Raspberries and Strawberries

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of talking to God.

Nothing heady or world changing. Simple chats with lots of laughing. I didn’t call them prayers – I knew what those were from church, and they were often too long and boring. I called this cuddling with God. In my experience, God just wants to hang out and hear what’s exciting us. What’s caught our eye in creation. What’s going on at work. How things are with the family. It’s the heart of the Garden of Eden story – when God liked to visit in the cool of the day and walk with Adam and Eve.

One of our favourite conversations was about strawberries and raspberries. I loved strawberries but not raspberries. God thought my strong feelings were hysterical. God loved them both of course. “They’re both berries. They’re both red. And I made them both. What’s not to love?” We’d talk about flavour and texture and size and with or without milk and with or without sugar and inevitably end up falling into a heap of giggling.

I was raised in the fundamentalist evangelical church where my parents were clergy. As I entered puberty, I had a crush on the church organist’s son Bobby. I had no words or understanding for the feelings. I just liked to be around him and he made me dizzy.

When I was 14, I suddenly put together the taunts that accompanied the bullying and violence at school, the sanctions at church against the evils of homosexuality and sodomy, and my feelings for Bobby. I was utterly confused and couldn’t understand the enormous disconnect between what was described and what I felt. I spent hours on my knees praying. All I heard from God was what I always did. Love.

I fought the feelings and told no one. Until reading break my first term at University where I met a graduate student in the library. A gentle handsome guy. On our way to his residence I told God that we needed to separate for the first time in my life. As we crossed the road I asked God to wait there while I figured this out.

Afterwards, I went back and picked up God and we walked downtown to the Anglican Cathedral. I didn’t know very much about Anglican practice at that point, but the Cathedral was always open and I loved to sit in the Chapel. During construction, before the roof was put on, birds flew in and built their nest. The building wasn’t completed until the young had hatched and the family had flown. Afterwards they replaced the original nest at the top of a pillar with a small concrete one. I liked to sit with a view of it. I liked to think it marked the spot where the Holy Spirit settled in for a while during construction.

God and I settled in for a long visit. “What’d you think?” God asked with excitement. “Well, I gotta say, that was amazing. A bit awkward and messy, but that is one of your best ideas.” “I know, right? . . . But then why are you so sad?” We picked up a conversation we’d had before, in which I tried to explain to God the thinking and behaviour of the church. God couldn’t believe it. Particularly on this topic. “But it’s just like the raspberries and strawberries,” God reminded me. We cuddled and I felt held as we decided to plant our own garden somewhere else, filled with everything luscious, sensual, and alive.

David Swan lives on the northwest coast of Turtle Island with his husband and a cat named Jazz. He truly believes that the universe is made up of tiny stories and not atoms.

Issue 65

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 65, Summer 2022, Healing Sex.

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