Friday, June 20, 2014

Conversations With Trees

California Oak
It is said we don't stop and smell the roses often enough. I believe we don't stop and listen to them enough, or listen to Nature.

I am not a religious man, but a spiritual one. Nature is part of my spirituality which makes Mother Earth my church. A while back I was very upset with someone and not knowing what to do, I went on a hike in my church. My local chapel is a park in the Santa Monica mountains along the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley. While hiking there along my usual trail and musing on what I should do about my anger, I passed through a grove of California oaks. Immediately upon entering the grove, the answer came to me, "Stand your ground. We do." I knew instinctively what they meant.

I now refer to the grove as the Temple of the Oaks. I have been a couple more times since.

More recently, I had been in a funk for sometime and knew what I needed to do. 

I went to Temple. 

Once there, I looked for a safe spot on the ground to sit where I could meditate and connect with the Oaks. I had to be careful because this grove grows near a creek and where there's water and oak trees, there is often that other oak, the poisonous kind and yes, it is present in my Temple. And this also being a  wilderness area, other creatures abound. 

On various hikes, I have seen coyotes, ground squirrels, a doe and Western Fence Lizards in addition to various birds; scrub jays, crows and the occasional Red-Tailed Hawk circling overhead. Signs warning of rattlesnakes are posted on the bulletin boards at the park entrances, and the nature center, though I have yet to see one in this park.

As I entered the Temple this time, I was reminded of my inner strength which I often overlook and to remain grounded in my reality, the here and the now. After all, aren't trees?

Once seated, I closed my eyes and immediately felt the presence of a rattlesnake in my lap. Okay, not the physical presence, but a spiritual one. One of my spirit guides is Snake, an anaconda to be precise. So, why a rattlesnake in this meditation? Simple, I was in his domain. Anacondas are not native to the US, let alone the Santa Monica Mountains. Rattlesnakes are. 

As Rattlesnake was slithering into my lap, I received this message, "All this pain is part of your growth, you need to shed the skin of your old self to continue growing. Come on, I'm here, let's start." As I began to envision myself slowly shedding the old me away, I heard rustling in the bushes behind me. Coming out of the meditation, I turned, saw nothing, and decided I would meditate further with Rattlesnake at home, not necessarily because it was safer, but because the trance had been broken. 

Broken Concrete
I decided to continue walking in the park, into areas I had recently begun to explore, as I usually went to one or two particular spots to meditate, and I had brought my camera and wanted to take some photographs. While walking along a trail, I saw a pile of broken concrete reminding me of some bizarre landscape; a foreign desert or a strange distant world. The impression it left on me was that anything human-made could be broken. 

I immediately connected to my fears. My fears can be broken. They are human-made, are they not? Did I not make them?

I continued on, and eventually came upon a solitary picnic table under a tall evergreen tree. 

"Please come sit a while."

I did.

"Thank you for sitting."

"Thank you for inviting me. May I take your picture?"

"Yes. But I look much better in color, not black and white."


"Why are you in such a hurry to meet someone?"

"I'm not."

"Oh, really?" (I didn't realize trees could be sarcastic.) "Did you not think the two gentlemen you glimpsed along the trails might be someone coming into your life? The one that later had a family with him and the one with the two dogs?"

Guiltily, I answered, "Yes. But I believe I'll meet him through some chance encounter. Some friends have agreed with me."

"Perhaps you will. But, your friends have done you a disservice, not because they agree with you, or that they share their love and thoughts for you; they do have your best interests at heart. But because you then focus on what they have said. Focus on knowing and being yourself, not on what they say."

"I understand."

"And there's more to your hurry, isn't there?"

"Yes. I'm not getting any younger. And I am tired of being alone. Four years is a long time."

"Time and age are irrelevant. I did not get this tall overnight. There is nothing wrong with being alone. But, first you must learn to enjoy being alone, unless you don't want to learn the lesson from your past. Did you not feel alone within your last relationship? Did you not settle for less than what you deserve? Again, I say time is irrelevant."

"I understand."

"Please be patient. Remember Rattlesnake's message, 'Shed the old.' And what did the Oaks tell you before?"

"To stand my ground?"

"No, the other message."

"He is coming?"

"Indeed he is."

I sighed. "Thank you. May I ask one last question?"


"May I take one picture in black and white? I love the texture of your trunk. I think it would make a great shot."

"Yes. Go ahead." (I could swear he giggled.)

"Thank you for everything." And I placed my hand gratefully on his trunk.

"Thank you for listening, please come back. And call on me when you need to."

I will.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pride 2014

Disclaimer, Preface, Preamble, whatever. Please note: The judgements and projections contained within are mine, all mine and no one else's but mine. I own them, admit to them and hope to overcome them.

Sometime soon.

I went to Pride this year.

I ended up feeling very depressed.

Please don't misunderstand, I am proud of who I am and all facets of me, though the constant negative barrage of the media can be disheartening. And lately it is targeting teachers, but that's a different post for a different day.

Perhaps the latest dating mishap and subsequent realization of a long single summer ahead had a lot to do with my mood.

Perhaps a lot of my own personal growth and awakening to self had a lot to do with my mood at Pride.

Perhaps I think too much.

I also want to interject that I went to the Parade and Festival in character for a novel I'm working on. The character is an impartial visitor to this world and is trying to understand the gay community, as it is new to him as it doesn't exist where he comes from. And I was trying to see it through his eyes, which, in a way, are also mine, as I'm coming back into the community after some years away from it, and coming back into myself after my divorce.

Perhaps, it's a bit of all of the above.

I went to the Pride parade and festival alone, for the second year in a row, though last year, I marched with an organization. This year they didn't march, and over the past year, they didn't have any gatherings for me to participate in. Oh, well. It wasn't meant to be.

I found a stretch of grass on the median of Santa Monica Boulevard next to three women. I didn't choose the spot because women were sitting there, I chose it because it was empty, and I anticipated it might be shaded later. (I anticipated incorrectly.)

We conversed on and off while waiting for the beginning of the parade, one of the women was stationed at a nearby Marine Corps base and one of the other two drove in from Riverside.  I never did speak much with the third.
Dykes on Bikes, the traditional start of the Pride Parade

Followed by Boys on Bikes! (First time I'd seen them in a parade.)

They wondered why I came by myself. I simply said none of my friends were available to make the trip. For the rest of the parade we had great conversations, covered a range of topics from teaching (they admitted to being brats in school), literature (one was a Harry Potter fanatic, one had read my favorite Chicano novel- Bless Me, Ultima, by Rodolfo Anaya. I told her to watch the movie.)

A float for one of the bars came by, and honestly I can't remember which bar. And no, I didn't get a picture. And here is where the depression began. Or, intensified.

On this float were several attractive YOUNG men. Okay, boys. Twinks, actually, as I doubt none of them was over twenty-five years old. They were dancing in their Andrew Christians, and nothing else except shoes and sunscreen. And it was quite obvious which ones might have been Jewish, as I could make out the outline of every part of their packages due to the thinness of the material. And some of them turned around and presented a different part of their anatomy. Needless to say, the men in the crowd roared with approval.

While I did see the attractiveness of their worked out bodies and youthful faces, I was saddened by the fact they may only see their bodies as their greatest asset.

I later saw a contingent of older men, decked out in leather, carrying other accoutrements common in the Leather/BDSM community; handcuffs, whips, chains, leashes. And I came to the same judgement. Is that only how they see themselves?

I hope not.

As I have come to try and understand myself, I have come to believe there are four distinct parts that complete us; mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. I have also come to learn that ignoring one part of the four can lead to an imbalance of self, which in turn could lead to complications; illnesses of the body or mind, and/or emotional/spiritual issues.

But, this is not my place to try and understand others, only myself.

And perhaps, that's the problem.

I don't, yet.

Perhaps there's so much I'm looking at, I'm losing my focus.

One thing I know, I've always been sensitive to others' pain. Once, one of my dog's kneecaps slipped out of place, and began yelping in pain. My ex-husband frantically called our vet and while I tried my best to assist my dog, I began to feel very faint and nearly passed out. I've actually gone into shock over violent acts depicted on television which my logical mind knew wasn't real, but I could not suspend emotional belief from what I was seeing on the screen. Perhaps, now I'm tapping into other's emotional pain as well. A friend once suggested I was an empath as I would call her and ask "What's wrong?" without saying hello.

And now with my spiritual awakening to Shamanism, maybe that's my calling; healing.

After the parade ended, I felt physically drained, with a heaviness in my heart. Perhaps it was just my mood at the time, perhaps it was the judgements I was passing, (as hard as I tried not to) but I kept coming back to my question, "Do these people not see they have a mind, a heart, a soul?" It's true I don't know if they do or don't see their minds, hearts, or souls; and some of them may indeed see and honor the other parts of themselves.

I did see elements of the other components in the parade; volunteer service, recreational and professional organizations for people to nurture those other parts of their authentic selves. 

Many straight people complain about/question the need for LGBT pride month, and other ethnic pride/heritage months as well. Let's look at history. Briefly. For centuries, LGBTQ people have been persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, murdered. We have been disowned by our families of origin, our churches, our societies. We carry those hurts within us. We may overcome them, but do we really? Even after years of therapy, could there still be the possibility of some teeny tiny grain of our own self-inflicted homophobia still deeply buried in there somewhere preventing us from fully integrating body, mind, heart and soul, to be fully able to appreciate a fully integrated self?

I don't know.

After all, I can only walk my own path and no one else's and no one else can walk mine.

And, I'm still walking.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer's Here!

With summer break finally here, I'm preparing my summer to do list:

  • Relax!
    • Teaching is hard work. I'm standing "on stage" for 6 hours trying to ground 30 live wires, after having planned my lessons, anticipating what they might ask, guiding them in the direction I need them to go to make the necessary connections for the lesson to succeed, while putting out behavior problems, attending to first aid/health issues, and the occasional intruder; no, not the principal, but the latest ant invasion, a spider or cockroach. And after all that, I need to grade the students' work, reflect on each lesson. And somewhere in there I need tend to myself, my house and yard. I see a lot of meditation and/or napping.
  • Spirituality
    • Above all, or integrated throughout, I want need to delve deeper into my spirituality. I plan on visiting the Temple of the Oaks somewhat regularly to connect with Mother Earth and my Spirit Guides, which would tie in to relaxing.
  • Write
    • I have several ideas running around in my head, often colliding with each other like giant marbles in a pin ball machine. I need to get them out of there so others can grow. The current work-in-progress is driving me crazy, but I am getting some wonderfully supportive feedback from my writers' group. So, I am planning on blitzing this latest work!!
  • Read
    • To improve my writing, I need to be reading more, and as a teacher I need to know what books my students should be reading and find interesting titles for them. Plus, my To Be Read piles, both the physical and electronic one, are building. So, I will be balancing my reading with some fiction, some non-fiction on writing and personal growth, and some children's books. Teaching never ends.
  • Seriously clean the house
    My Office!
    • I took out a pair of pants the other day and realized I really need to clean my closet. Not clean it out, though I probably could go through my clothes and cull the herd a bit, but CLEAN the closet as the dust bunnies were positively menacing. And I might as well clean the other closets as well.
    • And the windows, inside and outside. All of them; upstairs, too.
    • My office needs serious decluttering, again. And this time I intend to purge a lot!!
    • Somewhere in this house is my cat's collar. As she was an indoor cat, she never wore one after a while. She always had one, in the event she did get out, but at some point I took it off her and put it someplace safe. So safe in fact, I don't remember where. Without it, I can't complete her shadowbox. Which is something else on my to do list: begin her shadowbox. Perhaps her collar is in my office. Or a closet. Or a drawer.
    • The kitchen needs a thorough cleaning. See below:
  • Seriously contemplate painting the kitchen
    Living Room toward entryway
    • When I bought my house eleven years ago (gasp! it's been that long) it was brand new construction. We moved in with all white walls. The only white remaining now, other than interior closets, is the kitchen. The living room/dining room/kitchen is one large L-shaped room, very open. There is a peninsula separating the kitchen from the dining room, and the sudden stoppage, or starting, of the kitchen cabinets is the only other actual demarcation between the two rooms. We painted the living and dining rooms a beautiful cranberry color with dark lavendar, and port accents. The only windows in these rooms all face west, so there is no nice morning light, only bright afternoon setting sunlight.  The colors seriously darkened the rooms and especially in winter when the sun sets behind the two story house behind mine at around 3:00 PM, it's quite dark downstairs. So, for some brightness, we left the kitchen white, but stencilled some grapes on the soffet, for decorative effect. I think it's time to paint the kitchen to match the rest of the downstairs. (And, yes, it would be another step to make the house more mine.) The decision to paint will depend on finances. Perhaps some pricing is in order, as I still have most of the supplies from when we painted before.
  •  Dining room and kitchen 
  • Other household up-dos
    • I'm tired of the hideous vertical blinds in the dining room and my bedroom. I'm looking at some options, but again, finances.
    • I have several naked walls that need 'something' but I don't know what. One of the ideas I got from one of the many home decorating shows my ex watched ad nauseum was that art doesn't have to be a Rembrandt or a Dali. It can be personal. So, I have a couple of ideas from a traveling art teacher who visited my class. 
    • My dishwasher leaks, but my hands don't. So, that can wait. 
    • Deep clean the carpets; after two dogs and two cats, I think no explanation is necessary.
  • Garden
    • I need to tend to my garden. As I no longer have any dogs, and no current plans to get one, I am questioning the need for a lawn. California is in a serious drought, and I would prefer to have some more drought tolerant, California native plants in place of the lawn. 
    • The Crepe Myrtle in the front garden needs some serious pruning, or total removal, as it interferes with the neighbors' satellite dish.
    • My work yard needs some heavy duty cleaning due to the pigeons who roost on my roof. Where can I get a few hawks?
  • Health
    • I am in good health, and plan to stay that way. I'm looking at ways to begin eating more healthy and beginning some exercise routine that could easily adapt to the new school year.
  • Have fun!
    • I enjoy photography. I like taking pictures of something that catches my eye, being something in nature, an odd part of a building, lights and shadows, strangely dressed people and in Los Angeles they are not hard to find. It also allows me to get out of the house and explore parts of the city.
    • Part of having fun and relaxing, is also just getting out of the house. I have joined a social club and plan on partaking of some of their activities, but there activities can be expensive, so it will depend on finances. Or, just getting out and going somewhere on my own, perhaps finding a place to sit and write, like Greystone Park in Beverly Hills, or a beach and let the sound of the waves lull me into a relaxed state. Yet, all this will depend on finances.
I realize I brought up finances a lot and naturally any and all plans do depend on a household budget. I received some mixed news earlier this month. My house was reassessed. And while the value went up (a good thing), so will the property taxes (a less than good thing), and with the reassessment, the house has been revalued above what I owe, (a very good thing). But, as my loan is not impounded for the taxes, I will need to hide money away, and as I won't know the amount of the taxes for another four months, it will be difficult to gauge what I can afford to do over the summer. I do know I won't have a huge fuel bill over the summer as I won't be commuting to work five days a week. I will continue to take public transport as much as I can, (I sometimes use the other passengers for character inspiration). So, my summer budget is a bit in flux as there are a couple of variables in play.

Whew! This list is exhausting and only two days ago (as of this writing) was my last day at work. Many of these projects don't have to be completed by the time I return August 7. That's only two months from today!  Not everything needs to, nor should it, be crossed off this list. I will need to prioritize and see what happens. Some projects are naturally on going, and many can be combined. I can get out of the house and write, while having my camera ready.
And with that, I will sign off for now, as I have so much to do.
But, where to begin?

I think I'll make some coffee and mull it over.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


I've discussed my multiple personality disorder before. 
Sometimes, I'm a teacher, or a male, or a gay person. Sometimes I'm a gay male teacher who writes, or a gay male writer who teaches. And only one of those may change with retirement, but the persona of being a teacher for thirty-plus years will be ingrained in me.

After a long day teaching, I come home and face the chores of being a homeowner. In spite of my grousing about the chores and financial responsibility, I don't want to go back to renting. So, that won't change.

But, I'm always single and at midlife. And one of these will change and one might. I will grow older. I might remain single the rest of my life. The possibility does exist as the gay male community can be very superficial, with ageism being a very large part of that superficiality.

Yet, as I'm entering the dating/social arena, I find a couple more personalities have surfaced leaving me more confused than before.

A while back, a seemingly nice guy asked me for a possible date. Someone I shared this nice bit of news described me as "giddy" and it's true. I felt giddy as a school boy whose crush just asked him to the prom. As I have begun confronting the realities of dating, I have discovered, it's all new to me. I'm not sure I even understood it back then, in the 1980's when I first started gaily dating.  I feel like; no, I am the awkward teenager just learning to date and beginning to understand what the secret codes men use actually mean. "Let's get together soon," means "I really don't see a future in even our hanging together (I just don't have the courage to be honest enough to tell you directly)." But, enough of that. Many awkward teenagers can't count the years to retirement on two hands, let alone be thinking of it. And this is what's adding to my own confusion.
Over the almost four years since my divorce I have discovered one thing about my past relationships. I surrendered so much of myself, I no longer know who I am; what do I like and not like? what do I want and not want in a relationship? But, I have come to understand one thing:

I am a 56 year old teenager when it comes to dating.

Minus the excessive libido.

So, how can I know what I'm looking for, when I don't even know who I am?

And is it fair to drag someone else through this mire of confusion when I'm trudging through it myself? 

While I tell myself it's okay to be confused, after all, I never expected to be dating again after I met my now ex-husband, it still is overwhelming and at times, it hurts.

What hurts is the thought of rejection. These men who have decided not to date, or even pursue a platonic friendship with me, (i.e., reject me) do not know who they are rejecting, so it is more of a reflection on where they are in their lives. I can accept that, mentally. Emotionally, it is a bit harder.

I think because for many years, I have been rejected. Rejected by society, by my church, by family, by friends, and ultimately, by myself. I say by myself, because in reality, only two family members actually rejected me when I came out. I didn't lose any real friends, my coworkers didn't care I was gay, so much of the perceived rejection was in my mind. Society has rejected me as I see anti-gay hate crimes across the media. School society rejected me by calling me names, taunting me, bullying me.

So, dating has taken me back to high school when I didn't even date then. I wasn't out then and not really in the popular crowd, as I was a loner, changing high schools every year. 

As I learn to navigate the dating rapids, I must also realize that gay dating is a bit different than non-gay dating. Sort of. Men tend to react to the physical first, the emotional later. So, we both have to think the other is hot, then we have to decide if we even like each other. Sounds a bit backwards to me. Yet, since I am at midlife, and not looking to be a "daddy" for the third time, I must accept I am not a teenager who happens to have a full gray beard. (Hmm. Maybe I should shave it?) Dating at midlife is different than dating in your teens, twenties, or even thirties, with the exception that many guys in all age groups are expecting, or seriously hoping to have sex on the first date. Older men may have children and/or grandchildren in the picture. Do I want to become an instant step(grand)parent? (I realize I'm putting the cart before the horse, but it is a reality I may have to face.) Men my age may have more of a possibility of being HIV+ because less was known in the 80's about transmission, diagnosis, and treatment. (I will need to decide on dating the man, not the diagnosis.) Men my age have worked long and hard for their financial security, and are looking for someone who has as well, not someone looking for support. (A lot of my financial security was eroded post-divorce as I learned to juggle the budget.) And many men my age are not looking to date men my age because we older men have more baggage to overcome as we've collected more emotional souvenirs from our past relationships. (I come with full steamer trunks.)

So, the odds aren't necessarily in my favor. I've come to terms with that. 

That doesn't stop the giddy teenager from giggling and getting goosebumps when an nice, attractive guy asks me out. 

Nor, does it stop the hopeful romantic from wishing it would blossom into something special. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My Bowl

I love this bowl. I love it for its color, it's shape and it's utility. 

You see, it's full. 

It's full of all the damns, shits, fucks and rat's asses I have left to give regarding dating.

It's completely full.


I'm so fucking tired of meeting nice, interesting men who seem sincere but fail to follow through on wanting to pursue anything beyond a quick cup of coffee all the while suggesting something of maybe a platonic friendship. And when I suggest a follow up get-together suddenly  they can't seem to find or make the time.

"I'd love to join you, but I'll be in Chicago that weekend." (Subsequent Facebook posts during said weekend showed he was still 15 miles from me in Los Angeles! Plus, he never got back to me on a follow-up date. Did he lie outright or was it a convenient way to avoid being direct?)

In the future when I hear the words, "Let's go out, sometime," or "I'll be in touch soon," I won't take him seriously. 

I'm serious.

Until his actions begin to match his words. 

If they ever do. 

I accept the fact I take people at their word. When people, and not just gay men, have said we'd get together soon, I believed them, and waited. And waited.

I've waited so long I'm beginning to have trust issues which is why I no longer have a damn, a shit, a fuck or a rat's ass to give. Anymore.

Perhaps that was my mistake. Trusting them all too soon. Yet, this also happens with friends, and the difference here is I know them and I know their life. Many of my friends have spouses and children, all of which take precedence over me when things come up. Life is a given. It happens.

But, when it's a 'dating' opportunity or the chance to simply make a new friend, I seem to attach more to the wording than is warranted. Perhaps it's the newness of the situation. 

I will own the fact I've done it myself. On a recent walking meditation, I happened to cross paths with a single male hiker, who seemed to be looking for more than inspiration at this nature site. After a brief conversation I asked him for his phone number suggesting we go out soon. 

Three months later I have not called him. Upon reflecting, would I really want to go out with someone I met while he was possibly looking for a quickie in the bushes? No. Yet, why did I ask for his number? Spontaneous decision? Perhaps. Loneliness? Definitely. Sex? Meh. 

The biggest difference here is that this was a chance meeting, the others were all planned, either via a social gathering, online site or some other contact. We'd had some sort of discussion or conversation prior to actually meeting.

Maybe the other men were sincere in their wanting to meet sometime soon in the somewhat distant future and/or maybe later discovered their social circle was already so full they couldn't fit one more person into it. And they walked away without letting me know. Perhaps they thought it was easiest.

Either way, their indirectness is very frustrating and hurtful.
I also want to recognize my over-intellectualizing (I like that better than 'trusting') what they actually said, may have had a bit to do with why I'm feeling so jaded.

And, I'm tired of that, too.


I am not in the mood to go dating for a while. Yet, the only way to overcome this habit of mine is to get back out there. It's a Catch-22.

But, I want to recover from this latest fracas as a good way to take care of myself.

As I shared this latest misadventure with a friend, she took my hand, calmly looked me in the eye, and said, "Darling, when were you last actively dating?"

"You mean back in the Pleistocene epoch?"

"So, this is all new to you?"


I also shared this episode with a counselor of mine, but before he opened his mouth, I interrupted, "Yes, I said those exact words after the last dating catastrophe! I openly admit it."

He calmly smiled.

And, I'll probably say them again once or twice more before I finally meet someone who'll say, "Jeff, I do want to see you again. How does next weekend work?"

"Fine," I'll say.

And then I'll faint at his directness because I won't be expecting it.

And then I'll give him extra brownie points when I recover.

 And I'll try not to think about the upcoming weekend.