Poems for Stuart, Part 1
I had the chance to finally meet and old friend on Sunday. And if that sentence sounds weird, it’s because you probably still haven’t adjusted to living in a century of online organizations and connections. I “met” Stu through the old website I used to run called Gay Fatherhood. Cheesy name, maybe but it was what we started with back when MSN still did Groups, and it stuck when we went to a dot com.
Several of the most active men in that group were people I had eventually met in person. Vince and Keith, for instance, are men I’ve not only met, but our families have vacationed together more than once. These are some of my dearest, closest friends in the world, my brothers even. And small as the world has become, I have made friends who I haven’t even met in person yet. I know, there are still a few of you out there who say that you really don’t know people until you meet them in person, but that’s crap. You can meet people in person and never know what’s really in their heart.
So, should you be careful when you meet people online? Sure, just as careful as you are when you meet people face-to-face. Notice I did not say, “in the real world,” because even if the person is pretending to be someone they are not, you are still in the real world. It’s harder to hide your true self these days, and maybe it’s even easier to hide in person in some ways. But that’s a discussion for another day. The point is, the real world includes electronic communication like we saw only in Star Trek while we were growing up. Skype, Facetime, Hangouts, there are a hundred ways to get to know a friend in Spain, Brazil, Germany, California, or in Stuart’s case, Australia.
So Stuart was in visiting with his son Rohan who’s doing a smashing job for his company at their new location in Brooklyn, New York. This father-son team was on their way to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, way over on the southwestern side of Pennsylvania. So I took a short jaunt south and they diverted a bit north so we could meet up at a street cafe at a restaurant when I used to work, oh, a hundred years or so ago.
What a lovely couple of hours that was! It was not like a first meeting at all. I felt like it was one of many such precious visits, but I will concede that there is nothing quite like giving a good physical hug to a dear friend. And of course, sharing in that thing we first had in common, fatherhood. Roh is quite the young man, Stuart. You’ve done a fine job there. And yes, of course, I imagine he did a good bit on his own, right?
A lovely side note about this visit was that Stuart wanted me to bring a poem so that he could record me reading something that was helpful or inspirational in my life, something that spoke to the heart of where I am right now. Well, I had several possibilities in mind, and the following poem was one of the runners-up. Stu gave me permission to use the video if it comes out okay, so I promise to share that later. But the following piece is one that touched me very recently.
It’s from Marie Howe’s book What the Living Do. You can read the title poem from that book here. And for more about the poet and that work, check out this interview from 2014. The poem I chose is called “The Gate,” and you can read the text, as well as hear Howe’s better reading of it at On Being.