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Archive for the tag “gay marriage”


Unknown“Love is not a victory march,” wrote Leonard Cohen. “It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.” And it plays in my head, this lyrical fragment, quite often. (The Jeff Buckley version, may he rest in peace.) I find it profound and beautiful and even hopeful, though my sense of what it means changes from day to day. When I hear it, or think of it, I picture two people who love each other, embracing. Perhaps crying. One has just forgiven the other, I imagine. Or one has just been marked for death, or a long departure. Something is broken. Some cosmic chord has gone cold. Nothing could be further from what they are feeling than victory. And yet they are more intensely aware of their love, in this instant, than they have ever been.

The name of the Buckley album that includes Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is “Grace.” A difficult concept if there ever was one: spiritual grace, that is, as opposed to ballet or Mozart or Matisse. But though it may be difficult to describe, there are moments in life when grace is visible. Palpable.

And the last two weeks have been full of those moments.

“I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you,” sad Nadine Collier to the expressionless face on the video monitor, the face of the man accused of murdering her mother, Ethel Lance, and eight others at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th. jones_pict

“I forgive you.” Startling words. Powerful words. Over and over again, the family members of the nine who were killed that day said those words. And in doing so, they gave all of us the gift of witnessing grace. A broken, beautiful Hallelujah.

Fast forward a handful of days. The hallelujah train began to pick up some serious steam, as it headed right for the United States Supreme Court.

First came the Affordable Care Act: saved from its umpteenth and, God willing, final court challenge, on a six to three vote. Then the 1968 Fair Housing Act—47 years old, and still fighting off threats to the very basic notion that housing discrimination on the basis of race is indeed against the law—it, too, was saved, on a five to four vote.

And then on Friday, came Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s grace-filled, historic phrase: Equal Dignity. Kennedy’s explanation of the high court’s ruling that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage was long and often poetic. Quote, “As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death,” Kennedy wrote, and in conclusion, “They ask for equal dignity under the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

But there was still more grace to come that morning. After applauding the Supreme Court’s ruling, President Obama was off to South Carolina to attend the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney. And when I turned on the radio and heard him end his eulogy by singing, a capella, in a voice as out-of-tune as my own, “Amazing Grace”—I laughed and cried.

Grace is like that. “How sweet the sound:” yes, even when love feels cold and broken by nine senseless deaths. Sometimes—as it was on Friday at the Supreme Court and in South Carolina—love is everything, all at once: it is a victory march, triumphing over hate, and it is cold and broken and grief-stricken, and yet it is still a resounding Hallelujah.

This just in: my OpEd in the Wall Street Journal on volunteering for research, published Monday, June 29.

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Connoisseurs of Light

In January, we in the Northwest become connoisseurs of light. Gourmets who savor every spoonful. As the sun rises behind clouds on a Saturday morning, I lie in bed and study the bare branches of the old red oak in the park across the street and conclude: yes, they do look ever so slightly fuller. It’s the light, plumping the tiny buds inside each twig, like an artist going over his pencil marks with a black felt-tip marker.

Later, we walk out of a matinee at 4:30 and are surprised to see streaks of light still in the sky. The next day, there will be a few more minutes of light. And each day after that. Every single day from now til the 21st of June!

We who live nearer the poles love light the way babies love mothers’ milk. In winter, we turn our faces to the sun whenever and wherever we encounter it. This year, our New Year’s Day was dazzling, as drenched in light as Jan One can be in Seattle. My husband and I went for a walk at Alki Beach and everyone, everyone was smiling their most carefree, I’m-letting-my-inner-happy-baby-show kind of smile. It was as if the sun was granting us eight golden hours on the edge of the prism between the dark, exhausted old year and the beckoning light of the new. Talk and walk, the sun said; smile, breathe, drink in this light. You know it won’t last because this is the Northwest. But you live here, so you know to treasure it.

I was born in January. I’m a natural Janus. That lesser, restless, Roman gatekeeper god, always depicted in a double profile, looking forward and back? That’s me. I don’t want to forget the past; I want to mull it and sift it and puzzle over what it might mean. But I’m just as fascinated by the future. I strain to see ahead; I’m so curious to know what’s around the next curve. What adventures the new year might bring.

Sometimes, that looking back that I so love to do enhances the forward view in unexpected ways. For example: Last January, I was looking forward to, of all things, the end of Newt Gingrich’s primary campaign, which was imminent. This January, we are celebrating President Obama’s second inauguration. What a difference a year makes!

Last January, I praised outgoing Governor Gregoire for her public support of gay marriage and her explanation of why, as a Catholic, she finally changed her mind. This January, the gay couples who got married as soon it was legal in our state are celebrating their one-month anniversaries. And there are rumors that Obama will ask Gregoire to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Every year, I do have to face the one-year-older part of my January equation. But I try to think of one of my mom’s favorite quips about aging, which was, “Hey, consider the alternative!” When she was my age and said it, I thought it was spunky and charming. Now, I’ve lost enough friends and colleagues to really understand the poignance of what she meant. To understand that it’s a blessing to be a Janus, because the pause between past and future is where we live. We look back, we look forward, then we stand still, turn our faces to the sun and drink this moment deeply.

Movies on your restless mind? Check out The Restless Critic.

Radio lovers: you can hear the Restless Nest commentaries every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., Thursdays at 4:54 p.m. and Fridays at 4:55 p.m. on KBCS, streaming online at and on the air at 91.3 in the Seattle area.  Podcasts available.

Here’s nest artist Kim Groff-Harrington’s website.

Thank you, Mary Margaret

Please help me in my campaign to prolong Mary Margaret Haugen’s moment in the spotlight. Already fuzzy on placing that name? She’s the conservative, church-going, democratic Washington state senator from cozy Camano Island who, like our church-going democratic governor, had the courage to change her mind. Thanks to Mary Margaret Haugen, gay marriage is almost certainly going to be legal in our state, very soon.

How I admire a politician who thoughtfully and deliberately Changes. Her. Mind.  This is not what we love to call “waffling.” This is the human brain doing what it does best: considering new ideas. Pondering them. Reflecting. Praying. Departing from long-unquestioned assumptions to ask and answer questions one might never previously have thought to ask.

This is why gay marriage is such a linchpin issue: because it is getting rational, thoughtful people all over the American belief spectrum to think in new ways. To have new conversations.

I’ve been reading a book by the Quaker writer Parker Palmer called A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life in which he talks about how damaging it is to live a life in which “soul” and “role” are kept firmly separate, our outer selves orbiting further and further from the compass of our true, inner selves.  Politicians, perhaps more than any of us, are expected to wall themselves off in this way, keeping firmly out of sight any quirks or views their constituents might reject.

Gay marriage has given them, and us, a chance to ask: OK, how do I really, truly feel about this and why? And how would it change my life if I changed my mind? I would be changing the lives of others, and that’s pretty great. But might I also feel more whole, holding this new view?

Like Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, state Senator Haugen did not arrive at her decision lightly.  In a prepared statement, Haugen said, “For some people, this is a simple issue. I envy them. It has not been simple or easy for me.”  She went on to say, “I think we should all be uncomfortable sometime.” She concluded by pointing out the only reason she was the so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage, is because she insisted on taking as much time as she needed to hear from her constituents and to sort it out for herself, to reconcile her religious beliefs with her beliefs, “as an American, as a legislator, and as a wife and mother who cannot deny to others the joys and benefits I enjoy.”

Wow.  I want more politicians who think we should all be uncomfortable sometimes. Who think conversations that change minds are possible. Do I even need to bring up the Republican debates for contrast?

It is interesting to see these grown-up men working so hard to portray themselves as full of steely and unchangeable resolve, as if the ability to cling to one viewpoint without ever wavering is exactly what we’re looking for in a world leader.  Isn’t one of the great reliefs of getting past, say, 30, the realization that you will, in fact, continue to change and grow for the rest of your life?  I’d like to think so.  Mary Margaret Haugen, you’re living proof.

Radio lovers: you can hear the Restless Nest commentaries every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., Thursdays at 4:54 p.m. and Fridays at 4:55 p.m. on KBCS, streaming online at and on the air at 91.3 in the Seattle area.  Podcasts now available! 

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