Wherever you go, there you – are?

Now some may consider that to be a philosophical statement; and, I guess, like any statement, you can find a way to insert something you already believe to be true into that space and make it fit.  For me, that phrase was a throwaway line in the initially obscure, now somewhat cult film “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the Eigthh Dimension”.  It was a flop when released in the 80’s, with a great cast and wild storyline full of what now would be called “geeky” “easter eggs”.   I think it was making fun of a lot of cultural sacred cows, but … what do I know? 

Still, the phrase comes to mind now that fall is here.  When this blog was conceived, it was winter; spring when it burst forth, now two seasons later and six months into a still strange world that I continue to resist embracing as the familiar.  My goal when I began was to share elements of my life, and ongoing journey of discovery, in the hopes that it might have meaning for others – certainly more than it would just being kept in my own head.  I didn’t have a destination in mind – I just knew I wanted to write about those things that were key to a lot of personal transformation in my life, knowing that process still continues. 

But there were goals I set during this period, that I put effort into; some have been achieved, others not.  There are those nights I wake up frustrated wondering what I am doing wrong; why I am not seeing more progress on things that I claim are priorities to me, but to which I devote little time, while eagerly chasing some diversion that requires less effort, devotion and discipline.  Days go by that seem wasted, and I think … wow, I am now more than halfway to my next birthday.  My last birthday was the first weekend of shelter in place; will my next birthday be all that different? 

One of the ways I dealt with my frustration at feeling cooped up, trapped, cut off from so much of what I enjoyed in life and buried under a constant avalanche of dire, doom and gloom news – was to exercise.  I was fortunate to have some personal fitness equipment.  Some of you who have known me wayyyy back when know that I was at one time over 250 pounds, a consequence of seeking comfort from food or other sources that could never provide it, and the mindsets that kept me trapped in self rejection and hatred.  Hopefully, some of what I have shared here of my journey away from that point have helped some readers look at their own caves and realize that they need to get out, and there is a way out, but it takes time and effort. Well, I figured I could finally transform my body into the ideal I have held it up against for 45 years, or at least get closer.   People were going to gasp in awe and amazement at my transformed magnificence!  (well, something like that). 

Isn’t this the reverse? Why would the “new me” see the “now me” in the mirror?

Six months later … I have not been transformed. I spent hours on the back patio, with the bench, clumsily following video guidance, listening to music for that upbeat energy.  Recently, our city leaders allowed outdoor training at the gym to return, so I spent a significant chunk of money for me on a training package a little more than a month ago; in the weeks since, the doors opened a little more, first with a tent filled with equipment in the gym parking lot, then with one hour appointment only blocks indoors, masked, with various other restrictions.  I will say my trainer knows his stuff – but so do all the well-toned muscular men (and some women!) I see surrounding me with much heavier weights, and, well, all the rest.  Are gay men necessarily more obsessed with fitness than others? I cannot say, but there are a lot in this gym who have reaped the rewards of years of devotion.  I fight depression when I leave, knowing I might as well be planning a trip to Mars. 

Grieving this apparent lack of results and vowing that the next six months will not be a repeat – I began thinking about what I need to make more of a priority in my life, and what I need to drop. Being forced to reflect a little more on what exactly I want to achieve, how to structure my day to be effective, and what else to set aside – I am coming to realize another surprising truth about my inner compass.  I seem to be driven by some deeply buried but unachievable desire to accomplish change; to become more like the ideal that has always haunted me, taunted me, whether it was a matter of character, maturity, personal skill or interpersonal success – I never seem to be ok with where I am.  I was never “good enough”. After all the work I had done with those who helped me to get somewhat beyond the shame I had embraced over some of the deepest parts of my identity, I still was trying to get to some place that I simply could not reach. 

And this song came to mind …

Written as instrumental by Vince Guaraldi as part of an album related to the film “Black Orpheus”, in time lyrics were added and “Cast your fate to the wind” was covered by many artists, as well as convincing the production team behind “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to commission the trio for that soundtrack that forever will remind of us of Charlie, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy.  But why was this song coming to mind? 

I have always longed for a map.   Whether in my youth it was the teachings of the church, or the grades on my report card telling me I had gotten it “Right” – I sought absolutes.  I remember only half-jokingly telling friends after I came out that I needed to find “The Big Book of Gay” to figure it all out.   I never found that book, and although I read many, many others on life, happiness, spiritual principles and personal growth – I remained deeply unsatisfied with myself.  It’s not a pleasant place to be – surely you don’t blame me for wanting to get out of it! 

But those quests, although worthwhile, did not bring me to the place I sought. Quietly, slowly, my awareness is opening to a new possibility. I am beginning to think that the challenge is not how to become someone I am not – that idealization physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually and intellectually that I hold myself up to.   Rather … I need to not necessarily just accept where I am as where I am going to end up – but to, for now, “own” where I am.  Who I am, my flaws and my little shiny spots, my cold empty corners and my hallways of the heart filled with light and music – all of them.

Could it be that one cannot leave a place until one has made it their own? I do not recommend casting my fate (or yours) to the wind – but the reality is that much of what comes our way is completely unexpected and out of control, and to pretend we can somehow take the reins and maneuver all those forces to get us to some specific point is in itself a fine madness.  When a friend says “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” …. Maybe it’s both?  I try every day to do something that when it is over I can say – I reached out.  I touched someone else I care about in a way that made a difference to them, however small.  To not go to bed without having made that day, somehow, matter.

Treasure your yesterday with gratitude..

Embrace your today with joy …

Create your tomorrows with hope.

The New NormL

I am not giving up on my quest; in fact, as I write today, I admit I haven’t really determined what it is I am still questing for.  Does your heart long for something more than what you hold today? Can you feel that, or have you tried to quench it – to say, shut up, heart, I don’t want to try anymore – I just need to get by.  It’s not for me to say which perspective is healthy, but I guess what I am realizing is that until I make peace with who I am today – my whole person – I will be forever trying to cut off something that I will always be carrying with me, wasting time on trying to be someone who I am not instead of finding ways to let the person I am do what I am able while still here.  Wherever I go, they will be coming along – might as well love them! 

To live each day as though what we do matters, because it does;  to see each person we encounter as a little piece of the wonderous something that brought all this into existence, because they are; and to simply let our hands be open in case a butterfly decides to drop by for a visit, even though they never have.  We awaken each morning to a day filled with the unknown, promise, possibilities and dangers – we are here, now.  Take a deep breath, enjoy it – and onward, friends. 

Thank you, followers – I always love hearing from you (well, almost always!)

An unexpected eclipse, a missing Key, and the fragility of heritage

Last week I shared about my solo sojourn through the heritage of “Cow Hollow” on what became a record-breaking hot summer Sunday.  In my continued resolve to both explore San Francisco’s less familiar corners and to get out into our gradually opening city again, I looked into the recently resumed walking tours offered again by SF city guides.  This wonderful program is slowly adding its newly revised offerings – outside only, 8 or less participants, masks and distancing – and I chose to begin with a tour of one of San Francisco’s Crown Jewels as it celebrates 150 years – quite unexpectedly on a day unlike any other within memory. 

An early map of Golden Gate Park, not so different from today’s tour

The “Mid Park Ramble” tour promised a look at hidden gems of Golden Gate park.  I had spent many hours and miles running – well, jogging – through the park in early 2018 after my move here, preparing for my first “half marathon” in several years to celebrate my own 60th birthday that spring.  But there were points on this tour I had not seen, and so I bought my advance ticket online and looked forward to sharing new vistas with you here.  The plans for the sesquicentennial had been announced months before, and like every other expectation for this year, were derailed by the COVID restrictions; portion of the park streets were closed to traffic, but this journey outside scheduled for 10 am began not with the warm sunshine of just a few days prior – but near darkness – almost like a day long eclipse. The cause was a combination of smoke, weather conditions and fog, combining to create a deep orange haze that extended throughout the day.   Oddly, the smell of smoke was not as noticeable as it had been a few days prior, with greater heat. 

Before I begin reporting about the outing itself, I would like to share with you from a recent guidebook purchase – although it was the purchase that was recent, not the book itself.  After all the insights I had gleaned in my prior excursion from the historic hikes book I shared from last week, I was inspired to look for older books that could give me an idea of the San Francisco that once was but is now, if still present, obscured.  One of the first to arrive from my online shopping spree was the 1914 “Chamber of Commerce Handbook for San Francisco” shown here – featuring a photo of the statue of Junipero Serra that until recently stood in the Park itself.  Let me share what this wonderful little book had to say about our exploration location more than 100 years ago – 

What a wonderful time capsule – I will be sharing more in times to come!

“Here one sees the healthy life and leisure of the community.  San Franciscans use their park.  The drives swarm with fine equipages, fast motors, and ruddy-face lovers of good horse-flesh bound for the speedway in wire-wheeled sulkies. Youth rides the bridle paths.  Groups of children are rolling and tumbling about the lawns, for there is not a “Keep -off-the Grass” sign in the whole thousand acres”. 

The streets we traverse today bear names not known then – John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Nancy Pelosi.  And some of the history and culture then celebrated and welcomed is no longer visible – the Park had been in the news prominently nationally just a few months prior, when a group of people took action to pull down statues and memorials that they found unacceptable based on their own values and similar actions happening around the country.  I had watched the video on the news like many of you, seeing sculptures of various historical figures torn down and destroyed, but I admit – I had not paid them much attention on prior visits.  

The effect of the smoke and still air, combined with the greenery of the Park, left the skies darker than twilight the evening before.  Having arrived early, I took some photos in the open area between the DeYoung Museum and the previously added “Observation wheel” that was to be a hallmark of the year long festivities.   A note on my photos, taken with my iPhone – many that were published online which you may have seen did not capture fully the eerie shades in the sky, due to the “auto correct” programming of most devices;  those of mine that are “darker” were taken in panoramic mode, which I believe captured the color more fully.  In that sense, I guess I got lucky! 

From left – observation wheel, Academy of Sciences, Music concourse

No matter where you stand in the Park, there are echoes of history surrounding you. This panoramic shot of the central park area stretches from the observation wheel past the illuminated California Academy of Sciences erected in 2008 to the Music concourse which was added in 1889.  As I looked towards the soon to reopen DeYoung Museum facing this area, I saw another statue that had previously escaped my notice – and I promise you, I didn’t even realize it was naked until I saw my photos at home, it was that dark!  But I wondered about its origin, seemingly out of place near the modern museum – learning later that it was an 1881 bronze of a roman centurion commemorating the “first shovelful of earth” turned in preparing for the California Midwinter International Exposition here in 1893.   The DeYoung itself celebrates 125 years in 2020 – having been established originally from the structure known as the “Memorial Museum” and greatly expanded in the years since. 

As noted, some of that history is now absent, possibly forever. The destruction of the statues of Francis Scott Key, whose lyrics form our national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”, was perhaps more noticeable since his monument still stands, but his figure is gone from its perch across from the DeYoung.  Through that now empty space the observation wheel sits motionless, awaiting the “go ahead” like so many other features of our city and nations, and the grounds seemed certainly more silent and deserted as well as more dim than usual during my pre tour stroll.  

When our group gathered outside the Japanese Tea Garden, we began our guided exploration, beginning with a walk along Stow Lake on our way to Strawberry Hill, which like most of the park had been created from the mostly barren sand dunes into lushly forested corners of nature.  We learned that the artificially created “Huntington Falls” were funded by a donation from Henry Huntington, the “Big Four” railroad czar whose home and library down in San Marino which I have loved visiting many times.  Note, all the “normal lighting” pictures here, gathered from the internet, are intended to give you a view that my own exploration failed to provide. 

At the top, the early visitors to the Park could take the carriage route, or the walking path, to what was called the “Observatory” – not in the sense we think today, but just a flat, open space where on a clear night they could view the stars.  I found this old postcard illustrating what you might have seen if you made the climb 120 years ago, before that 1906 earthquake destroyed the structure, never rebuilt, with little remaining.  Of course, even though it was dark at 1030 am, the smoke prevented any enjoyment of the stars themselves – but the owls hooting at us along the way might well have been confused as to why their normal cycle had been so rudely interrupted.  Thankfully, they did not attack in vengeance. But they might have been thinking about it ….. 

We continued past other notable features of the area, with groups of other hikers and children gradually appearing, but still in near dark skies – eventually arriving at a spot that even my husband who has lived in SF more than 40 years had not known of.  Referred to now as the “Prayerbook Cross”, it is nearly 60 feet tall and barely visible until you nearly reach the top of the trail where it stands on one of the highest points in the park itself.   A gift from the Church of England in 1894, resembling a traditional Celtic cross, it commemorates the first prayer service in 1579 following the arrival by Sir Francis Drake using the “Book of Common Prayer”.  Unlike the damaged or destroyed memorials below in the more well-travelled areas, I observed only a few curse words sprayed on rocks nearby this silent sentinel that looks over our changing city still. 

The moments and individuals commemorated in this city oasis cover a centuries long and world wide heritage. Today, our country faces divisions seemingly more deep and broad than those of any known in our lifetimes. They will not be resolved easily or quickly. I do not have the answers or solutions to offer, and I honestly question those who insist that their perspective is the only one worth considering, whatever position they take. I like to think we can build bridges between islands, but the daily turmoil erupting before us everywhere seems unending. I can only say that history has meaning – what meaning perhaps will always vary by the heritage of perspective of those sharing it or hearing it. It is up to us, individually, to work to preserve what we treasure, support the future we want to build for our children, and create traditions that they will cherish and which will give them strength and hope.

This stunning 1892 bird’s eye view of Golden Gate Park can be yours …

In a way I was glad I could experience the unique beauty of this amazing Park on such an unusual day – not to be repeated, hopefully, in our lifetimes.  Soon, a limited number of visitors will, bearing masks, move through the galleries of these museums, as more will picnic on the grounds, and hear music in the air – some of the guardians who stood over them are gone, but the life of the Park itself cannot be contained, only evolve.  Hopefully we shall, as well – and preserve all that which future generations shall remember, and perhaps treasure if not celebrate, under sunny, smoke free skies, again.  

Thanks for joining me – please subscribe to be notified of new posts!

Dirty clothes, Dairies and Howl – oh my

My Cow Hollow Covid stroll through history

This past week brought my first opportunity in several months to discover new views of my recently adopted home town. The last six months have been crushing everyone in more ways than I can imagine – I am grateful to be with my husband, retired, and healthy. Nevertheless, the confinement has weighed on me, and I am sure on all you who read this, in different ways.  In an effort to direct some of my newly limited energy towards a constructive end, and other projects completed, I had recently committed to increasing my cardio activity, for both mental and physical health, by exploring the city. But where to begin? When I awoke in the wee hours last Saturday night, I recalled buying a book on Amazon prior to my move here in 2017, and I dug it out this past Sunday morning. 

The book was “Historic Walks in San Francisco – 18 trails through the City’s past” by Rand Richards. Perhaps you have avoided this bad habit, but I have many wonderful books that remain unread for years, and this is one.  It inspired me, and I set out to explore an area I was completely whose background was little known to me – the oddly named Cow Hollow.  Most of the historic background here, and all but a handful of the destinations, I credit fully to Mr. Richards whose book is unfortunately out of print. However, although his guide is based on geography, I want to share my stroll based on timeline – beginning with the earliest spot on my walk. Come along (masked, please) as we stroll through a kaleidoscope of history and humanity.  (As it turned out, our stroll occurs on a day of record breaking heat!)

Once, this was the center of an “essential service”!

The Spanish expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza from Tubac (then Mexico, now Arizona) to the San Francisco Bay of Alta California arrived at the site of the Presidio in June 1776. You can read more about their journey in this excellent website. Soon, they found a water source which fed into the bay, and it became their spot for washing – known in time as “Washerwoman’s lagoon”.  By 100 years or so later, it was filled in, and disappeared – now, the intersection of Grenwich and Gough represents what would have been its center.  The shoppers and residents here for the most part may not realize their homes were once in the middle of water! 

Washerwoman’s Lagoon 1888 from the SF Library photo collection

It was not until 1847 that the first home was built in the area; long gone, it was built by Elijah Ward Pell, a member of a Mormon contingent who, according to the guidebook, was excommunicated for “licentious behavior” – shocking!  He chose to settle here, far from his former brethren who gravitated towards what was then called Yerba Buena. Today, the intersection of Green and Laguna bears no apparent marker of this first location of residence, but I am guessing he would have appreciated the liquor store’s presence in his time. 

The first home in the new neighborhood was in this intersection – long gone

The little community grew to support the growing broader population. What we now call Cow Hollow originally took its name from dairies which began in the area in 1853, growing to about 3 dozen of varying sizes until roughly 50 years later when the last closed.  This lovely little home on Octavia is regarded as the last remaining “dairy home” in the area – the name remains, but thankfully, not the aroma. 

The only remaining original “dairy home” in Cow Hollow

From 1861, the Octagon house at the corner of Gough and Union is one of two remaining in SF, but in its era nearly 700 were built around the country – promoted as energy efficient and healthy due to greater light exposure.  But originally, it was on the opposite corner – nearly a century after it was built, PG&E acquired the property and offered it for a mere dollar to whomever would move it. In the 1950’s the National Society of Colonial Dames purchased it and moved it to the current site, where it houses their display of period historical mementos, with a lovely park next door.  On the day of my stroll, the park welcomed dog walkers, readers, and other socially distant friends to it’s sanctuary.

When Henry Casebolt built his stately home on Pierce in 1866, a mere 15 years had passed after moving to the city from Virginia with his wife and 11 children!! He was a blacksmith who had started his own carriage making company and developed several mechanical innovations for horse drawn transportation and, in time, cable cars. Imagine how lonely this majestic home looked 150 years ago, before it was surrounded by the residences of today.  The guidebook says that 20 years after it was built, Chinese laborers could be seen across the street in their vegetable garden on the still empty street.  Now, a posting on the fence describes a public hearing (virtual, of course) to be held regarding the homeowner’s wish to remove the palm trees, and the neighbors desire to retain them – they are incongruous, but San Francisco is not known for moving quickly on homeowners’ wishes for change. 

This little alley, hidden behind a shall we say “budget motel” on Lombard, is Blackstone court – gated with a few homes which, like many, were moved here or repositioned over the years, but still date back over a century ago.  The gate bears a marker noting its significance going back two centuries along a trail past the lagoon to the military encampment at the Presidio – and, in time, the home of nurseryman Charles Abraham, who reportedly imported the first bougainvillea (native to South America) to California! Everyone loves bougainvillea! Imagine nearly the entire block surrounding this home with greenhouses, a windmill for power, and his own water tower – now, all gone and built over, save his original 1885 home. 

Unfortunately, this is the best look you can get of Blackstone Court from a motel carport.

There are endless stories of the 1906 earthquake and associated fires to the city as a whole.  I do not know if Cow Hollow was one of the most affected areas – but I found this wonderful account of a resident of the area, an “eyewitness to history”. 

San Francisco has been a haven and perhaps a magnet welcoming many, shall we say, less mainstream faiths and beliefs, at least in traditional western society of that era.  Can you imagine being a Hindu in 1905, and the excitement you would have at the first temple in the Western US, perhaps all the US, opening – a place for you, your family, your friends to gather safely and look for hope and encouragement in a rapidly changing world.  Although the district is home to other beautiful churches and houses of faith, the architecture of this residence on Webster and Fillmore remains as both housing and a meeting place for its members. Like many buildings along the walk, it bears signs noting that classes and gatherings have been suspended due to Covid – but the windows above are open, and one day the doors will be as well. 

SF is known worldwide for its role in the emergence of the “counterculture” – one might never guess that this little dining spot, for lobster rolls and burritos, once housed  “The Six Gallery”, and it was here in 1995 that the “beat movement” was birthed at a public reading of works, including Allen Ginsberg and his draft of “HOWL”.  The ideas, the passions and the energy that those minds and hearts generated reached across our continent in time – and the world.   Our city still gives haven to thinkers, creators and those whose lives challenge our ideas of traditional.  

The six plus decades since the Beat Generation, the 60’s “Summer of love” and events within our own memory brought more changes. Many of those impacted my life directly and continue to change lives worldwide. I walked about 4 miles last weekend on my little time travel; I saw families, couples, a few dogs, some skaters – new life continuing in this memorial to our shared heritage. There are many more beautiful homes along the way, not all necessarily historic or architecturally remarkable, but perfect examples of the varied eras that have come and gone through the nearly 250 years since DeAnza brought the Spanish expedition north to this then very different land. Here I passed a steep street with the carefully maintained homes standing like sentries in time, watching over the lives, the people, the vehicles that change decade by decade, remaining vigilant yet.

As I strolled along Broadway towards Franklin, the view down one of the famous steep avenues of the city towards the bay brings “Dirty Harry” to mind, and so many other films created here over the decades.  

Until a few years ago, I knew SF only from movies, and stories, and rare brief visits.  As I approach my car, I pass one of those sites that appear in tourist books, knowing that most of the stories I share with you today are less likely to be as well remembered as the fictional works of the silver screen. 

Yes, that’s Sally Field’s home in “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) . I imagine they’re used to the gawkers!


As we reflect on our stroll, and I return to shelter in place once more, may I suggest this is not a time for wondering what we can regain from the recent past we have been denied for a brief moment, but rather what kind of future can we envision and work towards together.  Today, I gained new appreciation for the ongoing power of this city, and its peoples, to attract an unending variety of dreamers and schemers, hopes and visions, sharing our epiphanies and dejections.  That power exists everywhere, waiting to be embraced. Wherever you live, the history of your lives, and those who came before, can open hearts and minds to possibilities – we need them even more today.   

Just think about the amazing variety of lives, dreams and cultures who lived within these few blocks over nearly 250 years. Catholics, Latter day Saints, Hindu faiths; radicals, entrepreneurs, immigrants; scoundrels, visionaries and like most of us, people just trying to get through it most days. From the few hundred who came from Mexico, to those who travelled by ship and wagon across oceans and continents for a chance for a better life, the “outsiders” who were viewed with suspicion by the more established cultures, and the emerging visionaries crying for change and meaning – this city, and our country, gave them – and gives us – a chance to grasp our dreams.  

Although out of print, you find this used, and his other books, online!

So thank you, Mr. Richards, for enlightening me on this delightful stroll – here is a link to a summary of his many books. I hope you will consider further explorations of your own, even if only remotely, through his work.  I don’t know when my next “real life” excursion may occur (hopefully soon) – but here is a preview of one that I took just a few days later, by chance on a day unlike any other in recent memory, which will be in my next post.   Stay safe, y’all, and keep on dreaming!

Where in the world is the New NormL? Tune in next time to find out …

You’ve (still) got a friend in me

Like many of you, lately I have been missing my friends. I always loved the song “You got a friend in me” by Randy Newman, introduced a quarter century ago (!) in Pixar’s “Toy Story”. Even through all its sequels, somehow the spinners of animated tales still manage to imbue those little toys with heart and personality that capture our own feelings so well.  Joy, hope, loneliness, uncertainty, change – that band of playthings went through it all, and we grew along with them.   Woody and Buzz went through a lot – but not COVID.  That was reserved just for us humans.   

While we approach the six-month mark here in San Francisco of “shelter in place” – I have been missing so many of my friends.  Having moved here in late 2017, most of my longtime friends are now hundreds of miles away. Since arriving, between getting married, work and other adjustments, social life has been squeezed in when possible – until it wasn’t, in March. There are new friendships forming, of course, but being retired and now having no “active” social life – I feel everyone’s ongoing absence more deeply.   As much as zoom and Facetime and google meets and, well, even this blog are ways to stay connected – they cannot make up for human touch, for moments of laughter, for a quiet walk or a thousand other ways we find to be truly together. 

Friendship is kind of an ethereal, mystical force in some ways, coming and going, unpredictable, always evolving. There are all kinds of friendships, they say – some for a season, a few hopefully for a lifetime.  Growing up and for much of my “adult” life, I was never really good at feeling close to others, understandably from my personal history, but I have worked on it and continue to.  It was not that I did not care, but that I did not feel I fit in, or could be fully accepted, or truly belonged.  Yet, over the years, there have been friends that remained close, even now from afar.  Still … as months pass, even pre COVID, those connections are somehow fading … and perhaps that is healthy.  I have never moved away before – never left everything, and everyone, behind to make such a significant change in every area of my life. 

It’s normal that I don’t want to “let go” – I don’t want those long term relationships to end, whether they originated from shared interests like Disneyland and movies, from work relationships that turned into trust, caring and closeness, from church and other community commitments, or from my more recent coming to terms with parts of myself I had to learn to accept, coming out, and making new friends in that process.  Yet – the time comes, we must let go.  And then, continue to reach out again, and again.  I am learning to reach out here, not just to ask, but to give.  I treasure all those friends, old and new, far and close. 

There were, over the years, friends that drifted away, or relationships that ended on less than optimal terms. I realize in hindsight that I held an unrealistic expectation of some now lost friends – and vice versa. Sadly, some ended as I grew into being more of me, and less of what I thought I was supposed to be for others – becoming authentic; coming out was a part of that, but not all of that.  Some wanted care, support, answers from me that I could not give – and likewise I wanted more than others could offer. A few  wanted me to be who I used to be for them; some could not accept my life any longer, I had fallen from grace in their eyes, or lost my way.  It wasn’t always direct – but the undercurrent was clear enough.  And that’s just part of life – we move on.  I hope, for all of them, they are finding their way to happiness still. 

Funny, though, how some of the closest and most long enduring relationships come from my professional life – coworkers that in time became more.  For many of us, we spend more time with our office team than with our family. We recently re-watched “The Office” finale which perfectly portrayed the awkward balance between  tolerating and caring about those people and, then in time, moving from that “home” to a new, beckoning future.  There was a song featured towards the end of the finale, actually written by Creed Bratton, actor and musician – called “All the Faces”.   Here is a bit of the lyrics, and a link to a fan video with Office moments. 

“I saw a friend today, it had been a while. And we forgot each others names.

But it didn’t matter cause deep inside the feeling still remained the same.

We talked of knowing one before you’ve met, and how you feel more than see,

and other worlds that lie in spaces in between, and angels you can see.

And all the faces that I know have that same familiar glow.

I think I must’ve known them somewhere once before

All the faces that I know.

Creed Bratton, “The Office” finale – All the Faces that I know

2020 has been a year of challenge we could never have expected. In the past nearly half year, I have seen friends lose jobs, lose family – yes, even lose their lives, leaving loved ones behind grieving.  Sell their homes, move away to new ones, or risk losing all they had to fire. Some started new lives;  their children graduate without an audience, their spouses have been hospitalized and hopefully recover; others are thinking about leaving the country of their birth in frustration;  one has welcomed a new grandchild to their family.  But I see people turning on one another daily – on the news, in my own circle of relationships, and online.  Sometimes over politics, or faith, or some position on an issue that they feel strongly about – whatever the reason, some doors are closed, perhaps forever. All this and more happened in the lives of my friends since we entered this strange era.  These events would mostly have happened apart from Covid, but somehow, we all seem to be carrying an extra weight, a longer shadow. These are the times they – all of us – need one another more than ever. We must not burrow into our caves, but reach out, even more – it takes work. 

True, some friendships endure a lifetime – but most fade.  We don’t want to let go, sometimes – we need one another; but it happens.  Like the tender strands of a web that stretch in the wind, and in time – are loosed, and eventually unwind except in our memory.  That friendship connection is a force of mystery, it’s lifespan unknown, its purpose uncertain – do we nurture it?  Do we make it a priority?  As we see gaps between ourselves, I can only offer you this suggestion – don’t throw away what you have.  Try to build on it; try to keep it alive.  Yes, there are times that moving on is best – knowing those moments is kind of hard right now, when no one is really themselves, and everyone is in a personal pressure chamber with the steam building every day.  We need each other, friends, now and past, future and yet to be. 

Nearly a year ago now, I took a trip to see old friends down south – not knowing of course that it would be the last trip away from my new home for a yet to be determined time. I’m grateful I had the chance. A kind of reunion tour, not being able to see everyone in that short time, but having moments with many, seeing faces light up, remembering what we shared and setting aside what might have been.  Here are some moments, and faces, from that trip that I treasure – we may not meet again. 

There is a kind of longing, a yearning in my heart and perhaps yours hearts that seems to remain; we may learn in time that others cannot be, never could be, everything we needed or wanted.  We start to see not a glass half full, or half empty – instead, seeing no glass at all, just an appreciation for what is there, now, today. Letting go of the longing for “more”, to treasure what is in our lives at this moment – choosing to say “yes – this is enough”.   And to work on being a channel to others of what we seek ourselves.  We become part of a living network of souls, rising, falling, reaching out and for a moment dancing together, parting and moving on. 

Which brings me back to our friends, Woody, Buzz and all those little toys, and most recently Toy Story 4.  Spoiler alert, folks!  I saw this in the theater last year – in a way, it felt almost like an existentialist reflection on what does it mean to be alive, but maybe that was just me.  In any case – at the end of the film, Woody has to make a choice.  He chooses a new path, but in that – realizes he also must choose to, for now, say goodbye to those who became his family for so long.  In a way, I think COVID, and distance, is forcing that for some friendships.  Here is the end of that film, which, if you haven’t seen it – might give you some joy for a couple of hours. 

My friends – present, and past – I miss you dearly. You have taught me so much; your gentle kindnesses, small perhaps to you, encouraged me to accept myself the way you did.  Your open minds and hearts showed me that people who are different can still truly care for one another without expecting change.  Your courage in the face of trials and challenges inspired me to find strength to stand for what I work for.  Your openness to different ways of thinking helped me to escape my own narrow vision and tinier world for a greater reality.  Perhaps most of all, the fact that you showed me love does not have to be perfect to have worth, helped me to work towards finding my own voice – and now, in the days ahead, to try to share these lessons with others.  God knows there are many surrounding each of us that just need a little love.  

We are trying our best to stay afloat in the winds of change, and we may not be together again, certainly not in the foreseeable future.  So let me say this clearly, from my heart. I hope you are well, and loved, and finding hope.  And, I miss all my friendships that, for whatever reason – deliberate, their choice, my choice, or just “happened” – aren’t there anymore. I wish I could say to them, and I say to you who read this  – thank you.  

Thank you,friends, for being a special part of a chapter in my life, and even though it is closed, you are still there, always in my heart, not forgotten.