Monday, December 21, 2009

To Juan at the Winter Solstice by Robert Graves

This is a tribute to this time of year by mythologist and poet Robert Graves. In keeping with Graves' concept of primitive European culture being matriarchal, this poem refers to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth of the consort to the great mother that is earth itself. At this, the shortest day of the year when the folkloric newborn oak king's power waxes while winter's holly king's power over the earth wanes, it seems an appropriate poem to reproduce here:

To Juan at the Winter Solstice by Robert Graves

There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison to all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling,
How many the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow if falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses:
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Happy Winter Solstice

Yesterday, we dug ourselves out of the first snow storm of the season. As usual, it wasn't as bad as predicted by the sky-is-falling weather forecasters. But it was plenty of snow nevertheless and, while I don't usually like the snow because of the hard work of clean-up, the house did look beautiful surrounded by an expanse of clean white. The sky was light blue, the deciduous trees bare but for the snow covering their branches, the house cast in a glow of reflected sunlight off the unblemished snow.

How ironic that this snow came fast on the Winter Solstice today. As the days in the northern hemisphere begin to lengthen and the promise of brighter days takes hold, we can be happy that the Holly King (the mythical figure of winter) will gradually lose hold and give way to the Oak King. The winter snows will ultimately melt, nourishing the roots of plants that will flourish once again in the springtime. The buds are set, waiting to break forth once the sunlight and warmth are intense enough. It's precisely the promise of life reborn that so many cultures throughout human history have celebrated at this, literally the darkest time of year.

This is a metaphor of sorts for all the trials we face: It so often is indeed darkest before a new cycle of life can resume. While we don't always win every battle, the moments when things seem hopeless are often only temporary and but a prelude to new victories. This can often be the case when one loses a job, when one is diagnosed with cancer, or when one suffers a set-back in the fight for social justice for all people (gay and straight alike), all things I've experienced firsthand over the years. But hope renews just as surely as the days lengthen. So there is a lesson in this time of year when so much of the world celebrates the renewal of life and the resurgence of hope for the future. Even on the darkest longest night, the human spirit is strong enough to dream and work for brighter and longer days to come.

Happy Winter Solstice

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vermont to have 3G service...

I fell in love with Vermont when my partner and I spent a few days there last summer. The state has so much going for it: beautiful landscapes, pleasant people, same-sex marriage equality, a viable third party (the Progressive Party), a great independent-minded senator (Bernie Sanders), and a live-and-let-live attitude. And now it will have AT&T 3G service for the iPhone. Now all I have to do is learn to be a dairy farmer or buy a B&B and I'd be set to live there:
Going to Vermont for a White Christmas? Relax - you'll have 3G service

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Babs tells it like it is...

I once had the honor of meeting Babs Siperstein. At the time, I didn't actually know who she was and how important she is. We simply talked about politics during a backyard barbecue at someone's house and she came across as simply an ordinary citizen who just seemed to know everything there was to know about state politics in New Jersey. Imagine my surprise when I later found out I had been talking to one very prominent member of the state Democratic party.

I write all this as preamble to Babs' post on the Blue Jersey blog concerning tomorrow's vote on marriage equality in the state senate. I particularly like her final point about making sure we hold Democrats to account and support those who support us. We in the LGBT community are a critical component of the Democratic coalition in New Jersey and, as such, are not to be taken for granted. I know I will do my utmost to support those Democrats who stood with us tomorrow. I will also do everything I can to support challengers to any Democrat who votes against my interests and those of all other same-sex couples in New Jersey in the senate tomorrow.

Here's the direct link to her post:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A long day at the New Jersey State House

I'm still collecting my thoughts from what turned out to be a particularly long day at the New Jersey State House in Trenton yesterday. I was there along with well over one thousand fellow Garden State Equality members to make our presence felt and accompany our side's testimony on behalf of the state civil marriage equality bill (S1967) being considered by the senate judiciary committee. I got there at 6:30 AM and didn't leave until 8:00 PM, at which time the hearing was still going on and would continue to go on for at least another couple of hours.

There were many things I experienced that angered or saddened me, things that made me realize just how much willful ignorance of our laws, our foundational principles, and common decency and respect still prevail in our society. But there were some high points as well: I was met with a smile and a nod from a senator running to get lunch when he saw me wearing my Garden State Equality t-shirt. I got to spend the day with friends old and new (Rich, Rick, Boaz, Jane: you're all beautiful people). I shared my cancer experience with Rich, who proved all the more just how caring and compassionate man he is. I got to have a few moments of levity and silliness (I guess that's why we're called "gay") with my friends. I got to listen to powerful testimony from private citizens, supportive luminaries from the worlds of politics and public affairs, and a particularly rousing speech from Civil Rights legend Julian Bond.

Finally, as the evening wore on, I found myself in a small overflow room sitting next to Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey ACLU. We shared some pizza, laughed at some of the funnier aspects of the day, we talked at length, and wondered when she would finally get to testify. It turned out she got her chance, the very last person to testify that day. I had let my ACLU membership lapse, much to my shame. I have so many charitable interests that I'm in danger of losing track of them all. But not in this case. Today I renewed my membership so I could justifiably say that I'm a proud member of the ACLU. And that's because I believe, fiercely, in individual freedom and dignity. I close with Deborah's own recollections from the overflow room:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An open letter to NJ Democratic legislators

I am very fortunate indeed to be represented in Congress by one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and dedicated politicians: US Representative Rush Holt. Congressman Holt has added his signature to scores of others such as Newark Mayor Corey Booker, DNC member and NJ activist Babs Siperstein (whom I once had the privilege of meeting) in an open letter to the Democratic members of the New Jersey state legislature calling on them to get behind the Marriage Equality bill during this legislative session. Individuals can add their names to the letter at I urge all my friends who are registered Democrats to join this effort to remind our elected representatives in Trenton that equal protection under the law is not worthy of its name if it only includes some couples but not others. Please join me in signing on. Below is the text of the letter:

An Open Letter Calling on Democratic Legislators to Post Marriage Equality Legislation for a Vote

We believe that equality and fairness are fundamental principles of New Jersey's Democratic Party, and that is why we call on the state legislature to vote immediately on, and pass, the marriage equality bill.

New Jersey has a proud history of supporting civil rights. It was this legacy that encouraged many of us to become involved in politics. We believe that allowing committed gay and lesbian couples to marry is, at its core, about treating our family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors with dignity and respect.

We appreciate that this is a difficult issue for some state legislators. But marriage equality is an idea whose time has come. We are confident that the voters will stand by those elected officials who do the right thing.

When our children and grandchildren look back on this moment, we want to be able to tell them that we, too, did the right thing.

As Martin Luther King poignantly reminded us, "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." That is why we’re proud to lend our names and our voices to this important cause. We do so in our capacity as private citizens and Democratic voters, and not on behalf of any particular office or organization.