In Which There’s More Work to do But I Still Need to Dance

Photo: MO 2015

“Excuse me, do you know what this line is for?” I asked the last person standing in a line outside the Supreme Court on Friday.

“Oh, I think it’s just to get into the Supreme Court to walk around as a visitor,” he responded.

“Today’s a good day for that!” I smiled as I joined him in line.

We made small talk and noticed the guy behind us wearing a cool shirt with a rainbow akin to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album. We lamented that we both weren’t wearing clothes more celebratory, having just come from work. He handed us rainbow bead necklaces and put on a sparkly green hat. We became friends, walked inside, and started decorating statues of old men with our beads, taking pictures every time, having only gotten yelled at by a security guard once. We took pictures in front of the Supreme Court sign and selfies on the steps outside, thrilled just to be here.

Photo: MO 2015

The energy was electrifying. We walked through the crowds of people who were celebrating- and a few warning angrily of God’s wrath- and began listening to people’s stories. There was the woman who let us pose with her peace statue, a staple she’s carried to the first and second Gulf War protests, HIV/AIDS marches and here to the Supreme Court two years ago to the date to celebrate the end of DOMA. There was the woman next to her who showed us three signs she made. “This one was going to be for if they voted against marriage equality,” she showed us, pointing to a sign that read, “Unite the States of America” in big rainbow colored letters. “This one for if they decided to keep it to the states,” she explained, referencing the sign that read, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” “But instead, I get to hold this!” She exclaimed, bearing a sign that read, “Not just gay, ecstatic!”

There was a man wearing all black with red bike lights tied around his waist, shouting that men who have sex with feces are going to hell, and so are men who have sex with men. “Come on, let’s hug it out!” A guy implored. “This is not a time for hugging,” The man replied back flatly, going back to calling out his warnings against “homosexual acts.”  “I’ll give you a hug!” I called out the imploring hugger and we embraced tightly, while enthusiastic passengers in cars continued to drive past waving, cheering, honking in conviviality.

Tears warmed my eyes thinking about how far we’ve come since 2004, when Massachusetts lead the way by becoming the first state to recognize same sex marriage. My own journey in becoming an ally to the LGBTQAI community began with actual action in 2012, after a dear one shared that growing up they considered committing suicide because of the bitter retaliation they received simply for their sexual orientation. I’d always wanted to become a better ally, and this person’s experience reminded me just how urgently all of our voices are needed for equality. I joined a church with a focus on LGBTQ inclusion, led by a pastor who was a married lesbian. I got involved with Believers for Marriage Equality, a series of videos from people in the faith based community voicing support for marriage equality as we neared election time, in which we Marylanders would vote on marriage equality since protesters garnered twice the amount of signatures needed to place a referendum on the ballot.  On March 1, 2012, same sex marriage was passed by Maryland’s General Assembly, and now on election day, ran the risk of being taken away through Question 6.  I wrote blog posts supporting Question 6 and advocated for it on social media. I went to the Marylanders for Marriage Equality election night watch party and celebrated with newfound friends as Maryland became the first of three states that night to vote in equality. My friendships became more diverse. I went to lectures on marriage equality from a public health perspective (Access to health insurance? Right to visit a sick loved one? Yes, this is why I love public health). I brushed up on the history of marriage equality, got pissed off, and joined organizations that were moving equality forward. I say all this not to call attention to myself, but to hopefully paint a picture of why I will forever remember June 26, 2015, honoring the blood, sweat, and tears of activists who’ve done much more than me to collectively bring us here.

This is a victory.
We made history.
And I am celebrating.

But it didn’t take long for me to see all sorts of social media posts about other injustices going on in our world. Violence in Burundi. Burnings of multiple predominately black Churches. Terrorism in Tunisia. Human trafficking. More details on the Emmanuel AME Shooting. Baltimore County officers shoot and kill unarmed man. The intersectionality of all of these issues- and the actual lives affected by such broad sweeping experiences- demands more action, voices, and public outrage. Even the SCOTUS ruling doesn’t mean everything will be ALL rainbows, as we consider that people who identify as LGBTQ still experience higher rates of poverty, worse health outcomes, bullying and job discrimination compared to those who identify as straight or heterosexual.Societal attitudes also aren’t different overnight just because of the SCOTUS ruling, but as we consider the changing public opinion of gay marriage, going up in public approval rating from 67% to 73% in just this past year alone, I am hopeful that we are indeed “bending toward justice,” to quote Dr. King.

We still have a ways to go in achieving social justice in gender equality, immigration, racial unity, ending war and violence and so many more areas.

But just for right now, I am taking a sabbath to rejuvenate my soul by relishing in what can happen when we collectively organize ourselves into activism. I am listening to others’ stories of what this ruling means to them. I am taking full advantage of every free hug I can get. I am pausing to witness every single rainbow flag I have seen lining the streets of my home city. I am smiling at the increase I’ve seen in the number of hands held by people of the same gender—just in one weekend alone— perhaps because some people who once may have felt unsafe are just beginning to feel as though they can truly be themselves and be respected. I am feeding off this energy I feel as I see people talking to one another, feeling less like strangers and more like the brothers and sisters we truly are. I see an influx of connecting, as perhaps we can ever so slightly stop having to fight for equal marriage and simply get on with the loving and enjoy our cake while we’re at it, too.

I know that even after a wedding, there are still challenges that come, conflicts that arise, differing opinions about important and not-so-important things that must be worked through with grace. And we, too, as a society will have to come back down from the apex high of Friday’s decision. But I know I will be able to return to the peaceful fight for justice with more tenacity, vigor, and passion if you can just let me soak in this sabbath in which I am still celebrating. I may need to take a longer sabbath than some, and some may need more time than me. But come together again we will with just a little more space to tackle these other social justice issues as I slowly loosen my grip from the battle for marriage equality, more room in my hands for activism, strength, a patient heart that understands we are daily writing our histories and though some pages are long and others thin, together, I believe, we are still writing something beautiful.

Now, please, pass the funfetti.

Photo: MO 2015

Advertisements

Thoughts on Solitude.

There was a bird outside my window this morning
Happily chirping its song; its story.
Another one joined in.

I’m not sure what they were saying
But I felt like their language spoke to my soul
Reminding me to go outside today
And spend some time in solitude.

So that’s what I did.
I zipped up my snow boots
And hit the trails
Climbing up powdered white paths
Sparkling like sugar cookies
In the mid-afternoon sun.

I glanced down at footprints of deer
And footprints of other hikers
Wondering what their journeys are like
And how they experience the world around them.

Sometimes I feel guilty going places alone.
Life is short
And people are beautiful, after all.

A couple years ago
I moved back to Baltimore
And within a few months, realized most of my friends had moved home or moved away
And I had a night
Where the few friends I had left
Were all busy
And I felt an immense loneliness come over me.

It was a cold, dark January evening and Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder
can be more than SAD; it can be depressing.
I was so lonely inside; I scared myself.

Have you ever had a moment like that?
Where you’re so caught off guard by what’s going on inside?

I did the one thing that I thought might help.
I called an old friend in New York just to make sure I was alive and breathing.
Luckily she answered.
She was out with friends
And I think she thought I was acting a little melodramatic

But never the less
A few words
From an old friend
On a lonely night
Melted away tears of despondency
And I vowed to never get that lonely ever again.

That was two years ago.
I’m thankful for new friends who’ve touched my heart
and for old ones who’ve stuck it out.

Although as a recovering people-pleaser and conflict avoider,
There are times when it would be much easier to keep inside my shell;
I’ve come to realize that people, community, are absolutely essential to personal growth,
apart from which my soul would deaden bit by bit.

But sometimes I don’t want to talk
And sometimes I need to be alone in my thoughts,
With God
Staring at vast skies like open pages.

I need to lie on my back
Let the grass be my pillow
And take pictures of the sun sinking behind open fields.

And sometimes,
In my calmest of moments,
I need only to be outside and sit there;
Doing nothing particular at all.

So I’ll sit on my front porch
While crickets sing to evening stars
And I’ll stare at the moon
Wondering what the moon sees when it stares at us.

All of this connects me back to the world around me
To God, to people, to the shifting Earth upon which we stand.
And all of this makes me realize
That solitude is an indispensable part of life
For wallflowers and social butterflies alike.

That solitude isn’t selfish
But creates room enough to embrace resonate beauty.
It disrupts the rush, the driving back and forth, the cacophony of sirens blaring through city streets.
It forces me to address the thoughts that keep resurfacing my mind
When it would be easier to keep ignoring them.

It lets me find myself under willow trees
Beside gurgling streams
That sound like the warm water
That will fill up my bathtub tonight.

It helps me find my center
Whether basking in sunshine
Or crunching in leaves,
Whistling along with the birds.

So may it be.

May we find solitude
That fills our souls
So that we are alone, but never really alone.

May we be filled with wonder
That prevents us from ever daring to think we can fully understand
This world, this beauty, the footprints and fingerprints of another.

May the birds’ song serenade you
Open paths guide you
God’s smile shine upon you
And give you peace.

IMG_1442

How do you find solitude? What do you, not do? Where do you go? Where don’t you go? How often do you experience solitude in your life?

Which is Yes…

Image“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees,
and for the blue dream of sky and for everything
which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” -E. E. Cummings

Aug 12: Sunlight all around, making the green fields glisten like the first coat of untrampled upon snow. The wind is lightly blowing in my face, a warm late summer breeze that feels more like spring. My legs move up, down, up, down, up, down, faster now, exhilarated by the velocity of a good bike ride, breathing heavier now. There’s sunflowers waving in the grass, some wildflowers hugging the edge of the road. There’s so much beauty to see. Orioles fly gracefully through a field, orange belly lighting up the sky. I have no roadmap, no predetermined route. I am an explorer now. And oh, by bike, there’s so much to see. So much to see…

I take a turn down a hill off to my right and cycle around a CSA farm. I can see spinach and lettuce and other greens growing off in the distance as a woman approaches the garden, presumably to help share in the farming responsibilities. It’s the aura, the ethos of Community Supported Agriculture that gets me. People coming together to grow and harvest food that will nourish brothers and sisters, neighbors, families gathered ‘round the table, and those who pine with a deep hunger to have just one meal with a family like that, ready to say grace before the passing of baskets, dishes, and salt. There’s something about this that’s heavenly and holy, divine, like that’s the way food is supposed to be- you’re supposed to get your hands dirty and know the faces of the hands that plucked your berries from the vine or the tomatoes now garnishing your salad. It’s as if you’re supposed to celebrate that the produce you’re eating was once just some tiny seed that made its way through heatwaves and deluges of rain, sunny days, cloudy days, and days in between, just growing, growing, growing…

I head back to the main road, going down streets I’ve never been on, neighborhoods and schools and hills I never knew existed. A father goes on a walk with his two daughters, one in the back of a wagon, the other blithely by his side. We smile and wave.

I take in a deep breath, filling my lungs until they say “no more,” and prepare for a steep hill, fantasizing about the view from the top. Changing gears, slowly but persistently, inching but persevering, legs getting stronger and leaner with every turn of the pedal, I make it up to the top and discover a new place that I will watch sunsets from.

It’s beautiful now, this moment, this evening sunset just doing the same thing it does night after night, only I don’t stop often enough to give it the glory it deserves.

It’s stunning, really, the sun ablaze, hovering over tree tops, trying to avoid sinking down beneath the nighttime covers of the horizon, a firery ruby orange, a sapphire in the sky.

Oh it’s so beautiful.

The whole wide world.

It’s fricken beautiful, and I have everything I need.

It’s beautiful and God, it feels good to be alive.

It’s beautiful and this Sabbath bike ride pulls me in deeper, deeper into you God. I’m pedaling downhill, I’m flying fast now; exhilarated, like a child on their first rollercoaster getting brave enough to wave her hands in the air.

Oh yes I’m pedaling harder now, making my way around the bends in the road, biking past a tall damn with geese at the top, looking over the edge. I bet they’re daring each other to jump or fly off the edge- “you go,” “no, you go…”

I bike over the bridge where I went bridge jumping with friends, wearing my cap and gown one jubilant night in May 2009 with friends. This spot always causes a smile to traverse my face, usually from the right to the left as I ruminate the rush of that plunge over and over again.

I peer over my shoulder one more time and there’s that sunset again, this time emanating from water.

It’s beautiful.

My eyes can capture each hue, every tint, every highlight of sky refracting off the water.

It’s beautiful, God, and I get to see it… get to see it, taste it, feel it, experience it.

And it was one of those amazing days composed of everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes…

On This Ground I Dance Upon Called Earth

On Rest and Renewal

I always am blown away by spring. Breathless, I delight in the colors of spring, dizzy by their hues and shapes. I am drunken by the intoxicating  fragrance of magnolia blossoms. I am constantly in awe of new buds on trees, blowing on wishies, plucking wildflowers from the ground as I place them my hair.

Today was one of those beautiful spring days where that feeling just seeps into the enclaves of the chambers and walls of my lungs, heart, and arteries; a day where you are convinced that you are literally breathing in life, with every breath.

Brian whipped out his camera as we marveled over the reflection of the blue sky on a water droplet on the leaf of a daffodil. I got up close to a baby bee roaming around on a weeping cherry blossom tree. I looked at it from different angles until I was literally staring into its eyes.

We went on a “Sabbath Walk,” where we barely spoke to each other except for a few faint whispers, “I saw a fox!” We meander through creeks and logs and hear the chirps of birds high above, singing joyfully. My mind feels like I need to be doing something, need to be praying, need to be singing a worship song to God, but I realize that I have no words; that all too often I rush around doing things when really all I need is to be. To learn from the joyous songs of the birds, to listen to the cool creek water trickle down hills, and be completely convinced that there is nothing in life I need to worry about. It’s hard to feel anxious when surrounded by such beauty. It’s hard to dwell on your fears when you realize that if God can help flowers grow, He can surely help you with whatever is so pressing on your mind.

Time stops in such moments. Nothing else matters in these moments. I decided yesterday that I will continue to create time and space to make sure I have these moments of quiet awe-filled worship on a weekly basis, because in those moments, as I’m captivated by nature, or breathless by stars that are so so so so far away, I realize that there is so much more going on here than we realize. That nothing is normal about this human experience; that there’s these little tiny things called cells and they make up the leaves to plants, animals and human beings. That right now I am actually standing somewhere on an Earth that is moving and rotating, though I can’t even feel it. I am held down to this Earth by gravity, which keeps me from falling off. I.can’t.even.feel.it.

Flipping through scripture, I am always refreshed when I hear God speak about creation. Jesus tells us to look at the birds (Matthew 6:25) and to learn from the wildflowers (Matthew 6:28). In Psalm 23, we’re told that God wishes for us to lie down in green pastures; to be lead beside quiet waters. Job reminds us that God “spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in His clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.” We are reminded that creation itself is meant to teach us- yes, to learn through their actions, not their words, for they need not speak verbal language. “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all.” (Job 12:7-10)

So today I will learn from the birds in air, and the shoots developing on trees. I will look at the wildflowers and how they are able to grow, year in, year out. I will remain in awe of you, Lord, and the works of your hands. I will remember your calm, your peace, your authority over all things, even at work this week, where there are days in which I feel as though I hear nothing but sirens, see nothing but trash on the streets, and yet find you in unexpected ways through the smile of a stranger or the excitement of neighborhood kids riding their bikes after school. And be it inner city, forest, behind the desk, or out in the community, I will ponder you, God. I will seek you, God. I will find you and be awed by you as a precarious child of you, God. And I will celebrate you on this ground I dance upon called Earth.

My favorite part of my parents' home is their Magnolia tree in the front yard.

Photo Credit: Scott Otterbein