Monthly Archives: October 2013

Aging is a process. Of course. And like any life process, there are aspects we like and others that bother and surprise.

Image

I only had one!

I had a delightful 67th birthday yesterday–hearing from family, leafletting for Obamacare on Cary Street (politics never leaves my blood), a Reiki session with JR Adams, dinner with Jonathan (in his office so we could do the next thing), laughing my way through a fabulous performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Richmond Triangle Players, a delicious gluten-free cupcake and Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia” frozen yogurt, and the gift from Jonathan of a volume of poetry by Mark Nepo, Surviving Has Made Me Crazy. And somewhere around 200 of my Facebook friends–folks from my youth in Michigan, and in Virginia, and all the other places I have lived, and some folks from far away–shared good wishes (one of the joys of Facebook and other social media).

What’s not to like about all that? And oh yes, tossing the ball with Cocoa and feeling his delight–and in some ways, the true high point: being sung to by my 2-year-old granddaughter, Juna, and her beautiful parents, on FaceTime on the iPhone!

Juna and Papa

Juna Gorsline Knox and her adoring Papa

And later today, October 11,  the day after my birthday which always is National Coming Out Day, we drive to Williamsburg for an overnight and a daytime stroll around historic Jamestown. I am feeling very blessed.

But, the inevitable “but,” something happened yesterday that reminded me that things keep changing. The stream moves on, and sometimes, just sometimes, it does not feel good. Or right. Or at least it creates, or touches, some sadness. And offers a challenge.

I have this hat, a black fedora. I bought it years ago on West Fourth Street in the Village (that’s Greeenwich Village for non-New Yorkers and non-LGBT folks–actually, the store may have been too far east to qualify as being in the the village, but I always think of it that way). I paid $175 for it, an extravagant sum for me to spend on much of anything, let alone a hat.

But it is good quality, a Dobbs hat, and it serves me well. I wear it pretty much whenever I go out into the world from October until April or May (whenever the warmer weather feels right to trade it for a straw hat for the warmer months).

For the past two years, I have known it needed to be cleaned and blocked (shaped). This constant wear had caused it to look a bit shabby and the back was curling up rather more than I liked.

So my personal birthday present to myself was to arrange to take the hat to a shop in downtown Richmond whose sign I had seen over the years. They advertised cleaning and blocking hats.

Now you may have an inkling of the rest of the story. But here it is

I called the shop (Chic Chateau in some listings, Chic Chapeau in others) to find out their hours and to be sure of their location (I had noted a “We’ve Moved” sign in the window last year). No answer, in fact, no business message, just one of those impersonal, machine-generated “invitations” to leave my message after the tone. A woman called back a couple of hours later. “No, we don’t do that any more.”

I asked, “Do you know of another place I can take my hat?” She answered, rather curtly I felt, “No.”

Robin wearing fedoraI checked online. Lots of places sell hats–well, mostly caps with logos and pictures and the like. I like caps. I have quite a few of them. Wear them in the yard, walking with Jonathan and Cocoa, going to the fitness center. But in my 67-year-old-brain, they are not hats.

One business consistently came up in web searches as the place to call. “No, we don’t do that anymore.”

“Do you know……?’ “No, I don’t.”

It that moment, I realized something: An age has passed. A place as sophisticated as Richmond no longer seems to have a place to care for hats, real hats.

The old curmudgeon in me wants to flail about, in “high dudgeon” as my mother used to say. But really I am just sad.

I cherish my hat. I like the way I look in it. I feel a bit dashing. Yes, I have noticed that few men wear hats, at least fedoras and the like, anymore. Which makes me all the more happy to wear it. It is a trademark of Robin Gorsline. And I enjoy seeing other men in hats. We often notice each other, complement the other on his hat. It is a sort of fraternity.

So, I will find a place to care for my hat. In the meantime, I bought a brush to clean it up a bit. I realized that I am one of the few people who can see the soiled spot on the top of it–still, I care about my hat, and don’t want it to feel neglected.

So I will wear it this season, and then I will send it somewhere, in time for a good cleaning and blocking before next October 10. Somewhere in the world is a place to take care of my hat. Or maybe I will buy a cheap imitation now and send it away for “treatment.” I don’t know if I can bear that. But my hat might feel better.

An age has passed. I am a year older. So is my hat. I too could use some cleaning and blocking–that’s partly why I work out at Snap Fitness.

We, my hat and I, shall carry on, of course. I have miles to go, I hope many of them. I am just getting started.

Robin holding fedoraI want my hat to go with me, preferably cleaned and blocked. But, either way, don’t count us out. There’s plenty of life left in both of us. Surviving has made me crazy, as the poet Mark Nepo (a cancer survivor) has discovered (see reference above).

For me, and if I read Nepo correctly he would agree, it is the craziness that makes it possible to do more than survive, to thrive and change and shine and meet the challenges of living.

So I thrive. And my hat is going to thrive, too. Oh yes, my hat is going to thrive. We’re in this together.

POFEV logo for web[On September 24, POFEV: People of Faith for Equality in Virginia sponsored “Celebrating the Many Voices of LGBT Pride,” an interfaith service focused on the spiritual foundations of LGBT liberation, at Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond. A small group heard some amazing color-themed meditations by various speakers. I continue my own blog posts with some thoughts about green, and will continue to share more entries–still to come are yellow, orange and red.  Prior entries include violet, indigo, turquoise, and hot pink, colors from the original 1978 rainbow flag designed by Gilbert Baker, as well as brown, added by Alexandria Hawkins and myself, to round out a fuller rainbow.]

“Green.” That’s the one-word answer I blurted out when Rev. Pat Bumgardner of MCC New York asked me to fantasize about my future pastorate.  I had just told her that I felt called by God to abandon my plan to stay in New York and serve the Metropolitan Community Church she led there–working part-time in ministry and continuing to draw my six-figure salary at The Association of the Bar of the City of New York–and instead follow God’s lead to become a spiritual leader in a community somewhere else. Fourth_Avenue_Brooklyn_ek_2006

That was mid-November of 2002, not long after I heard God’s booming voice–as I walked down 4th Avenue in Brooklyn (picture,left) through a crowd of Latino/a worshipers on Sunday afternoon, a street about as green as the Mojave Desert–saying, “”Why are you holding out on me?” In that moment, I blurted out, “I’m sorry, God. I have been angry with you, and I realize it was not you that stopped my ministry, it was the church. I will serve you. Tell me what to do.”

james-river-road-trip-1_22324_600x450

Aerial view of part of the James River, part of the east end view of Richmond’s green

Six months later, almost to the day, I was in a plane, circling Richmond International Airport.  Wondering why we are being delayed, I looked out the window to see  . . . the most glorious green–trees everywhere, all in vibrant hues of green. I realized that God called me to green, just as I fantasized. I grew up on a tree farm in Michigan–acre upon acre of evergreens and deciduous trees, for sale to people who want to beautify their homes and businesses and communities.

I love trees. And I had surely missed them during my years living in New York. The parks are wonderful, but for me they were not enough. Sadly, however, I stayed in New York long enough to have almost forgotten my need for green. However, God rescued me, just in time.

Now I live in a green paradise–not just the east end where the airport is surrounded by forest, but our home on the south side that faces a woods cut through by a small stream and the forests not far west. Indeed, one of the most important reasons I call Virginia home is that the entire Commonwealth of Virginia is a carpet of green from east to west and south to north (with cities here and there, less green, but still not without trees). Four-leaf_Clover_Trifolium_repens_2What is it about green? I’m not Irish, and I don’t even wear much green (unless you count teal).

The psychology people say that the personality marked by green is practical, down-to-earth, with a love of nature, stable and well balanced or are striving for balance, although in seeking this balance, you can at times become unsettled and anxious; kind, generous and compassionate; good to have around during a crisis as you remain calm and take control of the situation until it is resolved; caring and nurturing to others (watch out for your own needs, though); and intelligent and a lover  of learning

And “greens” need to love and to be loved, open books who don’t hide our feelings; belong – greens are the joiners of social groups; good citizens who like to be involved in community groups; live by high moral standards; be accepted, appreciated and admired for the good we do in the community as well as in our family life. And be a loyal friend and a faithful partner, gentle but not passionate

Jonathan 2Speaking of being a loyal friend and faithful partner (and passionate!), I met Jonathan in New York, but not in the city. We met at a Radical Faerie gathering near Ellenville in upstate New York, on some rolling acres around a simple retreat center amid, yes, a lot of trees. Radical Faeries? Talk about green! Of course, Irish fairies are often pictured as green. But Radical Faeries are green in different ways. They are a loosely-affiliated worldwide network and counter-cultural movement seeking to redefine “queer consciousness”  through spirituality. According to the entry on Wikipedia, radical faeries  reject “hetero-imitation. ” The Radical Faerie movement began during the 1970s sexual revolution among gay men in the United States.

Radical Faeries 1The movement has expanded in tandem with, and at times in opposition to, the larger gay rights movement, challenging commercialism and patriarchal aspects of modern LGBT life while celebrating pagan constructs and rituals. Faeries tend to be fiercely independent, anti-establishment, and community-focused. Faerie culture is undefinable as a group; however, among Faeries you will find Marxists, feminists and pro-feminists, pagans, many who celebrate Native American and New Age spiritualities, as well as anarchists, men’s movement adherents, radical individualists, and those committed to self-actualization. Many seek an earth-based movement and sustainable community life. There are rural communities, and urban groupings.

One thing more, that mattered to me at an earlier time, and probably still does: I really enjoy, even resonate with many Faeries who bring together spiritual solemnity with a “camp” sensibility, gay liberation and drag.  When Jonathan and I met, the Faeries were almost exclusively men, but it was beginning to change even then, and today, Radical Faeries embody a wide range of genders, sexualities, and identities.

Radical Faeries 4This is the green part, or a key element in the green segment, of the what many call the LGBTQQI community–really a gaggle of loosely connected interests whose main glue is the denial by the dominant culture of our social and political freedom.

Trees and faeries. Green. The color of life. In the drive for political freedom–where I am very active through POFEV: People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and in other groups and activities, too–it is easy to push the Radical Faeries and others like them to the sidelines. They don’t necessarily help us win over Republican politicians and middle-of-the road religionists, let alone those on the Right who might be open to including “us” in the wider community of worthy people. In fact, they can hurt “our” cause by their counter-cultural behavior and attitudes.

April 2010 incl Hinton & Rally 023But who is this “we,” this “us,” if it does not include the counter-cultural ones? We are, when we exclude those who make us uncomfortable simply because they are different, a people without our whole soul.

Green grows where it will, even in the tiny cracks in my asphalt driveway.That is the Radical Faerie contribution to LGBT life: Green where we least expect it, and in forms we cannot imagine on our own.

There’s life in the green, whatever color your inner Faerie likes to wear.