My heart is a bit heavier today with the passing of Bea Arthur, who starred in two television series, Maude and Golden Girls. Bea played the part of Dorthy Zbornak on Golden Girls. She was preceded in death by her Golden Girls co-star, Estelle Getty, last year. I absolutely adored Golden Girls when it came out, and once in a while, I still will search for old episodes of that show on cable.
What is it about the characters in these fictionalized TV series that grabs our hearts so much? Part of the genius of writing a successful character part is that the character taps and reaffirms some part of ourselves. I love ALL of the characters on Golden Girls: dopey-headed Rose (Betty White), who goes on and on with inane stories of her Norwegian family in Minnesota, slutty and superficial Blanch (Rue McClanahan), who’s got to have every man who comes her way, and Dorothy’s Sicilian mom, Sophia (Estelle Getty), full of wise-cracks, good meals and phony wisdom. Certainly, I identify with them all. God knows I have bored many people with stories of my Belgian, German and Irish ancestry. I did spend about 10 years “playing the field,” which according to some of my more prudish or jealous friends, put me in a slutty category. And God do I love to cook and dispense cornball wisdom!
It’s complicated, I know. And probably not much can be done about it. But doesn’t it seem to you that there are too many people on this earth? And doesn’t it seem like the people that are here don’t care enough about the earth? For lack of a better wor(l)d, let’s coin a word after the model of “altruism.” That word is based on an old French word, autre. So what about the word, based on terre, “terrestrialism?” It would have the meaning “selflessly caring about planet earth.”
In my old blog, I had a much used category, Riding the Bicycle. I decided when I started this new wordpress blog that I would invent new categories with new names. (Because, after all, I may have grown enough to not be polluting the world with the exact same ideas over and over again.) But today, I couldn’t help it, I just needed the category Riding the Bicycle, because to me—after 4 previous years of blogging—that category means the struggle to live a full life. A friend, John, told me that his metaphorical image for this struggle is juggling many balls in the air. It seemed perfect for him. But for me, keeping MY balance is the issue, rather than juggling objects external to me.
Every year for the past 10 years, Gilbert, Stephen and I have signed up for the Vigil at Trinity Episcopal in St. Louis. When we started out, we did it in the middle of the night, but as bones have grown creakier with age, we now try to be home by midnight. A couple of weeks before Easter, a signup sheet is put near the narthex with a list of hour-long time slots beginning right after the Maundy Thursday service and going through Good Friday noon. The reserved sacrament (bread and wine) left from the evening meal is placed on the altar in the chapel, which is decorated with flowers and lit candles. There are seats round the small space and there is a pre dieu where one of the two or three who are gathered at any time can kneel. Our church is an urban one, and this practice goes on all night, so the doors are locked after a certain time. As we arrive we are greeted by one or two of the people who have volunteered to stay at the church all night, but then we are left to perform our own devotions.
An unforgettable dessert bread from an old friend.
I had a dear friend from about 1975 to the late 1990s. I met Pat Artrip in group therapy, and we quickly forged a lasting bond. I found this picture of her and me, taken around 1975. You remember the ’70s, disco music, free-wheeling sexual escapades, exploring alternative lifestyles. Pat and I shared our adventures with each other. Later on, she and I joined and faithfully attended a meditation group. Pat also loved to cook, and one day she offered me her recipe for zucchini bread. I have made it many times over the years, and I always think of her when I do.
Within the last week we have seen two incredibly startling advances towards equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens of the U.S.A. On April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a District Court decision that the Iowa ban on same-sex marriages violated the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, the equal-protection and due process clauses. And today, the Vermont State Legislature overrode the Republican governor’s veto to become the first state in the U.S.A. to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples in Vermont through legislative process. A high court and both houses of a state legislature have seen through the traditional bigotry that has kept gay and lesbian citizens under the bus of full citizenship.
The decision of the Iowa Supreme Court is particularly enlightening, because its carefully reasoned case not only cannot be ignored, but also will stand as a beacon of clear thinking about this central issue. After having studied that decision carefully, I would like to offer a summary and a brief reflection.