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Yesterday, my partner and I visited a nearby agricultural high school where for the past four years we’ve struck up a friendship with the cows — one in particular. The cow in the photograph (the black and white one with her back to us) is done being milked and is now being fattened up for slaughter, since dairy cows are paid for by the pound.

All dairy cows are eventually sent to slaughter when they are done being milked (for usually three to five years). With this particular cow, we could tell that her personality changed. She was no longer happy to see us. She did not rise from the ground — she was so large and sluggish that we couldn’t tell if it was possible for her to stand.

The only acknowledgement we had of our visit was a slight shift of her ears when my partner sang a very sweet song for her. We have been negotiating for the release of this particular cow (to have her sent to a cow sanctuary) but our plan may not work.

My partner and I left the farm with very heavy hearts.

From a Buddhist perspective the fact that the consumption of sluggish animal leads to so many health problems for humans makes sense.

Remember, we are all one.

About four years or so, before I became a vegan, my partner and I were thinking of becoming vegans out of compassion for the animals. We were visiting the cows at a local agricultural high school and learned the cows are sent to slaughter after they are done being milked.

Shortly after that I was hospitalized for emergency surgery and subsequently acquired an infection that nearly killed me. I was not in the hospital long but quickly became disillusioned with the entire medical system.

The medical system does have its place (broken bones come to mind) but that is how I felt at the time. That fall (a few months later) on the advice of a local acupuncturist I started going to, I went to a healthy plant based diet.

A year and a half after being totally vegan, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. (My partner insisted that I go.) Because I don’t weigh myself at home, I found out that I had lost sixty pounds. The doctor told me that a lot of her patients lose weight by going to a plant-based diet. In my case, it was necessary to lose weight to be healthy. But many people who are already thin go to a healthy plant-based diet for health reasons. There are also ways to gain weight on a plant based diet for those who may need to bulk up — as is the case for some weightlifters.

I know from exercising and being a writer that engaging in a daily practice is how things get done and how change happens. It is the same thing when going to a healthy plant-based diet. It took a few months of transition but I got there. I was shocked at the transformation and how I could actually feel the absence of animal suffering in my body.

One of the ways that I stay on course is by watching episodes of the Exam Room Podcast (which is associated with the Physicians Committee for Social Responsibility). I feel lucky to have stumbled across it — just like I feel fortunate to have embarked on a path of being plant-based. The YouTube video below is from the Exam Room Podcast.

Since going plant-based, I have a lot of energy. One way that I use that energy is, of course, in my writing!

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

The Unicorn, The Mystery now available from Adelaide Books — #amreading #FaithfullyLGBT

Today, like most Sunday mornings, I attended the now digital services of the Unitarian Universalists of Mt. Airy (until recently it was the Unitarian Universalist Church of Mt. Airy). Today the service was given by two long-term members on the subject of convenent. It was a good service, and I learned a lot about being in community. I have been a card-carrying member of the Unitarians for more than five years, but I do feel like I am still in the learning phase. This is possibly because this is how I approach life. It is also probably related to the fact that I was raised secular. I have a hard time summing up my complex relationship to religion in a few words, but I do know that the religion that I found – combined with my other spiritual practices of doing qigong and Buddhist meditation — makes me a better person. It also makes me more inquisitive.

I am heavily influenced by the gnostic gospels The Gnostic Gospels can help people think in new ways, critical for this time. Consider that “gnosis” is the common Greek noun for “knowledge.” Perhaps, the reason the Gnostic Gospels are scorned is in the name: Gnostic (“knowing”). Apparently, it is heretical to know your own truth.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. There are some conflicting theories about when they were first written, but some historians say that they were written before the New Testament was written. The Gnostic Gospels were known throughout history – particularly in the Middle Ages – but were always banned by the Church.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of the Gospel of Mary written by Mary of Magdala and found in fragments.

I’ve decided to post a short excerpt from my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders(Adelaide Books)that were inspired by the The Gospel of Mary.

Mary looked dejected. Thomas wanted to cheer her up.

“It does not matter,” Thomas said. “You and I are Yeshua’s favorites. We’re the only one he trusts, really. He told me himself that there is no way to know that the apostles won’t abandon him in a crisis.”

“That’s true,” replied Mary. “Besides, we’ll be travelling with Yeshua when he performs his miracles. There’s nothing that Peter can say that will change that.” Mary nodded and then spoke: “Peter treats me like an adversary. But I am trying not to respond with anger. For one thing it would tarnish the feeling that I hold for Yeshua. I do feel that he can truly save us. Also, I know that the angry person’s wisdom is the seventh power of wrath.”

“What are the first six powers?” asked Thomas.

“The first form is darkness; the second, desire; the third, ignorance; the fourth, death wish; the fifth, fleshly kingdom, the sixth, foolish fleshly wisdom; and the seventh, as I told you, the angry person’s wisdom.”

Mary picked up her basket and glanced back toward the Temple. “I should go before the meeting is over and the men come out.”

Thomas looked at Mary with respect bordering on awe. Mary was wise, to be sure. She had much to offer.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

Thanks to Author’s Lounge/ ReadersMagnet for requesting and posting this article.

It seems like I’ve been writing all of my life – since I was writing stories and poems since I was a child. But I’ve been writing seriously – several hours a day – since I was twenty-nine. Gertrude Stein also started writing seriously when she was twenty-nine. Gertrude Stein is the American expatriate writer who moved to France with her partner Alice B. Toklas in 1903, the country where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Gertrude Stein is especially known for her literary and artistic salon that she had in Paris in the 1920s.

She is also known as “The Mother of Us All” – the name of an opera that she wrote with Virgil Thomson in 1945.

I mention Gertrude Stein because writing is a continuum. A writing teacher that I once had described writers as standing on the shoulders of the authors who came before them.

As a writing teacher, I always have my students mention their favorite authors when introducing themselves to the class. This tells us something about each student and we learn about new writers. To be a writer, you must be a reader. Books must mean something to you. Often, they mean a great deal to you.

I often say that if you are looking for a book to read and you can’t find it, then you must write it.  Write the books that are nonexistent. Write about what is nonexistent in literature. This is a good marketing strategy too. Chances are that you aren’t the only person looking to read the book that you are going to write.

Aside from being a reader, the other quality that it helps to have is perseverance. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s no point in writing your story. This is as futile as it is defeatist. If you decide that it’s over before you get started, then it is over. Don’t give away your power.

To me, writing is as necessary as breathing. Awards (I’ve won a few) and being published are nice. But when you take yourself seriously, you’re going to spend far more time with the writing (in solitude – creating your own worlds) than you spend with the elation of being honored. In other words, you must love the work more than you love being loved.

In 2012, my book Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters was published by Bella Books. It was chosen by the American Library Association for its 2013 Over the Rainbow List.

 My novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Adelaide Books also published my most recent novel The Unicorn, The Mystery in 2020. I was inspired to write The Unicorn, The Mystery from what is commonly called “the unicorn room” which is a room with seven tapestries hanging on the walls that depict what is still called “an unsolved mystery.” “The unicorn room” is part of The Cloisters – a building and a collection that is reconstructed from a monastery from the Middle Ages in The South of France. The Cloisters, located in the northernmost tip of Manhattan, is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Unicorn, The Mystery is a fictional telling of what happened to the unicorn. Following is more information on my novel which is available where books are available online including Amazon. It is also available through your local independent bookstore and through the local branches of your public library.

Taking inspiration from the 16th-century European tapestries known as “The Hunt of the Unicorn,” on display at the Met Cloisters, lesbian writer Janet Mason has crafted the novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (Adelaide Books), told from the viewpoints of a monk and, of course, a unicorn. –- The Bay Area Reporter, Gregg Shapiro

Like a beautiful tapestry, the novel weaves together theological debate and unforgettable characters, including queer nuns and their secret cat companion. Mason blends myth and history to conjure up a spellbinding vision.  –Kittredge Cherry, Publisher, Qspirit.net  

In The Unicorn, The Mystery, a novel for adults, we meet a unicorn who tells us the story of the seven tapestries, called “The Hunt of the Unicorn” from the 1500s on display in “the unicorn room” in the Cloisters, now part of Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tapestries tell the story of what is still called an “unsolved mystery.”  

The story is set in an abbey in France not far from the barn in the countryside where the tapestries were discovered. Pursued by a band of hunters, the unicorn is led along by observing birds, smelling and eating the abbey flowers and fruits (including imbibing in fermented pomegranates), pursuing chaste maidens (there is one in the tapestry) and at times speaks to other animals such as the majestic stag. 

Janet Mason is a teacher of creative writing at such places as Temple University Center City (in Philadelphia) and a Unitarian Universalist lay minister as well as being an author.

To read the piece in its entirety, click here:

The Unicorn, The Mystery by Janet Mason (readersmagnet.club)

For about the last five years, my partner and I have been going to visit the cows at a nearby agricultural high school that runs a dairy farm. In particular, we have gotten attached to a cow who my partner has named Sacred.

Here is very short video of her:

Because of our connection to the cows and Sacred in particular we know what happens to dairy cows (they are slaughtered when the farmers are done taking their milk). So Sacred and the other cows are a big part of why we became and remain vegan. We also went to a healthy plant-based diet and for health reasons and are part of that global movement. And since becoming vegans, we have educated ourselves about what the eating of meat (think about the rain forests that have been cut down for the raising of cattle and think about methane gas created by cows and bulls and its connection to climate change).

This morning at my Unitarian Church (UU of Mt. Airy in Philadelphia), I listened to a service on the rise of nationalism. Later, during my yoga practice, I came to the awareness that there is a connection between nationalism and climate change. Country over planet? How is it possible? We are all connected and we all need each other to survive.

I had been thinking that the fourth of July holiday is a very hard time to be a vegan and a Buddhist. And it is. It’s easy to rush to anger and judgment — but it’s not healthy or useful.

This morning I found myself being very sad about Sacred and about all the animals that are raised to be “food.”

So I prayed for all the animals. In particular, I prayed for Sacred and put protection around her.

Then I prayed for the meat eaters. It’s hard to see them ingest the suffering of animals and then suffer themselves. I prayed for them to wake up.

Then I prayed for the earth and all of her inhabitants including trees and flowers.

I pray for you and I pray for me.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

The Unicorn, The Mystery now available from Adelaide Books — #amreading #FaithfullyLGBT

This year, there are more Pride flags than American flags on our bock. (I counted.). I was amazed. When we first moved in — about 25 years ago — it was mostly American flags. And we were met by children telling us to go away.  A few years later, rocks were hurled at our front window by an angry young man who eventually moved away. 

This year, when I turned to my partner with amazement and reported my findings, she replied in a rather loud voice that they (the American flag wavers) could SUCK ON THAT!

Well, I thought, she did retire from the postal system. Then I thought we can’t all be Buddhists. Then I had a good laugh.

How wonderful that things have changed and how wonderful to see the change.  I credit our healthy plant-based diet!

Happy Pride!



To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

The Unicorn, The Mystery now available from Adelaide Books — #amreading #FaithfullyLGBT

I decided to launch my BookTube series with a review of Juneteenth, a novel by Ralph Ellison. To view the review on You Tube, click the above image. The text of the review is below. Each month — or longer, depending on my schedule — I will bring you a BookTube review of a book that I consider to be a classic.

Juneteenth

Ralph Ellison

Random House

I became aware of Juneteenth (a national holiday celebrated on June 19th) some years ago. The holiday marks the date that slavery was ended in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, federal agents arrived in Galveston, Texas to free all the enslaved people in the state.

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued a few years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.  Although the intention of the Proclamation was that enslaved people should be freed, the Proclamation was severely limited because it only addressed the seditious states that were opposing the Northern United States in the U.S. Civil War.

On June 17, 2021 (this year), Juneteenth (June 19th) was signed into law to officially become a federal holiday.

Juneteenth is also the title of a novel that was written by Ralph Ellison and published after the author’s death in 1999 by Random House. Ralph Waldo Ellison was a critical thinker and writer about race and history in the United States. He wrote many essays and criticism, but only published two novels. His important novel The Invisible Man was published in 1952. His novel Juneteenth was edited and published with his notes after his death in 1994.

In the introduction, Ellison’s colleague and the editor of Juneteenth, John F. Callahan,writes that “Juneteenth is a novel of liberation, literally a celebration of June 19, 1865, the day two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was decreed when Union troops landed in Galveston, Texas, and their commanding officer told the weeping, cheering slaves that they were free. The delay, of course, is symbolic acknowledgment that liberation is the never-ending task of self, group, and nation and that, to endure, liberation must be self-achieved and self-achieving. In his novel Ellison, who took part in more than one ‘Juneteenth ramble’ as a boy in Oklahoma, speaks of false as well as true liberation and of the courage required to tell the difference.”

Since this book is hard to read, I approached it like a mystery. When it opens, a white racist senator from the South experiences an event that renders him a dying man. As he lays dying, he reviews his childhood when he was an orphaned boy raised by a black community that he ran away from. The mystery to me was how did this man become an outspoken racist. If this fictional character were alive today, he would have been one of the few politicians who voted against making Juneteenth an official holiday.

In the book, Ellison delves into the heart of America where the main character (who as a boy was called Bliss) is seduced by the culture that teaches him that racism makes him more important and will be  financially profitable for him.

Along the way, Ellison offers the reader such gems of wisdom as uttered by the older black man, a minister, who took him under his wing when the senator was a child: “…But you had a choice, Bliss. You had a chance to join up to be a witness for either side and you let yourself be fouled up. You tried to go with those who raise the failure of love above their heads like a flag and say, ‘See here, I am now a man.’ You wanted to be with those who turn coward before their strongest human need and then say, ‘Look here, I’m brave.’”

The relationship between the older black man, named Hickman, who visits the Senator on his deathbed is explained by Ralph Ellison’s notes which are published in the end of the book: “Hickman despises the man but loves the boy whom the man had been.”

As he sits with the dying man, Hickman ruminates, “Why can’t they face the simple fact that you simply can’t give one bunch of men the license to kill another bunch without punishment, without opening themselves up to being victims? The high as well as the low? Why can’t they realize that when they dull their senses to the killing of one group of men they dull themselves to the preciousness of all human life?”

Reading Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison gave me a deeper insight into the heart of America, the place where American racism, and the root of all oppression, is located.

This is Janet Mason with reviews for BookTube.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

The Unicorn, The Mystery now available from Adelaide Books — #amreading #FaithfullyLGBT

Summary

This episode is also available as a blog post: https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2021/05/19/celebrating-everything-vegan-amreading/

Transcription

Every now and then I read my reviews online particularly at Goodreads and NetGalley. In particular, I enjoyed these two and wanted to share them with you.

The story The unicorn the Mystery reminds me of the tales of the old. The tapestry of the maiden and the unicorn. In a way it is. You get the unicorns point of view which is really amazing, a novice monk, and some novice nuns.

It goes over how only the pure of heart can see a unicorn. Religious metaphors for what they stand for. What they do. The trials that it goes through, is it real or just a myth. Is it looking for a maiden pure?

I really enjoyed this book, it was well written, had good flow and narrative and well-developed characters with good world building. The story was one of the most unique things I have ever read and the characters grab you along with the story from the first few pages. I was gripped and would definitely recommend checking it out. I finished it in a few hours I could not put it down. I can’t go into the book without giving anything away. Please read it.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery (Adelaide Books) click here:

The Unicorn, The Mystery now available from Adelaide Books — #amreading #FaithfullyLGBT

I was surprised and thrilled to learn that The Unicorn, The Mystery was featured in the Bay Area Reporter’s Pride 2021 Fiction Reading list by Gregg Shapiro.

Taking inspiration from the 16th-century European tapestries known as “The Hunt of the Unicorn,” on display at the Met Cloisters, lesbian writer Janet Mason has crafted the novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (Adelaide Books), told from the viewpoints of a monk and, of course, a unicorn.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

The Unicorn, The Mystery now available from Adelaide Books — #amreading #FaithfullyLGBT