Tuesday, October 31, 2017

At Hallowtide, Pagan Thoughts on Restoring Our World and Our Souls

Today is Halloween, which here in the U.S., has become an abhorrent commercial spectacle. This despite the fact that the day has roots in the Catholic celebrations of November 1, “All Hollows' Day” (or “All Saints' Day”) and November 2, “All Souls' Day.”

Deeper still . . . elements of both these Christian feasts are grounded in a pagan holy day, the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which was the eve of the Gaelic new year. It was the time when it was believed the veil between this world and the next was at its thinnest, and people and spirits could “cross over,” could pass back and forth between the two worlds. Huge bonfires were lit on hilltops – some say to frighten away evil spirits; others, to warm the souls of the departed. Perhaps both.

Personally, I like to gather up all these names, origins, meanings, and dates and speak simply of Hallowtide, and emphasize the transformative power, the witch power, the time calls to mind.

As you might have gathered from recent posts (for example, here and here), I've been exploring a deep affinity that I'm discovering I have for paganism. This evening's post continues this exploration by highlighting a piece by Thomas Moore from his book Original Self: Living with Paradox and Originality. In this particular piece, Moore contends that modern life and thought have been severely weakened by a chauvinistic attitude toward paganism. We have to let go of this attitude, one that many hold as precious, in order to make holy once again the insights of paganism. Such a reinstatement of pagan sensibility, Moore says, will "restore to us our world and our souls."

Pagan religion is the great shadow of Western culture. For almost two millennia we have identified with a monotheistic world philosophy. It isn't simply that we have favored a Judeo-Christian religious life, but that all of our institutions and our individual way of life have developed precisely to exclude the religious piety of our pagan ancestors [and neo-pagans of today]. Paganism is not a belief system; it is a way of life in which one appreciates the holiness of every facet of experience and honors that holiness with specific rites and images.

Pagans saw [and see] sacredness and depth everywhere. . . . [And yet] when I was growing up Catholic, we were told that we Catholics had the truth and needed to convert the poor pagan souls to our way of seeing things. Just recently I wrote an essay on the virtues of pagan spirituality, and I received letters from Christian pastors telling me how wrong I was and how dangerous it is to speak on behalf of paganism. Ours is supposedly an age of ecumenism, but apparently our largesse doesn't extend as far as pagan piety.

Without the insights of pagan spirituality, we divide our lives into two separate categories – the sacred and the profane. The first is given over to the church, the second to the rest of existence. We talk about how our religious practice should influence our daily lives, but it does so at a distance because the two are imagined as fundamentally different. Our lives would be radically transformed if we could perceive, in good pagan fashion, religious issues in business, for example, and spirituality in our sexual relationships.

We are pleased with some of the achievements of the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. We still benefit from their inventions in logic, language, and law, but we stop short of their theological insights. We love the practicality of Aristotle, even if his influence on our work is only implicit, but we don't know what to make of the mysticism and poetics, the focus on soul and the therapeutic life, in Plato and Plotinus.

A few theologians, such as Hugo Rahner and David Miller, have explored some of the ways pagan spiritual insight lies behind Judeo-Christian motifs and beliefs. They demonstrate that our frontal beliefs still lie on the ground of a worldly spirituality. The Celtic world, too, still shows evidence of an implicit blending of pagan and Christian. Paganism still lives, but as some say, it now thrives in the arts, and maybe that is why the most unpagan among us chastise the arts.

We are so accustomed to imagining spirituality without body, sex, and imagination that when we see them linked, we judge them spurious and treat them as a threat. For too long we have lived in the gray anti-pagan world of abstraction, where our God has fallen out of love with his creation. We have become too acquainted with self-restraint, so that we don't know the holiness of indulgence. When acknowledging the spirit, we look up into the emptiness of space, whereas once the pious pagan gazed down at the earth, full of animals, trees, and rivers, to make sacrifices and offer prayers.

The word sacrifice means "to make holy." Indeed, we would have to sacrifice something precious to reinstate pagan sensibility, but then we would have restored to us our world and our souls.

– Thomas Moore
Excerpted from Original Self:
Living with Paradox and Originality

pp. 111-113

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Pagan Roots of All Saints Day
Halloween Thoughts
An All Hallow's Eve Reflection
A Hallowtide Reflection
"Call Upon Those You Love"
All You Holy Men and Women
Our Sacred Journey Continues: An All Saints and Souls Day Reflection
An All Souls Day Reflection
"A Dark Timelessness and Stillness Surrounds Her Wild Abandonment"
Magician Among the Spirits

Related Off-site Links:
Halloween – Summer’s End, a Feast for Remembering – Kieran Bohan (A Brave Faith, October 31, 2015).
If a Druid Rings the Doorbell – Michael Tortorello (The New York Times, October 30, 2013).
The Secret History of Gay Saints the Catholic Church Doesn’t Want You to Read – Tris Reid-Smith (Gay Star News, December 22, 2016).
Why The Witch Is the Scariest Historical Film Ever – Melissa J. Gismondi (The Conversation via Slate, October 31, 2017).
How the Dead Danced With the Living in Medieval Society – Ashby Kinch (The Conversation, October 29, 2017).
What Ancient Cultures Teach Us About Grief, Mourning and Continuity of Life – Daniel Wojcik and Robert Dobler (The Conversation, November 1, 2017).

Image: Cernunnos, the Antlered One (model and photographer unknown).

Monday, October 30, 2017

Buffy Sainte-Marie, "One of the Best Performers Out Touring Today"

Above: Buffy Sainte-Marie and guitarist Anthony King performing at Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield, Wisconsin on August 27, 2016. (Photo: Michael Bayly)

A definite highlight of my birthday last Monday was the announcement of the release date for Buffy Sainte-Marie's new album, Medicine Songs. The album will be released Friday, November 10 . . . and, about it, Buffy says the following.

This is a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work. These are songs I've been writing for over fifty years, and what troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering and systemic greed. Some of these songs come from the other side of that: positivity, common sense, romance, equity and enthusiasm for life. . . . I really want this collection of songs to be like medicine, to be of some help or encouragement, to maybe do some good. Songs can motivate you and advance your own ideas, encourage and support collaborations, and be part of making change globally and at home. They do that for me and I hope this album can be positive and provide thoughts and remedies that rock your world and inspire new ideas of your own.

Back in March I started a special countdown to the release of Medicine Songs. (I did a similar series of posts in the lead-up to the May 12, 2015 release of Buffy's Power in the Blood album.)

The Wild Reed's special countdown to Medicine Songs continues this evening with the sharing of Sarah Green's review of a performance by Buffy and her band at The Northern Lights in Sudbury, Ontario this past July.

Having seen Buffy twice last year in concert, I have to say that Green does an excellent job in conveying the energy, relevance, and musical scope of a live performance by the legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Simply put, Buffy Sainte-Marie is one of the best performers out touring today. The fact she's in her late 70s just makes her more of a wonder: a sexy, political rocker of a grandmother whose songs are suited to updating, brushing off and reusing, and who's a joy to watch rocking out on stage leading a band of men who may be half her age but seem more like contemporaries.

The Northern Lights crowd was treated to an intimate, typically career-spanning set of 15 tunes, showcasing the breadth of time, emotion and genre Sainte-Marie likes to traverse. She began with "It's My Way," also the opening song off of 2015's Polaris Music Prize-winning Power in the Blood, then played "You Gotta Run," her recent collab with fellow Polaris winner Tanya Tagaq. After that it was fan favourite "Darling, Don't Cry" off of 1996's Up Where We Belong.

But it may have actually been Buffy's between-song stage banter that was most spot-on, as every time she introduced a tune she framed it in a way that gave depth to its meaning and revealed her inspiration, whether it was a throwaway comment like, "this rainbow hippie campfire song just had one line that was repeating so I gave it more lyrics" ("We Are Circling") or the story she told about walking with her father in Regina when he said, "daughter, they oughta leave the moon alone" – it provided the roots for "Generation."

Her 1964 hit "Universal Soldier" is a set staple for good reason; people gathered in close to hear Buffy play it solo, and hung on every word. But it's another acoustic song, 1965's "Until It's Time For You to Go," with its truth and elegance, that gets me every time, and it was no different here. On a more light-hearted, rockier note, Buffy and the band played a "ZZ Top re-write" called "Bad Bad Ladies Who Ride" – if lyrics aren't feminist enough for you, she seemed to figure, just re-write them.

Sainte-Marie spoke of Power in the Blood as being a more feminine, non-violent form of power, and offered a differentiation between protest songs and "activist" ones – activist songs, Buffy explained, offer solutions. On that note, she played "The War Racket," off her forthcoming new album (due out this fall), which will be an "activism album." Buffy's new material is more of a jumble of a lot of overlapping issues; it doesn't have the direct simplicity of Sainte-Marie's '60s songs, but then again, it's a different time.

After an encore of "Carry It On," Buffy and the band left the stage over the beat of a pow wow drum, with drummer Michel Bruyere [left], who'd been dancing in his seat throughout the set, leading the dance.

– Sarah Greene
"Buffy Sainte-Marie: Main Stage,
Sudbury, Ontario – July 6, 2017"
July 7, 2017

Following is a 2013 performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie and her band of the song "Cho Cho Fire" (from Buffy's 2009 album Running for the Drum). Enjoy!

Cho Cho Fire
By Buffy Sainte-Marie

Ooo, you better wake up
Man, it's like you're dead and gone
See you movin' around the same ol' neighborhood
Same ol' thoughts in your head spinning 'round and around-'round

Oh, I know that you're a city boy
But if you got a chance to go - ah-ah
Would you come out to a new world
I promise that I'll take it slow - ah-ah

Aya Aya, are you ready?
Aya Aya, come on now
Aya Aya, it's a new world
Aya Aya, cho cho fire
Aya Aya, listen to the drum beat
Aya Aya, that's your heartbeat
Aya Aya, have a little fun now
Aya Aya, cho cho fire

Look like you're burnin' out to me, babe
No good to nobody no how - ah-ah
Think you need a new experience
Need a little pow-wow in your soul - ah-ah

See the people get excited
They know the best is yet to come
You can see the people gatherin from miles around
See 'em running for the drum - ah-ah . . .

Above: Buffy Sainte-Marie with Mark Olexson (bass) and Anthony King (guitar) performing at The Dakota in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 26, 2016. (Photo: Michael Bayly)

For previous posts in this series, see:
For Acclaimed Songwriter, Activist and Humanitarian Buffy Sainte-Marie, the World is Always Ripening
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "I'm Creative Anywhere"
Buffy Sainte-Marie Headlines SummerStage Festival in NYC's Central Park

For The Wild Reed's special series of posts leading-up to the May 12, 2015 release of Buffy's award-winning album, Power in the Blood, see:
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That "Human-Being Magic"
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Lesson from the Cutting Edge: "Go Where You Must to Grow"
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient"
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Power in the Blood

For more of Buffy Sainte-Marie at The Wild Reed, see:
A Music Legend Visits the North Country: Buffy Sainte-Marie in Minnesota and Wisconsin – August 2016
Two Exceptional Singers Take a Chance on the "Spirit of the Wind"
Photo of the Day – January 21, 2017
Buffy Sainte-Marie Wins 2015 Polaris Music Prize
Congratulations, Buffy
Happy Birthday, Buffy!
Actually, There's No Question About It
For Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Well-Deserved Honor
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Still Singing with Spirit, Joy, and Passion
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples Day
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "The Big Ones Get Away"

Recommended Off-site Link:
An Essential Guide to Buffy Sainte-Marie – Andrea Warner (Exclaim!, September 13, 2016).

Concert images: Michael J. Bayly.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Beloved and Antlered

Earlier this week Yvette, one of the chaplain interns, approached my work space and asked, “Who’s that?”

She was referring to the statue of Cernunnos (KER-noo-nos) by Maxine Miller that I have on my desk.

Ever since I first talked about Cernunnos during our “Sharing Our Stories” group time, which was also when I first shared this particular statue with my fellow chaplain residents and our supervisors, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to talk about Cernunnos with someone who wasn’t present that day.

I had definitely felt encouraged by those in the group to display this statue at my work station and to welcome any conversations among the interns it prompted.

Here now was my chance!

All the more vexing, then, to find myself tongue-tied in response to Yvette’s sincere question.

“That’s Cernunnos, the ancient Celtic god of . . . of fertility and of the wild. . . . Of, er, all wild things. . . . Nature . . .”

I heard my voice trail off.

My response, though, seemed to satisfy Yvette, who moved closer to examine the details of Cernunnos.

“His chest and stomach look like they form a face,” she remarked.

“Yeah, they kinda do,” I said. “It’s probably the artist’s attempt to evoke the Green Man (left), another ancient mythical figure. Have you heard of him?”

“Oh, yes. We had stories of him in Chicago. He scared me. He was the one we said would get naughty children. ‘Look out or else the Green Man will get you!’”

“Oh!” was all I could manage to reply, as Yevette cheerily went on her way.

I subsequently found out that the Green Man that Yvette was referring to was Raymond "Ray" Robinson (1910–1985), a severely disfigured man whose years of nighttime walks made him into a figure of urban legend in western Pennsylvania. According to Wikipedia, “Robinson was so badly injured in a childhood electrical accident that he could not go out in public without fear of creating a panic, so he went for long walks at night. Local tourists, who would drive along his road in hopes of meeting him, called him The Green Man or Charlie No-Face. They passed on tales about him to their children and grandchildren. . . . The famed nickname of ‘Green Man’ came from his skin, which was purported to be green because of the electrical shock he suffered.”

The Green Man I was referring to was altogether different – an ancient motif found in many cultures and across time, and related to natural vegetative deities. It is most frequently interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of growth each spring.

Like the Green Man, there’s often much confusion and misunderstanding around Cernunnos. This is not surprising given that the early Christian Church basically turned Cernunnos into Satan, replacing his stag antlers with demon’s horns, tail, and cloven feet. A similar degradation befell Pan, the Greek god of the wild, shepherds, and flocks.

I’m drawn to the pagan figure of Cernunnos because of what he represents for humanity – and for men in particular. In terms of the latter, what the Antlered One represents stands in stark contrast to the vision of men and masculinity that is generally put forward by the patriarchal Abrahamic religions. Neo-pagan and eco-feminist scholar and author Starhawk sums this difference up succinctly in the following excerpt from her book The Spiral Dance.

If a man had been created in the antlered God’s image he would be free to be wild without being cruel, angry without being violent, sexual without being coercive, spiritual without being unsexed, and truly able to love.

In all aspects of my life – including my work as a chaplain – I desire to be “truly able to love.” The call to embody such love can definitely be found in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but there’s so much other “stuff” – sexist and heterosexist stuff – that is part and parcel of these religions that I’ve simply grown weary of having to deal with. It seems to me, and I’m still very much exploring this idea, that many of the indigenous and pagan spiritualities were (and are) much more open to recognizing and celebrating the presence of the Sacred in lives and relationships marked by a range of gender and sexual diversity, exploration, and expression.

How might the expression of a spirituality – one reflective of all that Cernunnos represents – look like in the context of my life? . . . My chaplaincy work? . . . My prayer life?

I’ve been thinking a lot about such things ever since Cernunnos began dwelling at my work station. . . . And I’ve come up with the beginnings of a response – a prayer which, for now, I’ve entitled “Beloved and Antlered.”

I should say that I do not believe that this prayer that I’ve written (and started to say each day) denies the deepest roots of my Catholic Christian tradition – roots that actually go deeper than what we understand today as Roman Catholicism. I'm not praying to a deity named Cernunnos. Rather, I'm aligning myself with the Sacred Presence within and beyond all things through the archetype of Cernunnos. Also, perhaps to fully grasp what I’m saying, one needs to remember that the Christian church has a long history of incorporating (some would say appropriating) pagan lore into its own spiritual understandings, many of which share with paganism themes of transformation and life beyond death. (See, for example, the previous Wild Reed posts “The Pagan Roots of All Saints Day” and “Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son.”)

Finally, this prayer reflects my interest in that deep river of mysticism that flows beneath and feeds all the great religious traditions, with paganism perhaps being the tradition closest to this deeper source. Paganism, after all, Thomas Moore reminds us, “is not a belief system but a way of life in which one appreciates the holiness of every facet of experience and honors that holiness with specific rites and images.”

With all this in mind (and heart) I share “Beloved and Antlered.”

Beloved and Antlered,
At one with all creation;
Awaken me.

Seeker of the forest’s hidden paths
And the beauty within both beast and man;
Guide me in the ways of deeper understanding.

Trusting one, accompanied by stag and dog,
You are both wild and tame, hard and soft;
Teach me the ways of balance.

Twilight dancer, dwelling on thresholds
Both within and beyond;
Illuminate the sacred spaces in-between.

Ancient archetype of Holy Mystery,
To you I look for inspiration, courage, and hope.
May your presence be known to me always.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Integrating Cernunnos, "Archetype of Sensuality and the Instinctual World"
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The Devil We (Think) We Know
The Pagan Roots of All Saints Day
The Prayer Tree
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Edward Sellner on the Archetype of the Double and Male Eros, Friendships, and Mentoring
In the Garden of Spirituality – Diarmuid Ó Murchú
In the Garden of Spirituality – James B. Nelson
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light (Part 1)
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light (Part 2)
The Dancer and the Dance
Manly Love
A Fresh Take on Masculinity
Rockin' with Maxwell
Learning from the East
Winter . . . Within and Beyond

Related Off-site Links:
I Call to CernunnosThe Leveret (November 16, 2016).
Concerning Cernunnos (Part 1)Musings from Gelli Fach (July 23, 2011).
Concerning Cernunnos (Part 2): Accessing the Fruits of the WildMusings from Gelli Fach (July 27, 2011).

Image 1: Valerie Herron.
Image 2: Michael Bayly. (Artwork by Maxine Miller.)
Image 3: Artist unknown.
Image 4: "Hircine" by Raiecha.
Image 5: Artist unknown.
Image 6: Source.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Last Days in Australia

My sharing of images and commentary on my time in Australia during July and August concludes with this evening's installment – one which highlights my last days in Australia. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

My recent visit to my homeland from my life here in Minneapolis took place in that window of time between the end of my working for TRUST Meals on Wheels and the start of my chaplain residency at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. It was a perfect time to return to Australia for six weeks and visit family and friends.

It was also the latest time in the year I've returned home since relocating to the U.S. in 1994. The last time I experienced an Australian winter was in 2006, when I returned in May of that year and stayed for eight months as I awaited the successful completion of my Green Card application.

That all seems a long time ago, I must say. And of course, since then, I've made many trips back and forth from the U.S. and Australia. (See, for instance, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Above: My parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly, at the kiosk on Town Beach, Port Macquarie – August 2017.

During this trip home I did a lot less traveling around the country visiting people. Most of my time was spent in Guruk (a.k.a. Port Macquarie) with my parents. This felt important to do this time back home. Hopefully next time back I'll catch up with my sister-in-law and nephews in Melbourne and my good friends in Queensland and in the Albury Wodonga region of New South Wales.

Above: Mum, enjoying the (winter) sun and sea at the south end of Town Beach.

Above: Also at the south end of Town Beach is the little rock platform I love so much! To find out why, click here and here.

Right: Cormorants, taking in the winter sunshine.

Above: Mum and Dad with my niece Layne and her boyfriend Jack.

Above: With Mum and Dad and their friends Bob and Daphne – Friday, August 18, 2017.

Above, right, and below: On my last evening in Guruk, August 19, I spent time on Shelly Beach.

Earlier that day I watched the sunrise on Town Beach.

Here's an interesting little something about Shelly Beach . . .

For decades, Harry Thompson was the self-appointed custodian of Shelly Beach. The well-known local identity lived in a caravan on the beachfront and was dubbed the unofficial mayor of Shelly Beach.

Harry died in 2000. Now a unique beach sculptural park at Shelly Beach is dedicated to Harry's memory.

Artist Sue Bell created the spiral pathway and Stephen Killick and Stephen King produced the sculptures as functional artworks in tribute to Harry. Mrs Bell believes Harry would be pleased with the result.

"The project says a lot about him and his character."

She says the large totem is "very much like Harry", while all of the works capture his character. Beachgoers are greeted by a large totem of Harry wearing "mayoral robes" carved by Stephen Killick and Stephen King.

The sculptural park also includes two seats, a spiral pathway and a sculptural interpretation of Harry's famous caravan, which doubles as a picnic table.

For more about the art tribute to Harry Thompson, click here.

Above: The view from my parents' back door in Guruk. Isn't that moon just beautiful?

Above: With my good friend Garth in Sydney. This photo was taken on Monday, August 21, the day before I returned to the U.S.

Left: Enjoying a great Aussie beer and some of the best potstickers in Sydney. Yes, without doubt, Garth is an excellent connoisseur of the very best in food and drink!

NEXT: Out and About – Summer 2017

For the previous posts in my "Australian Sojourn – Winter 2017" series, see:
A Visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Overcast Skies
Austen and Australia
Donald Trump: A View from Australia
Photo of the Day – July 23, 2017
Return to Guruk
The Neoliberal Economic Doctrine: A View from Australia
Guruk Seascapes, from Dawn to Dusk
Good Mr. Dawes
A Visit to Sydney's Taronga Zoo
Journey to the Southern Highlands: Exeter and Mt. Alexandra
Journey to the Southern Highlands: Bundanoon & Sunnataram Forest Monastery
Journey to the Southern Highlands: Goulburn and Canberra
In Coogee, A Very Special Birthday Celebration
Return to Sydney
A Visit to Gunnedah
Guruk Sunrise

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Monday, October 23, 2017

On This "Echoing-Day" of My Birth

I turn 52 today.

What does it feel like for me to turn 52? The overwhelming feeling I have is one of gratitude – gratitude for being alive in this beautiful world; gratitude for my connection to Sacred Mystery, for my health, for the meaningful work I do, for my family and friends, and for the journey I'm on.

On this special day I take this moment to say that I am grateful for my life just as it is, knowing that it continues to unfold – with both joys and disappointments, both certainties and questions.

Yet I know the journey continues . . and that important work still needs to be done, within myself and in the wider world, so that the Sacred Presence, the Divine Passion that permeates all things can be revealed and embodied in all its transforming beauty and power. So, yes, I'm accepting and grateful for my life today but I'm also grateful for being on an ongoing journey of growth and change. I hope I always will be.

Above: Pictured in my "bone country," the Australian town of Gunnedah, the place of my birth – August 17, 2017.

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. Two years ago, on the first day of my fiftieth year, I shared a "guidepost on the journey," and then on the day of my 50th birthday I shared Buffy Sainte-Marie's rousing "It's My Way."

Today I share a beautiful poem by John O'Donohue that my friend and work colleague Verna gifted me with last Friday, along with the beautiful flowers pictured at left. Thank you, Verna!

For Your Birthday

By John O'Donohue

Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
the blueprint of your life
would begin to glow on earth,
illuminating all the faces and voices
that would arrive to invite
your soul to growth.

Praised be your father and mother,
who loved you before you were,
and trusted to call you here
with no idea who you would be.

Blessed be those who have loved you
into becoming who you were meant to be.
Blessed be those who have crossed your life
with dark gifts of hurt and loss
that have helped to school your mind
in the art of disappointment.

When desolation surrounded you,
blessed be those who looked for you
and found you, their kind hands
urgent to open a blue window
in the gray wall formed around you.

Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
your health, eyes to behold the world,
thoughts to countenance the unknown,
memory to harvest vanished days,
your heart to feel the world's waves,
your breath to breathe the nourishment
of distance made intimate by earth.

On this echoing-day of your birth,
may you open the gift of solitude
in order to receive your soul;
Enter the generosity of silence
to hear your hidden heart;
Know the serenity of stillness
to be enfolded anew.

In celebrating my birthday I share the following 24 photos, two or three from each decade of my life!


Above: With my godmother, Rita Groth, on the day of my Baptism.

Above: As an infant in Gunnedah.

Left: My Dad, Gordon Bayly, holding me when I was just a little boy. This photo was taken during a family holiday at The Entrance in the Australian summer of 1966/67.

Right: With my Mum, Margaret Bayly (née Sparkes) at The Entrance.

For Wild Reed posts about people, places, and experiences of this time, see:
My "Bone Country"
The White Rooster
Journey to Gunnedah
Remembering Nanna Smith


Above: At right with my older and younger brothers Chris and Tim. We're playing with my collection of toy plastic African animals, which I loved so much! Kimba the White Lion was, after all, my favorite TV show at the time.

For previous posts about people, places, and experiences of this time, see:
One of These Boys Is Not Like the Others
How Do I Tell You?
Thanks, Mum!
The Light Within


Above: Looking rather pensive in this pic from 1982. At the time I was in my second last year of high school. What was on my mind? Perhaps things like this and this.

Above: Atop some lonely peak in the wilds of Australia. My friend David was with me on this particular occasion, which was in 1986, if I recall correctly.

Above: At Uluru in 1986.

Above: In 1988, wearing the jumper (or sweater) that I bought with the money I received for my very first published article. I think it was $40 I was paid for a piece published in The Canberra Times about the 50th anniversary of the Prince Valiant adventure strip. (To read this article, click here.)

For previous posts about people, places, and experiences of this time, see:
Shards of Summer
"Hers Would Be the Perpetual Ache of Loss and Loneliness"
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
Darren Hayes, Coming Out . . . Oh, and Time Travel
"Seven Wonders": My Theme Song of 1987
Remnants of a Past Life


Above: A shot of me taken when I was living in the Uptown area of Minneapolis in 1996. I'd been living in the U.S. for three years when this photo was taken.

Above: Yes, it's true: I'm looking very much like a magician in this portrait from 1996.

In 1997 I became involved in the justice and peace community of the Twin Cities. I document my experiences and my expansion of consciousness around a range of issues through my online photographic exhibit, Faces of Resistance: Images and Stories of Progressive Activism at the Turn of the Millennium (1997-2006).

Above: Standing with the North Oak, one of Four Sacred Oaks at the Minnehaha Free State. The Minnehaha Free State (1998-1999) was established by a coalition of groups in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to stop the rerouting of Highway 55 through an area of land in South Minneapolis considered especially sacred to the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota people.

Left: Participating in the weekly Alliant Tech vigils in 1998.

For Wild Reed posts about people, places, and experiences of this time, see:
More Remnants of a Past Life
Intimate Soliloquies
The Australian Roots of My Progressive Catholicism
20 Years Stateside
Coming Out


For previous posts about people, places, and experiences of this time, see:
Making the Connections
A Letter to "Dear Abby" re. Responding to 9/11
A Lose/Lose Situation
"Can the Klan!"


Above: Celebrating my return to the (spring) snow of Minnesota after a 2015 visit to Australia! – April 2015.

Above: In my St. Paul home in November 2009. This photo was taken by a Star Tribune photographer to accompany an article about the Roman Catholic Church's controversial Courage apostolate. At the time I was coordinating opposition to this program and to the church hierarchy's overall understanding of and approach to gay people and relationships. (Note: The image on the wall behind me is of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus.)

Above: In the woods by Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis – May 11, 2017.

Above and right: Two recent pics!

For previous posts about people, places, and experiences of this time, see:
Michael Bayly: Changing the Church from Within
Into the Fray
On the First Anniversary of Marriage Equality in Minnesota, a Celebratory Look Back at the Important Role Played by Catholics
Saying Farewell to CPCSM
Moving On

. . . All of which pretty much brings us up to today . . . and a number of celebrations I've had to mark my 52nd birthday.

Above: I guess my birthday celebrations started last night, the night before my 52nd birthday, when my friends Pete and Jeffrey came over to watch Poldark.

Thanks to my housemate Tim we also celebrated my birthday with both carrot cake and chocolate cake! Thanks, Tim!

Above: Speaking of chocolate cake . . . A big thank you to my friend and colleague Hae for the chocolate birthday cake she made for me today at work! It was absolutely delicious.

Above: With fellow Abbott Northwestern Hospital chaplain residents Katie and Hae, and chaplain intern Verna.

Above: Another blast from the past! . . . One of my former students from my teaching (and learning) days in Goulburn, Australia, shared this photo on Facebook earlier today. He also shared the following:

I found this photo earlier this year and thought I would keep it till your birthday to share it! This was my birthday party in Year 5 (1992). Think that speaks volumes to what a wonderful teacher you were!!! Have a great birthday.

Above: With my dear friend Joan earlier this evening. You may recall that Joan accompanied me on a visit back to Australia in 2015, where she celebrated her own birthday.

Above: Enjoying dinner at Pazzaluna Italian Restaurant in downtown St. Paul with (from left) John, George, Matt, and Joan. Last month I had the honor of officiating George and John's wedding.

Above: Hello, boys! . . . With friends Pete, George, John, and Matt at Pazzaluna this evening.

Above: Thankfully my friend Pete had his eyes open during the mesmerizing performance of Niyaz that we saw at the Fitzgerald Theatre tonight.

Niyaz is an Iranian Canadian musical duo that adapts Persian, Indian and Mediterranean folk sounds, poetry and songs, including Sufi mystical poetry, with Western electronic instrumentation and programming.

It was a great performance . . . and I have my friend Joan to thank as my ticket to Niyaz's show tonight was her birthday gift to me. Thanks, Joan!


10/31/17 Update: The celebrations continued after my actual birthday! . . .

Above: On the evening of October 24 my friends Ken and Carol hosted a dinner for me at which they and our mutual friends Kathleen, Brigid, and Sue Ann celebrated my birthday. From left: Ken, Sue Ann, Carol, Kathleen, and Brigid.

Right: With my boyfriend Brent at our friend Alfredo's October 28 Halloween-themed party. Brent's dressed as a Starfleet officer.

Above: On the evening of Monday, October 30, my friend Raul took me out to dinner at Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant in Minneapolis. Thanks, Raul!

Above: On the evening of Wednesday, November 8, I had a lovely dinner with my friends (from left) Dee, Phil, Amelia, Liana, Noelle, and John. Noelle had also recently celebrated a birthday!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Turning 50
A Guidepost on the Journey
In the Eye of the Storm, a Tree of Living Flame
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course
No Matter What