Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Midwinter Carol

In the mid 80's when I lived in Phoenix, I happened to buy a Christmas album featuring several Arizona folk musicians. One of the tracks was an Appalachian dulcimer rendition of Planxty Irwin by Turlough O'Carolan (1670 - 1738), the blind harper who composed some of Ireland's most beautiful music. Planxty Irwin is not a seasonal piece; it is simply a harp tune, most likely dedicated to Colonel John Irwin, a contemporary of O'Carolan's. But the tune fit wonderfully with the rest of the music (all of which is in a box of cassettes somewhere in a closet). It percolated in my head for about ten years, then I put words to it. Perhaps it was because I was teaching comparative religions at the time, but I wanted to create a holiday song that touched as many traditions as possible. In going over the words, I find it still doesn't go as far as I would have liked.

Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you. Here is the tune: Planxty Irwin. And here are the words.

Now the year draws to its ending;
Now our harvest is gathered in.
Now, together, we meet, intending
To share our joy as the new comes in.

Here among our friends and neighbors,
We shall laugh and dance and sing,
And share the fruit of all our labors:
The wealth that Nature and God do bring.

Hail the feast! Hail the company!
Hail to Nature and God above!
Hail, Midwinter, we come together
To share our joy and peace and love.

One house now holds eight bright lights,
While in its neighbor there stands a tree.
The third hears songs into the night;
The joy of family warms all three

Families large with loved ones numberless;
Families small with only two;
It matters not: God one and all shall bless.
Bless the multitude, bless the few.

Bless our home! Bless our family,
In whatever form it may take.
Hail, Midwinter, we come together
To praise God for our family's sake.

Solstice brings the world together,
All humanity, hand in hand.
In the warm or freezing weather,
We of Earth must together stand.

Jew and Muslim, Catholic, Protestant -
All believers the words fulfill:
Peace on Earth to all is God's intent -
Peace on Earth to all of Good Will.

Peace on Earth, the Peace of Nature,
For God and Nature are one and the same.
Hail Midwinter, we come together,
And God is God whatever the name.

Peace and Joy be with you all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Out of the Past

My dear friend Jayne sent me this link to the British newspaper The Independent today, regarding the remains of a 2,000-year-old remains of a young Cybellean priestess was found in North Yorkshire. I'm not particularly crazy about the correspondent's gender terminology, but the information is fascinating. I had not realized that there were any Gallae this far north. I'm not surprised, though, since the worship of Cybelle was widespread, and wherever the Romans went, a wealth of faiths followed.

Now, in the midst of writing this, I decided to do a little more research and found a BBC article from 2002 documenting the finding of the remains. The the point to the article in the Independent, it seems, is that forensic studies were done on the remains, and apparently this priestess died as the result of ritually castrating herself.

There is much to be said for ecstatic frenzy. On the other hand, I hope my dear sisters opt for Dr. Bowers or some other qualified surgeon and not a flint knife or a pottery shard.

As regards more information on the Gallae, I must bow to the more knowledgeable. You can find scads of information here . We may not agree on all things, but Cathryn knows her stuff and is a fantastic historical resource.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

More Media

It seems that many of us need a good laugh right now. On a hunch I Googled (Feh! I hate that verb) Flying Karamazov Brothers: The Comedy of Errors. I saw this live on PBS twenty years ago, and taped it but now my video tape has deteriorated. Not much regarding transgender here, except for the appearance of the late performer/writer Ethyl Eichelberger. Anyway, I was very happy to see that someone had preserved it, since it's not been available commercially for some years. Enjoy.
Part 1
Part 2


So I've just spent an hour putting a music player on this page. It doesn't turn on automatically, so if you want to be exposed to the kind of music I listen to, scroll (wayyyy down) to the bottom of the page. I hate to make you work just to listen to some obscure piece of music, but since I don't work in html, I'm stuck with this template - which is why that thing is at the bottom of the page in a box it doesn't fit.

I'll be adding to it from time to time as I find stuff that suits my fancy. Be forwarned, though, popular music and I part ways somewhere around 1950, then meet up again in the big folk music scare of the early sixties, and finalize the breakup in the 1970's.

So anyway, if the mood strikes, scroll to the bottom and see what's there.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


On Sunday evening I had what, sadly, is now a rare treat. I picked up one daughter from the iconic Pasadena bookstore where she is clerking while studying art, then drove to Burbank to pick up her elder sister who was flying back from Oakland. We drove her to her apartment in Santa Monica and then returned the other to San Gabriel where she lives with her mother. All told, it was a sixty-mile loop through Los Angeles.

The drive? We live on freeways here; it was negligible. The company of these two vivacious, intelligent and eccentric young women? Priceless. And all the more precious because I don't get to spend much time with either of them. (And when I do, it is not in "Gillian" mode.)

We raised our girls on a diet of good literature, classic films, vulgarity, sarcasm, and Monty Python, and they have turned out to be exactly the kind of young women that I am proud to claim as mine. They have also turned out to be exactly the variety of young woman I would have liked to have been. Of course, there is the dilemma: had I allowed myself to be such at their age, they wouldn't be here now. If I had been more honest with myself at the age of 23, their mother at the age of 21 would not have consented to marry me. Be my friend, yes; be my life partner, no.

One of the many things I love about my daughters is that they love to talk, particularly about books and film. I was treated that evening to hearing the Twilight series and film soundly panned in stereo. (I ask you: vampires that shimmer in daylight and drink animal blood? They're the UNDEAD, dammit! Vampires are NOT having a good time!) I also got a critique from my younger daughter regarding Thanksgiving at her aunt's house and her uncle's ill-behaved nieces. My daughters and I agreed that, as a family, we may be judgmental, but at least we know how to behave. The younger said that she observes other people's behavior and decides what she wants to avoid, thus coming off polite. The elder has always been gregarious but with the caveat that she feels that everyone hates her, so she is also especially nice to people. I know where they both got this behavior: the apple does not fall far from the tree. We are a family that is true to its British heritage: we're nice to the point of neurosis.

I think this, more than anything else, is the reason I don't push the dime about being myself in front of them. I've nicely asked if they could handle it, and they've nicely said that it would make them uncomfortable. And since it's not imperative, they've not met me.

I add to this the fact that I had Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant with my father. You remember him... the guy who'd have the coronary if he knew. A recurring thought has struck me about him: what if he were transgendered? The universe lurches. It took me years to accept myself, and I can visualize just about anybody - even J. Edgar Hoover - but this image does not come within the widest boundaries of conceivability. No shame. No judgment. Just no way. So if I'm not insistent with my girls that they go out and do mother-daughter stuff with me, or that my ex, who is still my best friend go to Nordstrom's with me when I want a new chemise, it's because of that image of my own father that won't fit into my universe.

As I said, we're a polite lot, which brings to mind this quote from Emily Post: "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."

There are some of us whose very being depends upon a totally authentic representation, and I can do no less than honor and respect that. I can survive in a dual existence. I could survive, though miserably, in exclusively male mode. So if I can keep their universe intact, I shall. It would be nice if they invited me (this me) into their world, but I'm too polite to pressure them.