Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The light is returning. Part 1

Since the Winter Solstice on Friday, the light is returning in the Northern Hemisphere. We entered the depths of Winter gradually leading up to December 21st--The Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year. December 21st was also the end of the Mayan Calendar. It was an auspicious day and I was aware of the 9 day portal from 12.12.12 leading up to 12.21.12. For me personally, I've been on a conscious personal spiritual path since my early 20's. I have an Earth based practice, yet my spirituality can best be expressed in the image of a house. My Earth based practice is the foundation. Yet, there are many rooms in this house. One room honors my ancestors, lineage, and culture as a Jewish person, one room is a Pagan/Wicca room, another is a Quaker room, a Unitarian-Universalist room, a Buddhist room, Anthroposophical room, etc. I glean from different philosophies, ideas, books, articles, teachers, and paths that I resonate with and have studied. There is an expression, that many different paths lead to the top of the mountain. The spirit is infinite, eternal, continuous, expansive. Beyond definition and words. I cannot sum up my spirituality in a patch-work way. The spirit, my spirit is uncontained, undefined, infinite, and joyous. The house metaphor works well to express my feelings in a concrete, tangible way to readers such as yourself.

As a child and adolescent my parents, sister, and I went to the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Fresno for several years. I enjoyed the Sunday school classes, especially when my group met in a yurt for our lessons. I was exposed to the teachings of Gandhi and other lessons that I enjoyed learning. As a child, my Sister Isa and I had the opportunity to go to Camp Celo in North Carolina for several summers. Camp Celo is a Quaker camp in the Celo Community. On Sundays, we would walk through the beautiful, lush woods to a little wood cabin to attend the Friends Quaker Meeting. We all sat in silence and then eventually sang songs together. I had a choice at the age of 12 to either continue to go to the Unitarian Church youth group or to go to Temple Beth Israel's Sunday school class. I really enjoyed meeting in the yurt at the Unitarian Church, yet I decided to go to the Sunday School class at Temple Beth Israel to learn about Judaism and to connect to my Jewish roots and lineage. All of the other teenagers in the class at Temple Beth Israel had known each other since they were in Kindergarten or first grade. It took some time to warm up to my peers in the class, yet I enjoyed the lessons, especially classes with Margie Barks (Bless her heart). Margie was a wonderful teacher and I learned so much about Jewish history, stories, and culture from her. The teenage boys in the class gave her such a tough time though. I continued taking Sunday school classes at Temple Beth Israel until the end of 10th grade when I was in High School. I was involved in the youth group at Temple Beth Israel as well. During the summer when I was 16, I went on the L'dor V'dor NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth. It's the Reform Jewish teen national youth group. I'm grateful to my Mom for encouraging me to go to Israel and gifting me the opportunity to do so! Thanks Mom, you are wonderful!

The NFTY trip began in Prague, The Czech Republic. We were there for several days. I was with a group of Jewish teenagers from all over the country. I think there were around 30-40 of us. I didn't know anyone. I did fly with a few of the California teens to NYC before we flew to Prague. When I was 16, that was the first time that I had travelled internationally. Traveling to Prague was my first trip to Europe and I was excited. I remember really missing my dance classes though. When I was a teenager I danced 20 hours a week at the Dance Studio in Fresno. That was my main creative outlet and I was dedicated to it! I worked very hard in all of my dance classes and usually I was completely covered in sweat by the end of the evening. I studied Classical Ballet, Modern Dance, Jazz, and Tap. I was in excellent physical shape. Dance was my passion as a teenager. One of the adult guides/leaders asked me what was wrong on the bus in Prague. I said I missed my dance classes. Upon writing that and reflecting I think it's endearing how much I missed my dance schedule.

I did enjoy Prague. I was majorly jet-lagged, though. One of my highlights was seeing the Jewish Cemetary in Prague and going to a very old and beautiful Synagogue. It was a heavy trip. We travelled outside of Prague to visit the theresienstadt concentration camp. That was intense, to say the least. It had a huge impact on me as a teenager. I went through a period of several years from age 11-14 where most of what I read were books and stories about the Holocaust and WW2. We also visited a castle where I learned about defenestration. It means to throw someone or something out of a window. That term amused a lot of the teenagers in the group.

After leaving Prague, we flew to Istanbul, Turkey. The plan was originally to fly to Crete to take a boat to enact the Exodus. The intended arrival to Israel was by boat. Yet, we were told that the boat broke down and needed repairs. Thus, we all got on a plane not knowing where we were going until we landed in Istanbul, Turkey. I didn't have much of an opportunity to explore Istanbul. We did go to a few places and museums. I remember an underground palace and visiting several mosques. One of the highlights was traveling in a boat along the Bosphorus, also known as the Istanbul Strait. It borders Europe and Asia. As a teenager, I thought that it was amazing to boat on the waters of the Bosphorus bordering two continents. The views were amazing.

Israel was amazing! The land is so beautiful. I will save my experiences that I had when I was there for a month and a half for the next blog entry! Thank you for reading!

Holiday warmth and light!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bay Area rain storms and my most recent Clovis visit

Another rain storm is here. The rain continues to fall and I enjoy the sound of the water. I find it soothing. It feels like a Bay Area monsoon. During this past weekend I went to Tilden park to go on a muddy hike with a new friend. The loop trail that I usually hike on was obstructed by torrents of water! Usually, there is a gentle stream that I cross over before I hike up the hill to continue on the trail. There was no possible way that I was going to attempt to cross the torrent of fast moving muddy waters from the recent rain storms.

There is a second trail that I knew about at Tilden. It was a level, even keeled hike or more like a nature walk. Near the nature center there was a sign that said that a mountain lion was sighted earlier that day. The fresh air felt wonderful and I enjoyed stomping around on the muddy trail with my rain boots. I enjoyed hearing the sounds of the running water in streams that had become rivers.

Oh, life! So much has been happening and I've been busy, indeed. I've been acclimating back to my life in the Bay Area since my visit to Clovis for the Thanksgiving holiday. I was there for 6 days. Which, is the longest that I've been in Clovis since before I moved to the Bay Area, three and a half years ago. My sister Isa travelled up from La Jolla and I hadn't seen her in over two years. It was the first time since I was in high school that only my immediate family, my parents, sister, and I were all together for a holiday. That was really special. Isa is the mother of two children; Chloe and Lily. Isa's ex-husband had the girls this year for Thanksgiving. During past holidays Isa was with her husband, before that a boyfriend, her children were present, or other family members were invited over. It was very interesting indeed, how for Thanksgiving 2012, our paths aligned again so that the immediate Duarte family could be re-united. My intention was to be present and enjoy everyone's company during my Clovis visit.

Isa had not seen me since before I had begun testosterone. I aimed to be present, to go with the flow, enjoy food, and appreciate time with my family of origin. It wasn't the visit to bring up questions or a conversation about my trans themes and experiences. Most of the time, when I speak I feel inspired to do so. Themes and experiences arise when I feel called to express them. If I feel that the listener is ready to engage in a conversation of respect, reciprocity, and has the presence and energy to do so, I will express my experiences and how I feel. I wonder what her impression of me was? What is her process in regards to me right now? These are areas that I do not know. Those conversations did not happen at the most recent visit and that is okay. I feel that they will arise when Isa is ready to listen and is interested in a conversation of reciprocity, compassion, and understanding.

It is interesting. My process has been that usually, I intend to initiate healing conversations--to talk about prior experiences, conversations, and situations to heal them. Yet, for healing conversations, mutual understanding, and awareness to occur, I feel that both people have to be interested, willing, and present with each other to carve out the time for emotional depth and these conversations. From my experience, there needs to be mutual interest. This is the reason that during my prior visit, I intended to simply be, enjoy food, and enjoy everyone's company. Rather than the expectation to have these healing conversations occur. If and when these meaningful conversations of depth and healing arise my questions will be answered. My trans themes and experiences, especially the past two and a half years on testosterone were not even mentioned or a part of the conversation or interactions. The only question that I asked Isa was if she liked my ginger beard. She said that she did.

May I continue to focus upon what I appreciate about those who are in my life. May I continue to express my personal truth, experiences, thoughts, and feelings with compassion and love. May I have the courage to express constructive feedback when it is the time to do so. May all beings speak with compassion and love.