01 September 2012


Whump. Thump. Clonk.

This time of year the tall black walnut trees around our place drop large round projectiles at random. They hit hard enough I want to wear a helmet when stepping outside. As I don’t own one, I sometimes I hold my hand over my head as I cross the yard. The thing about walnuts is I can’t see them coming.
This is so true of much in my life. For 34 years I didn’t see foresee my coming out as a gay man. Neither did my parents, family, church family, children nor wife.
Maybe we see only what we want to see. Nothing in my world or worldview had prepared me for the concept that one could be both gay and Christian. As a child, I’d sworn allegiance to the Christian flag (“and to the Savior, for whose kingdom it stands”) every Sunday in junior church. Like their co-conspirators the Communists, homosexuals were fearful, dark shadowy figures whose presence in the world boded no good for the cause of Christ or country. I could no sooner see myself as one than the other.

But maybe I’ve trained myself not to see. My husband Dave gets bothered that I seldom use the headlights’ high beams when driving at night. He turns to me from the passenger’s seat and asks, 

“Don’t you want to see what’s up ahead?”
Guess not.
I keep out of the office gossip loop at my workplace. I figure if something’s coming down the pike, I’ll hear about it in due time. No sense getting worked up about rumors that may never pan out.
Maybe I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t: the month my twin sons turned 14 they were of legal age to obtain a restraining order to stop our weekly visitation time; they did so. We’d spent time together regularly for 10 years. They told the judge they were uncomfortable with what they’d seen of my homosexual lifestyle.

How best to see anyway? When I was a boy I thought eyeglasses were cool. Not everybody wore them. They set people apart in a socially acceptable way. I thought if I wore glasses I’d fit in. If people noted I was different from them, they’d think it was the glasses. Doesn’t make sense to me now, but children make their own accounting of the world.

I was 13 the autumn day my dad drove me home, my first-ever pair of glasses on my face. The corn stubble in the fields we passed amazed me, the way each stalk stood out in sharp relief from its neighbor. With enhanced vision, what did I see? Ruin and decay.

Good training, perhaps, for what was to come. When I came out as a gay man in mid-life, I lost wife, children, family support, church connection, friends, court cases, career, and more. I learned that loss sometimes sharpens one’s ability to see. Unable to rely on others for support, I learned to look within, follow my own internal vision for the future. I wish this were always, everywhere true.

A writer-teacher friend advocates writing haiku as an exercise in focus and editing. Start with five syllables about some natural object, she says. Use the seven syllables in the second line to describe its essence. Dig deep. In the third and final line, use five syllables. Open up to some broader, more universal observation.

Finding a subject for my latest haiku was easy. I picked up one of last year’s bombshells and held it in my hand. Imagine if you will a cracked walnut shell. Half-globe. The one side, a dry, black, rounded ridged shell. On the other, a flat heart shape punctuated with two elongated dark holes—chambers once filled with nutmeat, since consumed by insects. From this side, the walnut looks for all the world like a miniature owl. I hope what I say of it is true for all of us who sustain loss, experience emptiness:

Cracked walnut, wee owl;
Your insides were eaten out,
granting you vision.

This essay appeared in the September 2012 issue of The Community Letter

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