This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The importance of coffee

Fall foliage on our campus. There's so much
beauty right now it hurts to look.

Beloved likes to build the fire and have the coffee ready to hand me as I stumble in. "I have to do something that's nurturing" is her explanation. After a few minutes enough of my synapses awaken that that I thank her, and a few minutes after that I'm rattling on; it's my ten minutes a day of philosophical brilliance.

But sometimes we use the time for emoting.

Yesterday, I said, "y'know, I sometimes forget to say it, but I love you, I love you, I love you." She replied, "y'know, sometimes I can't tell where I end and you begin."

"That's what kept us together during the hard times."


Our hard times were pretty spectacular, in a sordid way; we had worked hard at our marriage but I never really made enough money and she had to work and the kids suffered from that and one of them was autistic and we had trouble with mutual respect and with intimacy and became a dysfunctional family and so one day I took something she said as permission ...

... to go and have an affair.

So it turned out, as any intelligent person would have guessed, that she didn't mean what she said literally, but then it was too late and I was invited to move out, and did, and rented a tiny quad near campus and lived there, off and on, for a year or so.

And one night she said to herself, "where is my other half?"

So she showed up, knocking on the window above my bed, past midnight.

And we sat and talked awhile, and I moved home at about three o'clock in the morning.

We agreed on some rules, though. I would live in separate quarters for a year and we would repair the respect first and then the intimacy.

I had always come over and done the mowing and the repairs, and such, and done things with the kids, but moving back in meant, among other things, that I could rejoin the morning routine.

Which meant coffee by the fire.

And I would build the fire and make coffee and serve it to her, or vice versa, but it was the sipping, facing each other in our flannel robes next to the ticking woodstove, checking in on what our days would be like, that was symbolic.

It was the trust we rebuilt in those days that gave me the courage to come out to her and, with family backing, begin my transition.

Not long after that, Beloved took over all the coffee-serving.

The day would not be a success without this ritual, I think. At least, days when we have missed it, I get by, but as one hampered by an uncollected joy.


It has been three weeks since I could get at the home place, and was really suffering from that. First, as it was a cold morning, I did a few indoor things. I steamed a batch of acorns, drained the steamer, shelled the acorns, steamed them again, and soaked them, then put them through the chopper and made a batch of dough with white and whole wheat flour, oatmeal, finely chopped acorns, chopped red bell peppers, sugar, molasses, salt, water, and yeast, and set it aside to rise. After that the fog lifted and it was glorious out, so I put on a yard dress, bandanna, and apron, and went to see what might be seen.

First up was that there was still a lot of food among the shambles of the garden. I brought down a five-gallon bucket and filled it with beanpods, both dried and green, Jerusalem artichokes, beets, and tomatoes. I took down the bean tripods, stripping off vines with a knife as I went, and piled them aside, then chopped up all the sunflowers and laid them low. Beloved had asked for the heads, but I saw that the birds had already got all the seeds, so I cut up the heads as well. I then gathered leaves off the drive and from around the apple trees, using the mower/bagger, and piled these on the garden.

The "yellow stuffer" tomatoes had not yet been hit by frost, so I pulled them up and hung them by the garage in hopes of ripening off the remaining fruit before the first hard freeze. I gathered yet another basket of apples from the McIntosh and Jonathan trees and then, as the shadows were beginning to stretch their chilly fingers across my field of play, brought everything in.

Beloved had built up the fire and was making quince sauce.

I sat by the stove with my treasures around me and sorted. The scarlet runner beans and bush beans that had dried I shelled into a basket for planting next year. Those whose pods were still green I shelled for soup. Also into the soup went some of the Jerusalem artichokes, the beets, the gleaned tomatoes, some store-bought Chinese cabbage stems. Later I would add in the pok-choi greens and the beet greens, along with a finely chopped onion. And then bake the bread.

What I miss in the midst of this kind of activity is geese.

For years we had lived in another place directly under the main Willamette flyway. The honking went on for weeks, day after day. One could sit on the roof and watch them coming in, by tens and by hundred, to swoop over the roof with an audible swish of their wings.

Here, we have seen less of them, but always a few dozen flocks a year. This year, none. I know they're around; I see them on rivers and ponds, in fields of harvested corn. But they don't appear to be leaving.

Could this be one of those global-warming signs?

I'll ask Beloved for her opinion of this in the morning.

Over coffee.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Concerning "unnatural behavior"

Of interest: "...homosexuality has been observed among 1,500 species, and ... in 500 of those it is well documented. -- British Broadcasting Corporation, reporting on an exhibition at the Olso Natural History Museum.

Anyone for a constitutional amendment mandating a flat earth?

--risa b

Monday, October 23, 2006

You are all one

Sunrise, window at the First United Methodist Church, Corvallis, Oregon

I've become obsessed with three albums by Joni Mitchell -- Ladies of the Canyon, For the Roses, and Blue. Especially Blue. Especially Carey. We have these on wax, and whenever Beloved is out, I find myself doing housework or whatever to Mitchell, turned up high for my almost nonexistent hearing -- I'm sure the neighbors are tired of this music by now -- I'm not.


Over the weekend I went to an historic Trans/Religion conference, where 175 attendees, more than half of whom were trans, attended sessions and workshops and sat down together for great meals. The opening reception was hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and everything else was at the United Methodist Church. The keynote address was given by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, considering, among other things, the nature of God as revealed in the Genesis story of creating both male and female in 'his' (unitary) image. The Sunday morning sermon was delivered by Erin Swenson (from Atlanta!), and the closing plenary address by the Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis from NCTE. These were earth-shaking events for me, but I think I felt most at home with the Shabbat service led by Eugene's own Rabbi Maurice Harris and the presentation of Call Me Malcolm, with Malcolm Himschoot himself answering questions afterwards.

I know, of course, that the very same passage used by Mollenkott is the one used by Evangelical televangelist types to justify discrimination against transfolk. They think it means 'male and female created he them' -- with God as male in a sense that makes Adam something like God, and Eve, at best, something a little like Adam. As if God, being perfectly male, were mostly just better hung than Adam.

But the same crowd is ignoring Paul, who said, 'There is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek. For you are all one ... (Galatians 3:28).

The Country Rabbi is no help to their case either, as he says: 'For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like God's angels in heaven.' (Matt. 22:30). Sounds rather like androgyny to me.

In the long run, those who insist that they are Christians, i.e. 'of the anointed one,' whom they identify as being this one and the same Country Rabbi, must surely give up persecuting others who have done them no harm, and do as he tells them to do, noting: 'Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise' (Luke 10:36-7).

The other two that had passed the man on the road were fulfilling religious requirements. Handling the bloody, beaten body by the roadside would have made them unclean (King James for unclean: abomination). The Samaritan, by definition unclean, proves himself the neighborly one, because his kindness trumps his need, if he even has one, for ritual cleanness.

And the Rabbi's favorite passage? 'But go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice."' (Matt. 12:7).

Mercy again.

The way to the eternal, he says, is through kindness, kindness again, and kindness yet again.

Why anyone would think that the way to please the Country Rabbi is treating other people, and by pushing government to treat other people like dirt, I have no idea.

Unless maybe they fell for the argument the Other Guy tried on him once! ... "I will give you all of these things, if you will fall down and worship me."' (Matt. 4:9).


Ah, well, you can't argue with that crowd. There's no heart in them.

I sat out in the sunshine at lunch today. It was chilly but bright, and I was able to convince myself I was warm. Then a stiff breeze came up. I was sitting just out of reach of the acorns raining down from one of the mighty English oaks round the quadrangle. The acorns clattered down in troops, and passersby ducked away from the sidewalk in an effort not to be pelted. I enjoyed the show, but had to shift five sections of books in the stacks before I was warm again.

For lunch, I had three apples and an acorn.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lunch Hour

Coming out of the "closet" at Pride Week.

I had meant to attend a lecture, on the semiotics of deliberate self-change to women's bodies, during my lunch hour.

But that started promptly at twelve. I was getting out time sheets under a new system and didn't get away until nearly half past.

It's obvious, for those of you who know me, or women like me, why that would be for me an interesting talk to attend. I recently made an appointment for my second annual mammogram, and on the phone the technician asked, "do you have implants?"

I don't know if she asks everyone that, but there was a bit of an edge there; it sounded like she was looking at my file and making enough of an assumption to ask.

"No, I don't."

I'm all natural, honey, or as natural as estradiol was able to make me.

But, sigh, missed the lecture, but it was beautiful out, and there was a Street Faire going on, a semiannual event, beneath the fall colors of the oaks, maples, and the like along Thirteenth Avenue across campus.

So I headed that way, but then remembered it's Pride Week. So I turned and ambled toward the student union courtyard.

There wasn't much happening. Under the regime of the Bushies, many people don't feel comfortable admitting that they were born different, it's a hide-who-you-are world right now; so events of this kind are attended by one-half to as few as one-tenth the people thay you mght have seen in the Nineties.

In fact , I didn't feel much like doing the open mike myself. Not that big a crowd; all students, with their own sense of style and their own agenda and their own language, with which I'm more and more out of touch.

But I saw the "Coming out of the Closet Door" there by the mike.

Two years ago, I went through that door and had my picture taken, but no one's ever been able to find that epochal moment for me -- mislaid, something. So I asked about a new shot and a kid in a rainbow wig said, "Sure."

I popped through, the camera went click, and the crowd -- such as it was -- applauded. Nice to feel appreciated!

And then I went shopping.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rehearsing for Thanksgiving

Today was the first time in two weeks I was able to get at the garden. First there were some complications after surgery; then there was the frenetic pace of work from the beginning of the school year (which at this university begins in the last week of September). And the dreadful round of Meetings To Save The World From Fascism has begun again. But today, for half a day, I lay about me with knife and spade, putting the year's growth on the irises and mints down as mulch, and setting out the annuals from the "pots garden" to await their inevitable demise.

There has been no hint of frost -- so I got in a basketful of tomatoes along with the inevitable bushels of apples. The Black tomatoes have outlasted the Oregon Springs, Willamettes, Early Girls, Beefsteaks, and Brandywines, and I'm quite impressed with them. The Yellow Stuffers, which look just like bell peppers, have done well, too, and don't look at all troubled by the fact that it is October.

Beloved's cousin, whom we love dearly, has retired from her job as a counselor at a retreat center and came to see us for a few days. She had stored many boxes in our garage/attic that had been shipped, ten years ago, to us for safekeeping and never opened. The two of them went through the boxes and it was a sad occassion -- quite a bit of treasured crockery had been shattered en route. But many beautiful things survived, and have been washed, and are stacked on the sideboard awaiting a better re-packing.

Mutual frinds were invited to Sunday dinner, and I made it my business to provide for all.

Saturday I baked.

Apple juice, 8 oz.; warm water, 8 oz.Add yeast. Set aside. Put a few cups of whole wheat flour and white high-gluten flour, equal proportions, in bread machine on DOUGH cycle. A spoonful of olive oil. A handful of rolled oats. You may add sugar or honey to taste, and a small handful of salt.

Cut up two small apples or one medium, taking quarters off the core and dicing them small, peelings included (these are organic apples, as is everything on the premises). Add to the flour mix. Check the yeast, which should be well fizzed up by now. Dump in all the liquid and start the machine. Add dough until lump "cleans off the sides" -- forms one ball rolling around on the paddle. Shut off machine.

Sprinkle flour on cutting board. Dump lump on board, knead into a high ball shape. Lightly grease an ironstone platter that has high sides -- say, about an inch. A pumpkin pie platter, 10" diameter, will do. set loaf in middle. Slice across top three or four times diagonally, sprinkle sesame seeds on loaf, cover with lightly oiled plastic sheet and set aside to rise. Check a few hours later. When platter is well filled, turn oven up to 325 or 350 degrees F. and put loaf in for 55 minutes (in our oven, anyway). Our bread tends to burn on the bottom and not bake through, even in the ironstone, so I use a pizza sheet as a deflector by setting it on the other shelf, just underneath the "breadpan."

After almost an hour, I test the loaf by flipping it part way out of the dish and thumping it on the belly. It either "sounds done" or it doesn't. This takes a little practice. If done, set on a cooling rack until ready to serve or bag up and refrigerate.

Oh, and remember to turn off the oven!

On Sunday, for an entree, I built a 16-inch platterful of giant thin slices of Brandywine tomato and sticks of celery, two colors of bell pepper sliced lengthwise, the third color being Yellow Stuffer tomatoes ditto, and pepper-jack cheese, all radiating from the center of the platter, where a small bowl of tofu dip formed the center. A dash of basil flakes added sophistication to the lot.

I also made a sauce, rather like an eggplantless ratatui, with steamed zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, tofu, and bok choi folded into a conventional tomato spaghetti sauce, served over rice, and steamed zucchini, steamed beets, and steamed corn as side dishes.

Aside from baking the bread, none of this was done over at the stove. With a little planning and rotation, you can do it all with a small rice steamer and a microwave.

Last Son, who is twenty-two, was also invited, and brought a bottle of beer made by Belgian Trappist monks, on which he expounded as a true connoisseur of Belgian beverages.

After this meal, which we all agreed turned out pretty well, we retired to the "playhouse," which has reverted to a kind of writer's cottage, and all sat comfortably talking "of cabbages and kings" until the sun went down and the moon rose.

Quail sat on the roof, above our heads, and cooed to one another engagingly. We had not seen them for six years, so it was lovely to have them visit on this particular occasion, adding their magic to an enchanted evening.


Beloved and Cousin have gone off to California to pester my in-laws, So I am rattling around the place alone -- when home, which is taking some doing to acheive. It's dark when I leave and dark when I arrive, so it's nice to have that Sunday dinner to look back on. I've retreated into my own room, which I can keep warm with body heat and a little space heater, without building the big fires in the dining room stove that keep the place habitable through the winter.

There I doze, or read, doing my medical bits at the same time, until it's time to go to bed properly.

Readings at present: I have several books of May Sarton's from the library. A novel: Kinds of Love. A diary, Journal of a Solitude. And some early poems. Also on the bed with me: Anna Karenina, which I'm finding slow going, and The Wind in the Willows, of which I seem to like best the scene in Badger's kitchen.

Also, interestingly, I find I'm able to pick up where I left off writing an experimental novel of my own, several years ago, when all this transitioning began in earnest. Experimental, because it's sustained book-length third-person present tense, mostly through one character's eyes.

The problem for me was that this writing began as autobiography. But I was becoming another person than the one one I was writing. So it was necessary to lay the effort aside for three years.

Recently I took another look, and realized I could pick up where I'd left off, because the main character could now be safely treated as, by me as I now am, fictional. I'm free to be me. And the chararacter is free as well. We're out of each other's hair for once. A good thing.


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