Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Empty Beach

I move to Rockferry
And I build my house, baby,
with sorrow

I leave my shadow
to fall behind.
And I won’t write to you
’cause I’m not that kind.

On Monday I walked back from town along the Hastings River break wall and then down along Town Beach. The latter was completely deserted due to the inclement weather.

It was overcast and grey, and as I stood alone on the empty beach I found myself softly singing the lyrics to the rather mournful song “Rockferry” by Welsh singer/songwriter Duffy.

I leave the stars to judge
my every move.
I’m not going to think of you
Oh, I’d get the blues.

Every since the ending, earlier this year, of a certain relationship, I’ve found myself often drawn to Duffy’s 2008 album, Rockferry, and its songs of loss and regret, of the futility of “hanging on too long,” and of the struggle and pain of letting go and moving on.

Duffy’s been described as the “new Dusty Springfield,” a comparison that’s actually erroneous. I have nothing against the young Duffy’s vocal talent, but she doesn’t remotely sound like the late, great Dusty Springfield. Still, her Rockferry album - with its sweeping strings, dramatic songs of lost love, and retro-soul vibe - definitely captures the spirit of Dusty’s classic 1960s’ recordings.

There’s no sleep on the journey
away from town.
A bag of songs and a heavy heart
won’t make me down.

I’ve come to see the destination of Rockferry as a metaphor for that lonely place we often have to journey to and inhabit for a time after making the decision to move on from a relationship that, for whatever reason, just isn’t working.

There’s a deep sense of loss at this place, a heavy sadness, sometimes even a biting anger and bitterness. Yet if you approach this place in a certain way, there’s also a quiet determination, a flickering flame of hope that can sustain you and keep you moving - however painfully and slowly - across and beyond that inner terrain of loss and grief. It’s a terrain that can indeed feel like an empty, windswept beach.

I’ll give it all my strength and my mind.
I’ll make this decision with or without.

For gay people there’s often an added burden to this experience. Believe it or not, there are some who actually consider the presence of the very human experiences of longing, loss and disappointment within the context of the so-called “gay lifestyle” as evidence of the inherent unhappiness and unfulfillment of homosexuality! Of course, heterosexuals are allowed to experience romantic disappointments and unfulfilled longings without heterosexuality itself ever being questioned. Why the double standard?

Yes, yes, I know the answer: we still live, in many ways, in an unenlightened world when it comes to the reality, the experiences of those who don’t fit the heterosexaul ideal. Hence attitudes, words, and actions of incredible ignorance, insensitivity, and even cruelty and violence. Yet I remain hopeful.

So how to end this post? Maybe on this note of hopefulness . . . and, as I started, with the lyrics of Duffy, though not from one of her love-gone-wrong songs! No, let’s get off this empty beach.

Accordingly, I’ll close this meditation with the lyrics of Rockferry’s anthematic closing track, “
Distant Dreamer.” And perhaps you’ll dream (and work) with me in creating a world where all, regardless of sexual orientation, are free to journey and search and, yes, stumble and learn and grow, as together we move toward becoming living embodients of integrity, love, and wholeness.

Although you think I cope
my head is filled with hope
of some place other than here

Although you think I smile
inside all the while I’m wondering
about my destiny

I’m thinking about all the things
I’d like to do in my life
I’m a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming for hope from today

Even when you see me frown
my heart won’t let me down
because I know there’s better things to come

And when life gets tough
and I feel I’ve had enough
I hold on to a distant star

I’m thinking about all the things
I'd like to do in my life
Yeah, I’m a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming for hope from today

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
This “Militant Secularist” Wants to Marry a Man
Karl Rahner on the Need for Prayer
Making Love, Giving Life
Intimate Soliloquies
Compassion, Christian Community, and Homosexuality

Recommended Off-site Link:
Animal Energies - An excerpt from Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing by Coleman Barks.

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


Anonymous said...

Michael, she just released a special UK expanded edition of that awesome CD. It contains a bonus disk of even better sounding sophisticated retro soul. I might just have to grab it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

Your most recent blog postings have been important and touching. Also, your photos and reflections are very beautiful.

You always inspire me. It is so important for someone as sensitive, wise and articulate as you to keep speaking out and claiming a place in the mainstream for GLBT persons.

You speak for me, as a mom, and of course for huge numbers of GLBT persons on the subject of loss and heartbreak. Such miseries are legitimately experienced by all people, and should be respected for that.

I hope this time away will be helpful for you in all kinds of ways, Michael. I credit you with the wisdom to know, or at least the ability to figure out, what is best for you.

You are a gifted man with so much to offer the world. I think of you often.

Peace, Mary Lynn.