Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sweet Normalcy and a Dream of Mom

I awoke this morning late, with Beloved calling me on my cell phone, from a sweet dream that is still tugging at my heart.

I was at a beach front resort with my parents, perhaps Florida. Come to think about it, there was something vaguely-- sweetly-- Disney-esque about it. They were staying in the room nearest the laundry. As a result, they were folding other folks' clean clothes for them... I remember the bright, cool summer colors, aqua and peach and white cottons, neatly folded, in the sunlight.

We decided to take a walk on the beach. At that point, I remember thinking, it's a miracle mom is alive this year. We didn't expect her to make it this long. And she is doing so well.

As we walked on the beach, near a great bridge (like the Brooklyn Bridge), a great sailing ship came by, with an enormous, giant pirate at the helm. He sailed under the bridge and away.

Then my phone awakened me.

I think the reason this is tugging at my heart is the sense I had that my mom was well, she was with me, she was able to walk on the beach (this last was probably not true for the last ten years of her life). And the detail of my parents letting no laundry go unfolded! It was sweet normalcy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


You know, my mother always told me my own birthday was like a Polish wedding... it went on and on for days and days and days (since my dad is Polish, she was allowed to say that). I think this year it is Beloved's turn to enjoy the festival-birthday.

So Tuesday night we had dinner, and the subject of the dinner was "our story" (by request of the other friends). We told it... I was surprised how shy Beloved was about it. Of course, it involves me being very raw and confused at the breakup of my marriage. But then... this revelation, this person I had known a long time but who I really only began to know... this knowing of myself in a new way... I think of our story and I'm filled with joy.

At some point I was able to introduce my garden into the conversation. The other folks eagerly "bit," and so......

EEEEK! A hummingbird.... the first I've seen..... rght outside my dining room window!!!!

[And now we return to our regularly scheduled blogpost]

We left the restaurant in two cars. As Beloved and I drove to my house I asked her, Why so shy about our story? Doesn't it make you happy? And it came out that she has been worried from the beginning that I was too inexperienced (well, I was), that I was on the rebound (true that), and that I only hooked up with her because she was the first girl I met.

This last floored me. I reminded her of something she said to me when we first started seeing each other, something I have said to her as well.

I've waited my whole life for you.

We arrived at my house, and the colored lights lit up the porch so beautifully. I jumped out of the car and ran inside for the cake (kj, you are right... there is no "over-the-top" where chocolate cake is concerned. There is only better and better and better...) and the champagne. We used PowerPuff girls napkins left over from a birthday party of yore. We sat on my porch and enjoyed the cool of the evening and laughed (not too uproariously). Beloved, who claims to hate surprises, had that glowing look of someone who is enjoying being appreciated.

End, day 1 Birthday.

Day 2:

I have been telling Beloved for weeks that I was taking her somewhere for her birthday, someplace very special. Due to her weird phobia of all things spa-like (don't ask... I haven't a clue) I have taken to teasing her about kelp wraps and sea salt rubs, just for the fun of watching her eyes get all wide and spooked. She became so paranoid that she finally said, You have to tell me as soon as I get in the car where we're going so I can jump out if I need to. I said, fine.

Yesterday at 3 I picked her up. In the car was a cooler filled with Sri Wasano's Infamous Indonesian Rice Salad (from here), Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans and Minty Pea Salad (from here), and a bottle of Ménage a Trois White wine; also a bag filled with a few small gifts (a book, and a movie that had been recommended to me on this blog, a poster of Josephine Baker), and in the visor over the passenger seat, tickets to a concert. No details of the concert; it would give my location away (though we had to drive several hours to get there). Let me just say, it was a woman singer/ songwriter, a blues and rock singer extraordinaire, and an absolute favorite of Beloved's. She looked at me with that Christmas-morning-I-got-a-pony look, and we were off... for several hours of driving through gorgeous countryside, on a beautiful day, for a fabulous concert and picnic.

Of course I want to celebrate this woman. I've waited my whole life for her.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Colored Lights on the Porch

I am about to do something pretty, er, un-closeted. I'm throwing just a little party for Beloved on my front porch.

The improvements to my garden and yard have continued (they take a long time, you know?) and Beloved hasn't been by in a couple of weeks. Tonight she and I are having dinner with some friends. During dinner I will bring up my garden. The friends, if they take their cues well, will say, "Oh, we'd love to see that. How about we all drive by after dinner?" I will say "Swell!" or something like that.

When we get to my house, there will be multicolored lights on my front porch, as well as champagne glasses. There is a bottle of Korbel in the fridge, and an over-the-top homemade chocolate cake (that's the actual name of the cake. It's from the cookbook written by the owner of this bakery, well worth a trip to NYC from anywhere) with while boiled frosting (Beloved's absolute favorite) . We will sit on my porch, and toast Beloved's recent birthday.

And the whole neighborhood is welcome to see.


Go see it... especially if you are a citizen of the US.

Then ask yourself, what is wrong with us?

Then see if an answer occurs to you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

(Why Is Your) Heaven So Small?

For those of you who have not had the pleasure, allow me to introduce Susan Werner. She is an amazing singer-songwriter who writes across all sorts of genres. Her most recent album is comprised of songs reflecting on her life as a Christian. Enjoy.....

excuse me sir, what did you say?
when you shout so loud, it's hard to tell
you say that i must change my ways
for i am surely bound to hell

well i know you'd damn me if you could
but my friend, that's simply not your call
if god is great and god is good
why is your heaven so small

you say you know you say you've read
that holy bible up on your shelf
do you recall when jesus said
judge not, lest ye be judged yourself

for i know you'd damn me if you could
but my friend, that's simply not your call
if god is great, and god is good
why is your heaven so small

with your fists that shake, and your eyes that burn
what makes you do these things you do?
i would not be surprised to learn
someone somewhere excluded you

but my friend, imagine it if you would
a love much mightier than us all
o if god is great and god is good
why is your heaven
so small

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Table

The earth is the Lord's and everything that is in it.

The trees of the field clap their hands, for they were fashioned by a glorious Creator.

The carpenter learns her skills from the human family, and hones her God-given talents by persistence and determination, also given by God.

Therefore, the Table is God's, and God's alone.

The wheat may be planted by human hands, but it is God who gave all the plants and the seeds in them.

The grapes may be cultivated by human hands, but it is God's genius alone that imagined into being that succulent fruit.

The hands that knead the loaves were created by God for this purpose. The feet that stomp on the grapes were given the ability to dance by God.

If the table is God's, and the bread is God's, and the fruit of the vine is God's...

Who are WE to say, "You are not welcome?"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Who the Hell Is My Neighbor, Anyway?

Like many of those who visit here, I have a penchant for hanging about with the priest who is mad and many of his cohort. I also have a tiny little addiction to one Very Conservative Website, which, with your help, I am trying to lick. There has unfolded over the last week and a half a drama in which a wonderful, liberal, out lesbian Episcopal priest has been vilified and attacked repeatedly for something she posted on her blog, which she removed a short time later, after reconsidering her words. (I'm not posting links, because I am a damned coward. I don't want That Crowd finding me.)

Aforementioned priest has just returned home from a mission trip, in which she went to one of the most impoverished nations in the west and worked to build places of respite and enjoyment for children. While she was gone, the Forces For Good were busy trying to utterly demolish her life.

This week's gospel is the parable of the good Samaritan. Do you suppose any of the folks over at The Place Where the Righteous Live have ever read it? You know, that story in which Jesus tells an orthodox individual that the person he despises the most in the world is the one who is closest to the kingdom? You know, because, the Samaritan doesn't just quote scripture, but actually lives out God's commandments of love?

Just wondering.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


I realize, looking back over posts on this blog, that one might get the idea that Beloved and I have some kind of perfect relationship, in which we intuitively understand one another at all times and completely and perfectly meet one another's needs. That, or one might get the idea that I'm a damned liar.

Not really, to either. I am very happy in my relationship with Beloved. But the truth is, we drive one another crazy sometimes, we are so, so different.

Let's talk about need for alone time and need for together time.

Guess which I am fine with a minimum of? Guess which she needs or she literally can't function in her very busy life? I think everyone needs both, but we have a fairly regular struggle around my desire for more and more frequent time together. Because I have a custody schedule to which I must adhere, every other weekend (when my children are with their father) is absolutely precious to me... if we can't be together every free minute I tend to feel cheated. And angry. Until I pull myself together and realize how much I need some alone time as well.

So tonight I wanted Beloved to join my kids and me for dinner at a great, new Italian restaurant in town. She needs to stay in. I'm disappointed. But I'll live.

Beloved and I saw a film not too long ago that was advertised as a groundbreaking documentary about a couple of lesbians who, when they went to get a marriage license in their town, ended up with their lives turned upside down. And the first 10 minutes of the film were pretty riveting... all news footage and cameras popping and the women standing next to their lawyer as the legal system tried to deal with this turn of events. By the time the film was over, however, I felt I had paid my dollars to watch paint dry. The truth was, the film was pretty damned boring, when all was said and done. Their lives were boring. Which may be the revolutionary truth that LGBTQ folks ought to start advertising.

We're boring. No need to fear. We're just as boring as everyone else is.

Friday, July 6, 2007

It's Always Been There

This morning, as the coffee perked merrily on the stove, and as I rinsed the luscious local strawberries for my breakfast, I heard a suite of music that stirred an ancient memory. It was the orchestral suite from Der Rosenkavalier, an opera I saw long, long ago with my then brand new husband. I knew nothing about the story, except that it is about a love triangle between the Marschallin, an older woman of allure and prestige, Octavian, a young man, and Sophie, a young woman. As in the tradition of much opera, the part of the young man is sung by a woman. When I heart it, the trio consisted of Kiri Te Kanawa as the Marschallin, Frederica Von Stade as Octavian, and a wonderful singer whose name I forget as Sophie.

The opera is long, and I know I struggled to follow it, neither speaking German nor fully understanding the plot. But near the end of the opera, the three women sing a trio, and I remember the thrill of the music, the beauty of their voices, sending electricity through my body. And I know that part of the thrill was the fact that, despite the characters being of opposite sexes, the passionate words of love were being sung by women, to women. Ultimately the trio resolves into the sweetest imaginable duet betwen Sophie and Octavian, who, of course, end up together. They sing,


I feel you and only you
and that we are together!
All else passes like a dream
before my senses


It is a dream, it cannot be real
that we two are together,
together for all time
and all eternity

Hearing this stunning music this morning brought tears of memory and gratitude to my eyes... It was always there, this dream of singing a love song to another woman. It is like a dream, to finally be resolved into the person you were meant to be, and to the relationship you were meant to have. Thank you, God.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Greatest Love Letter, Possibly, Ever

Last night, after our lovely dinner and a day out and about, Beloved and I watched the first episode of The Civil War. It is so brilliant... the way it moves from the national and international forces that brought the nation to war against itself, to the intimate portraits of individuals, prominent and obscure, who lived and loved with that great and horrific war as the backdrop to their lives.

The episode ended with the reading of this letter, to the haunting melody "Ashokan Farewell," while the camera showed image after image of couples, soldiers and wives or sweethearts. (Interestingly, the documentary also showed, at other moments, photos of young men who were visibly physically affectionate with one another, as in this wonderful short piece). I think it might just be the greatest love letter ever written.

July 14,1861
Camp Clark, Washington DC

Dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all the blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes and future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and see our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us.

If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name...

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been!...

But, 0 Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you, in the brightest day and in the darkest night... always, always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again...

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the 1st Battle of Bull Run.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Independence Day

I realized yesterday that, until about four years ago, I was with my parents on July 4 every year-- I internalized the idea that it was a family day, to be celebrated together, and I dutifully brought my family (husband and children) with me to the old homestead for the obligatory celebration.

My family always made a very, very big deal about celebrating the Fourth of July. My dad's business was always closed for the day, a large American flag was proudly flown, and we had a family barbecue, normally following a trip to the beach. The wearing of red, white and blue were mandatory. Following dinner, there were (illegal) fireworks to be enjoyed (my father and brother entertained our suburban neighborhood with amateur, and, I'm sure, incredibly dangerous, displays). The sulphuric smell of a sparkler still awakens all these memories, very sweet.

Here is what we would have at our barbecue, without fail: hot dogs, steaks, which my dad had marinated in garlicky pickle juice, potatoes wrapped in foil and roasted on the grill, corn on the cob roasted on the grill, potato chips, soda for the kids (I had a preference for cherry soda in those days) and beer for the grownups. There may have been something green, but as I wasn't eating green in those days, I don't remember it.

Oddly, I used to collect recipes for special occasions when I was a young girl-- my mother had no use for such frivolities, and relied on a very predictable rotation of meats and poultry and the occasional fabulous Italian meal. But I picked up every Ladies' Home Journal and Redbook and Family Circle I could, and dutifully clipped the recipes to save for later. In my kitchen, a few feet from where I sit typing this, there is a box filled with recipes, including several specifically for July 4, all of which I collected before the age of 13 or 14: Brown Sugar Grilled Pork Chops, Plum Turnovers, American Flag Cake, German Potato Salad. Mind you, I have never once prepared any of these recipes. But I remember the enthusiasm with which I squirreled them away... the idea that I could create a wonderful feast for a celebration took hold early. I remember, too, a certain amount of anxiety associated with those delicious- sounding recipes, with their too-perfectly styled photographs: I knew even then that it was hopeless, that no one could throw a party that picture-perfect. I knew it was an illusion.

In recent years, other Independence Day customs have arisen. I rarely attempt to wear the colors of the flag these days. Today I am particularly distressed about the state of our democracy. I normally do something fairly low-key on the grill (tomorrow: chicken, which is marinating right now in lemon and garlic; potatoes [I add garlic to these too, as well as rosemary], zucchini, and grilled pineapple with sherbet, and Lambic Framboise to drink). But one unalterable new tradition is the Independence Day Film. Sometimes we get very literal; other times we get very campy. Sometimes we go to see what is being released that day, since summer blockbusters are usually available in abundance, like local strawberries. Tomorrow we are going in a somber direction. In honor of the day, we will begin viewing the amazing Ken Burns documentary, The Civil War. However, we will enjoy only an hour or two of this, and that late in the evening after the local fireworks have been shot off.

Despite my worries about our nation... and they are many... I feel hopeful on Independence Day. Don't let anyone fool you: the United States are an experiment. How successful an experiment remains to be seen. Once I read in a book about a group of nuns who set out to found a new monastery. A writer asked them how long before they would have a sense as to whether their new monastery was a success. One nun asnwered, "Oh about 50 years." The writer sputtered, "But you'll be dead by then!" "Oh, yes," the nun replied, perfectly sanguine. "The only things worth giving your life to are things that are bigger than you are."

Here's to the US, bigger than we are, battered and beaten by the idiots who are currently at the helm. Let's see if the experiment succeeds. It's such a nice idea; it would be great if we could pull it off.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Desert Hearts

Beloved and I finally celebrated our anniversary last night. The original restaurant was inexplicably closed, and so we made our way to another Mexican place, one I actually like better... it has the feel of a real cantina (not that I actually know anything about authentic cantinas... but I really do love the atmosphere of this place).

We ordered Margaritas and our meals and reminisced... It was really lovely, just what we both needed. Then we went home and watched Desert Hearts, the 1986 film about a [female] Columbia professor who goes to Reno, Nevada in 1959 to get a divorce, and winds up meeting and falling in love with another woman. I had seen the film years ago, when it first came out, and I was terrified by films depicting lesbians because, well, I just was. I remember cyring hysterically after seeing The Hunger, that vampire/lesbian cult classic with Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve. Everyone I was with assumed I was crying because I was freaked out by the vampires (David Bowie was never so perfectly cast). But that's not why I was crying. I was crying because I was so stirred by the lovemaking scenes between Deneuve and Sarandon. I was a newlywed, and I knew that, Houston, we had a problem.

Anyway, Desert Hearts was another film that terrified me. It hit too close to home. It still does. When the protagonist, Vivian, realizes how she feels about Cay, she is immediately confronted with her own terror about people knowing. She fears losing her job, she fears becoming a pariah at the university, in academia, etc. She can't envision a way forward. At one point Cay does something (I can't remember what, perhaps she gives her a kiss or takes her hand in a public place?) that causes Vivian to recoil, to say something along the lines of "What are you trying to prove?" Cay's response is haunting:

"I'm not doing this to try and change the world. I'm doing this so that the world won't change me."