One afternoon as I’m digging through boxes, I come across 96 loose pages, torn from a two-tone color tablet. Yes, you heard that right: 96 pages. A journal that reads like a long goodbye. Or a love letter. Or maybe both. It was July of 1978 and I was 16. As I gently leaf through these pages I remember times that might have been the worst of my reckless youth. Who would have imagined I’d be staring them down nearly forty five years later.
We didn’t write in emojis back then. No texting, nothing tapped out on a smartphone or tablet in the moment. Back then we had to find paper and a working pen and write like crazy to try to keep up with our busy minds. This 96 page tome was written during one of my many disappearing acts as a young person. I found plenty of misadventure over these few well-documented days. When I remember the dangerous choices I made back then it brings me to tears. I am so very grateful and lucky I didn’t suffer a worse fate.
In 1978 it was the Pat Robertson’s and Anita Bryant’s that led the hate-filled attacks on the LGBTQ communities. In Washington we were protesting an initiative that would limit the rights of gay people in housing and employment. That same initiative would have eliminated the Office of Women’s Rights. (Initiative 13, you can read about it here). In November the voters would defeat it by nearly a 2-1 margin, but the world was a scary place back then especially for gay women.
Sound familiar? Here we are 45 years later seeing another round of hateful legislation make its way across the country. I’m not talking about a handful of state initiatives though. I’m talking about over 540 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced this year already. 45 of those have been enacted into law. Every bill that gets traction makes the world 1000 times less safe for gay and trans youth.
The fast-forward to 2023 happened like a bolt of lightening. Almost as if one minute I’m a young person navigating confusing feelings in an unkind world, and the next minute I’m a map-maker crafting the way foward for those young people that follow. I am over 60. Sixty. How did that happen? And how is it that the world seems to be going backward? I will keep talking about this until we are all free to be ourselves in the world. It isn’t enough, but it’s what I can do.
When people are least sure, they are often most dogmatic” – J.K. Galbraith
I don’t suppose I need to let you know that there is a lot of hateful rhetoric out there and that it matters now, more than ever, who you cast your vote for. This isn’t politics to me, this is my life. When you hear the hateful stuff, think of me. See if it matches what YOU know to be true. Unless you’ve had your human rights challenged every time there is an election, you may not fully understand how dangerous the world can be for those of just trying to live our best lives. Words matter. I’ll say this again: Be careful who you hate. It may be someone you love.
In other news, I woke to robins this morning singing their little bird-hearts out. There seem to be dozens here and there is such delight in their song. As the sky begins to turn up its volume, the black-headed grosbeaks arrive at the feeders and in the trees. There is competition as the tiny red-breasted nuthatches try to swoop in for a quick snack.
I turn on my Merlin app and let it listen for the unfamilar songs. When I say this is paradise, I’m really not kidding. Sitting above the valley in these trees I am gobsmacked by joyful noise. Yesterday I chased the song of the Western tanager into the meadow and beyond. Out past the garden, as I walk to check the mail, I find the red-breasted sapsuckers in the trees. There are creepers and kinglets, vireos, wrens and warblers. My list grows. I spend hours walking the woods and staring up into the trees surrounding the meadow. As is always the case, it will be hard to leave.
I’ve used this time to rest and get my mind right. After a busy year of helping my folks get settled in their new place, I had expected to be hitting the trail soon. The snow has been melting and the mountain paths are clearing. This is the time I begin taking stock of my gear, taking the microspikes and gloves out of my pack, and putting the bug spray and cooling towels in. Adventure awaits.
But the Universe had something different in mind this summer. I will get some trail time, for sure, but a different path is beckoning. I am bracing myself for a different kind of adventure. At times like this I know exactly what I need to do.
My wife is living into a new story. A routine mammogram. A discovery. Ultrasound, biopsy and now a diagnosis: cancer. It’s not the news you ever want to hear, but it’s what there is. It’s a new kind of adventure for sure and together we will learn and grow and heal. Maybe these are the things we’ve been preparing for our whole lives. All of the years spent learning how to love and support one another leading us to this moment. And we will rise up to meet it.
(She has created a blog of her own to share this very unexpected part of her story. If you’d like to follow her as she navigates this new experience, let me know and I will share the link with you)
As for me, I’ll be here trying to find the words for my own journey. I haven’t been sleeping. Or writing. Or sitting to quiet my mind. I’m going to guess there is a connection between those three things. Thanks as always for showing up here. I appreciate hearing from you and I look forward to some company along the path.
It’s officially summer and she arrived with flower blooms, baby birds and wings. May this be a season of hopeful things