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When I Think of Angels

Written from our farmhouse in Iowa on December 18, 2019


I’m getting ready to lead our second annual big, gay holiday sing-along at the winery in my small town of West Branch. Last year, it was the highlight of my year. I brought a fake book of Christmas tunes, 100 people showed up and were given song sheets with lyrics to favorite Christmas tunes, someone yelled out a song, and we sang. It was so fun. I mean, my favorite pastime is sitting at the piano with people singing around me. I don’t have to prep. I just show up bouncing in joy. I hope while I tour with the potion show project we can have lots of sing-alongs and dance parties, bringing our bodies together in time and space to lose ourselves in collective joy.


Angels are a consistent theme of Christmas songs. I love the blend of humanism and mysticism in the Christmas story - God become flesh, a weary Mary, heralding of angelic beings, shepherd witnesses, a jealous king. While I love me an angelic choir (and trust me, we will have some epic choirs in the course of the potion show), my favorite moments are the intimate angelic visits. Those angels who come to comfort and guide - the special visitors that appear unexpectedly and change the course of one person’s life. It reminds me of my own angel network.


As I was coming out of the closet and entering into healing and recovery from so many years of silence and shame coupled with sexual abuse that followed me through high school and into college, I worked at a childcare center in Seattle (not a daycare, because we took care of children not days). I was an assistant teacher in the waddler room with my dear friend Amy. The waddler room was the transition period between baby and toddler. We were able to hear the nap music of the toddler room, and in rotation was Sarah McLachlin’s Surfacing album. I bought that CD, and when I was in the first, darkest years of my healing and recovery - the nights I couldn’t sleep for fear of nightmares that consistently stalked my nighttimes, I would put that album on. Every time it came to the “Arms of the Angel,” I would weep.


The loneliness expressed in that song I knew in my marrow. The peace expressed in that song flowed right alongside it. You see, I had angels throughout my darkest years. Without even knowing it, these angels held me and kept me alive. They loved me simply and deeply with no expectations or requirements save that I stay present with them as best I could. They didn’t know what I was going through, but they were there. My first angel was my big brother Geoff. He knew something deep was stewing inside me, and he just let me know that he was mine and I was his. No matter what. Amy, my lead teacher in the waddler room was another. We would go on road trips to Mt Rainier or out on the Olympic Peninsula. Just drive. And hike. And eat Red Vines. I would process my inner workings without her totally knowing what I was processing.

I have had so many other angels throughout the years. These days I am better able to express what is going on inside. Sometimes. Mostly, I just reach out my hand or drop my head or send a cryptic text, and they reach back out with deep, abiding love, waiting patiently for me to say what I need to say as they hold me until I can.


That’s the heart of my desire for touring the rural Midwest. I want to go places where queer kids and other creative misfits for whom the world is not typically designed live in isolation and shame and confusion and fear and despair. I want to connect with them and let them know they are not alone in that experience. I want to connect with the people in those communities who want to be there for those kids and youth and adults but don’t know how. I want us to discover how we can create angel networks to help us survive and begin to thrive. How to reach out for help and how to reach out to help. How to love from afar until some walls come down or doors open so that we may step more closely and hold each other with the arms of the angels. Helping each other find escape “in this sweet madness...this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees.”


To speak the words of Hafiz (as brought to us by Daniel Ladinsky) to each other with tenderness and love, seeing separation from God as those times that we are disconnected from ourselves, from serenity, from unity, from wholeness…


Just

sit there right now.

Don’t do a thing. Just rest.

For your

separation from God

is the hardest work in this world.

Let me bring you trays of food and something

that you like to

drink.

You can use my soft words

as a cushion

for your

Head.


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Jonny Stax Presents Inc.

Chicago, IL • West Branch, IA

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