Yesterday I attended a remarkable program at the Bainbridge Island Art Museum, part of their DogEar Festival, a celebration of artists’ books and printmaking. This particular event was Queer Writers Read, with a stellar lineup of readers. Two young female-identified readers especially caught my interest because both included multiple references to God and sacrament, rite and ritual. I chatted with them after the reading and asked about that, since such views are very unfashionable and rather bold these days. Both laughed cheerfully and replied that in their view, God is definitely transgender, gender-fluid, and/or probably pre- and maybe post-gender, or all of the above.
Earlier that morning, I had attended the local UCC church to hear a compelling and powerful sermon delivered by a gay pastor, who noted that the UCC (United Church of Christ) was formed in 1957 by melding four similarly congregationalist denominations, all run on ‘of the people, for the people and by the people’ lines, in direct response to the Civil Right Movement. Mark’s sermon wove local civil rights history with national history, reminding us that June is Pride Month because of the Stonewall Uprising, which occurred on June 28, 1969, when long-abused gay people stood up to brutal attacks from NYPD officers who had been harassing, beating, and jailing gay people for years simply for being gay. He talked about the courage and fear, loneliness and loss, pride and strength of the queer community. I found myself remembering how Jesus hung out with outcasts and poor people, not the proper and prosperous.
June Is For Uprising
Mark reminded us that this local Bainbridge Island UCC had been the focal point for civil rights actions, including during the removal of our local Japanese American citizens to internment camps during WWI, and through multiple rights movements. He talked about social justice movements and necessary uprisings, about growing up gay and afraid, ashamed and lonely, about fearing that if he was openly out as a gay man, he would not be ordained. This refreshing frankness made me realize that THIS is the church I’m hungry for; a church where social justice is not just an intellectual concept but a lively, living, daily way to live.
So many of the sermon’s themes were echoed in the Queer Writers’ readings; isolation and fear, loneliness and rejection, shame and humiliation, finding community and acceptance, learning to take pride. All this made me think about the many ways in which marginalized people are often especially kind and accepting, encouraging and supportive. About fifty years ago, inspired by Saint Francis and Saint Claire, I studied (briefly) with a Jesuit teacher, longing to become a Poor Claire nun. It didn’t go well, but I never lost the desire for being part of an accepting, nurturing community. How rich, then, to discover that that’s exactly where my life has brought me. I’m finally seeing that such communities may not be ready-made, but they are for us to weave together, here and now.
Coffee For Coughing
During the reading at the museum, I inadvertently sat near someone wearing perfume, which triggered an allergy attack. Coughing convulsively, I slipped out into the lobby-cafe, where a kind barista handed me a cup of fresh coffee. She said as an asthmatic, she had learned that a few sips of coffee will stop the coughing in moments and she was right. A few sips of hot black coffee and shazam! The kind barista said she’d heard that the tannins in coffee can disrupt coughing spasms, and though I don’t keep coffee on hand, after walking home through gusts of wind-blown pollen, I brewed myself a cup of coffee leaf tea. Sure enough, when the cough started up again, a few sips of the coffee leaf tea shut it down. Yay for another good home remedy!
I’m very fond of coffee leaf tea, which I find both refreshing and mildly sweet, with none of the bitterness of brewed coffee no matter how long it’s steeped. The flavor is gentle yet distinctive, with a warm, almost nut-like quality reminiscent of green teas. Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, coffee leaf tea is a traditional anti-inflammatory with about half the caffeine of a cup of black tea.
Coffee Leaf Tea
Every few weeks, I’ve been plucking a few leaves from my sturdy young coffee plant and drying them on a wire mesh cooling rack. Once I’ve got a cupful or so, I briefly dry-toast them in a cast iron skillet, then oven-roast them at 200 degrees F. for 20 minutes to dry completely. Stored in a tightly sealed jar out of direct light, the leaves last for months. I make my coffee leaf tea by putting two teaspoons of crumbled dried leaves in a mesh tea brewing basket and covering them with simmering water. Steeped for anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours, the tea is lovely warm or cold for a refreshing summer iced drink.