Turtles, Rivers, Mitochondria, Figs

There are certain moments in life where it feels like a light has come on. Not sudden understanding, exactly, but sudden vision. Where before there was darkness, now there is light. You look up and realize, hey, my life can look different. I can improve my life. I can change things and those changes could totally transform me and my life for the better.

I think everyone can, and maybe does, experience this to some extent. But a really startlingly clear example would be queer people as they begin to come out. Finally opening up your heart–even just to yourself–enough to see that there could be happiness for you. That there is more than everything you thought your life had to be.

I can’t explain how powerful it is to come to a place where you can dream about falling in love when you have literally never been able to really imagine it before. It’s like being practically frozen and taking a sip of rich hot chocolate: you can feel it travel through you, track its progress across your body, feel a change instantly in a way that was hard to conceive of when all you could think about was how cold you were.

The thing queer people won’t hesitate to tell you is that coming out is not one moment, one choice. It’s a choice that, once made, must be made over and over again as you encounter new people, new situations, new realities. And therein, I think, is one of the most powerful lessons about these light-on moments.

I’ve written (to varying lengths) about our current situation several times the past several weeks. And I haven’t really known what to say but I keep repeating it over and over again, that I hope this changes things. That I hope we come out the other side of this better, different, more compassionate, more whole. But here’s finally something I can say that is, at least in some small, kind of psychological way actually actionable.

Think about your life changes like coming out. It’s something that, once you realize, you can’t imagine going back. Once you feel the freedom, you’ll do whatever you can to keep it. And as you move forward, you’ll always be on the lookout for moments when you might need to make the decision all over again.

Just as opportunities to come out come up all the time, so will opportunities that test your resolve on any change you’re trying to make. It’s not a sign of failure if you choose against your first decision. But if you’ve really seen the light, you’ll at least know what you’re striving toward, even if you don’t walk that direction every time. Once you have seen what life can be like, once you’ve granted your imagination permission to dream greater dreams, you can’t help but come out over and over again, even if imperfectly.

I guess I just want to encourage you in walking in response to whatever light-on moments you may have had in response to this pandemic. Whether related to your own life or social structures beyond your direct control. If your imaginations have been opened about what your life can look like, relish that. Exult in the joy of finally realizing whatever it is that you’ve realized. Give yourself grace in the months and years to come, knowing that change is hard and choosing over and over again is hard. But take heart.


I’m thinking about what I said last week. I know it wasn’t much but the thrust of it I think is about the most powerful change we can make. To love anyway. To forgive when we have no good reason. To be kind when we know it won’t be reciprocated. To be glad for a friend’s happiness instead of envious or melancholy that we don’t have the whatever.

These are all choices that we can make. Moment to moment, over and over again, until we die. And the best part is, they’re exactly the kind of choices that will treat us kindly when we fall short, and spur us to choose good more. The world is having a hard time right now, even more than usual, but we can choose to grow through it, choose to look different on the other side.

There’s such a beautiful natural analog to this in twisted trees and things like that. When the light changes or the wind shifts or the ground moves, they adapt. They don’t abandon where they’ve been but neither do they feel the need to continue in a course that no longer results in good growth. Their trunks and branches contort themselves so that they can flourish where they are, and every ounce of energy must again and again make the decision to support that new, different growth.

I encountered this poem from Jane Hirshfield entitled Optimism. I am thinking about what resilience means. Those parts of us which do not merely spring back but take a new shape, grow into something strange and twisted and beautiful. The sweetness of figs.


More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.

Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone

This is a very disjointed post, I’m not sorry. I will never get over the horizontal line feature. Anyway. We’ll start with cats (a very good place to start).

They are still, as ever, very cute. And I’m so pleased to have gotten a semi-decent picture of Bubba sitting still.


Events this week have included not a whole lot, other than the relatively unsurprising but still very disheartening news that I will not be moving to New Mexico any time in the near future. It was a distinct possibility, and one that I had staked rather a lot of hope (of necessity, since I have had no other leads), but it all proved to be in vain. I’m not utterly broken by the news but it was hard to hear all the same.

I had already started planning a little bit about what I would do if it didn’t come through but those plans are still very nascent and so who really knows what’s coming. It’s scary and uncomfortable and I hate it.


I was reminded of a series of Tweets I saw on Facebook (social media, what have you done). Someone named Julia Rodgers was responding to Christians who asked whether/how they can love queer people without being fully affirming. She responds, in part, “Love draws us outside of ourselves and moves us to think of other people first. If we keep returning to questions that are about our beliefs or our experience of them, we might ask whether we truly love them or are just trying to manage our anxiety about them.”

I don’t disagree that sometimes loving people means choosing for them something they would not choose for themselves–helping someone recover from addiction may be a good example of that. But imagine being told that, though all sin, you are so uniquely sinful that you are prohibited from falling in love. Not with a specific person or in a specific situation, just ever. So while choosing good for someone else is a thing, how do you know what the best thing is for someone? What does the fruit (to speak a little Christianese) of those choices have on the people you’re choosing for?

I’ve also never gotten the whole concept of considering homosexual acts different from simply existing as a homosexual person. God looks at the heart, I think it’s pretty clear: looking lustfully is the same as committing adultery, being angry with someone is the same as murdering them. My heart is so very gay. Either it’s a problem or it’s not, regardless of how I act.

I’m not expressing myself well here at all, alas. I just wasn’t expecting to be in this place again this week but, as I have seen and been told, you never finish coming out. Sigh. I am not perfect at love, so forgive me. But also, if you’ve asked the question above, please listen.


I read a new book this week (sorry, Far from the Madding Crowd, you’re on the back burner already) and it’s pretty good. It’s City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. I want to share with you three quotations, all from the same chapter, in fact, around one third of the way in. The first two are from a Buddhist monk-type guy who is talking with the main character about why he still performs acts of charity when his god has been dead for decades. The last is a while later, from the main character to an old lady from an opposing ethnic group.

“I never saw a country before […] All I saw was the earth under my feet.”

“Good can be done at anytime, anywhere, to anyone, by anyone.”

“I don’t have the time or the energy to hate. I only wish to understand. People are what they are.”


I would like to conclude with a poem by Mary Oliver (who sadly died earlier this year) that one of my correspondents sent me in a letter this week. It ends with a sentiment that seems to me–at least in my current state–both haunting and hopeful.

Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.