A is for Alcohol (cider, actually)

Like all good adventures, this one begins with alcohol.

Last March, I hunkered down with everyone else, eschewing human contact, living hand to mouth surviving on the contents of my pantry (decades old rice cakes, expired cream of mushroom soup, rancid-ish rice, freezer burned chicken, ancient frozen fish). That was all fine, but when I ran out of cider, that was a bridge too far.

What to do? Naturally, I started ordering elderberry cider by the case from Lost Giants Cider Co. At first I told myself it was to keep them from going out of business. They had to survive the pandemic, I reasoned. One day we’d again sit inside and mingle with other cider lovers. And for a couple of months, that too, was good enough company for me. A can of cider, a jigsaw puzzle. Eventually I dragged out the old Wii. I spent those first weeks  Zooming with friends, watching a lot of Netflix, writing. I could do this, I thought, sipping my cider and ordering another puzzle from Amazon. It’s not so bad. A few weeks of staying home and it’ll all be fine.

But by the time July rolled around and we were STILL stuck at home, I had grown tired of sitting on my front porch and waving at the neighbors for fun. I needed more. So, though I initially felt jilted and abandoned when my two (straight female) BFFs started online dating, after a couple of ciders and some peeking at a couple of dating sites, I joined them. Why not? I hadn’t dated in 20 years, but I had met my ex-wife in one of the very first online dating sites back in 1999 or 2000. That wasn’t all bad. Said the fifth case of elderberry cider.

By mid-July, I’d started corresponding with a likely candidate. She seemed intelligent and intriguing in all the right ways. We agreed on an appropriately socially-distanced kayaking first date. Always the prepared boy scout, I packed a mini-lunch to share: 2 ciders, some almonds, some string cheese, dried mango.

I knew my first date was doomed when she refused my offer of a cider after our paddle. We did not paddle again. My second (different) date, however, welcomed my cider offer midway through our paddle a couple of weeks later. After that auspicious beginning, we dated long enough to enjoy many ciders together, discovering an affinity for peppered ciders, jalapeno pineapple, habanero pineapple. We kicked it up to spicy town. For six months.

That’s more than my two BFFs can say. They’re still wading through sites full of pictures of half-naked men wielding fish as if that’s what attracts women . . .

Overdue Haiku

I haven’t been writing much haiku recently—but I have managed to eke out a few in the past several months. Now is as good a time as any to share them. I’m working on a longer blog piece—my intention is to finish out the alphabet that I started in April, and I’m currently working on V. It’s proving to be somewhat Vexing—but I plan to finish it before school starts again in July. In fact, I’d like to wrap up the rest of the alphabet: V, W, X, Y, and Z before I resume my studies.

In the meantime, enjoy these, please.

We can’t finish what
we started. The pieces of
our pasts too puzzling.

You gifted me this
path. A bittersweet gesture
Since it leads nowhere.

You’re my Proof of Life
photo, ignoring this, our
relentless torture

Here’s tonight’s lesson:
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha
It’s like this. This too

You left just silence
On my altar–some off’ring
Bloodless sacrifice

Open that tightly
closed fist–you can cradle worlds
in an open palm

Loosen your grasp. Let
me go, and in the release
find deliverance

Rise with me–spiral
Up. Let us float heavenward
Toward hope and bliss

Sink with me–spiral
Down. The depths await. Sometimes
Hope simply won’t float

This grief well runs deep
Dowse here to discover my
Tears’ artesian spring

True happiness lies
In the letting go, in the
Absence of desire

I paid your ransom
With deposits from my soul–
Some installment plan

Even in silence
the Muse inspired. In her
quiet presence, grace.

I’d steal your kisses
If I could–a thief in the
Night. Unexpected.

I have read about
the tomb of longing and find
I am trapped inside

One awakening
Or many? Dwell in the now.
Breathe deeply. Again.

I’ve electrified
The fence around my heart. I’ll
post High Voltage signs.

Drown me. Hold my head
Under your water, gasping,
Breathless. So alive.

Ignite me. Touch your
Match to this tinder, my dry
Fuel needs a flame.

Once, someone asked me to explain my poems. This is what I said:

For me, it’s all about what is churning inside of me at the moment, feelings that I can’t make sense of or get a grip on I can somehow, magically or through this alchemy of words, distill the feelings down, make them manageable. The reader brings her own feelings to the same words and the meaning changes–I love the ambiguity and the not knowing. The mystery and the freedom to interpret and wonder. I started focusing on the power in each word, the impact that just the right word could have, double entendres and deeper meanings. I’ve started bringing this consciousness to my regular writing though it’s much easier in 17 syllables than in a book length manuscript and it makes it richer, deeper when the words can have meanings on so many levels. I feel like I go on a personal journey writing these, and then when I release them to the universe I see them  differently again. Layers.

Tired of the Hate

Is it me or are we already done with the season of love and peace? The first two things I read online this morning have upset my delicate sensibilities, Dear Reader. First, a tweet from @JoeMyGod about a group of people who are boycotting the Rose Parade because a wedding float will feature a gay couple. The second, the comments section following an article on komonews.com about the Catholic school vice principal fired for his same sex marriage.
I clicked through to the Facebook link on the Rose Parade—evidently a gay couple won the Dreams Come True contest and the prize is getting married on the giant cake-shaped float in the venerated parade. More details can be found here. I found a page filled with hateful, ignorant comments about how witnessing two men getting married would irreparably harm children. I have to say I was stunned. I mean, yes, I know that not everyone is thrilled with same sex marriage, but I have been living in a bit of a bubble, I guess. The hate and fear and ignorance, the vitriol and anger shocked me. I posted a comment on the page, just a few words letting them know that I was sure Jesus would be so proud of their hate and bile. I think we all need to visit the site and show them that hate won’t win.
That small act made me feel a tiny bit better but for a moment I was beset by anxiety and dread, that feeling of futility that I often get spread across my chest. I then realized that my FB picture is of The Little Woman and me holding our marriage license and I had to smile. I fought back my urge to delete my comment, to not make waves.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled myself in front of the Pin Stripe Bowl, picked up my laptop and logged on to www.komonews.com to catch up on local news. My eyes caught the headline announcing that the vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School was fired and had not resigned as the church said last week. I clicked. Call me a sucker for the obvious. The article confirmed what I’d already suspected—Mark Zmuda had been forced out for marrying his male partner. The article was benign enough, but the comments section . . . why oh why did I feel the need to read the comments? More hate and ignorance.
I understand that Mr. Zmuda worked at a Catholic school and that his being gay flies in the face of some Catholic teachings, but the hypocrisy is killing me. How many Catholic school teachers live “in sin” with their heterosexual lovers? How many Catholic school teachers use birth control? How many Catholic school teachers have had abortions? How many of these teachers have been forced out of their jobs? And lets not forget the hundreds or thousands of priests who continued in their positions in spite of having sexually molested thousands of children. Mr. Zmuda’s being gay has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on his ability to do his job, to teach math. Mr. Zmuda did nothing wrong, he committed no crime. He simply let down his guard and maybe forgot that he worked for a homophobic organization. I can understand his mistake—lots of people who work for the church are decent folks. But the organization itself is not so benign (see my earlier blog here)
Let’s not forget that the Catholic church operates without paying any taxes. It does not pay into unemployment insurance, it does not pay any income tax. As an institution, it collects gazillions of dollars and not one cent of it (except what its employees pay in income tax) goes into the public coffers. Hundreds of non-Catholics and non-believers work for the church, and I’m guessing lots of those workers belong to the LGBTQ community. It seems to me, and call me crazy, that an institution that doesn’t pay taxes should have no right whatsoever to contradict the laws of the land. Same sex marriage is legal. Don’t like it? Tough shit.

We’ve (and by we I mean all LGBQT people) have lived too long in fear of god’s wrath, in fear of other people’s judgment, in fear that we will lose not just our jobs but our very lives. We’ve stood by and watched as heterosexuals celebrated their love in some of the gaudiest and most offensive ways imaginable. We have been marginalized by religious institutions, shunned by those that claim a loving Jesus and god as their masters. It’s a bit hyperbolic that these people believe a single float in the Rose Parade or the same sex marriage of a Catholic math teacher signal the end of civilization, don’t you think? On the other hand, maybe we need an end to this sort of civilization—maybe the end of civilization as we know it is not a bad thing at all.

When Words Fail Me: My Writing, My Wedding

Sometimes the pressure to write builds up inside of me and it is so huge that I feel like I am going to explode. Someday The Little Woman may come home to find bits of me all over the house, word bits, words that built up and couldn’t find their way out of me. There will be a preponderance of prepositions and a truckload of nouns, verb carnage all over the kitchen, and gerunds on the ground (hey, that rhymed!). Adverbs and those nasty words that end in –ly will litter the walls, pronouns and random punctuation marks will be sprayed around.
Too often, these words don’t find an outlet. Instead I spin and dither. I find other ways to expend the energy inside, activities that seem less arduous than sitting down and grinding out sentences. This week, for example, I’ve set up the art table and started making things: prayer flags with my own twist and boxes to put the prayer flags in. I love making these boxes—I’ve been making books (books is a broad term, in book making, just about any form of art with words) for a number of years, and now for every book I make, I create a box in which to stow it. The timing is good, for making things. I can justify my projects as Christmas presents. These projects are my safety valve, the overflow, where the dangerous steam can spill without harming anything. Still, it is not writing.
And it’s not like I don’t have things to write about. I got married this weekend. I feel like I should be writing something about that.  We had a small and lovely ceremony with our daughters and good friends in attendance. My longtime friend Laura officiated, my friend and writing buddy Jolene took pictures (she’s good, check out her page). Our vows reflected the tenure of our relationship, sturdy vows, hard won truths reflecting our accrued wisdom. Mature vows from which the dewy innocence has been shaken, vows with wonder and tenderness and love.
TLW (aka SugarMama) and I have  been together for more than thirteen years. We had a silly ceremony ten years ago, and became registered domestic partners about five years ago. None of that was enough in the end however, for me to retain my health insurance benefits with her company. I proposed to her last Christmas not long after Washington State enacted its same sex marriage law. And yes, we gays fought to get married so we could have benefits, but I felt a little irritated rushing our ceremony in to beat a deadline. We were caught between her company’s end of the year deadline and the one that comes in June of next year that says the state will roll our domestic partnership into a marriage if we don’t act first.
(Yes, we had a year to make plans and do the deed. We need not have rushed, but all excuses and reasons aside, that is what happened, so don’t judge me, Dear Reader, just read on, quietly and without comment).
Family: Anna, Nancy, Pam, Taylor
I’ve run out of words. So here are some photos instead and a copy of the poem I wrote for my wife (wow, my WIFE! There’s something I didn’t think I’d ever be saying in this lifetime, forever ending the dilemma of what to call her: significant other, TLW (always), partner, girl friend, spouse, better half, my uhm friend special friend, the boss, etc).
Our rings–mine is the sapphire.
Shout out to Jolene Hanson, photographer
Nancy, You are my anchor

The harbor in the sea

The home from which I can journey
The door that will always be open
I rise and when I fall
You lift me up
Our bodies entwine
Rising up from our bellies
I’ve held my breath all these years
And now with you
I can exhale
I offer you myself
A safe harbor in the sea
A home with heart and fire
A door that is always open
When you rise I will cheer
Hitched! At last.
And if you fall, I lift you up
Our bodies entwine and
Rise up from our bellies
We breathe in as one
And now that we are home together
I can exhale
The circle of this ring continues forever,

As does my love for you.    

My Distractions: