WHY IS THIS SITE CALLED “ROAMING THE GREENWOOD”?
I grew up in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, comfortably bounded by the beautiful Green Lake, the zoo, and several beaches on the Puget Sound. Not that there’s anything wrong with comfortable: I had a good life, with good parents, a good sister, a good home, a good education. But I left when I was 20 for another “greenwood,” a new life away from home (for the first time) in Milwaukee. Graduate school called me, but I was also drawn away so that I could explore, on my own, who I was becoming. The title of this site is inspired, of course, by my childhood neighborhood, but also by E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice, which ends (spoiler alert) with the title character and his lover Alec disappearing into the “greenwood” to start their new life together, away from the prejudice of British conservatism, and where they, according to the narrator, “still roam.” I needed to disappear from my own brand of prejudice and conservatism in order to find myself–and be found. I was found, by my partner Scott, with whom I still reside in Milwaukee after 20 years. Now, I teach literature and writing to high school students. They keep me young and help me remember that I should never keep roaming, even if I’m getting older and even if I’ve found my place.
WHAT IS OUT OF THE BOX?
The first major work that will appear on Roaming the Greenwood is Out of the Box, a series of letters between me and my mother (as well as friends, teachers, priests) over a ten-year span of my life, from 1994-2004. I collected most of them in a box and I am now taking them out, one by one, and sharing them with you. Out of the Box represents the first ten years of my roaming away from home, during which time my mother discovered that I was gay, I was compelled to come out to her (and to friends, teachers, confessors), she would refuse to believe it, and I would realize that the greenwood I had hoped for would be more like the desert trials of the Old Testament (or Jesus’ garden of Gethsemane, the “place of crushing”: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”). For ten years, back and forth, through letters, cards, and articles, and armed with theology, philosophy, and personal experience, my mother and I would roam each others’ hearts for understanding, compromise, acceptance–but very different kinds.
These letters, I believe, capture our human capacities for extreme love and extreme hate. It is regrettable that I had to learn this from my mother, but I also learned in the process–and this is where others will be able to relate and perhaps learn–that coming out doesn’t mean giving in. Not just “coming out” as gay, but coming out of whatever shell or cocoon or prison or cave one is in, accepting oneself, and asking others to do the same.