Brief Bio
Joan Ann Lansberry

How to summarize my life in a few short words? I was a deep thinker, even as a child. I wondered about 'life after death' and concluded at age five that "I was here to do great things". Of course, what that five year old meant by that might be something I'm still exploring. Awkward, and thus feeling shy, I was mostly the loner. Although I did have more friends later in childhood. Great agonies of confusion concerning myself, I didn't feel I fit with my conservative family. I didn't MEAN to rebel, it's just that it was unavoidable.

As I resolved my inner confusion, I grew and overcame my fears and deep anxieties. I was able to return to college and graduate with a BA in Studio Art/Art History and a minor in Philosophy. I didn't take my studies further, though. I was content to stay at home with Gramma and earn my living as a seamstress. I wasn't content for long, though. She required me to go to her fundy church. I surprised her when I moved out and got a studio apartment.

Then I began exploring alternative religious options. The local Unitarians, although friendly, didn't seem very active. So I found a 'gay church, the 'MCC' twenty miles away that was just the place I needed to be. Meanwhile, I kept writing letters and had a huge group of penpals. When I expanded beyond the 'wommyn'- only letter exchanges to one for a general population, I made a very unusual contact. Laura listed 'transsexualism' as one of her interests, and I thought she might be of more liberal mind.

A romance followed. She came to Joliet, and then left in a gray Ford escort. She returned via airplane and the two of us went to Arizona, where she'd been living most of her life. Our partnership had its rocky moments. But Laura was a most uniquely magical person, and when she was 'up', things were lively and exciting. Always with a bad heart condition, she feared leaving me via death. Thus it was she and I were both open to inviting a third person into our relationship. Sweet, gentle Julia is with me still, although Laura died in 2002, after complications from a heart attack.

Gradually, I recovered from this loss, although I also lost my mother in 2004. Sadly, Julia lost her mother the following year. But we are both grateful for all the friends and family who are still with us.

I enjoy travel. I especially enjoy exploring museums, any kind of museum, but in particular art museums. I have many photos taken while on those adventures, whether close at home or far away. I do a wide variety of art, with more observational as well as intuitive approaches. Someday, I will get back into oil painting. The oil sticks I bought a few months ago have not been opened yet, however.

I have a much more indepth autobiography, "Book Of Life", which explores the evolution of my life more precisely.

As part of my work with that autobiography, I wrote a poem:

Piecing Together the Memories:
(Ages One to Twenty Eight)
As I said at time of its creation:

"Yesterday early evening (a time of threshold), I rushed to capture the fleeting light resting on my image of Ma'at, and then in the early morning, (dawn, also a time of threshold), I looked with the intuitive eye at my past from ages one to twenty eight. I came to see myself ever struggling to find Ma'at, (truth, beauty and order) in a world of confusion. I saw myself coming to learn that only I could create my own meaning, 'piece by piece, the job of each day'.":

Piecing Together the Memories

Quietly now,
in the shadows
voices are speaking
whose voices?
and with what glittering tongue?
angels perhaps?
or is it the divine pieces of remembered Self?
It's all coming back to me now.
Little by little,
light fragment by light fragment,
easing into recognition.
I think I have it,
here, here and there.
Touching there, there, and here.
All I have to do is listen.

In the first place,
it wasn't like that.
I was not born into fear.
you don't come into one life
from the other carrying heavy bricks.
(though others think you might.)
what was it like,
when so wee
and without preconceptions?
The lack of 'what to expect',
what did I think of the 'tall children'?
That I did not know,
me so wee.

But they had expectations of me,
"you should know"
I should?
I did not, and felt guilt.
I never questioned this 'inadequacy'.
It was the first brick
into a bag carried on my back.
But it was heavy.

The long walk to school,
what was this journey for?
The other children looked so tall
and undoubtedly knew what they should.
We lined up, waiting for what I did not know.

Fear then waited in the corner,
in the hat rack,
under the shoe trod wood.
Then it was every wide eye to the teacher.
We were under her power now.
I followed her lead,
uncertainty ever near.

Then back home,
I found uncertainty had followed me,
How cold the porch was,
how my hands slipped when finding the key!

Chocolate pudding comforts,
and warm food before,
some hungers assuaged,
though uncertainty was still sitting
on my shoulder.

All the cold of the night,
me under heavy blankets,
seeking the warmth,
my hands seemed so small.

A repetition of days.
each much like the last.
then two that were different.
One for rest and play,
and one for the meeting in the
big white church.

All there in itchy dresses and
stiff collared shirts,
and all the people pretending certainty.
It was all there in the book.
That book I'd better learn.
And I did,
and I could quote verse after verse,
like some sort of odd pearls
strung loosely by memory.

Day after day,
these rhythms stayed the same.
Except for when they weren't.
I didn't need to go to the big red building,
and the house was decorated so pretty.
"Christmas", and each colored light
brought delight.
Each shapely bauble, in such shiny hues,
I loved each one.
Secrets in boxes that would soon be mine,
wonder waited until the day,

After what seemed forever,
'the day' came,
and every wonderful amusement mine,
pockets of joy amidst the uncertainties.

Soon friends and smiles,
and cousins and laughter,
life was getting better.
Hope was in my bag, along with guilt.

Long days of this rhythm,
day after day, I did not question,
it was what it was.

Though gray uncertainty still rode my shoulder,
I could not be certain of those adults.
What mama did and what mama didn't,
and why didn't she?
and why did she?
I could not be certain.
I knew daddy wasn't happy.
That much was certain.
And everyone sided with daddy,
that too was certain.
I was scared, that was certain.
All the loud voices and days
came to an announcement like thunder.
"Get your things, we're leaving!"
Mama like fish hook arms waving,
not catching the answer
until terror arrived, all over her face.

I was scared, too,
but did as I was told,
taking each of my small treasures
into that tan car.
Did all their anger come to this?
It did, and I felt so helpless.

I wanted gone from the scene,
and I tried to forget
in gramma's neat house, clean house,
with the nice cooked meals
and nothing still in cans.
The order brought a sort of comfort
to soothe out the edges of the
uncertainty which had grown larger
and heavier.

But the bed was cleaner and warmer,
and smelled better,
the sheets so white.
Perhaps I could order the confusion of my mind as well.
My body, too, was confusing,
with its changes of borders,
tender roundness and monthly red oozes,
it had its own order and rhythm.
(Was body always like this, in lives past?)
I learned I could not ask _that_ question!
I was mama's doubtful child, regarded with suspicion.
Just cover it over with laces and ruffles,
and perfect curled hair, and
maybe no one will notice.

Afraid to smile at what greeted me in the mirror,
that was the scariest thing of all.
Who was that creature looking back,
and what was she supposed to be?
Everyone certainly told me what:
graceful, poised, dainty, soft voiced,
humble, compliant, trusting.
'Trust God', they urged,
trying to soothe their own worries
as much as mine.

But the soothing seemed false,
and I began to suspect
answers could not fit into one
small book, covered with its
special leather covers.
That beginning of suspicion,
the beginning of wisdom,
and something I could direct with my own mind.

(The beginning of the end,
to the people of the book.)
I was surely bad seed
of a bad mother,
but perhaps I could still be saved.
I wondered from what did they want to save me?

Terrible world,
with its wanton movie stars,
and drunken singers,
and broken leaders,
and every vice they would not mention,
sad girl-boys, and boy-girls,
and 'unfortunate friendships' not to god's plan.

Who was this god of theirs?
I began to look closer.
An angry god, suspicious
of his underlings, and full of
unfathomable terrors,
eternal judgments and castings into fire,
I had my doubts.
I'd seen enough of hope to think
the all-wise could not be that angry.
Wisdom should be more impartial.
The best man would not treat his children so,
and neither would god, the father of all.
He would have some other answer
to his 'bad seeds'.
I was beginning to suspect I was not 'bad seed'.
Though certainty would wait until another day.

And I could see adults were afraid
of their father-god,
yes tall children after all.

But so much fear was everywhere
and it was certainly within me.
The world wide, away from familiar house,
and familiar faces, away from home,
I tried to find comfort in my teachings.
But when they taught me ugly art,
there was no comfort there.
It did not need to be Gainsborough, and ever green trees,
and satin dressed youths,
but screaming on a bridge in the middle of nowhere
was too close to home.

I screamed, too, silently,
my heart agape like Munch's mouth.
everyone afraid, just like I was.
Crashing, crashing, crashing,
falling, falling, falling.
Arms of home caught me,
they loved me after all.

I had to rebuild myself,
piece by piece,
and the hands that did the mending,
would soon mend clothes.
Days and days of mending
and hemming, and seaming,
making better fitting.
I could put in order only small pieces of the world.

But it was enough
and it paid some currency.
I stacked up treasures for a home of my own.
Dishware, and pot ware and silverware,
dreams there, too.
I was now among the 'tall children' myself.

Entering first lone room,
that kitchen, that stove,
now I was cook,
and I would not eat out of cans!
I learned the secret of the sauce,
and threw noodles on the wall,
stickier truths would follow.

But I would be ready for them,
for carried hope was large indeed.
I would handle each puzzle,
piece by piece,
the job of each day.

- Joan Lansberry - © 2009

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Book Of Life Index
Other Writings and Miscellanea
© Joan Ann Lansberry