01 December 2007


This time of year you don't see the cracks in the mortar. They're still there. They jag their way from above the cast iron fireplace insert to under the pine board mantel. Whoever laid the bricks didn't count on the extra weight to make the floor sag, the mortar crack. It did. Actions have consequences. Not that you'll notice, however. Not this time of year.

Step into our living room and your eye is drawn to the holiday decorations atop the mantel. Two green wreaths on either side, an angel in the middle. Shiny red balls, little white lights, bright yellow lemons, pine garland, reindeer, glistening glass. Beautiful—and fraught with meaning. Have a look. 

Two evergreen wreaths adorn the wall, apt symbols of two men whose lives have circled 'round though joy and heartbreak to a sense of wholeness and love. My husband Dave and I marked our eleventh anniversary as a couple this year. Coming out and living as gay men in rural America is a sweet-sour enterprise; lemons nestle with frosted red berries and ribbons amongst the pine bough wreaths. 

Loss and gain, fullness and emptiness. The tension between these poles recurs as a theme in our lives, and is reflected in the antique cut glass bowl propped on edge at the center of the display. Behind it, small white lights cord a pine garland that runs the length of the mantel. Extra lights gathered behind the bowl illuminate it, cause it to shine. Were the bowl full the effect would be lost. Out of the emptiness shines the light. 

Peer long enough into the bowl and you may see faces of the dead peering back: my father, Dave's mother, his firstborn son, friends and relatives. And the living: our former wives, my teenaged sons, Dave’s two siblings and one of mine—brothers by blood who severed ties with their gay kin—and a host of people we once called friends. The refracted light serves notice that even in their absence these persons are present to us; bearers of light all. 

To the right of the bowl stand three hurricane globes graduated in size. A ruby-red heart-red glass ball appears to float in the center of each. Look closely and you'll see the ornaments are suspended from nylon fishing line. It is not always easy to see the threads that tie us one to another. These glass globes represent Dave's three adult children and their spouses. 

On the left, three red balls represent my estranged sons. Twin reindeer each carry a rose-red ornament in honor of my twin sons; a crystal vase cradles the third red globe. Making of loss, beauty. Perhaps an answer to poet Stanley Kunitz, "how shall my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?"
Against the wall between the wreaths lean seven long cinnamon sticks. Squint your eyes and you might be looking at the oaken slats on the side of a crib. A crib that has been the focus of Dave's attention for hours on end this year. That has come into being through his effort. That represents the first realization of his desire to build fine furniture. 

A crib that will cradle our first grandson, born halfway around the world this past July. He should arrive home to his parents next month. He was named Angel Gabriel at birth, re-christened Noah Andrew Gabriel long-distance from Ohio. We've been cooing over photographs of him. What a bundle of hope and promise swaths any infant! As a reminder of this, above the mantel, above the cut glass bowl, above the red balls, the lemons, the wreaths hovers a carved wooden angel with wings widespread.  

There. Did you notice the crack in the masonry? Probably not. But it's there nonetheless. We live in a world that feels flawed, in which there is pain, loss, cracking up. But at the same time there is hope, there is color, there is light. Isn't this the message implicit in Hanukkah, Christmas and Winter Solstice celebrations? In the time of great darkness comes the light.

In this new year may we all be sustained by such hope. And light.

And love.

This essay appeared in The Letter, December 2007

01 November 2007


Out hiking, I turn a corner and come upon two harvestmen tumbling about on the woodland path, a tangle of legs and bodies, rolling, rollicking back and forth. What is going on here? Are they fighting? Making love? Kissing? Killing each other? I haven’t a clue. Should I interrupt, separate them? Rescue the smaller one? I choose to watch instead. Comes now a break in the action. They lay still awhile, leg-locked, mouths pressed together. Suddenly the larger one ups and makes a dash for freedom, only to be pursued, caught and wrassled about once more. Then another long lip-locked pause. Four times they repeat this dash and capture, resist-desist sequence. At last the larger one gets away, hides out in the undergrowth, eludes detection. For them, the contest is over. For me, the questions remain.

What did I just witness? What sense to make of it? Was a life lesson offered me?

I want to know more, anything. I open volume one of my 1965 Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary. Harvestmen, I learn, are not spiders but arachnids, members of a family that includes spiders, mites, scorpions and harvestmen—or daddy longlegs, as they are commonly called. Alas, aside from a note that they eat insects, nothing here about the lives and habits of these small creatures.


So I replay the scene in my mind. What do I notice? I make a list:

(1) There is much about life I do not know, do not understand, even when it plays itself out under my very nose.

(2) How difficult it is to do good! Should I have  intervened? On whose behalf? Should I act without knowing the full story? And when am I ever privy to that? 

(3) In the end, I stood back, watched without emotional investment or entanglement in the outcome. I let happen what would happen. Can I view my own life from similar perspective?

(4) The harvestmen were entirely wrapped up in themselves, intent upon their own actions—these two small beings whom I could have crushed with my thumb. Of what real import their struggles? Of what real import mine?

(5) Am I of any more cosmic significance than a daddy longlegs? Would I not appear as ludicrous to any gargantuan force that might peer down at my little wrestlings with others?

(6) Surely a spider knows nothing of the wider human world. Surely such creatures ought to be grateful they have instinct, knowledge and awareness enough to make their way in their own world, and leave it at that. What makes me think I can grasp anything beyond human ken? Am I not arrogant to believe a given religious dogma or scientific doctrine explains the mysteries of the universe?

(7) What does it mean to be alive? To be a human? A harvestman? Are we not all somehow spider-men? Perhaps I have more in common with the creepy-crawlies of the world than I imagine. Surely I can learn from them. 

(8) Will I?

This essay appeared in The Letter, November 2007

01 October 2007


Looks like it would make a mighty fine walking stick. It’s about five feet tall, just the right size ‘round. As my husband and I walk  through our woods I spot it alongside the trail. I pick it up, am surprised to find it’s hollow, light as lemon meringue. Dotted with holes where woodpeckers once drilled for insects. Knock all you want, but nobody’s home. 

I once felt like that, empty as all git out, and I couldn’t understand why. I was doing everything right, everything church, society, family told me to do. I married, had kids, a house, a dog. Served as a church leader, worked for a religious-affiliated nonprofit, always used my turn signal. Yet found my self, my whole world, hollow inside. Was there nothing more than nothing at the heart of it all? Good people were supposed to be happy, I thought. Was I missing something? 

In a word, yes. And I didn’t have a clue how big it was. Or if I did, I repressed, ignored, denied any hint of it. I couldn’t be gay. It was unthinkable, impossible. I believed what I’d been taught by church, family, society: gay people were hell-bound sinners, misled, misbegotten, mistaken. These sex-crazed creatures were objects of pity, destined to be much less happy than, say, me. 

No way I could be one of them. No way, I say. No, not that. Anything but that, but them. Not me. 

Bless marriage, middle age, mortality for finally waking me up to life, to the realization that my lifelong attraction to men was more than passing fancy. To my unhappiness, to the fact I was sharing it with those about me. To the news that this wasn’t going away.

After I came out to myself and others as a gay man, my wife and I separated, divorced. Loss beset me on all sides: children, family, friends, church, employer, landlord, legal system. I learned the hard way I could not rely on any external source of help.            

When others turned me out, I turned within—pushed open the door of loss, grief, pain and stood amazed at what lay behind. A path led down into depths, into dark. Shaken, shaking, I took tentative steps into myself.

Along the way I lit several little candles: I recorded the events of my days, dreams of my nights, my reflections on each. I learned about and practiced active imagination. I meditated. I read books, various authors’ call to nurture one’s inner life. By these actions I cast light on the self I’d been afraid to face. 

I found more substance in that supposedly hollow space than I could shake a stick at. And I understood that when wrapped in my robes of self-righteous comfort, I’d been the one who was misinformed, misled, mistaken, an object of pity. Then came life, rapping at my door, insistent, probing, inviting, “Empty yourself. Come in, come down. Of all the space in the universe, this is your true home.”

This essay first appeared in The Letter, October, 2007

01 September 2007


Virginia (not her real name) would die with in 36 hours. She didn’t know it. I didn’t know it. Newest arrival to the nursing home, she’d been placed on the bed beside my grandmother’s. Virginia was distraught, wild-eyed. restless. “What do you think I should I do?” Her voice ran to the high side of throaty. Her tone was earnest, laden with emotion. Her question very human: “What should I do? Oh, what should I do?”

My own throat tightened. What should you do about what? Doesn’t look like you can do much of anything. And how should I know? I don’t have the answers. I felt relieved when her minister and granddaughter soon arrived. 



 “Oh good! Maybe you can help me. What should I do? I don’t know what I should do.” 

“Rest,” said the granddaughter. “You’ve had a big day. You were transferred from the hospital this morning, remember? You’re here now, but you’re tired out. You need to relax, and get some rest.”

“I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know what should I do.” She caught her breath. “Am I dying?” 

Ah, that’s her real question. 

“You’re tired,” the minister said. “You’ve had a big day. You need rest. You need to let your body rest.”

“Is that it, then? I’m tired out? Oh, good. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I’ve been worrying myself sick.”

“Try to relax, Grandma. Just lay back and relax.”

By the next evening Virginia was dead. Didn’t her minister and granddaughter know she was dying? Or did they know but feel uncomfortable talking about it? Did they choose to protect her from the truth?

I don't know. But I do know I don't want the same thing to happen to me. If and when I am dying, don’t tell me I’m merely tired. I want the truth. 

This represents a sea change for me. I spent years not wanting to know, suppressing my attraction to men. I didn’t want to be gay, didn’t want to consider that I might be. I was afraid of this truth. Life changed for me when I turned and faced what was. Possibilities opened up. Awareness set in. No way I want to go back. 

When I am dying I want to know it, and to use the hours and energy left me to prepare for my final passage into Mystery. I'd rather do this than go to bed early and catch up on my rest. Those around me, if they're willing to be honest, able to overcome their own fears about the subject, may be able to offer me a heads up. As I have opportunity, I'd like to make use of my time. Yet that time, that opportunity is now, isn’t it? I need now to be surrounding myself with truth-tellers, using my time to honor, further and tell truth. I need now to be living into what is, learning to stay aware of those facets of truth I already know. 

This I know: I am dying. You are dying. We all of us received a sentence of mortality when we were born. Virginia was no braver than me. No smarter. No stronger. No different, really. Her death, when it came, came with a rush. She navigated this ultimate passage with eyes closed. Me, I want mightily to keep them open wide.

An earlier version of this essay appeared in The Letter, September 2007.

01 August 2007


There is a certain type of man who, when I spot him, I want to greet with a swift kick in the balls. I am not prone to violence; this is an almost visceral response, a (forgive me) knee-jerk reaction. Although I don’t know him as an individual, I recognize his type. I’m sure he doesn’t know I exist, doesn’t care one way or the other. At most I appear as a blip on his radar screen, one more blob among the mass of faces that blur as he rolls by in his gilded carriage. I watch with a peasant’s smoldering rage.

He is twenty-something with dark hair, a face that turns heads, a body to match: trim athletic build, rippling muscles in his arms, legs. His shirt would cost me a week’s pay; the day I wear shoes like his is the day I’m invited to dine with the Queen of England. 

He walks, sits, stands—breathes—with the easy air of privilege, arrogance, conceit. He has, is everything I am not. Comfortable in his skin, his sexuality. Rich. Young. Good-looking. Born to convenience and easy living. Takes life for granted, gets away with it. Treats people like dirt, gets away with that, too. 

Hating him, I feel better about myself. Some frigid part of me hunches over the flames of jealousy, envy, spite. These coursing emotions energize me, if only briefly. While in their grip I feel larger than I am, more powerful, more holy, more dangerous. As a steady diet of hatred would exhaust me, I use it much like horseradish on a sandwich—just enough so it hurts. I get a quick high, a cheap rush. And by holding onto hatred I don’t have to deal with pain.

My reaction is more about me than him, I admit. I despise myself for all I am not, did not, have not become. In lashing out at him I really lash out at myself. My anger simmers, seeks release. It feels easier, safer to direct my rage out and away from me. Let Mr. Got-It-All deal with it rather than me.

Perhaps similar feelings motivate the unknown person who vandalizes our property. We seldom leave the house but we wonder what shape it will be in when we get home. Our mailbox regularly gets bashed in, the house egged, debris scattered in the yard. Only once has a fire been lit on the front porch. Maybe the vandal’s motives are similar to mine; my husband and I perhaps represent the freedom, creativity and courage he longs for, that he lashes out against. Thing is, he doesn’t stop at thinking about it, at spicing his life with mental flights of fancy. Maybe he has a higher threshold for excitement, needs to down the whole enchilada. While I can see parts of myself in him, offer him a hand in recognition of our common humanity, I’m keeping the other strategically placed over the family jewels.

This essay appeared in The Letter, August 2007

01 July 2007


From England, in the 1600s, Abraham Cowley wrote, “I confess I love littleness almost in all things. A little convenient estate, a little cheerful house, a little company, and a very little feast; and if I were to fall in love again (which is a great passion, and therefore, I hope, I have done with it), it would be, I think, with prettiness, rather than with majestical beauty.”

Cowley is my kind of man. I, too, take pleasure in little things—the sweet snappy taste of orange marmalade, the smell of my husband’s work shirt, the crinkle of a baby’s laugh. If there is a secret to happiness surely it hides in one’s awareness and appreciation of small joys. 

The other night my husband Dave and I sat on the front steps of our little cheerful house eating our very little feast of egg sandwiches, watching the occasional car go by. Our hens are laying upwards of 20 eggs a day so we eat eggs. In sandwiches, tortillas, soup, casseroles. Over potatoes, toast, rice, spinach, beans. Scrambled, boiled, stir-fried, baked. Some days eggs afford very small joy indeed. But the hens haven’t given up yet and neither have we. 

As Dave and I shared our step-sitting supper,  a woodpecker rapped his own meal from the walnut tree in the yard’s northeast corner. A moth fluttered above the daffodils and hyacinth by the driveway. In the woods to our left, tiny spring wild flowers peppered the ground—pink Johnny Jump Ups, white Dutchman’s Breeches and the little yellow ones whose name escapes me. 

We heard the driver’s taste in music (loud) long before he rolled past us in his wide-bodied brown pick-up, windows down, radio blaring. He was twenty-something, beefy build, pulled down baseball cap, dark hair, bushy eyebrows. He stared straight ahead, didn’t glance our way as had other motorists. “Careful,” I wanted to shout after him. “You might catch whatever it is you think we have.”

Sure, I may have misjudged him, but I had felt the air thicken with suspicion as he passed. He fit my image of the unknown vandal who regularly visits our property. 

In our neck of the woods two men sitting on a front porch eating egg sandwiches constitutes a subversive act, as does two men weeding flower beds, two men walking out to the barn, two men painting a picket fence. Two men doing anything domestic is too much for some people. It has provoked some passerby to bash in our mailbox several times. To sprinkle white powder sprinkled in our yard at the height of the anthrax scare. To throw a burning bag of feces on our porch. To egg our house at regular intervals. 

As if we don’t have enough eggs already.

Two egg sandwiches. One simple supper. A small thing, sharing this very little feast with the man I love very much. A little risk, sitting together on the porch in front of God and everybody. A little gesture towards living into the kind of world I wish this one could be.

A world where I wouldn’t look twice before kissing my husband goodbye in the driveway. Where I wouldn’t drop his hand as we walk back from the barn if I hear a car approach. Where I wouldn’t fear epithets—or beer bottles—being hurled at me as I’m out mowing the grass along the road’s edge. Where I wouldn’t wonder, “What will they do to the house next time? Where will it stop? Will they bring guns?”

By little steps I help create such a world inside myself each time I risk showing my heart, who I am, who I love. By little acts of awareness, little choices I make in each moment that is now. To choose freedom over easy acceptance, forgiveness over bitterness. To affirm light, life within. To crack the crusty shell of societal prejudice and privilege. To call into being the world I imagine. A world not of beauty—for even majestical beauty may prove skin deep—but  a world built on little acts of justice, awareness, wholeness. For pretty is as pretty does. 

This essay appeared in The Letter, April 2007

01 May 2007


My hand reaches up to return a high five to the fifth grader with the long frizzy hair. I remember him from last year, all right, even if I’ve lost his name. Jared? Jesse? Jamie? He was one of the rascally boys, the ones who all year long give the fourth grade teacher fits, only to shine bright in the one-day clown class I teach each spring. I’ve been coming back to this little elementary school the first Friday in May for nigh onto 25 years. 

Clown Day is an institution of sorts here, a rite of passage for every ten-year-old in town and the surrounding countryside. The children learn clown techniques, practice skits, apply makeup, present a program to the entire school and a smattering of parents. "The best thing about school is recess, lunch and Clown Day," one fourth grader told me today. Said another, “You taught clowning to my mother.” A fifth grader said she'd forgotten what role she played in last year's clown program. I couldn't remember either. 

I had once hoped to bring my sons along with me to Clown Day, the year each of them was in the fourth grade. A bitter divorce intervened, made time with them hard to come by, time together outside the narrow window of court-ordered visitation almost unheard of. Knowing what her answer would be, I didn't bother to make the request of their mother. I kept mum.

I clown silently in pantomime, and this fifth grader greets me in like language. He waits in silence, black eyes wide, face serious, palm held high. We could be performing together. Me: bulbous red nose, white dress shirt, obscenely long yellow tie, maroon suspenders, tiny black vest, green highwater pants, mismatched shoes. Him: long frizzy hair, black and white mime-striped t-shirt, ragged blue jeans, scuffed black shoes. I smile broadly.

I wasn't smiling last night when I checked the brood hen, would-be mother. She'd jumped ship, changed nests, left her week-left eggs to go stone cold. Found greener pastures one nest box over, abandoned 12 little promises to life for the pleasure of warming a single fresh-laid egg in a new nest. When I see senseless waste, dreams shot down without a chance at life, something dies inside me, just as surely as it died a dozen times over in her old nest. What kinds of mothers are abroad in the world!

I returned to the house, as a spiritual discipline started a love letter to the mother of my children, my former wife, present enemy. I cast it as an opportunity to fight fire with love. Started off boldly enough. Loving words ran out of my pen, soon ran out altogether. I found myself voicing regret, petty pity, spite. Something's died inside me. I feel very sad. I wonder, if nature abhors a vacuum, what has filled the empty space in my heart? In hers?

Clown meets fifth-grader. Clown remains standing at adult height, chooses not to bend sore knees, put rubber nose within pulling range. Returns the high five. Or tries to. Hand meets empty air because boy withdraws his. The promised high-five was but set-up for a joke, fifth-grade sense of humor, getting one over on the clown. The adult feels angry. I've died enough little deaths, kid. 

My adult self elbows out my clown. Man and boy continue the interchange. Boy continues to pull his hand away, but man is ready for him now. Man is quick, manages to tap boy's hand more often than not. Boy's face registers no affect, remains serious. 

I come to my clown senses. What am I doing? Who am I, anyway? What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? My clown's character is one easily duped, readily fooled. I step back into clown shoes, play the dumkoff. 

A teacher's aide approaches. A big smile rings her happy face. "I just wanted to tell you something," she says. "My mother was at Clown Day two years ago. Do you remember her? She was the lady in the blue kerchief, a cancer survivor. Well, anyway, she was at Clown Day two years ago and she had such a good time. She laughed so hard. She's passed on now, but two years ago, you really made her day. She laughed and laughed. I just wanted you to know."

I smile to her telling, pantomime sorrow at the news of her mother's death, doff my hat by way of saying thanks. Nod and smile some more. She leaves. 

As clown, I turn to the boy beside me. Here am I, child, fool me if you will. I will to believe you. I will to trust you. I live in a world where hope springs eternal, where people tell truth, love each other. Here's my hand.

This essay remains unpublished.

26 January 2007


By age nine I knew everything about God. My church was the only true one and my family among its truest followers. I knew what it takes to enter heaven. I lugged my red leather, red-letter edition King James Bible to school each day. I witnessed to my classmates on the bus and at recess. It was up to me to save the world. Absolute certainty is a heavy burden.

Knowing everything kept me from knowing myself. Because I knew I was one of the elect, I knew my persistent attraction to men didn’t mean anything important. I was as saved as saved can be. Therefore I couldn’t be gay.

Knowing everything kept me from knowing life. I very nearly killed myself rather than embrace my sexuality. After a second averted suicide attempt I turned to a priest friend for help. He suggested I did not have to know everything, that I could make room for Mystery. This was a new concept for me. It saved my life.

Today I make plenty of room for doubt and not knowing. This is a source of power in my life. It is also in direct opposition to the model set by my current spiritual director.

Albert is white. His eyes are beady, blue and intense. Reminiscent of a colleague of mine with a wen, he has a big knobby growth centered on his forehead. Albert is much shorter than I, but his temper towers above us both. 

This aspect of his personality doesn’t win him many friends. My husband says Albert is mean-spirited and rude, an ingrate. I say he has presence. My husband calls Albert self-centered, cantankerous and loud. I call him teacher and friend. 

I spent many years of my life hiding my feelings and hiding from my feelings. Albert, on the other hand, takes a very direct approach. I can read his mood just by looking at him. When he’s up, he’s up. When he’s down, he’s angry. In fact, the lower his head sinks the more angry he is. When he’s feeling especially proud of himself (quite often the case), he stretches his neck as far as he can—a considerable distance—and holds his head high. 

If we are all delusional to some extent, Albert’s delusion is that he is a late-born Napoleon. He sees himself as much bigger, much more powerful, much more important than he really is. He believes himself the center of all attention. He thinks he knows everything. And that everything is about him. 

People sometimes wonder what I see in him. That’s easy. I sometimes see myself.

I met Albert about a year and a half after my husband and I bought a farmhouse nestled in 18 wooded acres in rural Indiana. We’d been evicted from our small-town apartment after word got out a gay couple was living there. We began an earnest search for a place of our own. We wanted it to be soul-nurturing, in the country, and affordable. It took us 18 months to find the place. And about that much longer to add a dozen chickens and two geese. We named the latter King James and Prince Albert.

Hatchery catalogs tout white Chinese as the breed of domestic geese with the most personality. What they don’t say is that personality is mostly obnoxious. Albert lost no time in demonstrating that he is more than willing to bite the hand that feeds him, or any part of the anatomy that’s handy. In this he makes a wonderful watchdog. His sense of personal space is vast and he honks loudly when anyone or anything infringes upon it. A car driving slowly by is enough to set him off. 

Chasing cars is in fact his passion. I imagine he loves the ego thrill that comes of a 20-pound goose besting a two-ton mechanical beast. As I back out of the driveway he lowers his head and charges the car. As it retreats before his onslaught he gets an adrenaline rush. Victorious, he stretches to full height, then beyond. He stands on tiptoe and flaps his wings. It is a proud moment. Napoleon at Austerlitz all over again.

Albert insists upon getting his own way, and is difficult to live with when he does not. He cannot comprehend why I sometimes thwart his wishes. He assumes he knows everything about me. In the world according to Albert, I live only to serve him and to wait on him wing and foot. Each time I step outside it is to attend to his whims. 

He has somehow worked out why it is I provide him food, drink and shelter. It has to do with him being the center of my universe. When I don’t comply fast enough or when I turn my back on him, he is more than entitled to his pound of flesh.

After he raised bruises on a visitor’s leg, Albert found his freedom curtailed by a newly built, rustic picket fence. It’s become his goal to find, push and poke as many holes in it as possible. Every day he does picket duty, snaking his long neck into every likely looking place he might be able to effect his escape. More often than I like he finds one.

He wriggled through some hole the Monday morning I was late for a dental appointment. As I backed down the drive, I saw Albert following in hot pursuit. I jumped out of the car, caught him and carefully held his beak closed as I carried him over to his side of the fence. Before I got back in the car he was after me again. I was in a rush. I didn’t have time to find and mend a hole in the fence. I carted him back again and made a run for the car. As I pulled out onto the road Albert was coming at me, full tilt. 

I yanked the car over to the roadside, leapt out, slammed the door and charged him. I met one surprised goose half-way, grabbed him and without regard to my physical safety ran him back and locked him in the dog kennel for the day. I turned again to the car. It wasn’t there. I hadn’t set the emergency brake. The car had rolled down the steep embankment, nose-first. “I’m going to be late,” I told the receptionist when she answered the phone. “Our goose just put my car in the ditch.”

There is power in living life as Albert does. I ignore it at my peril.

Here in the Bible belt, I often run into earnest well-meaning people who make what I now think are outrageous claims, especially about matters of spirit. “This is who God is,” one told me the other day. “And this and this and this are ways God works. If you want to be saved, you must do this and this and certainly not that.”

When a person goes on like this, I hear echoes of my past. And of Albert.

That goose has been in our keeping since he was a day old. He knows no other world but the one my husband and I provide him. He receives his food, water, shelter and care compliments of us. We set boundaries for him. We protect him. 

Albert is a cantankerous fowl creature, willing and able to bite the hand that feeds him, to act the part of the silly goose. He chases cars, for pete’s sake. And I love him for it. He puffs up with self-importance and struts about like a know-it-all. His temper is as big as Texas. He models for me my own goose nature, that part of me that will turn and bite me in the butt if I go unaware.

For Albert to act like he knows everything—or if not everything, a great deal, anyway—about my husband and me seems the height of folly (and not altogether out of character for him).
What of substance can Albert know about the prerogatives and predilections of a human being? How can he with his goose mind pretend to know the mind of his gods? Yet he lives untroubled by doubt, absolutely certain he is in the know. 

Perhaps he and I are more alike than I care to admit. When it comes to the universe and matters of spirit, I have a goose mind, too. And I appear just as much the silly goose when I pretend to know how and why it all works. Or how it doesn’t work. Far better, far more authentic for me to stand on tiptoe, fling wide my arms, embrace Mystery and trumpet the one truth of which I am absolutely certain, “I don’t know.”

This essay appeared in White Crane, No. 67, Winter 2005/2006