Outside my window, a breathtaking fall has unfolded. With the help of a gentle breeze, an assortment of flamboyant leaves cascade from tree limbs, sail past the deck and take up residence on the backyard parsonage lot. Despite an already generous collection, more leaves cling to the tree than not.
Praise be! Still time for a colorful drive in the gorge!
Here in Lake Oswego, I’m only minutes outside the city limits of my eclectic and already beloved Portland, Oregon. Upon sunset, the weekend will commence and people from all walks of life will escape into the City of Roses or outside it, for the particular ‘magic’ each soul craves most.
It seems unseasonably warm this mid-October day or maybe it’s just me at mid-life. You’ll excuse my candor, but these days, I shamelessly embrace my 57 years of life including (but not limited to) episodes of variable temperature tolerance, wake-up calls during the night and peace-making with ‘new’wrinkles, decidely visible since my March cataract surgery, but in reality, likely present all along! Having officiated at too many funerals for congregants my age and much younger, with each new eulogy, I trowel for my greater purpose and life perspective.
Time is measured differently on this side of the century.
As I write, I am spending what remains of this day in the glow of an evening past, shared with a cherished friend. It is a memory I intend to preserve. When she first invited me now months ago, her catch-phrase was ‘my need for a respite from incessant busyness.’
She worked tirelessly to create the ambiance (house magic) for such, and the evening did not disappoint.
Upon entry, music filled the air. Should I tell her that despite growing up in its shadow, ‘country’ is not my favorite genre? Before long, it mattered not as she gladdened me with fresh cut flowers, a veritable smorgasbord of gourmet cheeses, seasoned nuts, carefully-selected wines (red and white) and after-dinner lattes. But the most sumptuous thing on the menu by far, was the rich and much anticipated conversation. In the background, the fire burned softly while a jet-black cat napped on an adjacent settee. It was a movie set, for me at least. Take one! Before all was said and done, we’d traveled to the moon and back! When we parted hours later, our eyes were heavy, but our hearts were full. For kindred spirits separated by a work week on one side and an excess of Dr. appointments on the other, these days it feels there is more to talk about than time. For my friend, hosting a formidable, recurring cancer, each moment is a grace-filled gift.
When I take myself too seriously, her words and life echo that grace. Without apology.
For this prompt, I give great thanks.
Did I say that a quick glance around her home screams an unabashed ‘minimalism,’ unlike many dwellings I have known, including my own? I smile, remembering what a guest once said upon visiting my then Georgia abode, ‘that when all the trinkets of the world die, they come to my house.’ Having unburdened myself of ‘stuff’ many times and several moves since then, I am still amazed how easy it is to clutter up a house and a life. Back at my friend’s table, I am quite sure nothing rivals time spent with one who understands, at cavernous levels, the sacredness of both time and space.
Friendship has been for me, an elusive thing. Especially during my working years. A driven and competitive personality, I have too long struggled to achieve a hospitable work/life balance. Friendships have suffered for it and family too—a fact of which I am not proud, confessions and apologies notwithstanding. And as much as I love people, I ponder my own disquiet with intimacy. Perhaps it is an inability, a forgetfulness or more, a fatigue to replenish one’s soul after pouring it into so many others. Caring professionals and caregivers all, take heed!
At the end of the day, what we have is relationships. This is what endures. At their best, they reinvigorate, challenge and better us. At their worst, they burden, deplete and, in some circumstances, undo us.
Either way, something is demanded of us. Readiness is prudent.
From the wisdom of Solomon, we are reminded ‘that rainy day friends come and go, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother or kin folk. (Proverbs 18:24) Jesus was that caliber of friend, cajoling his Disciples to love one another even as he loved them. “No one,” he says, ‘has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 12-13) Against all odds, Jesus risked intimacy with his ‘forever’ friends then and us now-- despite knowledge that neither could ever reciprocate at his level of investment
It costs greatly to be ‘all in’ a relationship-- an expense Jesus freely paid.
True friendship is often underestimated.
At the door, I hug my friend tight and bless her for this postcard evening. And when she asks ,’can we do this again,’ I know her inquiry took moxie,
so I whip out my calendar right then and there.
It’s weekend magic she wants (or weekday), and with her friend, no less.
I dare not pass it up!
After all, she’s fifty-one and I’m fifty-seven
And against any odds, we both intend to walk boldly and