I use this site to post random bits of information about my life and to experiment with WordPress so I can help others learn to use it.
In a time long ago a certain gentle man, to whom I am married, wrote a charming story for his lovely granddaughter, Julia, who was almost four-years-old. He has lovingly read it and re-read it remembering that earlier time when we all were much younger. Here it is for all, whether you are almost four, almost forty-four, or remain young enough in heart to remember the pleasure in fairy tales coming true.
Click to read Petulia’s Gift by Gordon Dunham
I have found my peace by being spiritual but not religious. I was raised in a supportive environment by parents and family who instilled values in me that may have come from a religion but are also basic human values. Primarily they were Presbyterians with a smattering of Baptists and Methodists. I attended church, Sunday Schools and youth groups. But as I grew and inquired, I found many good people in the church who had pat answers to my inquiries but were not prepared to explore the deeper issues that surrounded the questions I had. My “Why?”, “Who?”, “When?”, and “Where?” questions were met with “Because…” answers that did not delve deeply enough into the answers I was seeking.
Specific random occurrences reinforced my disappointment. After my first communion when I was less that 12-years-old I remember running down the hall shouting that “It tastes just like cake!” (It was supposed to be the body of Christ). I was hushed up and it became readily apparent that this was not acceptable behavior. At a church camp when I was a teenager there was an emotional sunset service at which we were asked to stand up and say what we were going to do with our lives. I stood up and said I was going to be a missionary in South America. I have no idea where that came from because I had never thought of it before in my life. Afterward I felt guilty about my lie and ultimately that I had been emotionally exploited. In church on Sundays I sometimes heard sermons from the pulpit that incorporated ideas that I vehemently disagreed with. I wanted to rise up and question the minister. Eventually I found excuses not to attend church.
Over time I came to know people from many religions that were different from mine or with no religion at all. They were all good people. I saw the opportunities religion offered to a few to manipulate others—Jim Jones, Salem witch trials, human sacrifice, Christian Science, forced conversion, Boston bombings, and others.
I also understand how religion can be comforting to many and a metaphor for the unknown.
It took me a while, but I have come to peace with myself and the universe. Even my family has decided I might turn out alright after all. I remain spiritual, naïve, but not religious. I am a voyager in the cosmos who is at peace and wish the same for others.
To all my LGBTQ friends and relatives: Hallelujah!
Perhaps all this was easy for me because I got to know real people who were different from me—and I liked them. They have enriched my life.
My journey from small town Iowa has been eye-opening. As a youth I was unaware that not everyone was like me. I knew that our community of 25,000 had a Jewish family that lived across the street from us and was well accepted. We had a black family that lived slightly out of town and were well respected. They were both just like me. One of my grandmothers, a widow who had worked at Hull House in Chicago, had raised my father by teaching in small towns throughout Iowa while they lived with families in the towns. She had been particularly focused on bringing education to the black families. She used to take me to black church services when I was very young. I thought we all were the same.
Imagine my surprise when out on a drive with my soon-to-be mother-in-law saw a black family playing on the lawn in a respectable part of town. She said, “Doesn’t that look terrible? This was my first encounter with racism. I knew nothing of same sex couples, but I am sure there were some around—or there were some who would have liked to be around.
Shortly thereafter my first husband and I moved to California: Palo Alto, to be specific, just south of San Francisco. In his first job as principal of a high school I met a teacher there who was gay. He was a lovely person who we got to know fairly well. No problem there. And soon I became aware of the Castro District in San Francisco.
I now have friends my age who have children living in same sex relationships. I have watched as they have seen their children blossom in a situation that is perfect just as I have watched others see their children find the perfect mate. I am happy for anyone who can find their perfect spot in the world.
Most recently in my older years I visited my mother in a retirement home. Across the hall from her apartment were two lovely women who had been together for more than forty years—Jo and Barbara. Eventually Jo ended up in the hospital and Barbara in the health care center. Barbara had no one close who could take her to visit Jo. Once when I was there I volunteered to take he to the hospital to visit Jo. It was a poignant and heart-wrenching visit and the last time she would see Jo.
The time has come to get on with love in life and to love it.
I am saying farewell to an old tree.
I discovered Saratoga more than fifty years ago. But the tree and its two companions had already been here for more than half a century. To get to the quaint village from where I was teaching, I drove down two-lane Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road toward the mountains I loved, through orchards with apricots, prunes and plums on either side. They are long gone.
The village itself consisted of a Main Street about five or six blocks long. Turning right from Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road into the village, there were three huge pine trees on the left that marked the entrance to the village and marched on to the left down Saratoga-Los Gatos Road shading the historic route to another small foothill town. These pines were, and have continued to be, a source of pride and a symbol of the history of this still small town.
I moved to Saratoga in 1970, living in a small rental house along Saratoga Creek just a block from Main Street and the trees. Two years later we moved to the top of the mountain behind Saratoga. I have passed these pines almost every day since.
The pines have endured and sheltered Saratoga as it has grown from a small foothill town to an upscale suburb. Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road is now four lanes with freeway access and has changed its name to DeAnza Boulevard. In Cupertino where once there was only a grain elevator and a few small businesses, there now is a gigantic Apple campus. Main Street in Saratoga has changed but still maintains a small town feel–in spite of the Starbucks on the corner.
It is right next to this Starbucks where they just took down the last of the iconic pines. Italian Stone Pines do not last as long as redwoods and these have endured many changes. The first to go happened a decade or two ago. That tree was hardly missed because the other two had grown so large. Then a few years ago during a very wet winter the second one started leaning dangerously and had to be taken out before it fell on nearby businesses. But this last tree remained, propped up with huge timbers, shading tables and a Wednesday farmers market.
But at last it has succumbed to drought or perhaps old age. It turned from green to brown. It will return to the earth from which it sprung leaving a hole in the sky and leaving us with a lingering knowledge of the changes that we must embrace both in our world and our selves.