My arms are speckled red with scratches and small bumps, and a band-aid comforts a blister at the crook of my thumb, despite the gloves I wore to protect my hands. The irresistible sunshine convinced me to ignore my 'inside' work and, instead, grab a rake and get back to clearing a field where I envision a blanket of wildflowers this spring.
It's an idea I stole from a neighbor. She started with a freshly cleared area - I'm having to rake up ten years of undergrowth. I don't know if it will work - my gardening philosophy is "survival of the fittest" - but it's a good excuse to get outside on a beautiful day, and the tangled thoughts in my brain seem to get cleared out as much as the dead grapevine and weeds in the field.
Friendship has been on my mind lately - the mystery of it...the strength and fragility of it. It's often compared to a garden in that it needs frequent watering and attention, but to me, friendships are also like fields of wildflowers...wild, eclectic, spontaneous, full of color and surprises.
As I rake, music drifts down to me from the house - music that arrived in the mail yesterday from a new friend, Dee, and I think how full of surprises life can be...how friendships can pop up unexpectedly just like wildflowers, where you least expect them.
In a round-about way we became friends through my blog. I've made several friends through my blog - many I've never even met face-to-face, some who were just acquaintances but my blog opened a door between us...between our hearts.
And yet I have other friends who don't even read what I write - either they don't have time or they're just not interested. It hurt a little at first (good ol' narcissism at work) but they show they care in other ways. Still, it made me think about the many faces of friendship...how do you measure it? What are the tests, if any?
And how do friendships even come about? What makes us feel a connection to one person but not another? An invitation arrived in the mail this week to my friend Ky's son's wedding.
Ky is old enough to be my dad. He is Chinese, a Buddhist. We worked together for years, years ago. Why did I feel connected to him but not some of the women I worked with? And how did we stay friends all these years?
C.S. Lewis said "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What? You too? I thought I was the only one!""
I love the fact that the "you too?" moment is oblivious to things such as age, class, gender, race, religion. I love that it can occur between people who just met and people who have "known" each other for years.
I love that even if a friendship seems to have died, it can bounce right back as if nothing ever happened, just like the prairie verbena down the road; it seemed the extreme weather had finally taken its toll on the plant, but this morning on our walk we counted 7 or 8 tiny purple blooms. The best friendships are as tough as those little purple flowers.
But some friendships do die. It's a fact of life, but I don't understand it. One friend and I stayed close for years...through changes of address, divorce, different lifestyles...then one day the connection was just gone.
When that happens, you're further apart than strangers.
Then there's the gender/jealousy issue. I know it's possible for men and women to be friends...even close friends but still just friends (my years working in the chemical plant taught me that.)
But not all women believe it, and I recently had to close the door on a longtime, dear friendship because of that. But I wouldn't have been much of a friend if I didn't, would I?
"Never miss an opportunity to make others happy, even if you have to leave them alone to do it."
The thing is...with any friendship there are boundary lines you shouldn't cross...certain subjects or names you need to avoid. And although your friend might share your love of Bruce Springsteen music, it doesn't mean they could quote lines from Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail with you.
You don't have to be the same to be friends. Without some differences, our friends wouldn't challenge us to learn and grow.
I'm glad that my friendships mostly resemble hardy wildflowers, able to weather those dry periods of neglect on my part, yet still brightening my life with so many different shapes and colors.
For my part, I'll try to do a better job of watering.
"A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often - just to save it from drying out completely." - Pam Brown