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Morning walk is always a marvel. That it happens everyday does not dull the mixed sense of contentment  and excitement I find as I follow along the familiar ritual of its routine in my life.

First there is the dog, Bentley. Typically he wakes and stirs as I wake and stir. Sometimes he bounds awake ahead of me and I am groggy and met by his pleadings to get up.  He will even tap at my shoulder with his front paws to inflict an unavoidable urgency if I am lagging too far behind.  But today we were in synch, and he patiently waited as I put on my robe and stepped into my shoes, leash him safely, and carefully descend the stairs. The cat was waiting in the front entry way and meows expectantly.

Off the three of us go together, with the cat stepping out first and bounding far ahead to the culvert by the side of the road. It is absolutely her favorite place and I always imagine that it is filled with tiny tadpoles and single celled creatures that she partakes in the flow of the water that collects in its protective cover. She dips her paw multiple times but eventually leans in to drink as well, always remaining there a while before rejoining our meanderings.

Our path varies by my willingness to follow the dog’s lead or resist.   The choices include a lakefront across the street or a variety of edged flowerbeds within our own yard.  Today Bentley was inclined to stop and look, rather than bound or pull. The sprinkler fountain is his interest because it is creating a mist that smokily arises even to the height of the trees along the far edge of the lake.  Even though I have been on this walk for several years, I have never seen it mist like this before.

Eventually I guide Bentley to the garage side garden. This is the area of the yard where my oldest and favorite plantings of bushes and perennials are located. Two large English Rose (Roseum Elegans) Rhododendron and a smaller bush of large deep red (‘Nova Zembla’)that grow alongside a variegated pink Weigela. Across the grass near the fence several plantings are in bud now: Japanese Iris, varieties of Columbine and Peony, summer flowers that are just beginning to sprout or spire, and a tall white Shasta Viburnum.

The cat stops again to methodically drink from a large round concrete birdbath that I salvaged from one of my neighbor’s trashday offerings. It is one of my favorite yard spots, because it offers the dog and cat in fresh water.   We head down the long hill behind the house and finally over near the woodline on the far side yard that adjoins a community nature and wildlife reserve.

So we are done and take a meandering walk back up the hill to the front yard. What is noticeable this morning are the repeated edgings in the freshly mowed grass.

My roommate James mowed just yesterday. He has been providing regular mowing and supportive care of the yard since he moved in over a year ago. I am so very thankful to him. Before Mother’s Day last week he helped me power wash the  back yard wooden deck and a concrete porch underneath.

My family extended was coming for a rare holiday visit to my home and I was so very grateful. We were trying to get it ready for the first visit to my home by my youngest son’s family after the birth of my seven month old granddaughter.

I am still reveling in the joy of our extended family’s holiday time together.  Few pictures were taken because I was completely occupied in the excitement of grandchildren, my sons and their families.

I have so many reasons to be thankful, grateful, and filled with wonder for multiple blessings and the miracle of life itself.

Time to go inside and feed AnneMarie the cat, who is almost twenty years old.  I must carefully hold back Bentley on his leash so he will not crowd her too close as she climbs and winds her way up to her feeding dish in the kitchen.

Bentley happily takes his chew treat as we head back up the stairs again. All is well.

 

 

 

Sonny lives on a farm on a wide open space
Where you can take off your shoes, stay out of the race
Lay down your head by a sweet river bed
Sonny always remembers the words mama said

Chorus:

Sonny, don’t go away, I’m here all alone
Your daddy’s a sailor, never comes home
Nights are so long, the silence goes on
I’m feelin’ so tired, and not all that strong

Sonny carries a load, though he’s barely a man
There’s not much to do, but he does what he can
He sits by his window in his room on the stairs
And he’s watchin’ the waves washin’ soft on the pier.

It’s a long way to town, Sonny’s never been there.
But he goes to the highway and he stands and he stares.
Mail comes at four and the mailman is old
But he brings Sonny dreams filled with silver and gold

Sonny’s dreams can’t be real, they’re just stories he’s read.
There’s just stars in his eyes, they’re just dreams in his head.
But he sees all the places that he’d like to roam.
But he hears mama’s voice and it’s callin’ him home

Many years have rolled on, Sonny’s old and alone
His daddy’s a sailor, never came home
Sometimes he wonders what his life might have been
But still from the grave, mama’s voice haunts his dreams
Sonny, don’t go away, I’m here all alone

Your daddy’s a sailor, he never comes home
And the nights are so long and the silence goes on
I’m feelin’ so tired, and not all that strong
Sonny, don’t go away

love and scotus

It Is Accomplished

JUN 26 2015 @ 1:21PM, Andrew Sullivan

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As Gandhi never quite said,

First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.

I remember one of the first TV debates I had on the then-strange question of civil marriage for gay couples. It was Crossfire, as I recall, and Gary Bauer’s response to my rather earnest argument after my TNR cover-story on the matter was laughter. “This is the loopiest idea ever to come down the pike,” he joked. “Why are we even discussing it?”

Those were isolating  days. A young fellow named Evan Wolfson who had written a dissertation on the subject in 1983 got in touch, and the world immediately felt less lonely. Then a breakthrough in Hawaii, where the state supreme court ruled for marriage equality on gender equality grounds. No gay group had agreed to support the case, which was regarded at best as hopeless and at worst, a recipe for a massive backlash. A local straight attorney from the ACLU, Dan Foley, took it up instead, one of many straight men and women who helped make this happen. And when we won, and got our first fact on the ground, we indeed faced exactly that backlash and all the major gay rights groups refused to spend a dime on protecting the breakthrough … and we lost.

In fact, we lost and lost and lost again. Much of the gay left was deeply suspicious of this conservative-sounding reform; two thirds of the country were opposed; the religious right saw in the issue a unique opportunity for political leverage – and over time, they put state constitutional amendments against marriage equality on the ballot in countless states, and won every time. Our allies deserted us. The Clintons embraced the Defense of Marriage Act, and their Justice Department declared that DOMA was in no way unconstitutional the morning some of us were testifying against it on Capitol Hill. For his part, president George W. Bush subsequently went even further and embraced the Federal Marriage Amendment to permanently ensure second-class citizenship for gay people in America. Those were dark, dark days.

I recall all this now simply to rebut the entire line of being “on the right side of history.” History does not have such straight lines. Movements do not move relentlessly forward; progress comes and, just as swiftly, goes. For many years, it felt like one step forward, two steps back. History is a miasma of contingency, and courage, and conviction, and chance.

But some things you know deep in your heart: that all human beings are made in the image of God; that their loves and lives are equally precious; that the pursuit of happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence has no meaning if it does not include the right to marry the person you love; and has no force if it denies that fundamental human freedom to a portion of its citizens. In the words of Hannah Arendt:

“The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs.”

This core truth is what Justice Kennedy affirmed today, for the majority: that gay people are human. I wrote the following in 1996:

Homosexuality, at its core, is about the emotional connection between two adult human beings. And what public institution is more central—more definitive—of that connection than marriage? The denial of marriage to gay people is therefore not a minor issue. It is the entire issue. It is the most profound statement our society can make that homosexual love is simply not as good as heterosexual love; that gay lives and commitments and hopes are simply worth less. It cuts gay people off not merely from civic respect, but from the rituals and history of their own families and friends. It erases them not merely as citizens, but as human beings.

We are not disordered or sick or defective or evil – at least no more than our fellow humans in this vale of tears. We are born into family; we love; we marry; we take care of our children; we die. No civil institution is related to these deep human experiences more than civil marriage and the exclusion of gay people from this institution was a statement of our core inferiority not just as citizens but as human beings. It took courage to embrace this fact the way the Supreme Court did today. In that 1996 essay, I analogized to the slow end to the state bans on inter-racial marriage:

The process of integration—like today’s process of “coming out”—introduced the minority to the majority, and humanized them. Slowly, white people came to look at interracial couples and see love rather than sex, stability rather than breakdown. And black people came to see interracial couples not as a threat to their identity, but as a symbol of their humanity behind the falsifying carapace of race.

It could happen again. But it is not inevitable; and it won’t happen by itself. And, maybe sooner rather than later, the people who insist upon the centrality of gay marriage to every American’s equality will come to seem less marginal, or troublemaking, or “cultural,” or bent on ghettoizing themselves. They will seem merely like people who have been allowed to see the possibility of a larger human dignity and who cannot wait to achieve it.

I think of the gay kids in the future who, when they figure out they are different, will never know the deep psychic wound my generation – and every one before mine – lived through: the pain of knowing they could never be fully part of their own family, never befully a citizen of their own country. I think, more acutely, of the decades and centuries of human shame and darkness and waste and terror that defined gay people’s lives for so long. And I think of all those who supported this movement who never lived to see this day., who died in the ashes from which this phoenix of a movement emerged. This momentous achievement is their victory too – for marriage, as Kennedy argued, endures past death.

I never believed this would happen in my lifetime when I wrote my first several TNR essays and then my book, Virtually Normal, and then the anthology and the hundreds and hundreds of talks and lectures and talk-shows and call-ins and blog-posts and articles in the 1990s and 2000s. I thought the book, at least, would be something I would have to leave behind me – secure in the knowledge that its arguments were, in fact, logically irrefutable, and would endure past my own death, at least somewhere. I never for a millisecond thought I would live to be married myself. Or that it would be possible for everyone, everyone in America.

But it has come to pass. All of it. In one fell, final swoop.

Know hope.

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Robin and Linda Williams with Garrison Keillor and Richie Gorski on the synthesizer…

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Across the Blue Mountains

One morning, one morning, one morning in May
I heard a married man to a young girl say
“Go dress you up, Pretty Katie, and come go with me
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny.

“I’ll buy you a horse, love, and saddle to ride
I’ll buy myself another to ride by your side
We’ll stop at every tavern we’ll drink when we’re dry
Across the Blue Mountains go my Katie and I

“Well, up spoke her mother, and angry was she then
“Sayin’ daughter, oh dear daughter, he’s a married man
And there’s young men aplenty more handsome than he
Let him take his own wife to the Allegheny”

“Oh mother, oh mother, he’s the man of my heart
And wouldn’t it be a dreadful thing if we should have to part
I’d envy every woman who I’d ever see
Go ‘cross the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny”

(Well the last time I saw him, he was saddled to ride
With Katie, his darling, right there by his side
A laughing and a singing and thankful to be free
To cross the Blue Mountain to the Allegheny)

We left before daybreak on a buckskin and roan
Past tall shivering pines where mockingbirds moan
Past dark cabin windows where eyes never see
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

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Past dark cabin windows where eyes never see
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

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river rock collection spot near harrisonburg

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appalachian-trail-

My last travel in life with my husband was across these mountains to a new home together.

It lasted for another twenty-five years.  I am so glad we made the trip and took the chance.

We did it about the same time that this recording was made and I much remember going with him to hear Robin and Linda sing together in a lovely Virginia venue.

One of our many cherished memories.

Most of these photos were taken on our travels through the Allegheny Mountains and through the Shenandoah River area which is also captured here.  The first photo were taken in the Allegheny mountains in May and the two river pictures were taken of the Shenandoah, also in May.

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory