I’ve been struggling with a bout of depression. I have been more and more open about this and I am finding that I am not alone, or not nearly as alone as I thought I was. These are troubling times, so I am turning to writing, journaling, playing and praying as a way to adapt. I’m scrapping my old website and creating this new blog space. Here is something I found from days long gone. I hope you find something in this too.
Holidays, 1995- Original post date, January 2001. It’s now 01-16-2020- I can barely fathom that these words are 25 years old. They are older than most of my employees. The are older than my relationship with my husband and yet they are salient and more true today as we witness climate change denial and Australians suffer through unspeakable tragedy.
Speaking of tragedy, I am turning 50 (FUCK!!!) and have been reflecting on what that means to me. Gay men of my age lived through a holocaust. Back then I didn’t think I’d live this long or that living this long was worth living. 20 somethings today face a similar (and seemingly insurmountable) set of challenges. I offer the idea that the fight I fought was worth fighting and the life that we live in our struggles is worth living. We can effect change. I am now twice the age of when I first wrote this and the younger me therein gives me hope here today.
Lechiam! With only a week before Christmas, I have been struggling to get this letter out of my head and onto paper as I am desperately late on sending out my Holiday greetings. The task has been made all the more daunting because I’ve received some charming letters and well as some extremely thoughtful cards. I am also painfully aware that no one is interested in reading a one-sheet summary of my life during 1995.
AND, 1995 has been a year that is somewhat difficult to summarize. I’m still gainfully employed as an AIDS educator with Catholic Charities and more or less love it. My professional highlight for 1995 would most likely be that I was able to present the AIDS Education program at a couple of national Conferences. Small potatoes, but it felt good and gave me the opportunity to see Chicago. In May I found an apartment and with the help of some wonderful friends was able to move into my very first apartment by myself! The challenge as of late has mostly been to figure out who I want to be and what I want to do when I grow up. Oddly, however, the students tell me that I am grown up! So, like everyone else, it seems that I am struggling to find my niche.
A highlight for the year came on October 15 at the “Humboldt County, Avenue of the Giants” marathon (just shy of the Oregon border). I’ve run two marathons this year and this one is most significant because of the circumstances that surrounded it. You see, around about the time I was getting ready to run, I also was buried in preparations for both the LSATs and GREs. I’ve resigned myself to return to school in the fall of ’97, but I’m not exactly what I’ll be studying. Also, a week prior to the run I got an early season flu, so come Sunday I was not in the best of shape, to say the least. I did finish but only for a few reasons and the most important of which is my friend Mark who volunteered with me and really made an impact with the kids. Mark died recently of AIDS, but before he did I was able to spend some time with him and at one point he asked, “Why the heck do you do all this running?” Instinctively I answered, “Because you can’t.”
While running this crazy marathon–fever and all–I decided to keep going to honor Mark and the gift of health.
Additionally motivating was the area that I ran through. The “Avenue of the Giants” is a stretch of road that runs through one of the largest and oldest reserves of giant Sequoia Redwoods. As you may have heard, this recent conservative congressional turn has opened up many previously protected areas to un-inhibited logging. This “Avenue” is one of the most beautiful places on earth and yes, unfortunately, is being threatened by political winds. Their majesty merits a bit of description, so here it goes. Please bear with me…
They are big trees. Really big. The kind of big that makes you arch your shoulders backward and your head upward as you struggle to glimpse their tops. They nestle themselves in groups generally like family and offer shelter to everything else around them. Their trunks are mostly bare and their bark almost lumpy and furry. Their tops are speckled with branches that fan out and their hand-like needles reach and blend together to provide a canopy of shade, quiet and peace. They are so well adapted that even their seeds germinate under conditions only California can provide. As fire sweeps through a Redwood grove and clears the underbrush their cones heat up and pop like corn kernels shooting their seeds into areas where the fire has already passed. The falling ash even provides a fertile bed for the new seed to begin its life. The bark, which often shows the bites of fire burns from years past, is thick enough to absorb water and insulate the tree from the flames. So, I ran this 26 miles feeling like I was going to die yet always aware that Mark would too soon be dead. And then the trees. These age-old trees, some more than 2,000 years old with their testimonials to God and life and struggles and survival, beckoned with their burns for me to finish. Often when I’m running I feel quite alone, but in the midst of these giants I felt small, insignificant and surrounded by something much greater than myself and yet oddly enough not alone. It was as if nature herself was cheering me on (as well as the other runners) and
letting me know that all of this mess in life–AIDS, grief, stress, loss, and loneliness–are but a glimpse of struggle in the joy of what life is supposed to be and what is to yet to come.
A Bumper Sticker Reads: EARTH FIRST, We’ll log the other planets later!
No, I will not end this by suggesting you write or call your senator and representative and ask that he/she oppose all logging of Giant Redwoods, however, I will suggest that life’s gifts are many and that these trees are among some of the greatest. We have no right to deprive our grandchildren’s grandchildren the trees that gave shelter to our grandmother’s grandmother. If you get a chance, spend your extra day this year (it’s a leap year) with trees and share that gift of God-life with someone else. Have a safe, peaceful and warm holiday seasons!
One thought on “Repost – Holiday Letter – 1995”