So begins an entry in a kind of journal I once kept entitled, Letters To Myself and You:
From love one can only escape at the price of love itself; and no lessening of sorrow is worth the exile from that stream of all things human and divine.
This I understand: I never really wrote anything except in explanation, to have you understand. It was a constant search to find that perfect phrase that could release your love.
The words were never found.
Perhaps they don’t exist.
But, I am still compelled to try.
That was our problem. My compulsion.
I could never give you anything less than my entire soul.
Now, it is time to stop. It is as simple and difficult as that.
So, let me tell you what has happened.
Today I found a book, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, by May Sarton. The quote above is from the dedication. Mrs. Stevens explores what it means to be a woman and a writer. Most of all it deals with the sources of a woman’s creativity and the complexities of human love. The heroine, Hilary Stevens, is in her seventies, a poet of some renown, yet not too greatly acclaimed. Through the story, all the loves of Hilary’s life pass by in review. One sees the power of love and also fear’s crippling effect and how the two are intertwined.
Love opens the door to everything, as far as I can see, including and perhaps most of all, the door into one’s own secret, and often terrible and frightening, real self.
So, tonight I was able to come to rest upon the knowledge that has for so long terrified me. And while I’ll still not say its name out, at least I’m in the same room with it, sitting on the couch, looking at it there across the coffee table. And, it’s not all that bad.
It merely means I’m human. I wish that you could know that, know it with your heart and not just intellect, and smile just a bit.
Still, what sacrilege my double sin appears. I am in love with a married woman. How could I have ever let it happen? Married and a woman, even as a child I knew the right and wrong of it.
May Sarton begins her tale with Hilary speaking to a young man, a poet-to-be, who had fled from himself just as I have done.
So you have got yourself into some real feeling, and instead of thanking God that you are not a zombie like most people I see about, you decide you are a monster! …
It’s hard growing up in this climate where sex at its most crude and cold is OK but feeling is somehow indecent. The monsters are those who go rutting around like monkeys, not those who choose to be human whatever the costs, and it costs a great deal.
The cost of anything is the path that is not taken,
a whole world we choose to walk away from.
And in the morning, I set my half drunk tea aside and lay my head down upon the blue and white checked placemats that you gave me, and cried as if my life had ended.
I have seen the truth.
I will pay my dues,
and soon you will be yelling angrily at me demanding,
cutting short my answers with, “I don’t know why you are doing this!”
I find symmetry in my discovery of Sarton’s book.
It began, I thought, with a confrontation of my fear.
I’d planned it for this past Saturday, bright morning in the thaw of February.
I’d decided to go to “Charis, the Book Store and More.” The “More” refers to the fact that it is a feminist center (to put it delicately.)
I'd decided to go and stand right there in the middle of what so sickens me.
I’d let my stomach roll, let my eyes stare only at the floor and books, let my ears listen to the women and their conversations (actually quite caring in their content), and hear their little just too juicy kisses of hello. (How I could feel those kisses.)
I went to see if I could acclimate.
Blinking red arrows pointing at me from the ceiling couldn’t have made me feel more obvious, a tourist tangled up amongst the coat hangers of my closet.
I went there just to test survival and to keep on moving.
I also went there on the faith that when I truly need the knowledge,
I can simply walk amongst the stacks, reach in and pull it out.
So there I was, looking at the books,
until I saw May Sarton.
You gave me her for Christmas, but you did not know.
She’s in the book with all the writer’s homes.
Her place in Maine was one of my favorites, and weeks ago, forgotten until now,
I’d made a note that here was an author to check out,
simply for the architecture and the light.
Neither of us knew and still…
Something of you led me,
and I’ve read the words you wrote then, time and time again:
This book would seem more complete with photos of a certain room, desk overlooking a birdfeeder and facing a tulip tree; the walls covered with ideas and colors that make me smile and feel very happy that I’ve been able to share so many of them with you.
May we always share the beautiful colors that life has blessed us with,
to my Dear Friend… Love.
Three weeks later, you wanted me gone
and we’d never meet again.
How to speak to you now?
Hilary could never create unless she was in love, and though she married and loved her husband, it was the loving of a woman that brought forth her creativity.
And that is what we shared.
I told you once that in loving you, I had found my soul.
I understand the full implication of that now.
There is nothing deeper.
There is nothing Truer.
And that is exactly why we hide.
How could we hope to live such Truth?
It is the call to leave the world behind and become divine.
And too, it is the call into the Silence of such Everydayness:
Now she sat down in the rocker in the kitchen and was dazzled by the beauty of a long slanting slab of sunlight on the white plaster wall. One might, she supposed, sit and take it in for half an hour, but say it? Next to impossible. These moments of vision when quite simple things became extraordinary were what she always meant to “get down,” but the impulse wavered, or got pushed aside. Hilary had always imagined that one of the blessings of old age would be that one might live by and for these essentials… the light on a wall.
…yet another love story,
Telling yet another tale of Coming Out.
And the Cat’s Meow was right,
Everyone is Always Coming Out, or at least receiving an invitation.