BTT #7. Life on the Wasatchassippi: Love and the Descent into Heaven

First a little housekeeping…   If this is the first time to my site you might want to scroll on down to Blog-type-thingy #1 (Secret Rainbows on Deep Seashells) and consider reading up in order.  Otherwise things might not make as much sense as they otherwise wouldn’t have…  😉   If you are a return reader… Welcome Back!  🙂
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I hope you are enjoying the blog-type-thingy so far.  This is part three regarding my thoughts on Paul’s Triad (part one was the Wild Sweet Orange thing on faith, part two talked about seemingly unrequited hope, and part three talks about…?)   Okey dokey!  Enough of that, let’s get started!
This bloggity is not very ambitious, I merely want to comment on the central point in the greatest work of American Literature to date.  So… what is the greatest piece of American Literature you may ask? (you are probably not asking because I can tell y’all are pretty smart, anyway you look smart and not just because you have added glasses or turned off your smile maker – THAT just makes you look pensive, anyway, I am digressin’).  The answer would be “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.
I know that is the right answer because I read it somewhere, and so it must be true, and I have read Huck’s adventures several times and I really do think all those folks who wrote introductions to Huck Finn are right, I think it is the greatest thing I have read by an American author.  I first read about Huck as part of my summer reading assignment after eighth grade in preparation to go into the honors AP English class in ninth grade.  I was feeling pretty sharp and happy, because I was starting out in my very first “honors anything” ever, and I was going to be a brandy new  Freshman, and it was all finally going to count toward some sort of real life consequence and such and such and such, so I was not even bummed that I had several reading assignments to do over the summer before school even began.  I felt like I was starting something important enough to require a running start. I had to read some books and write some papers and I was going to have enough elevated and really clever and blindingly brilliant  thoughts that I had to get started on it right away.
I had always enjoyed reading, and did not feel that I was being finagled by giving up part of my summer.  Other summers I felt like I had to sneak my reading a bit, I would carry Tolkien and L’Engle out with me and hide behind the raspberry canes and read rather than doing faithful battle with the tendrils of morning glory, and by the end of the summer we had big enough morning glory blossoms in parts of that field that we could have sold them to the High Schoolers as prom corsages and perhaps made as much money as we did on our raspberries.  This particular summer I did not have to sneak.  Now I was doing important school work, that’s right I had homework in the summer for my (ahem ahem) HONORS CLASS.  I felt (what’s the word?), HONORED and I had to get on it right away.  It was arduous, I tell ya- lounging on the deck in our backyard while my siblings were doing the weeding.  Near twilight the sun reflected on the windows of the houses at the base of Mt Timpanogas, dotting the mountain benches with golden beacons while the canyon breezes started to cool the dry summer evening.  Bees sang, birds buzzed in the trees, somewhere a dog whistled, and a train howled mournfully in the distance as I followed Huck on his Mississippi journey – and such and such and such…  anyway you get the picture.
I was lucky enough to have an introduction by some scholar in the version I was reading that said, AND I QUOTE:  “Huckleberry Finn is the greatest novel in all of American Literature.”  That person had a name, little tiny letters printed after that name, and was in print, so when it came time to do my paper – BAM!  I had a quote…  “Huckleberry Finn is the greatest novel in all of American Literature, according to so and so reference etc.”   When I got my paper back my teacher had written “GOOD QUOTE!” in friendly red ink in the margins.  Not a bad start, I tell ya, for the first school credit that “really counted.”  So anyway, if any of you disagree with the fact that Huck Finn is the greatest novel in American literature, you will have to realize that Miss March (yes that really was her name, and no, I grasped nothing in her name to make me blush or giggle when I was in 9th grade), had already told me that it was a good quote- SO THERE!
But enough about me, (Lona drags herself away from the sparkly pit of cloudy reminiscence, Harvey just gazes out the window at the birds and yawns contemptuously).  Let’s talk about Huck.  For years I thought the  beautiful climax of the novel was in Chapter 31 where Huck feels he needs to try to get right with the Lord and tries to pray…
“It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that n—–’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.”
It touched me rather deeply to hear Huck discover that one cannot pray a lie.  When one gets down on the knees and asks God for something, you can’t really get away with bamboozling the almighty.  You can talk and talk, and pray and pray, and state your case, but if you know that you are not really being truthful with God or yourself about your motives or reason to change, it does not really do any good to be praying, because if you are praying merely as an outer form or a conditioned structure rather than a real attempt to connect with the divine in a meaningful way that might actually impact your life, then you are just either doing it to “be heard of others” as the hypocrites do, or more dangerously, to keep yourself caught in the strange loop of self-deception and self-justification that buffers you from having to face your own shortcomings or cruelties.  It is easy to pray to a distant, mythical, or imaginary god, but to pray with some measure of faith that God will interact with you, that He just might get mixed up in your “bidness,” requires painful and often even terrifying reflection.
But even though the above passage affected me deeply and remained my clarion memory of Huck Finn for decades, it is only recently that I realized the true central ethical and aesthetic fulcrum of the novel (and perhaps all of American literature?) is not in that particular passage but in the paragraphs that come after.  It is both exhilirating and heart-wrenching to grasp the levels of irony and tragedy that are circumscribed by Huck’s dilemma.  What did he feel so bad about, in what way “warn’t” he square with God in the first place, what was his big sin?  He had done all sorts of mean and misanthropic things in his little comic adventures up to that point, albeit largely in the name of surviving and escaping a dangerously abusive father;  but the thing he feels worst about is helping Jim escape from slavery.  From the vantage of our modern perspective we can be smugly offended  that Huck would feel guilty about doing such a noble  thing, but his milieu had beat the drum of slavery and racism so soundly into his little Hannibal brain, that he truly thought that he would go to hell for his part in that deed, he thought it was a really bad thing and he felt more remorse for this act than for any of the other things he had done to that point.  It gave ME a shiver when I finally realized that the concern that motivated his earnest attempts at prayer was a hope that God would change his heart so he could repent of rescuing his friend, and it gives me an absolute CHILL when I realize with embarrassment that this dynamic was astoundingly opaque to my 9th grade self the first time I read this book.
Huck decides to set himself “right” before praying again, and resolutely writes a letter telling Mrs. Watson that he knows where Jim is and how she can come get him.  After doing so he immediately feels better, he feels cleansed of sin for having done the “right” thing, he “repented” of the wrong that he had done in helping Jim escape.  He is about to go and send the letter, but something holds him back.  A pensive twitch nags at his spirit as he is about to put himself right with his world and with god as he sees it.  Although the writing of the letter made him feel “light as a feather,”  he just can’t send it.  Twain does not name what it is that is binding Huck, but I would identify it as love.  You have to just eat up this next passage with a shovel in each fist, here check it out!
“I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ’stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper. 
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:”
All right, then, I’ll GO to hell”—and tore it up.”
In the end it was not his faith, or his hope for salvation that guided Huck’s actions, it was his love and concern for Jim.  I believe this is the critical attribute we should strive to develop during our time here.  God has placed each of us in a situation where we will be tested in our capability to love.  Many may be placed in circumstances where faith seems all but an impossibility, and hope can seem equally elusive, but faith and hope center merely on our own relationship with God in regards to our salvation.  For Huck, and perhaps for each of us at some crossroads, we will have the opportunity to take a wider perspective outside of ourselves – to love, to care, to have compassion, and make sacrifices for someone else – for another of God’s children.  Huck’s sacrifice is chilling on sober reflection, just think about those words, and that he truly believed them- “all right, then I’ll GO to hell.”  As we become more willing to look outside of ourselves and make choices based on our love and concern for others, trying to help our fellows to have true joy, we are coming closer to developing the attribute which most essentially defines God’s essence, it mirrors what God has and continues to do for each of us.  John tells us simply “God is love (1 John 4:8)”, and also tells us that for those who love “there is none occasion of stumbling” in them (1 John 2:10).
Anyway, there is more I could say about this, but I am going to try for once to avoid pivoting this too much back on myself and my little world again.  (which means that I am immediately going to pivot this back on myself and my little world again).  Suffice it to say that each of us are in turn the recipient and the cause of many likely little hells, or troubles for those we love every day.  As a bona-fide non-transitioning-male-to-female-transgender-girl-voice-verified-sigh (ntmtftgvvs for those of you who find acronyms helpful), every day I feel that not transitioning from male to female is a little slice of hell, ranging from the tiny sting that occurs when one of the few people who knows about my quandary greets me often with the ebullient (and well-meaning) “Well hello young man!” to the kick in the teeth dysphoria that can occur almost every day just by seeing my pretty eyes and fairly lithe bone structure set squarely above my stubborn daily beard.  These may seem like silly and vain things, but don’t knock it until you have walked in my shoes.
Even more concerning to me is the question as to whether heaven itself will be a hell.  The Mormon Transgender person has many musings about the resurrection, and who we will be. It would be difficult to fully outline the Mormon heaven here, but suffice it to say that it involves being resurrected to a glorified immortal tangible body and the continuation of joys and covenants of family life.  If I am resurrected as a glorious man, I have hope that God may make it so that I just love it, but doesn’t such a power seem a little terrifying in and of itself?  If it weren’t God doing the re-boot it would seem Orwellian.  If I am resurrected as a woman, I picture myself squealing an ecstatic “YAY! I JUST KNEW IT! I JUST KNEW THIS IS WHO I AM, SEE I TOLD Y’ALL!” but then looking over at my beautiful wife and saying a subdued “oh, yeah, you are still not a lesbian are you, and does this now mean that God is going to give you to some other schmuck?”  Well you see, I really love my wife, she is gorgeous for one thing, and loving and kind, and we have and are still raising some wonderful kids together, and have had the tender bond of having lost and buried a daughter together, and she has a dry direct hilarious wit and I cannot picture myself having any degree of happiness without her being happy.
I am going to say very little about how I feel strongly that transitioning could be a potential disaster for our family, (I vehemently deny that it would be a disaster for every family).  My wife and I have a deep love, but I don’t think our marriage would withstand that particular journey, and I feel somehow it would be especially hard for my daughter who is herself entering those tender teenage years. I have prayed seriously about this, and the answer I have received is that the loving thing to do for my marriage and my daughter would be to not transition, and by golly she is a good girl, and I certainly don’t want to hurt her.
Another option would be to take relatively lower doses of female hormones to try to suppress the dysphoria without changing my social gender and limiting changes to my appearance.  This is an approach taken by many and seems to be a little more common in a smattering of blogs by Latter-day Saint transgender individuals.  I have also pondered and prayed seriously and often about this option, and must say that I received some rather direct answers that if this option were ever supported by my wife, then it would a good choice for me.  I have never disclosed this revelation to my wife, and I would never picture her giving approval even for this option, so you might expect that I might feel bitter at not having received the answer I wanted.  But that is the thing about praying, you can’t pray a lie, and you have to be prepared to get an answer that you might not want, otherwise you are just talking to yourself.  The reality, however, is that when I have received this particular answer to prayers, and it has been confirmed again and again, it is accompanied by such a sweet feeling of peace and comfort, that I have felt no feeling that God is holding out on me at all.  I have felt his love and concern for me as His child on a profoundly personal basis in regards to this answer and this has helped me to some extent to deal with the persistent press of dyshporic feelings.
All this helps me to have joy in my quandary: joy that I must be learning something or other through this ridiculous mess, and joy that I have been blessed to no longer have to feel one ounce of shame or regret about being the transgender girl I am (at least in my heart and brain and second life), and joy in trying to shape my actions in this sphere based primarily on the imperatives of love by trying to continue to act like an honorable man and priesthood holder for the duration.   I believe no less a Mormon “Rock Star” than David O. McKay himself said that when he wasn’t really feeling like a good  missionary, he could act like he was a good missionary and he would be blessed (Remember the whole: ‘What ‘ere thou art, ACT well thy part’ bit?).
(This is a link to a sermon by Quentin Cook that in part explains the David O’McKay reference and in an ironic twist to my situation warns about the dangers of wearing masks to hide our true selves):
So I will try to ACT in the role God has given me.  I will ACT as the strange guy who cries even at lousy movies (even at Avatar, can you believe it?  yuck!), but inside I don’t have to feel shame about BEING a transgender woman and perhaps even a daughter of God.  I will try to ACT out my social roles as husband, father, and priesthood holder in my church, but I will no longer be ashamed about feeling deeply that I should have female breasts (even if only tiny ones) and no beard, and should have borne children and yada, yada yada (insert all sorts of categories ranging from the improbable to the impossible here).  Why should I try to have my outward actions not reflect my inner realities?  It is because I am trying to choose love within my own little world.  It is a kick in the teeth to feel the dysphoria, but it is an indescribable joy to feel the love for the wonderful family I am fortunate to have with me.  I really should get an Oscar for the acting, but the love part is real.
I want to be clear that my decision not to transition does not lessen my happiness for those transgender people who have been able make a joyful physical and social transition.  I have met enough people in the transgender community that I have no illusions that transitioning solves all of life’s problems, but it really does seem to be the only reliable treatment for the whole dysphoria thing. Such a transition may not ever be in the cards for me, (I am still however going to keep shaving my legs- hehe, there is that at least- and they really are pretty sweet legs when they are shaved, and my wife doesn’t mind too much if it is not swimsuit season).  But I can still be happy for those who are happier because they have transitioned.  Some people in my little circle may say that my soul might be in jeopardy for feeling so supportive of such individuals, to which I can only say:  “All right then, I’ll GO to hell.”
Love y’all,  Lona
All rights reserved, Lona Gynt  November 2015.

BTT #6 Harvey Cat – Profile Snoop

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Hello, I am Harvey Cat…   Lona is my human, but she is tired and just wants to sleep (you would think she was the cat).  I usually have her pretty well disciplined to answer my needs, but today she is just lying there.  I have stared at her for about a full hour (I think- whatever an hour is, I don’t really know, don’t need to, have no appointments), but she just keeps snoring.  You would think that such a dainty larynx could not possible be so noisy, but it really is getting on my nerves and I think she might actually be scaring the birds away from the window, because I have been trying to watch for birds for an hour (or whatever), and none have appeared.  The staring didn’t work so I started purring from beneath the bed, but I don’t think she could hear it, so I had escalated to the next level (def girl 4) and started kneading and purring relentlessly on her tummy (she hates it when I mention that she has a tummy).   That did wake her up, but with no lasting benefit, she just murmured something tepidly sardonic and picked me up and put me in the other room, closed the door, and soon I heard snoring again.  The nerve of that girl, sometimes I think she has no idea who is really supposed to be in charge.
I think she has realized that if she were not to wake up and feed me I would have to eat her (it’s true, I guess some scientists finally figured this out, we of course have known this for years but have hidden this under our charmingly aloof facades).
Here is the link that shows what in the world I am talking about with that last comment:
 It’s not like eating her would be my first choice, but if your human just keeps snoozing and snoozing without putting out the kibble, well y’know a cat has to eat.  It would be no picnic, for one thing, she is indoors, for another she is huge!  I mean, it’s not like she is larger than other humans, but compared to a fist full of meow mix, she would take forever to consume.  I think I would have to start at the feet too, (an unpleasant prospect in it own right, let me tell you),  but ever since she went shopping at Truth and Maitrya the hairball index factor has increased.  (You humans named it a hairball, you have no idea, that almost sounds fun, like a little ball of hair. You might play with it or pad it with your paw…  ahhh.  Well, birthing it up through your eyes is neither fun nor cute.  The only good part of having a hairball is that any humans who might be watching  a cat deal with a hairball gets a strange and troubled look, as if they were just about to see your liver or your pancreas appear, then wallah! you spit out this cute little hairball – well congratulations… anyway I digress).
Well, the room she put me in is her office, and the computer was left on, so I decided I would go ahead and do my part to elevate the level of her blog with my own two cents or whatever it is.  Lona refers to me as her Alt, well I am not her alt even though she might disagree.  For one thing, she still has her gonads and I don’t have any, so it’s not like I can just go around and pretend I’m her… what would you call it?  An alternative?  What does that even mean when you talk about something so basic.  Anyway, I think I miss my gonads, but I am not really quite sure why at this point.  I like to look at birds out the window, she does not, although she does appear to like looking at me looking at birds, and anyway, who can blame her, I am so regal after all.  Another big difference is that she does not give a flip when that little red sparkly thing starts blipping all over the wall, I tell you that thing is out to get us, who knows where it even comes from, it does not say hi, it does not purr, or smile or arch it’s back, it’s just like there, and bam! Next thing you know it might get us, so I chase it catch it, and then it is gone.  I tell you…  that is just plain weird, but does she care?  She merely chuckles for some reason.
We both do like to peruse (some would say snoop) profiles and nearby chat, and I will finish this blog with some of the entries I have found in recent weeks.
Tootsie Nootan:  I am not that fond of real life, it is addicting.  I would cancel my account, but I have heard that they keep billing you anyway.
Alana (alanaandrews):  About:  I am a professional oven mitt model. I spend my free time arguing the positive effects of glitter.
Lona:  Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, those who do study history are doomed to repeat it, but at least they get to have a smug sense of self-satisfaction about the whole thing.
Some unknown avatar, she logged before I even caught her name:  “I am not so much a person as I am a collection of choices”
Sophia: “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” (She is quoting Viktor Frankl)
Amanda:  Yes, I know I’m not perfect.  Please be patient, I am a work in progress.
Rachiie:  “Some people say I think the world revolves around me, it doesn’t.  It revolves around the sun, which is shining out my…  (well you will just have to read Rachiie’s profile for the rest… rhymes with sparse)”
Michael Romani:  ” Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” (Quoting Oren Arnold)
Memory Thorne: ☀~ Behind every avatar is a real person – be kind ~☀
Douglas Hofstadter:  “There are various theories about the Origin of Life. They all run aground on this most central of all central questions: ‘How did the Genetic Code, along with the mechanisms for its translation (ribosomes, tRNA, molecules) originate?’  For the moment, we will have to content ourselves with a sense of wonderment and awe, rather than with an answer. And perhaps experiencing that sense of wonderment and awe is more satisfying than having an answer- at least for a while.” Goedel, Escher, and Bach… p 548.
 Father Zossima: What is hell?  It is the suffering of being unable to love.
I am still trying to wrap my luxurious tail around that last one – well you all may have more luck with that than me.  Lona is still snoring, I can’t get to the window to check the birds, but at least the darn little strange red sparkly is nowhere to be seen.  Come to think of it, I only see it when Lona is around… Hey… what if…?  Could she…??  Nah, never mind, she couldn’t do anything that weird.  Anyway, I am tired, time to sleep in regal charmingly aloof peace, and remember, the Egyptians used to worship us (no cracks about – see where that got them – that is sooo third century)
Adieu!.  HarveyCat.
All Rights (and all Catnip) Reserved, HarveyCat  May 2016.

BTT#5 The quiet terror of unrequited hope.

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I have beautiful eyes and I like to observe, I have a gorgeous mouth and I love to talk and be the center of attention…
My ears are not my best feature, I usually cover them with some type of wispy hair.  This is not surprising since I get a lot of nice comments about my hair.  I can find it really difficult to listen, and I need to listen these days, but it is hard.  Most people are thinking of what they are going to say before they have really finished hearing what someone is saying, and I am not very different, though I am trying to do better.  My ears, therefore, may serve their most salient functions as bookends for the three pound universe that is located betwixt them rather than for anything they may actually hear.
That three pound universe gives me more trouble and joy than either my ears or my hair.  The first little twinkle in there is a memory of me standing in a crib or on a bed  and looking out a window into a dark night broken only by the gleaming shine of a large white building bathed in light .  My mother is whispering gently to me about how pretty the temple is, and saying that I am her sweet little boy and is she is asking if I like looking at the temple.  I am feeling safe and loved and her voice in that moment still murmurs softly around all the cloudy edges of my memory.  But the clearest vision of this particular memory is simply of the temple itself – standing like a sharp lovely knife in the darkness as if it were not only the largest thing out there on the hill, but rather as if it were the only thing existing outside that window resting suspended in a surrounding void of blackness.

There are other vague pictures of memories in between, but the next clear memory that contains any type of narrative thought that I remember is of me sitting at a mirror by myself in my older sister’s bedroom.  The furniture is white and decorated with little gold inlays and frills around the edges.  The bed has posts and even a flowered canopy and I am feeling like I am in such a wonderful and happy space.  I am clearly wishing that it were MY room.  I am looking at a face in the mirror, with large brown eyes and beautiful long lashes, My head is tilted unconcernedly to one side like I have seen my mother do and I am batting my eyelashes up and down.  I look so pretty and I know that I am a boy, but looking in the mirror I am amazed that I am seeing a pretty little girl, and I am so happy that I am looking so pretty.  I feel light and confident in the mirror, and I have the distinct feeling that if I can hold my head gently to that one side and keep batting those pretty lashes, that I will become that girl.  My hand twirls around the picture on my sister’s Snow White princess teacup set as I gaze on and on at Snow White looking out over the opening of her wishing well.

There were other memories and toys and friends.  I had my GI Joe, and I really liked it, I had my illustrated Bible storybook, I had the paper dolls from the church children’s magazine, in which I put the pretty dress and buckled shoes on the girl.  I don’t ever remember putting the tie or suit jacket on a boy.   It would be tedious and cliche to outline every early memory in great detail, which is why we usually have to pay rather good money to very nice people (therapists) to get anyone to listen to such stuff for very long, but bear with me for just a moment longer.  I had my friends in the Private Eye Club.  Four of us were in that club and we scrawled a large single bloodshot eye with magic markers on white tee-shirts which we would wear as we roamed large circles on swift bicycles and dared to put pennies on railroad tracks, AND THEN WAIT FOR THE TRAIN so we could recover the gleaming charm after it had been flattened by the pounding of a thousand clackity wheels.  I also spent a lot of time playing with my friend’s sister, we dressed Barbie, we cooked with an easy bake oven and I got really very good at the rhythm and clapping of the many chants of girlhood with my sister.

“Say say oh playmate,
(clap, clap,)
Come out and play with me,
(cross clap)
And bring your dollies three
(cross cross, slap thighs)
Climb up my apple tree
(clap clap)
Slide down my rain barrel
(cross clap)
Into my cellar door
(cross clap slap thighs)
And we’ll be jolly friends

(clap clap)
Forever More, (clap) more (cross), more more!”
(clap clap)

My therapist is a very nice and competent person.  She says that she finds transgender minds to have a certain unique beauty because they have thoughts and feelings about being female and have often also learned the roles and joys of being male.(or vice versa for ftm individuals).  My early memories certainly reflect both types of experiences.  Rather than outline all of my associated experiences in excruciating detail, I will simply state that I have gone through life appearing to society and to my wife and family to be a rather typcial, if not sterotypically masculine male.  I have married, had kids, participated actively in my church in the very typical male roles.  I have felt mostly shame and embarrasment at the thought of wanting to be a woman, and I have spent a good bit of my life actively trying to suppress or ignore those thoughts and just move on with my life.  My life has been wonderful, and I have many joys and great things to be thankful for (wife, family, kids, faith), but the pain at not being who I deeply and persistently feel I am is very real, it engages me now every day, and the incongruency is palpably painful.

One way to picture why this might be so painful is to picture if it were to happen to you.  Picture that you were to wake up and find that you have been attacked by a malicious genie who has put you into a body of opposite gender from the one you are now.  Imagine you are a woman, and you wake up to find that you are in a man’s body, or vice versa.  You can imagine that this would be a distressing and shocking turn of events.  You would want to do all in your power to try to get back to being who you really are, no matter what society, or anyone else might say about it.  You would feel desperate and urgent.  Now imagine that everyone around you from your family, to your friends, to your boss, to your church are telling you that you are wrong, you really are a man and not a woman.  Many treat you with revulsion, or confusion, or maybe even with outright hostility when you try to assert the truth you feel strongly inside.  You may start to react with shame from the way you are treated, you might start to feel that you yourself might be wrong, and in an effort to survive, you may just go along with it, hiding your real self from others, and you may even try intermittently to hide it from yourself, but you soon find the veil you have tried to weave over your own mind is insubstantial and frail. It cannot cover the gnawing truth you are trying to bury.  You likely often feel terrified, and may often want to scream, or other times you might just want to curl up in a tight ball and hide.  You might even eventually just want to die

For me and for many transgender persons, this is how it feels.  We have the added puzzle that we did not go to sleep one day as a certain gender and then “wake up” the next day as another gender, although it may seem that way to those we have been trying to protect from this truth throughout our lives.  Our perceptions are shaped and modified from an early age by our entire surrounding structure telling us that we are wrong.  I don’t blame society, or family particularly, I do not see them as nefarious, my family is very loving, and I am a fan of society in general.  It is, however, often hard for those around us to recognize what is going on and the general tilt of the version of society that I know and love is not particularly primed to recognize or acknowledge this struggle.

But we know we aren’t wrong.  The clear memory of looking at my “little girl” face and eyelashes in my sister’s room has always been a strong and enduring moment in my mind.  I “knew” then how I felt, even though I did not particularly know what I knew in terms of verbally defined categories.  I felt happy and free and light and pretty as that little girl gazing back from my sister’s mirror.  When I cast my mind back and compare how I feel on days when the gender dysphoria is particularly strong with how I felt on that clear day in the mirror, it can really feel like I have awakened abruptly into a nightmare, made all the worse because there are few to none around me who understand how I feel or to whom I can turn for comfort.

I have been blessed in recent years to be able to discuss this with some who are close to me.  My wife is aware now that I am a transgender person, and she remains loving and supportive of my efforts to work with her on this issue.  I believe we have differing viewpoints on what it means to be a transgender person, and it remains very painful for us both.  Although we have talked considerably about this, the fact remains that she is not a lesbian.  She does love me, but I don’t think it would be fair to ask her to stay with someone who had become a woman.  We have been through other troubled waters together, and have come out stronger.  We have lost an infant child together and found our love and faith was strengthened in our shared grief.  I would not want to lose my wife, and I continue to desire her.  As painful as it is to be in the nightmare of gender incongruity, it is certainly no nightmare to be with her- it is rather, a delight.  I find it would be a greater nightmare for me to lose her, so I am trying to choose love over congruity, but it is too painful for her to have to discuss this with me every time I feel that I really need to talk with someone.  I am glad at least that I can now be honest with her, but I cannot be comprehensive, it is too painful for her.

We both also agree it would be very traumatic for our adolescent children if I were to transition socially.  We have not told them at this time.  I think our daughter realizes that something difficult has been going on, but she remains close to us both, and she remains vibrant as she moves forward to grab the joys and terrors of her own adolescence.  There are many who have said that their parenting joys and relationship with their children were improved by transitioning and I have observed that this may often be the case.  I am joyful for those families.  I have prayerfully decided, however,  that it would be a tremendous trauma for my children if I were to transition, so I again am trying to choose love over congruity.  Perhaps I will tell my children someday, I long to share with them, but I will not do so only to meet my own needs to their detriment.

I have spoken with a faith leader (member of our stake presidency) about this, and feel better at being able to be honest with who I am with this good person.  He has been understanding and kind, but is not really positioned to be there with me all the time about this.  Despite the kindness of this man, the reality  is that the general policy and acceptance toward transgender transitioning in our church makes it very difficult for transgender people who undergo some degree of social transitioning.  There has been much written about this particular situation, but I will simply say that I love and believe deeply in the mission, world-view, and truth that I find in my faith and in my particular religion, and I do not want to endanger my standing there.  This is also a deeply personal decision that many may find difficult to understand, but it also involves trying to choose love over congruence, even though it sometimes makes me want to scream.  I do not really have anyone at church with whom I can deeply discuss how my difficulties affect me.

I have a therapist, she is great, I pay her.  She is worth it, she is so kind and competent and I can’t even begin to describe the good she has been for me, but she is not family.

I have had some wonderful conversations recently with God.  Although it is nice to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t already know what you are going to say before you say it, I do have to say that God has given me the most comforting and comprehensive comfort as opposed to any of the others listed above.  His word has told me that Christ knows and has felt and has suffered not only for my sins, but also for my afflictions, including those heart rendings that arise from my gender dysphoria.  Consider the following passage from the Book of Mormon:
Alma 7:10-12

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

In talking with God I have felt a distinct presence that knows and accepts me.  As I have increased my honesty with those around me (wife, church, self), I think that God has in kind given me more answers and comfort than I received before.  Specifically, he has told me that I no longer need to be ashamed of who I am.  I may still choose love over transitioning for the reasons I have listed above (to be clear- I make no assertion that the decision not to transition is the right choice for all transgender folks, this is VERY personal), but God has been clear with me that I can pitch the shame.  I am not going to go back there, I am not going to be ashamed of who I am.  I can now accept myself for the transgender woman I am, that I am a good girl, and a fine woman trying to act like a good man, and a daughter of God trying to be worthy to be one of his sons if that is what He would have me do –  even though he has placed me in a setting where I have a little bit of a beard and lead a local male service group at church (High Priest Group Leader for those Latter-day Saints who might be wondering),  I know that he knows who I am, and continues to love me, and I have faith that he will help it to work out.  I don’t feel I need to be cured, I need to be made congruent, and I am trying to be humble enough to place it in his smarter-than-mine hands to figure out what form that will take, and whether it will occur in this life or in the eternities I don’t really know.

I have Faith in God, I have hope that he will make everything right someday, I have little hope it will happen while I am alive here on Earth.  So my hope is imperfect, and God knows that my faith has its moments when it is shaken.  At those times, I will tell him that I believe, and simultaneously ask him to help my unbelief, and I will strive to keep going.  But I know he loves me, and it may just be possible that the importance of learning faith and hope, may pale in comparison to the importance of learning how to love.  As good ole Paul taught, of faith, hope and love:  the greatest of the three is love…   More on that at a later date, but love may turn out to  be more terrifying and wonderful in its scope than anything else we might consider, but I still believe it will be worth the effort.
If you have made it all the way to the end of this gargantuan tome, I TRULY LOVE you for that.  thank you.  If so inclined, say a prayer for me.  Love,  Lona.

All rights reserved:  Lona Gynt October 2015

BTT #4. How the Artist Considered the Tulip.

Here is another poem for y’all.  The last one I gave was one of my oldest.  This is my newest poem.  In terms of explanation I will say only that it is inspired by a beautiful pastel by an artist in North Alabama.  The picture moved me a great deal.  You can see more of her work through the link below the poem.  Hope you like the poem!

How the Artist considered the Tulip
It seems strange,
She did not paint
The voluptuous velvet shell,
Nor did she trace
The fimbriated lines
Of delicate leaves
Weaving in suspended air.

Rather,
She dared to pierce
With her brush
Into the very center
Of the beautiful creature,
Where muddy loam
Mixed with sunlight laden rain
To sculpt a fiery heart
Thrusting a blinding
Flash of color back to the
Cold blue sky of
Failing winter, crying out
In desperate measure:

Here I am, Pick me!
Oh, here I am,
Pick me.

-Lona Gynt
November 2015
All rights reserved, Lona Gynt, November 2015
See some of the art at the link below:

http://www.nashadka.com/galleries/bold-pastels/

BTT #3. IT’S WILD! IT’S SWEET! IT’S ORANGE! And there is no going back…

Blog-type-thingy #3
Hello Everybody!  This is not going to be a discussion of the latest trend, in that we are going to talk today about an incredible album and song that was released way back in 2008 (yes I know, Robinson Jeffers was already a good 70 years before that, so my timing certainly should take no one by surprise).  I guess the things that grab me have a timeless and somewhat intransigent grip, which is the case with a wonderful album by Wild Sweet Orange, led back in the day by lyricist and front man Preston Lovinggood from Homewood, AL.  They are no longer active in the WSO iteration, which is a shame because I think their signature Album “We Have Cause to be Uneasy” is an essential piece of work to have in your collection (run, fly, teleport, google, unleash your inner amazon, go download, beg, pray – do anything that does not leave a sour taste in your mouth to go out and get this little gem – you must have it –  watch my little watch thingy as I hypnotize you, or do my jedi mind trick WHATEVER it takes, but you have to go get this album, you will be so glad ya did).  Full disclosure – this comes purely from a place of passion on my part, I don’t know Preston Lovinggod from Adam, nor from Taylor Hollingsworth for that matter, and I have no connection to him, but ya JUST GOTTA GO GET THIS). Alright, enough of that.

HarveyCat: slaps my hand with his paw and slides me a look of lassitudinous dissaproval as if to say – you are boring them with commands, just tell them why the album is so important and by the way, have you even seen my litter box lately?
Lona: ignores Harvey.

Ok Here goes..  The cover art alone might be enough reason to get the album (check it out at the top).
A huge whale is stuffed into its suburban home casting a baleful gaze out at the wider world, overflowing the constraints of the porch and living room with desperate intensity.  The art prefigures the themes in the album of a person trying to escape the prison of living in a place where they do not belong and are suffocated by the very drywall pressing down a spirit which is both out of place and too expansive for its home.  Ok, ok, don’t start yawning!  (Stop it, I saw that!)  I know you think that this might just be another album about a kid that thinks his parents just don’t understand him and is trying to whine about the angst that seems freshly urgent to every  pubescnt and merely adorable to those with  (ahem- should we say…) a more seasoned view.  Having discovered this album from my teenage son, I first minimized this work to a category somewhere in that realm.  Joyful attention to the lyrics of this album will show, however, that Lovinggood has given us a more universal work than the typical “place your feet squarely on your parents chest and jump” maneuver that occurs as young people launch into the world.  We all have a need to escape those things that hold us back and a longing to grab hold of a larger part of the universe than our own front door.  In a sense all of us, who are still living on the inside, are eternal adolescents, fidgeting not only about what comes next, but about what it might mean.

Second.  (Holds up two fingers)  The lyrics are piercingly lush and beautiful.  The album would be worth the cost in my little old humble opinion simply for the last lines of the first song (Ten Dead Dogs – don’t worry no animals were harmed in the making of this song), in which our deeply troubled  insomniac hero realizes that he is in great need:

“I watched the sky turn from blue,
To black to red and yellow too,
Before the purple dawn
Was filling up my room.
And for a brief moment,
I heard the whole earth groaning,
As if there’s something
That it needed me to do…”

We are then launched into a journey taking us from the depths of desperate loss (Tilt), through an old and a new birth (Seeing and Believing), the terrifying and joyful engagement with the overwhelming divine (Either /Or – very Kierkegaardian, indeed), passionate dismantling of inner demons (House of Regret), a quiet painful realization of the cost (Night Terrors), and plaintive landing in a place not so much of resolution but of resolve.  (Land of No Returning).  You may gather this album is largely about a journey of faith from a Christian viewpoint woven in to the fabric of some really great indie rock, but it is not a proselytizing gimmick- it is an intensely personal view.  No one will feel that they are being condemned for not agreeing -or whatever.  In fact, the most judgemental barbs (other than those directed specifically  at his father or at himself) are aimed at those proponents of organized religion or formulaic child-rearing who rely more on external forms and societal expectations than on fostering an inner conviction.  Consider the following from the track “Sour Milk”

“Oh and the steeple people
Oh they’re so happy not knowing you (God).”

Awright,, I’m done with the effusive introduction, now I want to talk about what is really important to me about this album today.  I am intrigued by the destination Lovinggood arrives at in his journey of faith.  It is described with haunting beauty in the final track “Land of No Returning.”  He sings first in this song of all that we miss (sunrises and sunsets for starters) when we remain simply locked into the routine of daily actions without any regard for our purpose.

“So when you go, tell me where are you going.
‘Cause there’s no place you can run to,
Forget all your longing.
So forget where you’re going”

Our hero has started a commute, perhaps on Homewood’s crowded Hwy 231, which for much of the stretch is lined with the Alabama suburban forest green mix of untended Mimosa, kudzu, hickory and other hardwoods that are really a gorgeous background for our little Alabama Lives down here.  The woods and the sun cry out to him as God’s creations and remind him that he has really landed in a destination of faith.  Because it is based on a faith which has called him in a compelling way by a higher power, he cannot return from it or back out of it based on his own deductions or capabilities.  The peaceful guitar builds to a subdued phrenitics (yes a subdued phreniticism is possible in Lovinggood’s singing, you have to trust me on this one), which outlines perfectly a tension between the fact that faith has called him to trust, but that it has not released (not yet at least) the world from suffering:

“Is it true, is it true what they say?
In these woods there’s something real strange, you can walk for what seems like days.
Is this the land of no returning?
Is it true, is it true what they say?
In these woods there’s something real strange.
You can walk for what seems like days and the trees all start to take face,
Hold you as you’re running in place,
And then they all start to scream,
“This is the land of no returning!”

Soren Kierkegaard outlined that we first engage the world from a viewpoint of aesthetics (just what seems right or beautiful), but that a higher order of action involves ethics (what our reason dictates as being right), but that the highest order of action for Kierkegaard (if I understand him) is based on faith, or a striving for a direct submission to and eventually perhaps a direct engagement with the divine.  The following quote from Kierkegaard strongly reminds me of this land of faith that Preston is talking about where we can walk for days, forever really, and still be humbled by what we can learn, and by what we don’t know compared to what God knows.

“Without risk there is no faith.  Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual’s inwardness and the objective uncertainty.  If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.  If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy fathoms of water, still preserving my faith”  (From ‘Concluding Unscientific Postscript,’  by Soren Kierkegaard.  I found this in an anthology “Readings in the Philosophy of Religion,’ John A. Mourant, ed., Published by Thomas Cromwell Co., New York, 1959, p 308).

For me, one of the prickly questions as to whether we can base action on faith is that this might then be turned with terrible consequences to harm others.  So much bickering and even killing goes on in the name of faith.  I personally feel that much violence that comes in the name of faith,  is orchestrated by those with selfish political rather than truly religious motives, but the danger is still there.  If I am in a land of no returning, and I can’t be talked out of it because it is based on faith rather than reason, what is to stop me from being a fanatic who would condemn and harm others?   It is scary to think of a plane being hijacked, it is even scarier to know that an entire religion might get hijacked by a polemical and cruel point of view.

As scary as this question is (and it is scary- one of Kierkegaard’s books is called Fear and Trembling for good reason),  it may be even more terrifying and salient to recognize that none of us (I mean, none, zilch, nada, nichts!) of us can escape basing our actions on SOME type of faith or belief, even if we don’t recognize that it binds us.  Every point of reason starts with a certain premise, a foundation that we take as “self-evident,” an article of faith, if you will, on which we strive to base conclusions.  Thomas Kuhn’s groundbreaking meditation on paradigm shifts (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – 1962), argues that even the most rigorous empiricist can interpret data only through the lens of the basic thought structures that rule his or her perceptions.  So if both Radical Jihadists and pure-reason Vulcans start from a point of faith, then there is no safety in saying that we should denounce faith.  Such a denouncement might even be impossible.  Kierkegaard argued there is more power in an engagement with God – faith in a higher knowledge, rather than trusting merely in ourselves to understand him.  I believe such trust must be infused with the humble realization that God does not (at this point) tell us all that He knows.  Thus,  we still constantly need to just try to get to know him.  Check this out from the Great Dane:

“The realm of faith is thus not a class for numskulls in the sphere of the intellectual, or an asylum for the feeble-minded.  Faith constitutes a sphere all by itself, and every misunderstanding of Christianity may at once be recognized by its transforming it into a doctrine, transforming it to the sphere of the intellectual.  The maximum of attainment within the sphere of the intellectual, namely, to realize an entire indifference as to the reality of the teacher (God), is in the sphere of faith at the opposite end of the scale.  The maximum of attainment within the sphere of faith is to become infinitely interested in the reality of the teacher (God).”  ibid: p. 313.

I think we may do better to try and base our actions of faith in God, although he does not want us to turn off our brains or start punching each other about it.   I derive a lot of guidance from the fact that Paul taught that we don’t rely just on faith, but that we rely on faith, hope and charity.  If we have hope: (hope in the humanity of others, hope in the long view of God, hope that people can change), we may be less likely to turn to the nihilistic actions that have harmed so many by “faith-based” fanatics of every stripe.  What brand of nihilist tries to bring on the apocalypse on his or her own terms?  And if we have charity: true love and concern for others as well as for ourselves we would treat others as we would like to be treated, and wouldn’t hurt them.  I derive great hope from the idea that we are all God’s children, and that we may just one day learn to get along.  I certainly have met many people in this second life world and in real life who have bolstered that hope in  me (THANKS Y’ALL!!!)  Anyway, hope and charity are likely topics for other days, but it does bear mentioning that charity (love) is listed as the greatest of the three.  Think on that a bit y’all.  Sheesh I sure pushed the steam out of the hot air-bag with this blog-like thingy today, but I Hope you enjoyed this.
AND GO GET THAT ALBUM!!!
Hugs!       Lona.

copyright Jan 2016, All rights reserved.  Lona Gynt.  but I guess I have to believe it is right.  😉

BTT #2. Desert Crossroads at Dusk

desert-crossroads-at-dusk

Desert Crossroads at Dusk.

If we had thought
At this interim,
Where he plants
His graveled head
Lifts his back
And carves the sifted plain
To greet our tread,
That surety were
Merely the lengthened
Shadow of our sweetest dreams.
Then had each herself
Her own heart reprieved.
Whether her path into the darkness
Or the sinking fire led.

Lona Gynt, 1989.
All rights reserved, Lona Gynt October 2015

Blog-type-thingy (BTT) #1. Secret Rainbows and Deep Seashells.

Hello.  My name is Lona Gynt.  Welcome to my sparkly dark little world.  I am a resident of Second Life where I have been distributing a blog-type-thingy to some of my friends that I have met there.  Now I am distributing it to any of my 7 billion other friends who might be interested.   My ramblings include thoughts on poetry, art, music,  bacon, and other cultural touchstones.  I will share some of my own poetry from time to time, but I will never share any of my own bacon.  In about half of the early posts I share some of my contemplations and eviscerations on what it is like to be a transgender person who is and also remains a devout Latter-day Saint (Mormon), but my point is not to bore you with that all the time.  Lona Gynt is a pseudopseudonym, I am keeping my real life identity opaque, but I am not too worried about keeping it secret.  I am sick of secrets, I am ok with who I am, and I am sticking to all the other things (Church, family, covenants) that are still also important to me.  Okey… enough about me, now lets talk about me…

This first entry was written in October 2015.  I will post about every 2-3 weeks until the life-blog lag is gone.  If you have been receiving my blog-type-thingy on SL already, (first of all- thanks! hugs! luvs! and all those wonderful wonderfuls), I will let you know when web-blog catches up with my SL paper route.  To everyone else… Welcome!

Enjoy the blog!

For Blog Number One, a Real treat!  Y’all get to read my currently favorite poem.  Alright, Dig in, and then we’ll talk about it a bit.  (Lona clears her throat delicately in a sophisticated manner and strikes a pose as if she is reading rather serious stuff…)   no no no! just kidding, just relax with this poem, it is not High Falootin at all, it is just simply gorgeous and true!  Ok, here goes.

“The Excesses of God”
(by Robinson Jeffers)

Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to be equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.

Now here is the great thing about this poem…   It is awesome.  God has done a lot of cool things, as great as second life is, not much of it has quite measured up to the gorgeous little playground God has made for us on terra firma.  There are a lot of things we could talk about in regards to God, but this poem shows how over the top, even showy, he is in how he envelops us. (Do you like how I use that word, “envelop,” feels like a crisp, but snuggly little hug, doesn’t it?)  Hmmm… what if we allowed, through our choices, for power and desire to be perch-mates? (Do I really understand that? – I think I do, I think that if our true desires for beauty and caring for one another were aligned with the powers that were granted to us, the beauties that God gave us would be amplified by our actions rather than smudged or royally messed up by them).  If what we really wanted in our most basic nature were aligned with our consistent actions, then we would be like God.  BUT we mess up, and sometimes we are just plain nasty, (seriously at a Beach dance party the other day, some bozo with an cutesy fake name like Corrupted Early and a basic first day avatar won the themed costume contest by eight votes!- he probably crashed the board with hidden alts and made off with about 300 L$, anyway it seemed fishy and the hostess said he had cheated, but what could ya do, just sit back and feel smug at your moral superiority that’s what! Sheesh!   I looked so awesome that I would have won if he had not cheated.  Now wasn’t that nasty of him?  And y’know that other thingy – war?  Now don’t EVEN get me started about how nasty war is!)

So, anyway, we come back to needing God in order to get our mojo and our gojo to be perch-mates.  But the whole thing about needing God might not even be greatest thing about this poem.  What I love is how Mr. Jeffers effusively gushes about how gorgeous God is.  The poet paints both the broad scope and the minute detail of God’s creation, and that God loves beauty sooo much He even weaves it into hidden corners and basic functions of survival.  You can’t uncover any little rock in this world without being surprised by something wonderful.  For me the fact that God puts “secret rainbows on the domes of deep seashells” is especially poignant.  I am a transgender woman, who will likely never transition my real life avatar from male to female because of the imperatives of my particular faith, the desire to keep my wonderful marriage intact, and the desire to be a fully present parent for my children.  Nevertheless, the three pound universe between my ears has been decidedly and secretly female really my whole life.  I had taken steps in the past to take hormone therapy and start the switch and it felt wonderful, and I have more than a little holy envy for those transgender people who have walked down that road, even though I know that road also has it’s own deep challenges.  I had spent a good bit of my life thinking I was a sick little weirdo or a sinner for having these thoughts, but I have since realized that even though I have important loves in my life which outweigh my desire to transition, I am just another fact of biology, and of God’s creation.  I believe I have heard  that male to female transgender occurs at a rate between one in ten-thousand to thirty-seven thousand, so we are not all that common, but we seem to exist in higher proportion in Second Life than in the non-pixelated spheres.  This does not surprise me, I am sure that there are many others who have had the same liberating experience of being able to be beautiful in Linden land when we would not be able to express who we really are in quite the same way “up there” in the so-called real world.  Here I have also found the first people who are like me at the Transgender Resource Center.  The community there has been open and kind and generous in acceptance of all types of transgender people.  For the first time I have been able to converse with people who have at least a slight inkling what I feel like.

The residents of Second Life have built a sweet little wonderland, and I am very grateful for it, but it is really just a small little corner of the earth.  It might even be considered a “dome of a deep seashell…”  But it is full of wonderful, kind, and generous secret rainbows.  So…   let me raise a glass of whatever it is that I am drinking these days (strictly in line with my little Mormon idiosyncracies – so no fermentation is involved) to the residents of Second Life who are building from their hearts.  Thank you!  Have fun, keep up the good work, and don’t fall too far off your perches!   Love, Lona.