I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 30, 2016

My canopy of friends

Looking up at the canopy of trees last Thursday
Although I used this picture in my Thursday hiking blog, I like it so much that I'm using it here, too. Believe it or not, it is in color, but since there was no color to be seen, we are left with a monochrome. Every once in awhile I'll look all around while we are hiking, and it's truly a different world when I look up. A metaphor for life, don't you think?

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.


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Beautiful and thoughtful post, as always!

Tabor said...

It is people like you who help us find our way. Do not forget that.

Rian said...

Love that canopy pic, DJan. And I can see the green!
Also glad your friend is safely settled in her new place.
Regarding change, I often think about that quote made in the movie, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" - "Everything will be OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end."

Marie Smith said...

When friends move, they take part of us with them, as we keep part of them with us. We cannot undo their influence in our lives any more than we can undo our upbringing. However, letting go of them is hard. Best wishes to Carol on her new adventure and to you as you explore your life without her nearby.

Your tree picture is one of my favourites too. The canopy shots make me feel safe and protected.

Anonymous said...

I love that quote by the Dalai Lama. Inspiring.
I am glad that Carol has reunited with her family. Good luck and best wishes to her.

Linda Reeder said...

Good use of the photo and the image of "canopy" to describe your network of friendship. You are such a successfully social person. Where one of your interlocking branches has been broken, a new one will grow.
I did get my walk in this morning, and now I'm watching Seahawks football while keeping up with electronic communication on my laptop. Another close game.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am reminded of an old "round" remember them? Make new friends, keep the old, one is silver and the others gold. I taught this to my girls along with row row row your boat a long time ago on a long car trip....before electronic devices!
I know you will miss Carol and Sandy too, but I bet you can facetime with them...what a blessing technology is some times.
I hope you have a wonderful week my friend. I will be glad when the mudslinging is over too:)

Elephant's Child said...

this is such a beautiful, reflective post.
With depth and comfort, intermingled with loss. A bit like life.
Thank you so much - and have a wonderful week.

Gigi said...

I know that losing Carol was a hard thing but yes, technology will still keep her close. I loved this post and the picture.

Have a great week, D'Jan.

Mel said...

Such a beautiful post. It's hard when good friends move away, isn't it? A good friend of mine moved from the midwest to the Raliegh-Durham area and seeing how happy she is with her family has made it a lot easier to say goodbye. Thank goodness for facebook so we can stay in touch.
And thank goodness for the canopy of friends we find in life!
I take a lot of those camera shots looking up into the sky. One of my favorite perspectives! Thanks for the photo and the post.

Red said...

It's good for everybody to celebrate when somebody leaves an area. It would be very lonely to just leave. 25 walkers as friends? That's most supportive.

Carole said...

A canopy of friends. I love this! What a beautiful and heartwarming post. And such a nice tribute to your friend. Once again, you have touched my heart. Sending love and hugs.

The Furry Gnome said...

I've been thinking of friends a lot too. Though it's been a year and a half, it seems I grieve more than ever, and friends have become so important, including my relatives. That's one reason I went down to Niagara, because my cousins are two of my closest friends. I do feel at least partly healed, enough to carry on, but like you, scarred for life. I always admire your thoughtful Sunday posts, and appreciate your loyal comments on my blog.

Meryl Baer said...

Love the 'canopy of friends' analogy. You are so blessed to have so many wonderful friends in your life.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Good morning to you. After reading this post I sat here for a while just reflecting on how I enjoyed it so much and why. I think it is important to make our consumption of the web something that improves the quality of our lives rather than simply consuming our time. I thought back about my earliest days using the web when I spent a lot of time on Twitter. I remember following Deepak Chopra. Do you know of him? He is an author and philosopher. He wrote Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old. A fascinating, to me, book that looks at a lot of the issues of life, just as you do here on Eye. You are an excellent writer, just as good as Deepak, and your reflections on life are just as good as well. The difference is, I could never feel a connection with Deepak, but I do feel in contact with you, and I know you read my comments, and that is what makes Eye a favorite in my consumption of the blogosphere. I love your reflections on Carol’s departure and the effects it has had on you and your neighbors. I hope you will give us an update sometime in the not too distant future as to how Carol adapts to her new location. Thanks, as always, for sharing and have a great week ahead.

Rita said...

That is one of the wonderful things about technology these days--we can keep in touch so easily with people who are far away. Used to be the only way for me was letters because I couldn't afford the long distance calls. Nowadays we have emails, texts, video chats, phones that don't cost an arm and a leg to chat long distance--and, of course, still...we have letters. I am one of the few holdouts for handwritten correspondence. A letter is still special and intimate, I think.

Your friend will be missed, but don't lose touch with her! Poor kitty on the long scary trip--but I'm sure it annoyed the heck out of other passengers--LOL! I wonder who your new neighbor will turn out to be? Life never stops changing. *hugs* Love the canopy. And love the "canopy of friends" term. Never pictured them that way...but they are like a canopy. :)

C-ingspots said...

I enjoyed this post a lot. Reassuring and thoughtful, as your posts many times are. You are a blessed woman indeed, to have such a large circle of friends. I've heard that the richest of people are those with friends, and you dear Jan are very rich. I know you feel the loss of your close friend, but thankfully you can keep in touch through other ways, and like someone else mentioned, she is now closer to her family and her son, so she will be circled in love. Your photo looking up through the canopy of trees is one my most favorite perspectives of trees. Somehow, looking up through them towering above, always makes me feel protected and safe. Glad the rain held off for your walk! Think we may be heading into that #1 spot of rainiest Octobers on record...
Hope you have a wonderful week.

Arkansas Patti said...

I never thought of my friends as a canopy but you are so right. They shield, protect, nourish, comfort and bring joy. Thankfully with today's media resources, no matter how far they travel, they are never more than a click away. Plus, I always think the ones who move just open up a neat place to visit.
Too bad you don't have right of approval for the new tenant but being surrounded by so many cool people, the newbie have little choice but to be cool themselves. We all tend to respond to the example set.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

What a thought-provoking post about friendship...thank goodness that you are in the world.

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

It is comforting to know that friends love us. Family loves us but a friend does it out of true choice.

I laughed today with fellow golfers. It was a truly wonderful day. Any day filled with laughter is a good day.


Anonymous said...

Good one! Thanks for sharing them! Friends will help us in our need than any one...

Bill said...

Beautifully written. The canopy as a metaphor for a different world (or a fresh perspective on this one) is powerful. Today, I will look up more. Probably we all ought to do that more often, especially in this season.

Barb said...

Hi DJan, I remember commenting on this and on your other blog last week. Not sure what happened! I reread and your post reminds me again to cherish the relationships that I've built. Even when friends move, they can remain part of the fabric of our lives. To lose a child must be the ultimate pain.