Bett Norris

Perspectives

What the Flag Means to Me

I Corinthians ch 13

Everyone has been celebrating for almost a week now. The Supreme Court decided to include LGBT people in the legal protections under the law as granted by the Fourteenth Amendment. People have changed their Facebook profiles into rainbow shades. This past weekend there was a huge celebration at the Gay Pride events all over the country. It has been especially gratifying to see so many straight people who joined in the celebration. Thank you all.

A woman climbed the flagpole and took down the Confederate flag on the state grounds in South Carolina. Then she was arrested. About a gazillion people offered to post her bail.

The families of the victims spoke at the white supremacist-terrorist’s court appearance and forgave him for his hate and ignorance. President Obama delivered a powerful, beautiful eulogy urging everyone to act as if they are graced by God. Then he sang a hymn about grace written by a slave trader who got converted. By grace we are led. By grace we are saved. By grace we are better, stronger, more loving, more forgiving. Through grace we come together. That white supremacist was welcomed into the Bible study group at the historic AME church, he was included in prayer, and then hate and ignorance of the grace of God made him stand up and start killing people who had just prayed for his soul.  The families forgave him.

Then several black churches were burned to the ground.

One step forward, two steps back.

The Supreme Court upheld the right of LGBT couples to marry. Then the state of Alabama refused to issue marriage licenses. Then a federal judge ordered the county probate judges to stop acting silly and comply with the SCOTUS decision. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/probate-judges-opposed-gay-marriage-stand-firm-32146429

Then there’s this. Gods definition

It was posted on Facebook by someone close to me. Huh.

Herewith, my response:

I saw your post about God’s definition of marriage. I am sorry you feel that way. As a Christian, as a gay woman, I can’t agree. Man’s law and God’s law are separate.  I can’t allow myself to read the Bible selectively. I have to read it as a whole. Christ said, Love one another. Love your neighbor as you would yourself. I have to give that just as much weight as the passages against divorce, slavery, and stonings. If civilization has surpassed some passages, then I have to believe it can surpass others. I cling stubbornly to the words of Christ, and believe that God is inclusive of all of us. Even Paul said “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” He also said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I Corinthians 13. 
Chapters 12 and 13 are some of my favorite passages in the Bible. Verse 8: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
 
I don’t mean to preach,  but I do love quoting the Bible, certainly the most powerful book ever written, God-breathed, God-inspired, and also one of the most beautiful. 
 
I know you love me. I know you do not judge. I am so happy that the Supreme Court decided to include me in the protection guaranteed to every citizen in the Fourteenth Amendment. Section One says: 
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
 
Specifically, the justices said that gay people cannot be denied the equal protection of legal marriage.
They said nothing about weddings, which are and will always be, a function of religion. 
Marriage is a legal institution granted by the government. You go to the courthouse to get a marriage license, which is a legal document. It has nothing to do with a person’s faith or beliefs. There are over 1100 different laws, privileges, and benefits that are acquired through marriage, not least of which are tax rules which benefit married couples, Social Security benefits, the right of a spouse to make life and death medical decisions, legalities pertaining to the privileges and rights of parents to raise their children.
 
We agree on this: I support God’s law over man’s law, but I live in this world, and it means a lot to me to be recognized as a full citizen with the rights of all others. This year I will raise my American flag with more joy, honor, and celebration than ever, knowing that the Supreme Court says that I am a full citizen, with equal protection under the law.
 
Amen to that.

But there was also this. Rainbow White House

Yep.

So, this weekend I will be flying my American flag, not the rainbow flag, because the Supreme Court just validated me as a full citizen with access to equal protection under the law granted to every other citizen. This weekend, I fly the red, white, and blue, with more pride, honor, and celebration that ever. It’s nice to be included.

US flag

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.” 

Thus endeth the lesson. And the people said.

Ya’ll stay safe and have fun.

Live to See the Day

I really have no words of my own to discuss this week.

800px-Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skiesUS flag

So many things happened.

The Republican governor of Alabama ordered the Confederate flag unceremoniously removed from state Capitol grounds.

Removing Confederate flag June 2015

Rarely have I been so proud of news from my home state.

Then, on Thursday, this happened. In a 6-3 decision, the Affordable Care Act was upheld.

This is what victory looks like.

Affordable Care victory

Then, on Friday, June 26, 2015, a bunch of things happened.

Marriage equality becomes the law of the land.

And this.

Rainbow White House

Then there was this.

Somehow, President Obama made all of these things mesh together with a eulogy about grace.

I admit I never quite grasped the concept of grace. I think I have a much clearer idea of it now.

Bloody Sunday 1    The Bus

civil rights memorial

The Stonewall Inn at 73 Christopher Street in New York seemed to draw people to it to celebrate.

http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/06/27/3674685/stonewall-inn-reactions-federal-ruling/

And this also happened: http://msmagazine.com/blog/2015/06/26/stonewall-inn-designated-nyc-landmark/

So, so many of the posts on Twitter and Facebook yesterday began with, “I never thought I’d live to see the day.”

I know I didn’t expect it. As my partner and I looked at each other, stunned and thrilled, I knew I should sit down and write about what this week in history means, to me, to the LGBT community, to the country. I should write something sweeping in scope, something moving and profound.

INstead, we cried, and all I could really think about were the thousands and thousands of ordinary people with small and large acts of courage, made my life possible, and made this day possible.

I am so grateful for all those who forged their lives when it was very brave to do so, like my partner Sandy.

Jane Rule

  Jane Rule

Katherine V. Forrest

Katherine V. Forrest

Harper Lee, Monroeville county courthouse, 1961

Harper Lee, Monroeville county courthouse, 1961

These three women helped shape my life, made this life I am living possible. Their writing saved me from another kind of life that would have been stifling and painful, and ultimately no life at all.

I keep thinking about what President Obama called “small acts of courage” by countless ordinary people, and I think of trail blazers like Harvey Milk.

I am also thinking of Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Diane Nash, Fanny Lou Hamer, Optima Clark, Amelia Boynton.

My partner Sandy got married right after high school, raised three boys, built a career in art for herself as she built her sculptures, waited until her sons were grown and living outside the home, she got divorced and came out. Just like that.  It takes my breath away to imagine the courage that took. Not a small act at all. It was a life saving act, an act of unbelievable self validation.

For her, for all the many thousands like her and me, I am so grateful. Without them, there would be no appeal to the Supreme Court. Without their earlier footsteps, we would not yet be afforded equal protection under the law, as guaranteed to every citizen in the Fourteenth Amendment.

The last paragraph of the decision will be memorized and recited at weddings for years to come.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. 

                                                                                                                                  It is so ordered.

Not my words. But they are mine to claim now. I am protected under the Fourteenth amendment. The Constitution applies to me and mine.

Another Lesbian Cat Story

Boo Boo - Copy

I am not one of those people who think of writing as cathartic or therapeutic. However, my therapist disagrees. Write, she said. Write something every day, until it becomes a habit again, until it becomes a compulsion. Should therapists encourage compulsive behavior? Put a pin in that thought.

So Sandy, my partner, wakes up the other morning and tells me the dream she had. Who knows what makes us dream the things we dream? In this case, she said she heard me talking to the cat as she fell asleep. My conversations with Boo Boo are a bit one-sided, since she only listens to herself, and believes she is always right.

In the dream, we had two cats, identical, adorable, and completely enamored of each other to the exclusion of the rest of the world. They were scared of everything, and stayed close together, inseparable, wide-eyed, ready to run for cover at the least provocation.

Then there entered a dog, a big dog. For some unexplained reason, the cats fell in love, and competed to be this dog’s BFF.

This complete reversal of their shy natures caused us concern. Should we keep them away from the dog? Should we allow the cats to fight it out and establish a winner? Why did their behavior change from frightened and co-dependent to outright jealousy and competition?

We decided to go to a party. It was a lesbian party. Driving along, we still could not work out why the sudden change in temperament and personality f the cats. We were actually worried about it.

Then, as we got closer to the house where the party was to be, we got more and more anxious, both of us switching from worried about cat psychology to focus on our own introverted, stay-at-home, do not ever willingly attend social gatherings personalities. We drove slowly past the house, where couples were gathering, debarking, making their way inside like the red carpet at the Oscars. A few recognized Sandy and called out of her. (Sandy being a well-known artist and sculptor.) Sandy ducked down and begged me to keep driving. I had no choice, because the slow crawl of limos disgorging formally dressed lesbians kept us  in line.

Sandy became aware, as it happens in dreams, that the theme or purpose of this party was actually a symposium about everyone’s pets suddenly exhibiting strange behaviors due to the introduction of an outside third party of some kind, just like our two cats.

Caught in a near panic attack, Sandy also sensed that I was to be on stage, presenting a humorous monologue about cats.  She also realized that Ellen Degeneres  and wife were supposed to attend, but couldn’t, so they sent a charming, breezy, wholesome, and entertaining video, the effect of which was calming, a gentle exhortation to accept our animals as they are. “Bye,” they said in unison. “Remember, love everybody regardless of orientation, and judge them by their pets’ neuroses,” except Ellen and Portia used the words “adorable eccentricities”, but we knew what they meant.

Ellen

Which is much better than being judged for having dreams about cats, lesbians, and parties.

There, that’s about five hundred words of pure recitation, to the best of my memory, of someone else’s dream. That’s not weird. Maybe it is. I’ll talk about that at my next appointment with the irresolute therapist.

Tribute

I get a little sad on Mother’s Day, since my mother passed away in 2008. I would like to start a tradition of honoring mothers that I know. This year, I choose to honor my partner, Sandy Moore. She is a proud mother of three boys, all grown men now, all talented.

Sandy has been reminiscing about her boys this week. She taught them how to fish, how to build a fire. From her, they each inherited a love of animals. She showed through her own life as an artist how to dedicate yourself to creativity. all three of her sons today are skilled and creative in everything they do. They are artists, whether they claim that label or not.

Sandy spent time with her children when they were young. She played with them, attended every one of their games and performances. She cooked three meals a day, a daunting task for three boys with enormous appetites.

As they became young men, Sandy took a job with the McFarland theatre in Dallas. Her middle son Cliff joined her there, and they worked together for ten years.

Today, Cliff is a general contractor, and manages large construction projects. He is also an artist in his own right.

The youngest son, Russell, graduated from art school, and today is still a working artist.

First born Brandon, raised two girls all on his own, until marrying and creating a blended family. Sandy is proud of Brandon as a father. He is also talented, sang in a boys; choir when young, played football, and today works as a landscaper whose creations are wonderful to see.

Sandy is a proud mother, grateful for her three children. Sandy said to me the other day, “I was a good mother.” yes, she was, and still is.

Cliff's sailfish scan0154 Brandon's girls scan0152 Grammy & Taylor scan0002 scan0150 scan0019 scan0020

A Word’s Worth

Saturday, April 18, 2015, at ten am, Cy Brinson ended her life. It was a rich, full life. Cy was a musician, a singer, a painter, a writer, She lived with manic depression, the terrific highs, the horrible lows.

Cy believed that we are all created from energy which cannot be destroyed or snuffed out, but is simply transformed at death and re-enters the universe. She was a sensitive, someone whose spirit, whose soul is open to to others’ energy.

Cy wanted to be in control of when and where she would transform to whatever comes after. It might be nothingness, she said, and that would be okay. Her energy, her spirit, might be reincarnated into energy for this world, for the earth, the air, for all living creatures. The transition might be a return to heaven, that place from which we came, the source of spirit and energy.

Wordsworth proposes in Ode: Intimations of Immortality that we come from heaven, or God, or some other place where we are pure, innocent, loving, where we understand our connection to Nature, that we are part of the earth, air, part of “the splendor in the grass, the glory of the flower.” Wordsworth surmised that when we are born and move from heaven, or God, or the Source of All Energy, we must forget the glory and majesty in which we were created. The innocence of childhood is but a faint reminder of our special connection, and as we grow and learn, the realization of that relationship to all living things, that knowledge of the glory of heaven, all of that awareness gradually diminishes until we are at last adult, and unknowing of those things. “The child is father to the man” Wordsworth states at the beginning of the ode.

This ode, in its entirety, (some 208 lines) is effusive in praising the lovely, wondrous descriptions of Nature. Reading this poem leaves one with a certain wistfulness, a longing for those “trails of glory.”

The child is father of the man;
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;

And the poem concludes:

The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Cy Brinson knew. She never lost the child’s innocent delight. She knew from whence she came. Cy was ready to return to the source of all energy, which can be created but never, ever destroyed. “I have a choice,” she said.

So Cy left us, trailing wisps of joy in every living thing, joy in creating art that moved us to remember faintly, briefly, the glory in the merest flower, the trails of glory that great art, great music, song, dance, painting, the written word, poetry convey to us. Cy was one of the great conveyors of joy. “Be joyful in sorrow,” she said.
Cy's joyfulness.

Cy Brinson, 4-18-2015.

Cy by night

Cy performing
So I am trying to be joyful in my sorrow. It is a good thing to try, even if we don’t achieve it. It is a choice we can make to be more open to the energy all around us, to remember our majesty, to share it with others.

I can feel Cy’s energy now, as I write this. It makes me smile. She is not gone. She is transformed.

The Apocalypse, Penury, and Pancakes.

Well, hey there. So much has happened in just this past week, I thought that it’s about time I catch you up.

First things first: the apocalypse. Anyone catch the season finale of the Walking Dead?

In other signs of impending doom, the Supreme Court on Monday decided not to hear another lame suit regarding the Affordable Care act.

http://http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/03/30/obamacare-won-a-big-victory-on-monday/

Then there’s this. Indiana, Indiana. What in the (modern) world are you doing? Governor Mike Pence, just what did you think this “it’s okay to discriminate” law would accomplish?

I have nothing more to say about this. No, wait. Governor Pence, don’t you realize that people can discriminate just fine on their own, without the help and protection of the state?

I ate pancakes three times this week, the last week of March, a month with thirty one days. We stretched every dollar, counted loose change, and we made it to the end of the month without stealing or borrowing. We made it. I could tell you the final balance in our bank account, but suffice it to know it’s only three digits.. But the point is, we made it through, and we had a pretty good time this month. We got a ramp built, so we don’t have to climb stairs to get in and out of the house. We watched spring arrive, and gloried in the fresh new greenness of it. We dug in the yard and planted things and cut away dead growth, and watched the cows return. We (sort of) adopted a new cat named Wesley. Boo Boo found him first, and he is a real sweetheart.

In other good news, our dear sister friend Cy Brinson, a musician and artist, joined Facebook. Welcome, and we know this was a big step for her.. Check out her Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Creativity-of-Bipolar-Hermit/1404938723154818?fref=ts://. Keep up with the journey of her novel Effie as it comes into being: movie, stage play, musical, or book? maybe all of the above.

It’s difficult to remain stressed or depressed when spring is so in-your-face gorgeous. Remember that.

And just to send you out into the newly sprung spring, here’s an hilarious song by Miranda Lambert that I think beautifully describes Democrats and Republicans.

Ya’ll take care now.

Feeding Spiders

This morning I got up at 3:30 am. I have always been an early riser. Once I got up early so I could write before work, before others woke, when it was dark and still and quiet.Now I get up early so I can take my prescriptions, so that my twisted and swollen hands might start to work a litter sooner each day. Rheumatoid arthritis is a bitch.

Now that I am retired, I get up early to listen to the roosters crow. I heard the big owl call from the woods. From Farther away, I heard the cows. The peacocks must be late sleepers, because I usually hear them in the evenings. Twice this past week, I have seen armadillos shuffle, nose, waddle across the yard. The cat thinks they might be something to play with.

Mornings, which once were great inspiration, have now become a dreaded enemy. Morning means pain, taking medicine, waiting for it to shift the pain from intolerable to it’s still there but not as bad.  Not bad, not great, but tolerable.

We spend a great deal of time outside on the porch, watching the critters and talking. Most of our days are taken up with doctor appointments. It’s strange how busy we are. One day, sitting on the porch, we saw a huge spider web, stretch from the big oak to the ground, and n the other side from an adjacent tree. In the center, a huge spider. He swung from his structure like a mountain climber, spinning out new strands to strengthen his trap. We wondered whether we could catch a fly and feed it to him to observe what  he did with it. I still want to do that, but prevailing winds and rain forced him to move.

I just now realized that having that large spiderweb in the yard meant that we have not been out there in a while. We have had some cold days, and we built a fire a couple of times. As I write this I am facing east, and the sunrise is obscured due to gathering clouds. Bad weather is predicted for this morning, which means, thunderstorms and a tornado watch. I hear thunder already

I wonder what happens to Mr. Spider when a thunderstorm comes through.

Being retired means I have more time to care about things, and people.  A possible tornado is coming. I need to get the cat inside, and make sure Sandy is inside too. Low clouds and thunder.

What a Picture is Worth

For years now, I have been working on my third novel. Writers are often asked where the idea for a book originates. Sometimes, it’s a phrase that gets stuck in my head and won’t go away. Sometimes it’s an image.  The germination of this current book came from two things that wouldn’t get out of my head. One, an old black and white photo of my great aunt Stella, circa 1960. I don’t know why this photo drifted into my head and stayed. I looked at it for hours.

scan0036

The other thing that wouldn’t leave me alone was a deep fascination with my family history.  After my mother died, I realized that I no longer have anyone to tell me those stories. And I knew that the stories my mother had told me were warped by my memory of them. So I don’t know now what is real about them and what is not. I wanted to sit with my mother again, just one more time, and ask her about the validity of those stories.

This started me on a quest to find out as much as I could about prior generations, and whether I could verify the stories my mother told me. I asked my aunt, Mother’s oldest surviving sibling, but she claimed she didn’t remember or never knew about the particulars of one story or another. I asked my older sisters if they remembered any details of the family story.

I started digging through ancestry.com, which was very helpful. At a certain point, I developed mission creep and had to wean myself from that site.

I want to know certain things that may be buried and forgotten about my family heritage. Frustrated still by all I couldn’t find, I began writing my family history as fiction, making up the missing parts.

I don’t want to disclose here those questions I couldn’t answer. I haven’t finished the book, and I don’t want to eave clues that may not make the final cut.

I enjoy peeling back layers of hushed, whispered history. It’s spooky and strange.  It feels like I am doing something clandestine. I’ll just leave you with this.

A girl grows up in the rural South, on a farm at the end of a dusty dirt road. She wonders about her family, about the societal heritage lost to them because of the Civil War, about the secret heritage no one talks about, ever, and she wonders about herself, why she doesn’t seem to belong, about where she will go when she grows up, because she can’t stay there, on that muddy-in-the-spring, dusty-in-the-summer farm. She can’t forever run barefoot through the woods when the dogwoods first bloom, because she is a girl, who will become a woman who must put away such things. What if she doesn’t want to keep the family secret? What if she wants to embrace the secret part of her heritage?

Blithe Spirit

Robin Williams was found dead yesterday. That doesn’t seem real. It seems impossible that such a force could be stopped.

I am angry, not because he died, but because of the atrocious obituary found on CNN.com. It mentioned the long line of comics who also died from suicide or drug overdose. It talked a little about his genius and his career. And CNN made his death seem pedestrian, something Robin Williams never was.

If you want to read a better farewell, go to Robin Williams takes on the Actor’s Studio, or read the New York Times tribute, or this one: Huffington Post eulogizes Robin Williams.

Rest in peace, Robin. Rest now, in peace.

Fireworks

Tonight, I sat on the back porch and listened to the fireworks in town. Because of the trees, those enormous oaks, I couldn’t see them. Instead I looked directly overhead, into those massive, moss-hung trees, and I watched fireflies blink on and off. I heard the ubiquitous drone of frogs, I saw a big low moon through the branches, and I watched the fireflies put on their own show.

I talked to my mother. I said, it’s okay, Mama. I am glad to be here. Here, in the countryside in north Florida, on my back porch, looking through the trees at the moon. I didn’t think I would ever say that, but I am happy simply to be here, where I am, with my partner.

Honestly, the back yard oaks are so big that the house is under their canopy. I have to stretch my neck way back to see a clear bit of sky.

I remember when we first moved here, I couldn’t wait to sneak outside every morning and watch the daylight grow. I haven’t seen fireflies since I was a child and we would run around catching them, putting them in Mason jars. I hope that Mama set them all free once we were inside and asleep.

I love photos, but I don’t have any of these memories. Instead, we have this place that so reminds me of where I grew up that it feels like home. I never thought I would feel so much like home that I forgive it for being Florida and not Alabama.

Yes, I sit every morning now, most mornings, and have coffee out on the porch, under the trees, watching the light grow. I talk to myself, I talk to my mother, and maybe to God, and I give thanks, just to be exactly where I am.

Independence. That’s what I feel now. Free from regrets, from sadness that things haven’t turned out quite how I imagined they would, but in some ways, better. Which says something about my imagination, I suppose. Not at all what I thought my life would be like now, but no bitterness because it is different. It just is. And I have my partner, and she has me, and we are both reliving our childhood memories to some extent. We are also making new memories that I hope will stay with me as long.

Fourteen years we have been together. No, it’s not our anniversary yet, but Sandy asked me today, and I realized that I have never had anything for fourteen years, except that seminal time from birth through high school, when my mother, my family, was really the center and the filter through which I saw and learned so much.

I am happy, Mama. It’s okay now.

From one back porch, to another.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 429 other followers

%d bloggers like this: