Reviews: Swinging on the Garden Gate
Honesty, Grace and Power
The most important decision anyone can make is to live ‘divided no more,’ to cease acting on the outside in ways that contradict truths one holds deeply on the inside. Swinging on the Garden Gate is a memoir of one woman’s journey into the undivided life. Written with honesty, grace and power, this book is a joy to read, and more. Read carefully, it will call us toward congruence in our own lives, toward an incarnation of truth that will set us-and our world-free. –Parker Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
Words that Sing
Elizabeth’s words sing. Her life soars. This work will doubtless inspire others to claim the lush delights of their own secret gardens. –Debra Kolodny, editor of Blessed Bi Spirit: Bisexual People of Faith
A Rich Witness
In Swinging on the Garden Gate Elizabeth J. Andrew, a writing instructor and spiritual director who makes her home in Minneapolis, MN, tells the story of how she awakened to her sexuality, accepted and found an embodied God in the circumstances of her life, and connected to those touched by her self-discovery. The metaphor of her life as a garden first dormant, then blooming, then finally, riotously alive works because Andrew is a writer of such extraordinary power and beauty. The word luminous genuinely applies here there is light shining out of each of the 13 essays that make up this fine book.
In one breathtaking chapter, ‘Woman in a Wilderness,’ Andrew casts herself into solitude and, she hopes, a new sense of herself. She goes to Wales to study Arthurian legends and to take a month to cross the mountains by bicycle. At the very start of her journey, she is shocked by an unexpected encounter. Walking along a wooded path, coming around a turn, she sees a woman lying face down in the dust. She stops for a moment to check on the unresponsive woman, then panics and runs away, amazed by her own silence in the face of the woman’s helplessness.
’I did not alert professional help,’ she writes. ‘I did not put a finger to her thick white throat to find a pulse.… Touching her in that way would have meant touching my fear. Asking for help would have meant acknowledging my weakness. So I turned my back on her, on myself, just as Jesus taught us not to.’
Before the book ends, Andrew travels a road much longer and often rockier than her month-long bicycle trip in Wales. Her infant nephew dies; she comes out as a bisexual to her family and her church community. (‘Those of us who embody ambiguity,’ she writes, ‘distribute alarm equitably in hetero- and homosexual communities alike. We can’t be pinned down.’) Yet a simple account of its story line could never do justice to this book’s rich witness. As Andrew writes, ‘The story of how we are each embodied spirit is a story of liberation, radical in its theology, political in its transformative power.… Where God resides is any place that creation is at work and truth is spoken.’
–Rosemary Bray McNatt, a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Association and columnist for the UUA magazine.