Friendship. Even the word sounds nice. Like a toasty flannel cocoon, friendships embrace us in warm, safe comfort. “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together” – Woodrow Wilson. “The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?” – Henry David Thoreau. And my favorite on friends no longer around: “With every friend I love who has been taken into the brown bosom of the earth a part of me has been buried there; but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world.” – Helen Keller
I’ve been thinking about friendships of late. What they mean, why they are so important to us. What is a “true” friend, and aren’t all our friends true? Semantics run wild, I know, but I do believe we have different types of friendships. Like the flora that covers “the brown bosom of the earth”, friendships come in all shapes and colors.
Some are like the spring crocus. Fragrant and beautiful, yet also fragile and short lived. Even when given great care, they are meant to be around for only a few weeks. The beauty they bring to a mountain side, however, is meant to be treasured for a lifetime.
Other friendships are like old mighty oak trees. Strong and giving, they provide safe haven in the summer for nature’s creatures, for many years. In the winter, however, the oak loses it’s leaves, and is abandoned. Always standing tall, the following spring the oak welcomes all back with open arms.
Still more are “new-growth”. Those small fledgling plants poking out of the undergrowth. With proper care and patience they might grow into the strongest of trees. Patience is key. Although a tiny acorn can grow into a mighty oak, it takes time.
Finally, some are like firs. They too are strong, but also supple in the face of time’s ever blowing wind. You can visit a fir in summer, winter, autumn or spring and still be greeted with the same vibrant green color and wondrous aroma. Firs, and relatives like the evergreens, can live for thousands of years. The passage of time does not seem to matter to the fir.
Okay, so what’s with the botany lesson here and why am I trying to explain friendships with it? Damn good question actually, let me try to explain.
As you may know, I’ve started a pilgrimage of retrospection, seeking to refill my self-worth tank, and find a raison d’être. Because of this, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about past friendships. What they meant, why did some end, and what did I learn from them. Then, in a wonderful bit of synchronicity, I get an email from an old high school buddy letting me know that he and is wife would be in Seattle, and did we want to get together. So plans were made, and Beth and I met with Randy and his wife Melanie Saturday night.
Quick background. Randy and I were friends back in Westerville, OH. We were part of a large group of friends, Steve, John, Loni, Laura, Trasee, Mark, Suzanne, Claudia, Toby, Leland, just too many to name really. It was a close knit group of friends, and I’d like to think that friendship got us all through what can be a turbulent time in ones life. To be honest, between school, band, after school activities and the such, I spent more time with these guys than not.
That said, I was still a bit nervous about meeting up with Randy. I mean, it had been 30 years since we saw each other last. Had he changed? Would we just sit and talk about the “good ol’ days”? Or worse, would we end up staring at each other with nothing to say? I am happy to report that my fears were totally ungrounded. We started talking about what’s new, what’s happened in our lives. We touched on the past, examined the present and embraced the future. In short, we picked up a friendship from 30 years ago without missing a beat. Hell, by the time the first round of drinks came, all 4 of us were talking like that. Incredible. Friendships.
So, to my “new-growth” friends, my oak friends, and to my crocus friends who left far too soon, I say thank you. To paraphrase what Helen Keller said, you have all touched me, and in turn, have made me a better person because of it. I cannot thank you all enough.
And Randy? Thanks for showing me what a Fir Friendship is bro. May it last another 30 and beyond.