When I was scrolling through the potential artwork to grace the cover-homepage of the blog, this green foliage with water droplets on it caught my eye. It is so fecund, viviparous. To me, it cries out “Life”. Am sure people will take away their own impressions of it. Hope it is cheerful for you. So how strange (or not) that it sparked a verse in me from the Iliad by Homer (Book 8) that is anything but airy, and pleasant. A certain warrior has been hit in the chest with an arrow ( a son of Priam) and he is dying. This is how the Lord of highest song (as Dante Alighieri calls Homer in his Divine Comedy) puts it (Stephen Mitchell transl. vss. 284-6)
“and his head drooped, like a poppy in a spring garden
weighed down with seeds and a heavy rain: so his head
leaned to one side beneath the weight of his helmet.”
Mitchell commenting upon the passage (pg. xx in his intro.) writes; “Is there a more poignant image than this in all of literature?”
In the spring and summer, before coming out, I was reading this epic poem in many translations and savouring, pondering, ruminating on the text. In acknowledging my own sexuality, I went from Homer to the homoerotic you could say (admitting that I was also attracted to people of the same gender as myself) . When I picked up the Robert Fagles translation of the poem (my favourite and first reading) in the spring, I was in tune with the rage of Achilles. I got that, bigtime! We were on the same scroll of papyrus you could say, separated by many millenia Achilles and I. But just as that character evolves, changes, matures in the space of the poem, so too did I move from beyond where I started from. The wrath-fury-anger I had within me dissipated when I owned-admitted-acknowledged who I was, what I was about. Just like that. It was as quick, sudden and unexpected as a thunderbolt hurled by Zeus from Mount Olympus. And extremely welcome! I was no longer the implacable warrior of book 1. Now I was the gracious host of the funeral games of Patroclus (close friend of Achilles, book 23 penultimate book of the poem ) and the kindly soldier who can welcome the aged bedraggled Priam into his hut.
A wise woman lives by this motto; “Choose life” whenever in doubt about what to do, when at the crossroads of existence. I like to think that is what I did in coming out to myself and others. The old ways were clearly not working for me, not surprisingly if I was keeping myself hidden, even if I was not consciously doing that. I was not consciously choosing death or any such thing, but my existence compared to now, feels like those shadows on the wall in the cave that Plato writes about in The Republic, that so bewitch the people producing those images. It was something not real. Or to be more charitable to myself, it was life less full. A shadow of what I could be.
A whole new world has certainly opened up for me firstly from within and then from without. Homer loves to talk about the field of battle as the place “where men win glory”. What I have won, is an entirely new, wonderful perspective on life. So much to the good has happened to me in these last four months.