Saturday, October 23, 2021

Home to Myself

I turn 56 today, and as has been the tradition at The Wild Reed, I mark the occasion of my birthday by sharing a song or prayer or reflection that I find particularly meaningful and that speaks to where I’m at on my journey. [1]

This year I’ve decided to share a song from one of my all-time favorite female vocalists, Dusty Springfield (1939-1999).

My interest in and admiration for Dusty are well documented here at The Wild Reed, most notably in Soul Deep, one of my very first posts.

Other previous posts worth investigating, especially if you’re new to Dusty, are Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon, which features an excerpt from Laurence Cole’s book, Dusty Springfield: In the Middle of Nowhere; Celebrating Dusty (2017), which features an excerpt from Patricia Juliana Smith’s insightful article on Dusty’s “camp masquerades”; Celebrating Dusty (2013), which features excerpts from Annie J. Randall’s book, Dusty!: Queen of the Postmods; Remembering Dusty, my 2009 tribute to Dusty on the tenth anniversary of her death; and Remembering Dusty, 20 Years On, my 2019 tribute on the twentieth anniversary of her death.

And, of course, off-site there’s my website dedicated to Dusty, Woman of Repute (currently only accessible through the Internet archive service, The Way Back Machine). My website’s name is derived from Dusty’s 1990 album Reputation, and as I explain in Soul Deep, it was this album that introduced me not only to Dusty’s music but also to her life and journey – much of which resonated deeply with me. Indeed, my identification with aspects of Dusty’s journey played an important role in my coming out as a gay man.

The recording by Dusty that I share today on my 56th birthday is “Home to Myself,” a track recorded in 1974 for her Longing album. [2]

Described by compilation producer Jim Pierson as “a warm statement of self-fulfilment,” the song “Home to Myself” very much speaks to where I’m currently at in my life: single, living alone but not lonely, mindful of “something inside making me strong,”. . . and, at a deep level, at peace with my life and journey. That’s not to say that there are not certain things I’d like to see emerge in my life, but I take heart in something I read recently:

What’s meant for you will find you when the time is right.

I find I can more readily trust this statement, and thus live in what Henri Nouwen called “active waiting,” when I take the time to go within and get centered and still; when I “come home to myself” and thus align with the sacred source within me.

Dusty Springfield’s rendition of “Home to Myself” speaks to me of all of this. Perhaps it will do likewise for you.

Home to Myself
By Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager

I wake up and see
The light of the day
Shinin’ on me
Make my own time
It’s mine to spend
Think to myself
My own best friend
It’s not so bad all alone
Comin’ home to myself again

Oh, now I understand
Whatever I feel is whoever I am
Watchin’ my life and how it's grown
Lookin’ on back to friends I've known
It’s not so bad all alone
Comin’ home to myself again

Oh, it’s not so bad to get lost in my tears
And to laugh and to cry for the years gone by

Oh by, oh by now somehow I know
I’ve come a long way
Got a long way to go
But something inside
Is making me strong
And in the bad times
I’ll get along
It’s not so bad all alone
Comin’ home to myself again
Oh, I’m comin’ home

Some more thoughts . . . For me, “comin’ home to myself” means getting re-centered and re-energized so as to go back out into the world and be an embodiment of the Divine Presence. Alone time is needed for this, as I’ve discovered that the old adage is true: You can’t pour from an empty cup.

To be fully present to others in ways that I hope make a positive difference, I need time alone to first allow myself to be nourished and transformed. This is especially true for my work as a hospital chaplain. But it’s also true in my relationships with family and friends.

And speaking of friends, I’ve already started celebrating with a number of them my special day. And these gatherings and celebrations are going to continue throughout the next week, which I’ve taken off work – both to connect with friends I haven’t seen (or seen rarely) since the pandemic and to cultivate and experience some renewing alone time, something which, as Brigit Anna McNeill reminds us, nature itself at this time of year is calling us to do.

After all, nature here in the northern hemisphere is letting go of what it needs to let go of so as to prepare for the dark and cold of winter. And we too can follow nature’s example and shed what no longer serves us. For as McNeill wisely says:

What we work to shed, when shed in care and kindness, can be learned from, can be our compost, the learnings we grow from. For soon we will be asked to dream our seeds into being in the darker, quieter time of winter rest.

So that’s what I plan on starting to do during my quiet and alone times of the next week. But as a “soul dancer,” I know too the importance of balance, and so I’ll be spending time not only in solitude but also connecting meaningfully with friends, a connecting which, as you’ll see, is already happening in relation to celebrating my 56th birthday.

My birthday celebrations began on the evening of Wednesday, October 20, when my buddy Raul took me to see the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit (below) currently showing in Minneapolis. Raul then treated me to a delicious dinner at The Red Rabbit (above).

Notes the Star Tribune:

The “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibition takes viewers on a one-hour tour of about 400 of the artist’s paintings projected onto the walls, ceilings and floors of a one-time warehouse in northeast Minneapolis. Variations of “Immersive Van Gogh” have been shown at 29 cities in the United States, and 11 cities in Europe and Asia.

The show includes 500,000 cubic feet of projections, 60,600 frames of video and 90,000,000 pixels that promise to immerse Minneapolis audiences in classic Van Gogh pieces, from “Sunflowers” to “The Bedroom” and more.

Above and left:
The scene that greeted me as I entered the office of the Palliative Care team at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN – Thursday, October 21.

My Palliative Care colleagues hosted a birthday celebration for me on Thursday as I took Friday (the day before my actual birthday) off.

Above and below: Celebrating my birthday with my wonderful colleagues on the interdisciplinary Palliative Care team at Mercy Hospital – Thursday, October 21, 2021. I serve as the interfaith spiritual health provider (or chaplain) on the team.

Above: My best mate Deandre – Friday, October 22, 2021.

Right: Deandre’s gift to me for my birthday was a great oil painting-like portrait of Ross Poldark, that “renegade of principle” as depicted by Adian Turner in the most recent BBC adaptation of Winston Graham’s celebrated Poldark series of historical novels. I recently introduced Deandre to Poldark, the TV series, and we’ve been watching it (on DVD) over the past few weeks. We’re currently mid-way through season 4.

As regular readers of this blog would know, I’ve long been an admirer of Graham's series of twelve novels upon which Poldark is based . . . and have been since I first read them as a teenager in the late 1970s. For those unfamiliar with Poldark, I suggest the previous Wild Reed posts that can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

Above: A birthday eve dinner with my friends (from left) Calvin, Kathleen, and Joseph. . . . Oh, and that’s Frodo in the foreground!

We all live in a triplex in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis. I live in the third floor attic apartment of this triplex.

Above and right
: A birthday lunch at Pizza Lucé with my friend Angie and her daughter Mandy – Saturday, October 23, 2021.

Above, left and below: After lunch Angie, Mandy and I walked down to the shoreline of the Mississippi River, just a short distance from my home in south Minneapolis. It was an absolutely beautiful fall day to be out and about!

Above: Deandre, Mandy, and Angie in my attic apartment on the evening of my birthday – Saturday, October 23, 2021.

Right: Lunch with my dear friend Joan – Wednesday, October 27, 2021. Yes, even after my actual birthday, the celebrations continue!

Also, you may recall how in 2015 Joan accompanied me on a visit back to my homeland of Australia.

Above: Joan and I lunched at the Good Earth restaurant at Galleria in Edina. Afterwards, we looked through the stores in this upscale shopping mall. It was in Arvaus, that I ask Joan to take this picture of me by these large and ornate doors!

Above: Breakfast with my friends Pete and Julia, both of whom I first met when working for TRUST Meals-on-Wheels (2011-2017). We shared a meal at The Standish in south Minneapolis on Thursday, October 28, 2021.

Above and left: I consider my last 56th birthday celebration as being my getting together with my friend Tim for El Grito de los Ancestros/The Cry of the Ancestors Procession and Festival on Sunday, October 31, 2021.

Presented by BareBones and Festival de las Calaveras (a Mexican Day of the Dead celebration), Sunday’s event was dedicated to “honoring our ancestors, remembering the beloved dead, and fostering community unity.” Afterwards, Tim and I enjoyed a meal at Reverie Cafe + Bar.



[1] As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s somewhat of a tradition to mark my birthday here at The Wild Reed by sharing a song or prayer or reflection that I find particularly meaningful. On my 44th birthday, for instance, 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 myself, but for many of us here in Minnesota.

Seven years ago, on the first day of my fiftieth year, I shared a “guidepost on the journey,” and then one year later on the day of my 50th birthday, I shared Buffy Sainte-Marie’s rousing “It’s My Way.”

In 2017, when I turned 52, I shared a poem by John O’Donohue; while on my 53rd birthday I shared “Love Is,” a beautiful meditation on the mystery of love by my favorite male vocalist Carl Anderson (left).

The year I turned 54 I shared “This Is the Time,” a beautiful song by Senegalese singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daby Touré, and last year when I turned 55 it was Black's “Wonderful Life” that encapsulated much of what I found myself experiencing at that time.

[2] Writes Jim Pierson in the liner notes of the 2001 complilation album, Dusty Springfield: Beautiful Soul – The ABC/Dunhill Collection:

In the summer of 1974, producer Brooks Arthur (who had engineered Dusty’s 1964 New York sessions for the Philips label) was enlisted to oversee Dusty’s infamous, aborted second ABC/Dunhill album. The set was originally to be called Elements, but was renamed Longing, perhaps in recognition of the intense emotionalism that has always been at the center of Dusty’s music. Longing was also assigned a catalogue number and given artwork, which even appeared in an October, 1974, ABC Records preview ad for various artists in Billboard.

Recording sessions for the album began in early July at Arthur’s 914 Studios, about an hour north of New York City. It was a heady period with Arthur also producing Janis Ian’s acclaimed Between the Lines album, and Bruce Springsteen recording at 914 as well, where he could be seen watching and admiring Dusty at work. Arthur decided to emphasize deeply personal material, on the grounds that these songs would best show off Dusty’s richly vulnerable timbre. Singer-songwriters were experiencing a heyday, and Arthur chose from among the very best of the genre in his attempt to give Dusty a contemporary sound. Arthur recalls, “Recording Dusty, with her grainy vocal quality and her expressionistic body language, was like viewing a magnificent black-and-white photograph.”

. . . Though the Brooks Arthur sessions yielded some of the most compelling tracks Dusty has ever recorded, the Longing album was never completed. . . . Personal difficulties prompted Dusty to take an extended break from her recording career following the Longing sessions. She ceased her nightclub and television appearances and, at her request, was contractually released from Dunhill in 1975. She would later attribute her problems to a combination of insecurity and substance abuse, the latter which she eventually conquered.

Notes Wikipedia:

When Springfield, after a time in her life often described as her “wilderness years,” returned to the music scene for the recording of the 1978 album It Begins Again with fellow Briton Roy Thomas Baker, she re-recorded two further tracks originally included in the Longing set; the Motown classic “A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking Everyday)” and Chi Coltrane’s “Turn Me Around,” both with slightly updated and different arrangements.

The year 2000 saw the debut of three original recordings from the Longing sessions: Janis Ian’s “In the Winter,” Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager’s “Home to Myself” and Colin Blunstone and David Jones’ “Exclusively for Me,” all of which had been mixed and digitally remastered as early as 1995. These three titles were finally released as part of Mercury/Universal Music UK’s 4 CD boxed set Simply Dusty, a project which was commissioned with Springfield’s full approval before her death in 1999.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Moments of Wonder
This Is the Time
With Love Inside
On This “Echoing-Day” of My Birth
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


AB said...

Happy birthday Michael! I'm so glad to see you still writing and sharing as wonderfully you have been doing all these years. Your blog was a lifeline and life altering to me in 2010 when I came across it grappling with my identity and faith. I cannot believe it's been now a decade! I've come a long way since when i wrote to you (my testimonial is on your right panel under 'readers write'). Thank you for everything. And happy birthday. May you filled with love.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi, AB! . . . So good to hear from you. And thank you for your kind words – then and now.

If you're on Facebook, feel free to reach out to me. It would be good to be connected that way.

I wish you all the best . . . and may you be filled with love too.