Friday, October 23, 2015

Turning 50

I turn 50 today, an event in people's lives that, in many cultures, is considered a significant milestone, even a turning point.

Here in the west, for instance, we often see magazine articles and books about various facets of life "after 50." There's certainly no shortage, I've discovered, of advice about sex after 50, but a recent piece I find to be even more insightful and helpful is one written by David Hudson. It's basically a response to British entertainer Graham Norton, who in a recent interview said he feels like a failure for not being settled down with a significant other.

Being single myself, I can occasionally experience a sense of dejection. Hudson's words, however, give me hope.

Yes, it sucks that the gay scene places such high value on muscles and youthful beauty and it’s little surprise that those who are older decide they can’t compete. And looking for love can be a frustrating and painful experience; rejection hurts. Sometimes it feels easier to resign one’s self to being alone.

But what a prize to turn one’s back upon.

In August, the celebrated neurologist Oliver Sacks died at the age of 82. Sacks realized he was gay as a teenager, but remained firmly in the closet. He was purposefully celibate for 35 years but found love late in life – meeting his partner, the writer Bill Hayes, when he was in his mid-70s. They were together until Sacks’ death.

Last month, a 96-year-old WWII veteran, John Banvard, married his partner Gerard Nadeau, age 67. The two have been together for two decades and married at the senior living facility in San Diego where they have lived for the past three years.

. . . I’ve decided that I’ve not given up on love. My heart will remain open. I may indeed never marry, and am unlikely to ever celebrate a ruby wedding anniversary, but love is not the preserve of any age group.

The only sell-by date is the one you impose upon yourself.

Amen, brother!

Moving forward

I have to say that I'm feeling very positive and pro-active as I turn 50 and continue moving forward with my life.

There are changes afoot, exciting changes. For instance, I'm looking into forging a new vocation/career as a chaplain in the healthcare setting . . . and I'm moving forward in obtaining U.S. citizenship. Of course, having worked for so long in the non-profit sector and as an activist, my finances are rather meager. (Hence the "Go Fund Me" campaign I've recently established and which I invite my readers to consider supporting.)

And speaking of moving forward, I think the image above is an appropriate one in many ways. A friend remarked, for instance, that it looks as though I'm conjuring up a way across the water as I go! My friend also observed that the line of rocks that comprise this "way" and the angled tree on the other side of the river comprise a continuous trajectory.

". . . And it's my way"

Speaking of continuity, it's been somewhat of a tradition for me to share on my birthday a song or prayer or reflection that I find particularly meaningful. On my 44th birthday, for example, I shared Stephan Gately's performance of "No Matter What," and when I turned 45 I shared "Where the Truth Lies" by the band Exchange.

In 2012, when I turned 47, I shared a prayer for balance at a very trying time, not only for me, but for many of us here in Minnesota.

And last year, on the first day of my fiftieth year, I shared a "guidepost on the journey."

This year I share "It's My Way," the opening track from Power in the Blood, the latest album from Buffy Sainte-Marie. Regular readers will know that I find great inspiration in the life and music of Buffy. Writer Jacob Blickenstaff notes that "It's My Way" is a "reinterpretation of the title track from [Buffy's] very first album [released in 1964] . . . a reaffirmation of her core principals, a circling back and a step forward: I'm cutting my own way / through my own day / and all I dare say is / It's my own."

In a society that often demands unquestioning obedience and rigid conformity, "It's My Way," writes Sue Zalokar, has "inspired generations of people to carve out their own paths in this world."

And Buffy herself has said the following about this particular song:

Some people who have never heard it before, get it mixed up with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” He puts the emphasis on “my,” but no. For me, it’s about the path. . . . [The song's] talking about me but actually it's talking to you. Each one of us has our own path.

Amen, sister!

I'm cutting my own way
through my own day
and all I dare say is it's my own

I got my own seeds, I got my own weeds
I got my own harvest that I've sown

Now I can tell you things I've done
and I can sing you songs I've sung
But there's one thing I can't give
for I and I alone can live
the years I've known
and the life I've grown
I got a way I'm going and it's my way

I got my own stakes in my own game
I got my own name and it's my way

I got my own wrong, I got my own right
I got my own fight and it's my way

I got my own peace, I got my own wrath
I got my own path that only I can go

I got my own sword in my own hand
I got my own plan that only I can know

Don't be sighing, don't be crying
Your day will come, your day alone

Years you'll know and a life you'll grow
You got a way to go and it's all on your own

I got my own world, I got my own life
I got my own strife and it's my way

I got my own kith, I got my own kin
I got my own sin and it's my way

I got my own prayers, I got my own fears
I got my own tears and it's my way

I got my own joy, I got my own load
I got my own road and it's my way

The years I've known
and the life I'm growin'
I got a way I'm going and it's my way

Don't be crying, don't be sighing
Your day will come, your day alone

Put down the story of what I've known
You're bound for glory all on your own

Put down the story of what I say
You're bound for glory
all on your own one day

10/25/15 Update: Of course, our discerning and forging of a path is never undertaken in total isolation. We journey with others in many ways, and I have to say how very grateful I am for the many beautiful and inspiring people in my life who are my companions on the journey.

Quite a number of these dear friends helped me celebrate my 50th birthday, as you'll see in the following photos.

Above: I'm happy to say that my birthday week celebrations began with a truly delicious meal at the home of my friends Ken and Carol Masters on Tuesday, October 20. Joining us were our mutual friends Kathleen (left) and Sue Ann (right).

Above: An early birthday breakfast with Pete at our favorite Thursday morning breakfast spot – the Blackbird in south Minneapolis.

Above and right: Later that night, my friend Karam and I saw a performance by the Jawaahir Dance Company, accompanied by the Georges Lammam Ensemble.

Here's one online description of the performance:

Jawaahir Dance Company ignites the stage with “Sing To Me A Little,” an extravaganza of Arab dance, music, and talent that only Jawaahir can deliver. Jawaahir’s 19 dancers perform ancient traditions and stunning contemporary interpretations, collaborating with some of the most acclaimed Arab artists working today: world-class choreographers Sahra Saeeda and Yasmina Ramzy, commissioned by Jawaahir to each create new work for this concert, and multi-instrumentalist Michael Ibrahim, Director of the National Arab Orchestra, coming fresh from a recent Prairie Home Companion appearance. Long-time collaborator and violin virtuoso Georges Lammam returns as Musical Director. All of this – along with new choreography and breathtaking solo performance by Jawaahir Artistic Director Cassandra Shore.

The show also featured the beautiful vocals of Shelley Thomas.

Above: Enjoying a delicious birthday lunch with friends Brian and Rick at the Seward Co-op Creamery. Thanks guys!

Above: Friends (from left) Joan, Steve, Joe and Karla – Friday, October 23, 2015.

On the evening of my birthday, my dear friend Joan hosted a wonderful party for me at her home in Robbinsdale, north of Minneapolis. You may recall that Joan accompanied me on a visit back to Australia earlier this year.

Right: Pete, Don, me and Kyle.

Left: With my friends Sue Ann and Brigid, two inspiring members of the local justice and peace community.

Right: With friends Lisa Vanderlinden and Jim Smith – October 23, 2015.

Above: Friends Colleen, Mary, Raul, Tim, Mary Beth, Karla, Lisa and Brent – October 23, 2015.

Left: With my friend John.

Above: Rita, Brigid, Curtis, Liana, Amelia and Michael.

Above: Friends Brittany, Jim, Phil and Marybeth.

Right: Joan and Brian.

Above: Rita, Joe, Sue Ann, me, Brigid and Karen.

Right: With my good friend and house-mate Tim.

Above: Brent, Craig, Kathleen, Lisa and me.

Above: John, Noelle and John.

Above: With Mary and Kathleen.

Above: Mary Beth, Jim, Kathy, John and Lisa.

Above: Curtis, Liana, Amelia, me and Pete.

Right: Lunch with friends Cassie and Angela – Saturday, October 24, 2015. Yes, even after my actual birthday, the celebrations continue!

Above: On the evening of Saturday, October 24, my friends Tim, Colleen, Raul and I enjoyed a performance of the Seán Curran Dance Company. Thanks to Colleen for this great photo of the boys and I, and to my friend Julia for the cravat!

Left: The performance we saw was entitled "Dream'd in a Dream," and featured live music by the Kyrgyz folk music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus.

Notes The Dance Enthusiast:

The Seán Curran Company met the electrifying Kyrgyz folk music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus at the foothills of the Kyrgyz Republic’s Tien Shan Mountains during the company’s cultural exchange tour in 2012, as part of DanceMotion USA, a program of the US Department of State produced by BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). In "Dream’d in a Dream," named after Walt Whitman’s hymn to "robust love" in Leaves of Grass, that auspicious meeting bears creative fruit, featuring nine dancers and six musicians in a brilliant collage of American and Kyrgyz styles. Twangy jaw-harp multiphonics, energetic playing on the lute-like komuz, and other traditional sounds directed by composer Nurlanbek Nishanov back Curran’s ebullient choreography, lending a contemporary accent to an ancient musical language.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
No Matter What
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course
In the Eye of the Storm, a Tree of Living Flame
A Guidepost on the Journey
For 2015, Three "Generous Promises"
The Choice (and Risk) That is Love
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle

Dance images: The Seán Curran Company.
All other images (including of Buffy Sainte-Marie): Michael J. Bayly.


Unknown said...

Happy Birthday Michael. Your own way! The 50s were some of the best years of my life, and I think, will be of yours. Your young enough, wise enough, strong enough to accomplish much with all that great experience behind you and much to understand and to do to move forward. And you have the energy to do it. I like your new path of chaplaincy and hope very much it works out for you. It seems a natural fit. Continue your path, which brings you many many friends. I know you will.

Sue Ann

Linda Taylor said...

Happy Birthday, Michael! Thank you for all you have done, are doing, and will do for LGBTQ equality – and most of all for being a loving, caring, courageous, brave, fun, sweet person! Thanks for being in my life!


Angela Hanson said...

Happy Birthday, my dear friend! Can you believe we've been friends for over 20 years? You are the most genuine, kind, positive and caring person I have ever known and I am blessed to have you as a close friend for all of these years! I miss you and can't wait to see you tomorrow to celebrate your birthday! See you soon and hope you are having an amazing day!! Love you!

Kristine Brelje‎ said...

Happy Birthday, Michael! You are such an amazing gentleman. Thank you for making the world a better place. Sending you my best.

Danielle Maher said...

Happy Birthday to a truly special man and one I am privileged to have shared my school years with. I hope your day is amazing and your fifties bring you everything you desire . . . much love xxxx‎

Garth Lamb said...

Happy birthday, Mick! I believe you crossed the big 5-0 milestone while I was in the air. I hope you had much more fun celebrating than I had fun sitting in a plane for 30 hrs!! It is also noteworthy that I have now known you for half your life – I well remember your 26th birthday, just freaks me out to think how long ago that was. Anyway, I hope you have entered your fifth decade in style and sending all the best wishes for a fantastic decade ahead.

Jason Kelly said...

Happy Birthday, Michael! Thank you so much for the invite to your celebrations. I'm sorry I couldn't make it. One day we'll have that coffee in a crisp park in Minneapolis/St Paul! Love from down under, Jason.

Gary Tunbridge said...

Hi, Michael! Just wishing you a very happy birthday. Hope you've had a great day.

Iggy McGowan said...

Happy birthday Michael aka Mr B! Wishing you a year of joy, peace & adventure.

David Syphers said...

Happy birthday, Michael. Hope you have a great day, mate! All the best, friend!!

Sandra Boes O'Brien said...

A happy day to you, Michael! Rainy day but the sun is always shining in you!

John Slade said...

An amazing man reaches the towering mid-century! Congrats!

Michael John Reinbold‎ said...

Happy Birthday to a man of inspiration and warmth!

Mary Lynn Murphy said...

Happy happy day, Michael! . . . 50?! You still look like a kid.

Travis Norvell said...

Happy Birthday, Michael. As you celebrate this major threshold, have at it.

Raphael McGowan said...

Wonderful to see you birthday breakfasting and lunching! Sending a happy birthday from me, Mick!

Gordon and Margaret Bayly said...

Happy 50th Birthday to a much loved son. Your care & concern for others and your many achievements fill us with pride & joy.

Love & Peace,

Mum & Dad

AB India said...

Dear Michael,

Much love from India from one of the many readers who you have touched with your presence and work. On this special occasion joy and light for the years ahead. May you rest in surety that your work impacts many lives and continues to do so even if the impact is not always visible to you.
P.s. your writings need to be packaged into a book. There is much wisdom here to just stay in one medium I.e online.

Karen Knight said...

The predominant vibe that comes through these sensational photos is the sheer warmth of love and affection that shines out from everyone around you, especially for you, Michael. You are obviously loved so much by all who know you and this happiness radiates right back from your soul. Have a blessed year ahead and a wonderful start to your new endeavours.

Rita Quigley said...

Yes, indeed, Michael, you make us all want to be loyal and loving to friends far and wide.

John Skinner said...

Welcome to the 50s! May they bring you many wonderful experiences.

Tim Bayly said...

Happy 50th Birthday!

We tried to call you yesterday but you were obviously out with friends having a grand time.

We have picked out a present for you – but have had some delays getting it – but we should receive it this week and then it will be sent over to you.

We hope you had a great night and feel 50 years young!

Take care of yourself and talk soon.


Tim, Ros, Layne and Sami

Mary said...

Michael, you are a bright light. Keep shining!



Joe and Marybeth Boyle said...

Michael, we appreciate you and your vibrant spirit. You give life to others and fight for justice. We are proud to call you friend.


Joe and Marybeth

Brent and Lisa Vanderlinden said...

Dear Michael,

You are really one-of-a-kind! Here's hoping that the next 50 years are also great! We are very blessed to have you for a friend!


Lisa and Brent

Joan Demeules said...

Dear Michael,

I am so glad to be able to celebrate this significant birthday with you! You are a treasure of great worth in my life and in so many others. I am very excited by this new direction in your life.



Walter and Barry said...

Dear Michael,

Wishing you a very happy 50th birthday!

May your year be blessed with amazing beauty, great joy, wondrous discoveries, and all that is good. May you enjoy this special day and year.

With love,

Walter and Barry

Brian Mogren said...

Happy 50th, Michael!

Here's to going your own way and setting the world on fire!

Much love, your bro on the journey,


Karen and Steph said...

Dear Michael,

Haven't known you long, but like you a lot! What a friendly peaceful soul you are. May 50 years of life bring you greater joy, wisdom, peace and fun!


Karen and Steph

Amy and Micha said...

Happy birthday, Michael!

We love that you are a man with a plan.

Best of luck in reaching your goals!


Amy and Micha

Cathie Bayly said...

Dear Michael,

Happy Birthday to our lovely brother, uncle and brother-in-law. Hope you had an amazing party and that you have a fabulous year being 50!


Cathie, Chris, Ryan, Farah, Liam, Mitch, Brendan and Poppy.