Below is a slightly revised version of the most recent edition of the Solstice newsletter that I mail out to friends and relatives every year.
In addition to hyperlinks to Internet sites that give more information about certain organizations I mention, I’ve inserted links to various blogposts I’ve written that supply further details – and photos – of the places or experiences mentioned.
[The texts of the 26 previous editions of my annual newsletter are archived here.]
Trips inside Georgia:
- Another dozen relaxing excursions to the cabin in Blue Ridge, Georgia that several friends and I have owned for over 15 years.
- Trips to Dublin, Georgia, last January and again in March, to visit my friend Blanche who lives there.
- A week in late March camping on Cumberland Island with my friend Julia, who camps on Cumberland every year.
- A glorious week in May on Florida’s St. George Island, hanging out for a second consecutive year with a dozen pals I met through the Gay Spirit Visions organization I’ve been affiliated with for over 25 years.
- A week-long road trip to Michigan in late June, so my friend Nancy and I could visit the childhood stomping grounds of our friend Kris.
- Three trips to Asheville, NC (in June, July and October) to conduct oral history interviews with six longtime Gay Spirit Visions participants (more below about that project).
- A couple days in October near Washington, DC, at the Takoma Park home of my dear friend Terry.
- Two weeks in late November visiting sun-drenched Costa Rica with my GSV friends Randall and Greg. I’d long wanted to visit that interesting and absolutely gorgeous country, so I was glad to find travel companions to make the visit with me.
- In 2015 my friend Randall and I conducted oral histories with twelve fellow GSV participants: six interviews in Atlanta, six in Asheville. The memories these men have shared with us have been invaluable as well as often very moving, and we’re glad these guys’ stories are now documented at the GSV archive located at Georgia State University’s library. Randall and I are planning another round of GSV interviews in 2016.
The GSV oral history project, by the way, grew out of my ongoing participation in the monthly meetings of the Georgia LGBTQ Archives Project.
A highlight of the Project’s activities this year was its members’ contributions to an exhibit about Atlanta’s gay and lesbian history currently on display at the city’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
In a separate archival project, I donated to the GSU Library’s Special Collections Department several hundred letters that friends and acquaintances have written me over the years. I am particularly happy that the letters and emails exchanged between my friend Blanche and me since 1965 and between my former partner Harvey and me since 1979 and are now archived at GSU. If you are one of the other people who ever wrote me a letter, know that it too has been archived for some hypothethical Researcher From The Future researcher deciding for some reason to sample a lifetime’s worth of correspondence addressed to a non-famous Southern gay man!
- I substantially increased the amount of time devoted to devoting to working in the library of the local Quaker Meeting-house. This year, I’ve been meeting for several hours almost every week with several other Meetinghouse attendees to revamp the library’s collection and to nudge the library further into the Digital Age.
- I continue to attend calligraphy classes at a nearby senior center, treasuring this weekly opportunity to improve my modest skills with this longtime hobby of mine. I’ve also attended most meetings this year of the local calligraphy guild.
- I attended an eight-week course about death and dying sponsored by Emory University’s continuing education department and taught by a former biology professor and fellow Quaker Meeting attendee.
- On my computer at home, I’ve watched three different series of college-level lectures, learning a great deal more than the little I already knew about Soren Kierkegaard, the history of the Hebrew scriptures, and the role of symmetry in art and nature.
- I’ve met seven times since last August with seven of my GSV buddies to collectively educate ourselves about the Enneagram, a personality-typing scheme I’ve been interested in since I first heard about it in the 1970s.
- Once a month I join a half-dozen or so acquaintances of my friend Randall who assemble at his house to meditate for about forty minutes and then snarf down the delicious meal Randall serves.
- On most Sunday mornings that I’m in town, I attend the weekly silent meditation service at the local Quaker Meetinghouse. I do this not because I am a Quaker myself, but because I admire so many of the people in this congregation, and beause I find it so much easier to meditate with others than when alone.
- I’m now in my sixth year of taking weekly tai chi classes, which I also practice solo most mornings in a nearby park.
Update on My Mom’s Health
My 88-year old mother still lives independently at the house in the Atlanta suburb of East Point where she raised her five kids. This past year she decided it’s no longer safe to drive her car, although that wise decision keeps her at home far more often than she’d prefer. Otherwise, my mom’s health is holding up well for a person who’s coping with the aftermath of three minor strokes.
- I got a bit carried away this year when I planted my herb garden – two dozen herbs are about a dozen too many! One the other hand, I enjoyed my two pots of pineapple sage so much this year (especially after they flowered so spectacularly), next year I’m planting three pots of pineapple sage!
- After years of admiring the Tuscan Cypress near the patio at the house of my friends Joyce and Walter, I finally bought and planted this summer two cypresses in my back yard. So far, they’re still both alive.
- I built the first of three raised beds where I hope to one day grow a few fruits and vegetables other than my usual tiny crops of tomatoes, peppers, and blueberries.
- I further organized and festooned the garden shed my brother Mike built for me in 2014.
- I replaced the pump in my much-enjoyed patio fountain, and purchased temporary screening for the patio door so I could hear the fountain inside the house.
On the Socializing Frontier…
- To broaden our networks of gay male acquaintances, two friends and I decided to host in 2015 a series of informal dinners at each of our houses. The three of us committed to the idea of each of us inviting to each supper a non-partnered gay man who we didn’t know well, but would like to know better. We spent nine pleasant evenings together with some lovely guys before the repeated challenge of confining our invitations to non-partnered newcomers eventually became too burdensome. However, this social experiment did confirm my hunch that I much prefer socializing with people – especially with people new to me – in very small groups (six people max!).
- In another gay male acquaintance-widening effort, I attended four in-town events hosted by the Wilderness Network of Georgia, a gay hiking group. No new friendships have (so far) resulted, but I’ve met some nice guys.
- I decided again this year to host at my house three Winter Solstice gatherings. (By the time one is 67 years old, one has met a quite a large number of congenial people who one wants to invite over for some Solstice-saluting relaxing in front of the fireplace fire in my tiny living room. Hence the need for multiple teas!)
- This year’s fifteen (!) overnight visitors included friends from other parts of Georgia, from Florida, and from North Carolina.
Miscellaneous 2015 Factoids
- I enjoyed another year’s worth of pleasant motor scooter trips (vs. using my pickup) to accomplish most of my in-town errands.
- For Facebook’s weekly “Throwback Thursday” feature, I had fun unearthing and posting a couple dozen ancient photographs.
- I didn’t attend more than a few of the weekly gay square dancing sessions that I’d been enjoying for several previous years. Not sure why my interest in this enjoyable activity diminished this past year. Just too long a drive there and back, perhaps?
- I re-formatted my six-year-old Internet blog and followed through on my 2015 resolution to post material to it more often. What I regrettably did not post more often to in 2015 than I did in 2014 was the other blog I maintain, the Atlanta Booklover’s Blog.
The Constant Reader: My Year in Books
Those of you who follow my blog know that I post in the blog’s sidebar a list of the books I’m reading and brief comments on each one as I finish it. Again this year, I have collected into a single blogpost these mini-reviews, re-arranged the titles according to the (subjective) relative wonderfulness of each title within its category. You’ll find those reviews here.
Year-End “Checkup from the Neck Up”*
* A nifty phrase my calligraphy teacher uses to begin her classes.
Readers of earlier editions of this newsletter may remember that I have often disturbed my usually contented heart with the stubborn belief that I would surely be much happier if I were part of an ongoing relationship with a life partner. Part of me still believes this, and puts energy into wondering how I could more efficiently embark upon another such partnership.
Nevertheless, at some point earlier this year, I distinctly remember sort of mentally handing over to my friends and acquaintances – and/or to Fate – the exhausting task of somehow locating my next Prince Charming.
Also earlier this year it occurred to me that perhaps I should firmly lay aside for awhile The Great Search and just assume that maybe Mr. Charming is out there looking for me – and might even find me eventually – through his efforts rather than through mine.
Sometime in early November, I suddenly realized I’d spent several consecutive weeks (!) completely free of any troublesome frustration that Mr. Next Prince Charming has not materialized in the eight years since my most recent Significant Partnership ended eight years ago.
I cannot claim to know how or why this significant mental shift occurred, what it means, or if it will endure, but this long-awaited change in my outlook/mood has been mighty welcome!
This unexpected emotional gear-changing has further improved what was already the startlingly stress-free life that I’ve enjoyed since retiring three years ago next March.
At any rate, I do often catch myself appreciating what a relatively charmed – if far from perfect – life I seem to be living these days. Naturally I am hoping that whatever unpleasant surprises 2016 brings will be neither radical nor permanent. And of course that’s my New Year’s wish for all of you, too.