|Looking up at the canopy of trees last Thursday|
The circle of friends that love Carol are relieved that yesterday she and her cat Sandy safely arrived in Durham, North Carolina, where she will begin a new life. The cat was allowed to be on board with her, and Sandy howled the entire way, making her seat mates uncomfortable, I'm sure. I wish there was some way to tell our furry friends what is happening, but to think of going from freedom of movement to a cage with no way to see much of anything, being hauled and jostled around, well, no wonder she cried the whole way.
It reminded me of a time when I cried on the plane all the way to Frankfurt, Germany, and all the way back. My son Chris had died and I had to attend his funeral in Bamberg, where the US Army base once stood. The base is gone now, just like Chris has been for fourteen years now. When such terrible events occur in our lives, we think at the time we will never get over them, but we do. At the time, though, I was in a cage of my own grief, and there was no door that would open and let me out. I had to suffer through it. It's an old wound, now, but when I allow myself to think of those days, I can feel a constriction in my chest, similar to running one's hand over an old scar. I healed, but I'm scarred for life.
I received a text from Carol that she had arrived and that Sandy is busy exploring all the rooms in her sister's house, where she will stay until her furniture arrives and she will move into her house, with a porch and a fenced yard. Sandy will settle in eventually, like cats always do. Carol inherited Sandy when one of Carol's clients on her deathbed asked her to take care of her cat. Carol thought she would probably turn Sandy over to the Humane Society, but you know what happened: we all became fond of her and she became part of our community. When Carol would travel, I'd go over to her apartment and spend time with Sandy and gain the contentment you receive from having a purring cat in your lap. We are not supposed to have any pets in this apartment complex, but I think this illegal alien remained undiscovered by the authorities during the two years she spent here. And she was an essential ingredient in Carol's life. Still is.
And now the manager of our apartment complex is in charge of getting Carol's place ready for a new tenant. The door is now locked and we all are in trepidation about the next version of our little community. We know that the apartment owner is most concerned with finding someone for this two-bedroom apartment who is financially stable, but we have other concerns, since we live in such close proximity to each other.
On Friday night, we had a final going-away party for Carol at Lynn's place, right next door to me, sandwiched between my place and Carol's. We had more than a dozen apartment dwellers show up to say goodbye to her, with lots of tears and laughter and stories to help carry her to her new life. And then yesterday morning long before dawn, Lynn drove Carol and Sandy to the airport for a 5:00am liftoff. So yesterday was spent in recovery mode. All of us commented on how tired we were. Even though I left the earliest and came back home to go to bed at my usual time, I simply could not settle down and finally, in my pink fluffy bathrobe, I went back over to join the party for awhile. Some didn't leave until midnight, although Lynn's invitations were for a two-hour gathering. Yeah, right. We were all wanting as much time as we could get with Carol.
It was traumatic to lose a constant companion, but I am consoled that Carol is now with her family, all of whom live in North Carolina, and she will be close to one of her two sons as well as her siblings. Carol moved here with her husband; they divorced and five years ago she moved into this apartment complex and wiggled her way into my heart. She taught me about gardening, and her garden plot has already been claimed by Sonya, a new tenant who moved in this summer. I'll get to know her as we toil next to each other in the garden. It's truly been a blessing, to have that community garden, because you get a chance to socialize with your neighbors in ways you wouldn't otherwise.
Because she was so tired, Lynn didn't join Lily and me on our usual Saturday walk with the ladies. There were 25 of us all gathered in one of our usual spots to begin our walk. One of the group, Ebba, had invited us to come to her studio afterwards for coffee, so I think that was one reason there were so many of us. We walked just over seven miles and the rain held off until we were finished. Lily and I drove the fifteen minutes into the countryside to see the place. Now that I know where it is, I will visit it again to buy Christmas presents for friends. As we sat around with our coffee and treats, we discussed some initiatives on our local ballot, and I realized that this is yet another canopy of friends that I cherish and belong to. Lily and Lynn usually both join me, and they live here in our apartment community. Some other women who hike with me on Thursday are also in this Saturday walking group, so my canopy of friends is intermingling, always growing, essential to my mental and physical health.
As I sit here in the bed with my dear partner sleeping next to me, I realize once again that my life is full of all the parts that are important, and that my canopy of friends sustains me in difficult times and rejoices with me in the good times. It also occurred to me, just now, that no one even mentioned the election yesterday except for one local ballot initiative. Here in Washington state, we do all our voting by mail, and I suspect that many of us have already voted. In a few more days, this toxic election will be over, and no one will be more glad to see it go than me. Fortunately, however it turns out, I will be able to commiserate or celebrate with my friends. Today I'll probably go see a movie with my friend Judy, and thanks to the magic of smartphones, I'll be able to communicate with Carol if I want to, and I know I'll stop by to say hello to other neighbors. It's a good life.
I found this quote from the Dalai Lama: Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend—or a meaningful day.
I am blessed to have so many meaningful friends. You, I hope, know that I count you, my dear reader, among them. I look forward to your comments, and the community of the internet that we have created here. It is also good to take time out of your day to look around and savor this particular moment. Whatever it is, it will change as the days pass. And don't forget to give your loved ones the gift of a smile. I wish you the very best of days until we meet again next Sunday.