Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ten Thanksgiving Prayers

Statue at end of Music Row,
Nashville Tennessee
Taken 11/9/07

Come, ye thankful people come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
come to God's own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest home.

--Henry Alford, 1844

This Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for the following ten people and places, (there are no things on this list) that have had a major impact on my life and well-being.


As we near the end of eight years together, I am profoundly grateful for Gary who has kept the home fires burning during the past two years while I have been everywhere but home. In a sea of adversity, Gary is my rock. He is always there. I cannot, and indeed do not want to, imagine life without him. I fear that over the past decade I have not been as supportive as I should have been. I pray that he will forgive me for my shortcomings.

Gary, I thank you for your love and support, for your patience with my impatience (especially when it relates to computers), for your loving care-giving to our children—all of whom would happily follow you out the gate if you ever decided to leave, and for the beautiful yard you have given our home. I look forward to the next nine, even ninety years with you as my “companion.”


It has now been a year since Mother died and almost twenty since I lost Father. I am so grateful to have had parents who believed in and honored education. Parents who believed in and honored me. Parents who taught me that there were no barriers I could not surmount. I miss them terribly, but somehow it feels they are still with me in everything I do and everywhere I go. I pray that I can live up to their expectations and put to good use the love and care they gave me.


By this I mean actual blood relatives. I grew up over two thousand miles away from my aunts, uncles, cousins. I never really got to know any of them, and the only news I had was filtered through my mother. Poppa almost never talked about any of his living kin, and only briefly of his forebears. Momma’s family was more real to me—but now I wonder how colored my perceptions were by whatever colored Momma’s early years. Now that I have begun meeting my kinfolk, there are four in particular I would single out. Vikki and Pat on my father’s side of the family are especially near and dear (even though I’ve only met Pat online or on the phone). On Momma’s side, I couldn’t have a brother closer than Ron nor a sister for whom I care more than Sharon. I don’t mean to slight any family members not mentioned here, but these four have become as close to me as any people I know anywhere. I pray that we continue to grow ever closer and that we are able to spend lots of time together.


Ya gotta have friends, and the Divine Miss M is certainly right about that. I’ve had some wonderful friends over the years, none of whom I will mention by name. If you’re on my mailing list, you know who you are. Some of my friends go back forty or more years. Some are new introductions. They are spread over the world, in California, Oregon, Montana, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Japan, Finland, Turkey, Hungary, and elsewhere. They have enriched my life immeasurably, and I love them all. I pray that they all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that they understand how much they have meant, and continue to mean, to me.


The king of toys, or so they’re called. The first dog in my life was a Miniature Pinscher, Dinah by name, and of late all the dogs over the past twelve years have been MinPins. This fierce, protective, loyal, loving, yes noisy breed of dog is first and foremost in my mind when I think of dogs I want in my life. Faylene, Rocky, Minnie and Gypsy are all daily reminders of unconditional love and acceptance. They are our children and the light in our eyes. Speedy, JR, and Dinah are all waiting at the Rainbow Bridge and I look forward to walking through the afterlife with all of them. I pray that they have comfortable, loving lives and painless, happy deaths. They deserve no less.


Missoula as seen from Waterworks Hill
Taken 6/22/07

If Momma’s gynecologist had had his way, I would have been born in Missoula, but no, Poppa had been transferred to Laurel and Momma knew she had to be with him. I can’t claim Missoula as my “home town,” but I’ve lived here for the better part of thirty plus years. Missoula has its flaws, as does any place, but it has been a comfortable home and a place I’m proud to call my own. After the past two years in which I’ve been in California or on the road, I no longer feel that Missoula is the only place to live, but I know I could live here happily the rest of my life. I pray that Missoula and Missoulians recognize the problems the city faces and that they have the courage to work to build a more equitable society where all can live in harmony.


The state where I grew up is a beautiful, vast, conundrum. Poverty, majesty, slums and glistening skyscrapers all can be found within the borders of the third largest state. It was in California I was educated—both in the formal sense and in the informal way we have of learning about ourselves outside of the classroom. I am grateful for my teachers and classmates at Portola Junior High and El Cerrito High School, and for the chance to attend the University of California during the tumultuous years of the late sixties and early seventies. By the way, there are now ten campuses of The University of California, but only one campus is allowed to call itself “UC” or “Cal.” That’s my campus, and while I’m admittedly prejudiced, it’s the best of the lot. My heart will always hold a place for Berkeley. It’s where I became the man I am today. I pray that California can find its way out of the financial difficulties caused or exacerbated by Proposition 13, and that the state can continue to lead the nation in the area of human rights.


I have never lived in West Virginia, but the moment I crossed the bridge from Steubenville OH to Wierton WV I knew in my heart I had come home. Most of my family tree is deeply rooted in the hills of the Mountain State, and many of those roots go back two hundred years or more. When I drove east in September, I never expected to fall in love with a new place, but fall I did. I once asked my father why it had taken him thirty years to leave West Virginia, and he said “We didn’t know there was any place better.” Now that I’ve had the chance to experience my ancestral home, I wonder if there is any place any better. Yes, it has its problems. Don’t all places? But for warmth of welcome, and a sense of open arms, I’ve never been anywhere more willing to admit a stranger. I pray that West Virginia find a way to deal with its economic and environmental problems, and that it become a twenty-first century leader in restoring the land and the people.


In my mind, the Missoula Gay Men’s Chorus is the best thing to have come out of the Garden City. I am proud to be a founding member of the Chorus, and for five years, the Chorus was my life. I have missed it more than anything else over the past two years. Here I will name names! Matt, Gary, Emery, John, Fred, Jay, Doug, Mark—what a privilege to tour the state with you. What a privilege to stand with you every Monday night and make music. What a privilege to bask in the warm glow of those audiences in the Wilma or the Crystal. You guys gave me more than I could ever ask, and you’re in my heart forever. As for the others who have come and gone over the years, thanks for your contributions and support. I hope that you can find your way to come back and sing if you have left, or that you will continue to make fun and glorious music while singing out for gay equality. I pray that the Chorus has a long and prosperous life, and that it continues to expand in both numbers and influence.


Out in Montana is no more, but the influence it brought to gay people across the Treasure State is still being felt in many ways. This group of brave and adventurous men and women forged something almost unheard of in the United States. This was truly a grass-roots organization of gay men and women, working together, in a manner not seen anywhere else in the country. Growing out of a hate-crime incident in Missoula, Out in Montana grew to embrace every corner of the state and all the vast land in between. I dare say that such organizations as Pride! and the Western Montana Gay & Lesbian Community Center would not have the success they now exhibit were it not for the pioneering efforts of the folk of OIM. Some of my nearest and dearest friends were part of that effort. Many are now gone, as is the organization. I pray that the people of Montana come to recognize the gifts that the GLBT community brings to the state, and that the state moves to the forefront in matters of equality.

Sculpture on the banks of the Cumberland River
Head on it looks like a broken circle, but from this angle, it makes me think of a heart
Taken 11/9/07 in Nashville, Tennessee

To all of my dedicated readers, I wish you a warm, cozy Thanksgiving Day, filled with the love of family and friends, and the warmth of good memories. I pray that you all have a truly grace-filled holiday season, and that we can once again connect in real life.

Peace and Blessings on you all!


Fred Mount said...

Bryan, It has been wonderful to know you this fall on your two visits. We both hope to see you again soon. Enjoyed the Ten Thanksgiving Prayers. Fred Mount & Harold Wells

Carl said...

Dear Bryan:
The thought that you might never be coming back to California was a very sad thought for me, but it stirred many memories of the great times we shared photographing and geocaching in some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Now, for whatever reasons, soon to be shared, you are back, and I am very happy to hear it, and can't wait to see you again! Thank you for the wonderful Thanksgiving Prayers,