignore the lock.
They would just find another way in.

Get used to the suffering heat
because it’ll become your home
amidst the fires you’ll walk through.

Your body
doesn’t get
safety
in this world.

______________________________________________

“They are Fierce” is a collection of poetic and prose musings that work to explore a wide range of topics including love, faith, and politics. With the site based loosely on Shakespeare’s “Although she be but little, she is fierce” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), this site encourages marginalized individuals of all identities to stand up and be seen and heard in a world which forces them into an identity of timidity and silence.

The posts contained in this blog are the poetic and narrative ramblings of my mind in written form. Enjoy!

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