Thursday, August 03, 2006

A live-oak growing

I SAW in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it, and the moss hung down from the branches;
Without any companion it grew there, uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself;
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves, standing alone there, without its friend, its lover near—for I knew I could not;
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away—and I have placed it in sight in my room;
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them;)
Yet it remains to me a curious token—it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana, solitary, in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life, without a friend, a lover, near,
I know very well I could not.

-Walt Whitman


Being the artistic type, I made my own Christmas cards for friends one year in high school. They were pretty great cards, actually. They were a watercolored painting with a calligraphied poem, both chosen because they reminded me of that person. I gave a painting of a tree with this Whitman poem to my best friend. I didn't mean anything gay by it. I just meant that I loved him. I think he took it just the right way (but now that I know Whitman was gay I sometimes wonder what his parents thought of it!).

I like this poem because, despite how Whitman may have intended it, it describes well the visceral yearning I have for a man's love. It's something reparative therapists describe just as gay advocates do. There's a need there for companionship and love irrespective of sexuality. But in my case (and some would argue every case), the need is a paradoxical need of sorts. Ideally, one's companion could be everything to that person, including sexually. But a man could never give me a family. And a woman could never fulfill me sexually. My yearnings for mutually exclusive ends need a little cognitive oversight.

Despite how hard it has been to give up on my desire for a fully deep and sexual relationship with a man, I took the step to build a relationship with someone who my feelings never told me was ideal. Because, despite that I loved to be around her, and she was my best friend, she was a woman. The decision took a long time coming. And the relationship building has a long way to go. But I'm delighted to find myself uttering joyous leaves of dark green. I love her more every day. And although I'm getting used to the nay-sayers, it's sometimes scary to think about the terrible possibilities for future failure.

Perhaps I'm less like an oak in Louisiana, and more like a juniper on the coast of California. For whatever reason, I find myself growing on a hard craggy slope, I'm windswept and bent, water is scarce. Anyone might have a hard time uttering joyous leaves under such circumstances, but my friend and lover brings me water, helps prune at times, and together the design we're pursuing is God's.

And for now, I grow.

7 comments:

Samantha said...

"And for now, I grow."

For you, for your wife, for your children...I hope you grow forever.

And even though the odds are not in our favor, I'm comforted when I realize that failure is a possibility for ANYONE who enters that marriage commitment, as is success, and we have some control over the ultimate end...or continuation of that relationship...and, for all married people, I don't believe any outcome is easy.

Your thoughts were beautiful, and, in many ways, mirror my own.

Beck said...

You give me strength, oh mighty oak-one!

Scot said...

It was a pleasure reading the piece on gay men married to heterosexual women in the local paper today (well, it’s online version), in which you were profiled. By your posts here, it’s good to see a gay man so focused on such important issues of life.

I’ve read though some of your blog and I’ve never read anything with such a stark mix of what I understand so intimately and what I don’t get at all. It’s a very interesting and eloquent blog, and I’ll continue checking it.

I’ve actually been married for over ten years now to the only man I’ve ever been with (since I was 18.), and our kids just celebrated their 4th birthday (twins). We were both LDS. My father in-law was even a Bishop.

But all that angst is so far in the past, and silenced by the years together and the demanding but joyful concerns of raising any family. Still, you do a good job of reminding me of it again :-). Not a happy remembrance, to be sure; I wish you the best of luck and hope you make your life with your wife work.

Very seriously, I have, as you probably have, seen far far too many kids and women hurt by such situations. I for one gay man, would pray you keep on the path you are on, particularly with children in the picture, and that you do grow to become all that you can for your family, despite the windswept, craggy slope.

-L- said...

Thank you, Scot, for your kind words. I've had some misgivings in my mind about that article, but I'm looking forward to hearing from people like yourself who would otherwise probably never visit my blog.

I'm acutely aware of my obligation to my family, and I was aware of the potential problems before we ever decided to go ahead. Your advice is well-received while the arrogant paternalistic view of Craig Steiner (as quoted in the article) is not.

Samantha said...

Twelve years...that's a long time that Craig Steiner lived his lie...

After doing it for 20, I feel qualified to say, it's still a good time...

Sorry, Craig...

Yeah, not really sorry at all.

Ben's Mom said...

Just read the SLT article, and wanted to thank you for sharing your faith and for the ideas expressed. At one point while reading the article, a saying came to my mind. I've seen it printed next to a picture of Christ, and says something like, "I never said it would be easy; I just said it would be worth it." A lot of things aren't easy; but that doesn't make that choice not the best option! (Perhaps I'm misunderstanding Dr. Schow here, but I'm tempted to remind him that, as members of the church, we're not generally taught to obey only the principles that are statistically proven to be easy to gain success with!)

It sure seems that some people definitely have harder challenges than others, but I guess we can only trust God's unknown-to-us purposes on that one. My He continue to bless you and your family.

Scot said...

"I'm acutely aware of my obligation to my family..."

I hope I didn’t come across as trying to advise you of your obligation; from your writings, I think you’re more aware of that than most straight people. I may have, though, as I must admit I do worry a lot about your broad category of situation. From both research and personal anecdotes, I’ve seen the risk and costs. But each person is a different story, with different risks, and, again, I hope you and the others profiled in the article are people who make it work.

I’d also hope the entire gay community would be there to encourage gays who make your promises to keep with them. I actually think many would, but the most vocal often only see the cost to their idea of what a gay man should be to them (as a prudish gay man in a monogamous relationship since my teens and raising kids, I’ve seen it directed at myself also).

Both “sides” really need to put a stop to the undermining and hobbling of the other’s lives and families, of what we each see as our sacred unions, and of the importance we have to our children. But neither side seems ready to disarm just yet :).