Thursday, October 14, 2010

Know Hope

this is extraordinarily powerful and speaks for itself.

IF YOU NEED HELP or want to support others click on these links:

For LGBTQ people, parents, families, friends, allies needing ongoing friendly support or wanting to give it to others: PFLAG's homepage; find your local PFLAG chapter here

spread the word, spread the love, spread the justice


Friday, October 08, 2010

highly recommended, the map of faith

click here for the map of faith - a piece curated by my dear friend cheryl lawrie over at
[hold :: this space]

to my mind and heart this is one of the most breathtakingly simple, yet deeply evocative and beautiful pieces of theopoetic art i've seen in... well, a very long time.

i know i'll be returning to it again and again. definitely one for the wall. 


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

the breadcrumb trail, or redux, remix, remember

-- if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
-- if I am without love, I am nothing.  
-- if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

- from 1Corinthians 13:1-3, The Jerusalem Bible

First, an update on the previous post. I went to the US embassy yesterday. It was a very strange experience that left me facing the harsher realities of my own privileges... of race, nationality, gender, religion, language, education, wealth... both Joel and I were very mindful last night that we are being afforded an opportunity others are not. I witnessed two people being turned away. It's not something I've been wanting to dwell on too much today, as yesterday it made for some mixed emotions that were very hard to reconcile. I was so relieved but my heart felt heavy. Yet it's also something I don't want to forget and I have no doubt that we will return to it down the road. Over the weekend Joel and I got chatting about a potential art project I'm thinking I might work on once I'm settled. Right now it's just embryonic ideas bouncing around but it might offer some space and opportunity to process and express what yesterday provoked in me.

Anyhow, the big news is my own application was successful and the embassy now has my passport and I expect it back sometime in the next week, accompanied by a visa permitting me to enter the US and marry Joel. I plan on emigrating to Nashville in mid-November.
I am delighted. Truly. And totally exhausted. I'm collapsed on cloud nine in a heap. So this is a day of rest and no small measure of gratitude for some peace and pause amidst all the excitement and busyness.

And so, with Nashville now so close, and in need of rest, it's seems appropriate and timely that this is something of an update on an even older post...

Back in July, I traced here some events of the past few years... of how the friendship of Pádraig and an old Irish phrase led to a little handmade Christmas card which became a tattoo which became musical collaboration and spoken reflection and then more recently the phrase became a post by Pádraig on Speaking of Faith which became a tweet...
that one simple phrase just keeps slowly and carefully weaving back and forth and being passed on from person to person. It keeps inspiring as it moves and being mixed with other themes along the way, as all the best words are and can be, so that it finds new deep meaning to each person who holds it. And well... that brings us to today.

Charlie and Stephen, who played so tenderly back in Oct '08, are in a band called Jars of Clay. Last Christmas Stephen mentioned to me that he'd been really inspired by that old Irish phrase and he'd been thinking about it a lot. So much so he and his band-mates were developing a new project called The Shelter. A couple of weeks later he burned me a CD with some initial recordings on it including the title track. I was a bit lost for words. August rolls round and I'm hearing it performed live at greenbelt with the audience singing along. I was even more lost for words. The title track is something quite beautiful.

Today the band's new project is launched... to the list of incarnations, this one line of Irish wisdom has now become an album...

As I said back in Oct '08, I believe art, like community, is akin to the hare's corner, a traditional patch of long grass left uncut to shelter the hare at harvest time and also to the small places in Ireland that are keeping the Irish language alive in all its beauty. What we create as artists and who we are as community can both I believe be shelter to one another from the reaper's blade... from the storm. 

So, here's a whole new path opening up off that breadcrumb trail... what these four humans offer here in this short video is really tender and beautiful and I have no doubt they are going to inspire many with what they share. I certainly hope so. Who knows where others might take it, how they'll remix it, what other paths will open up in other places...

I wish them well in this. This is an exciting day for them and likely a daunting one - it always is when you're putting out into the world something you've poured yourself into - it's a vulnerable act. But its theme also seems very linked up with their commitment to causes close to their hearts. I'm not sure if I ever got around to mentioning it here but I wrote a piece for Speaking of Faith's  Being's blog about greenbelt, which was an incredibly humbling honor. The show has been such a source of enrichment for me and so many people I know these past few years. Just this morning Joel was mentioning his favourite episode and how valuable it is to have the opportunity to hear and learn from such a diversity of voices & perspectives. I got to meet Steve's band-mate Dan for the first time at the festival and he offered a really positive contribution through a panel discussion on musicians and social activism. I incorporated some of his thoughts into the piece as I found it really insightful and encouraging for anyone interested in both creativity and social justice. 

We need each other, and we can each be shelter to another human in any moment where we choose to be truly present to the other. What is presence? It's patience, kindness, it doesn't judge, it listens with humility, compassion... it's Justice.. it's Love  - and heaven knows there are days when one has to wonder if any of these has any currency left in this world. Being present, being shelter to others is for me what the currency of being uncool is all about. May I keep trying harder every day to embody it just a little better... which is why it was worth tattooing - because I want to be constantly mindful of what matters most in this messy sacred journey of being human.

Here's to the audacity of truth's persistence and the constancy of what matters most... May these words keep passing from soul to soul and may we hold their message always at the centre of our becoming-community and be their embodiment, so that we may be a 'welcome' for every stranger we meet.

This is a link to the band's site where you'll find more about the album. I look forward to hearing the whole thing. If you scroll down on this page and you'll see some reflections on the theme of The Shelter, including some as-always incredibly beautiful words from Pádraig, without whom this little trail would never have begun...

in these moments, Ireland and Nashville don't seem so far apart.



Sunday, October 03, 2010

the soul was not meant for systems

it's been several weeks since i've written anything. all is well (relatively) but the last 3 weeks have been busy and a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

shortly after my last post i had my medical for my visa. it went well and i immediately put in a request for an interview at the embassy. i didn't expect to hear anything for many weeks. 2 days later i got a call saying there had been cancellations at the immigration unit and would i be available for an interview on the 4th october. i said yes. but that's meant me suddenly needing to get my moving plans into some kind of action but with no guarantee of when that will actually happen. we've been pencilling in potential travel dates and wedding dates and researching shipping arrangements and completing yet more forms.

the K-1Fiance(e) Visa is technically speaking a non-immigrant visa but is processed as if it were an immigrant visa. in short, this makes for a very confusing process. i can honestly say i have no idea if i have everything in order for tomorrow. i hope i have, but the information i have been given is contradictory and confusing to say the least. my best guess is that i've been sent documents by the embassy that are out of date and don't apply to the kind of visa i am seeking. trying to interpret what i was sent and reconcile them with the instructions on the embassy website has been a labyrinthine nightmare. dad, joel and i have spent hours trying to make sense of it all. it's been emotionally exhausting...

so, with a pile of things i'd like to be writing about stacking up i've had little mental or emotional energy to do anything more than keep in touch with a few folks via twitter. i've tried writing several times but it's just not in me at the moment. but i hope to come back to some themes in due course.

today will be spent trying to get my pile of documents ready for the interview at the embassy and staying as calm as i possibly can. tomorrow genuinely can be classed as one of the most important days of my life without any hyperbole and this interview the most terrifying by far.

in a little over 24 hours we will either be ecstatically happy and booking flights to the US and confirming our wedding date with the church or we'll very disappointed and having to wait for who knows how long til my application meets all the requirements. i hope beyond hope in that eventuality the delay will only be a few weeks. i know others have thought they had crossed ever t and dotted every i and then faced delays they never saw coming. despite keeping all our plans very provisional and tentative til after the interview, i've started packing up by belongings, giving stuff away to charity and organise the belongings i plan to ship to Nashville. i am surrounded by boxes. it's been chaos in the flat the past couple of weeks.

so naturally enough there's been a lot of uncertainty and unknowns. please G-d by tomorrow afternoon we'll have a clearer sense of when i'll be able to move and can make firm plans. skype is great and i am truly grateful for having access to the technology that means i can see Joel for several hours a day. but when one is feeling anxious and stressed one feels the distance of not being able to just sit side by side and feel the comfort of the other's physical presence.

it's odd, this process in some ways reminds me of the legal divorce process. one is dealing with a system that is not interested in the emotions of a situation. it's utterly distanced from the human experience being undergone. and yet the emotions of that experience are very hard ones. in order to marry this person you have to be forcibly kept thousands of miles apart. i understand why they make this such a difficult and expensive process. i really do. it would be all to easy to abuse it and use it as either an easy way into the US or for human trafficking. i get why the system has to be dispassionate. but not a day goes by that i wish there was a sense the system had an ounce of understanding about what it is they are asking of applicants. to be separated from the very person one wants to be with and building a life with - by thousands of miles and in many cases by entire oceans and continents. it makes no difference which way you try to do this, as there are several routes one can take - months of enforced separation is unavoidable.
it makes me realise the humanity in the Canadian rule that families should not be separated by immigration processes. this process has been a very different one to that which my brother went through when he married Miriam and moved to Toronto. there were long hard months where he could not work and was waiting to hear from the powers that be but he was able to be legally there in Toronto with her the whole time before and after they were married until his case was processed. i know there are good reasons why this process is different and i feel no ill will for that stricter process, as it potentially protects human rights of others who are far more vulnerable, particularly women, but i also think there is a human cost to keeping families apart that is all too easily overlooked... and both joel and i have since we got together understood ourselves to be nothing less than a family.

and while i consider ours to be a little sorrow compared to what others are going through at the moment, and i am very mindful that same sex couples don't even have the right to this immigration process that is available to us, the constant state of stasis has weighed heavy on some days. i want to be strong for joel, who is incredibly busy with work at the moment. i want to be strong for my dad and my step mother who have been through the mill these past six months with her illness. although that situation is really improving and that is a huge relief to us all. but am also aware that this is me planning to move 4,000 miles. it will be hard to say goodbye. and we're all mindful of that.

so, i don't want to be complaining, and i want to keep things in right perspective. but that's the reason for my silence on here of late. the one thing i can say is Love is certain. and that is our strength right now. and i do believe that this process will prove to make us stronger as a team in life rather than weaker. we've had to pull together across the miles and remain firmly focused on our togetherness and having no emotional distance between us. we're learning good lessons together and learning how we each process and react to external stresses and things not in our control. and i'm glad to say that although there have been some tears, we've never once argued about it and have stuck firmly together. i am deeply grateful for that. i know Joel has had to experience moments with me feeling completely overwhelmed by the lack of control the circumstances create and his ability to transcend physical distance and connect is a gift beyond measure. i have experienced deep Love in those moments.

i hope that from tomorrow i will no longer be responding to the questions, 'so when are you emigrating and when are you getting married?' with 'i don't know...' - i'm so ready for this limbo to be over...

right, i've some vital final preparations and errands to run. better get to it.

i hope this finds you well and getting what you need wherever you are.