“So I guess you could say Neel owes me a few favors, except that so many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula.” – Clay from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I’ve written several times about my friend Cathy. Once again I am reminded of our friendship. It was much like this – a bright haze of loyalty. A nebula; a mist that has dissipated into memory.
We took turns picking up the check when we went out to eat. I did the driving because of her illness, and she often surprised me with little gifts. And big ones – like concert tickets to see Loretta Lynn, Boz Scaggs, The Temptations & The Four Tops. I learned so much from her, especially from the way she treated people. She was kind and compassionate, especially to the underdog.
Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. – James 4:14
C.S. Lewis was a novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. He is probably best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, but he wrote numerous other works. This quote is from The Problem With Pain; it’s long and it’s ALL ONE SENTENCE, but it’s good. You may have to read it twice.
“Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the least) of that something which you were born desiring and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, listening for?”
Whew! If you are like me you will have to read that more than once, but I love it and hope it will strike a chord in you, too. My wish for you today is that you have, or find, that friend who has an inkling of your heart’s desire; one who perhaps can share it with you, whether it’s writing, bird watching, teaching, gardening, or whatever it is that has been in you for long time.
I think my favorite characters in Great Expectations are Joe and Herbert. They love and give without expecting anything in return. They see the best in others and they want the best for others. They are both the kind of friend I’d love to have.
But I also like the way Joe talks.
For example, instead of just telling Pip that everyone is about the same, he says, “…And all friends is no backerder, if not no forarder.”
Which reminds me of my husband’s favorite line in True Grit. When Rooster Cogbun is being questioned in the courtroom – this is the dialogue:
Cross-examining Lawyer: So, you say that when Amos Wharton raised his axe, you backed away from him.
Rooster Cogburn: That’s right.
Cross-examining Lawyer: In what direction were you going?
Rooster Cogburn: I always go backwards when I’m backing up.
But I digress.
Here is another example of Joe’s verboseness: “It were understood,” said Joe, “And it are understood. And it ever will be similar according.”
Near the end of the book, Joe is trying to gently break some news to Pip: “I think,” said Joe, after meditating a long time at the window seat, “ as I did hear tell how that he were something or other in a general way in that direction.”
Now, Joe is a little wordy, but, I’d rather talk to a kind conversationalist that to a griping grumbler. Wouldn’t you?
The prompt for Day 25 of PAD was “exercise”. In a round about way I turned to thoughts of Cathy, my best friend who died on March 8th. This poem can’t begin to convey our friendship, but it was helpful for me to write it. Before the poem, though, I’d like to share a word that’s new to me but fits right in here –
Propinquity– the state of being close to someone; close kinship
My friend Cathy and I experienced propinquity.
All those excursions we took before I left come back to me now in photographs we walked the downtown streets to bookstores and cafes laughing at inside jokes from our youth You were so witty We scoured antique stores for handkerchiefs and old jewelry and hidden treasures and since you could no longer exercise, you traded me your Zumba CDs for my glass chickens And now I’m miles away and you are gone, but I still look for handkerchiefs that I know you would have liked
Those friends from middle school are unique. They are the ones you grow up with and make memories with that last forever. I’ve drifted away from most of those, but about six years ago I reunited with Cathy and we became closer than ever. It’s like we fell right back into that kinship that all the years had not erased. We began to hang out now a few times a month – it might have been a concert, listening to an author speak, going to a class, poking through a bookstore, or whatever we could find to do. A few years ago we even went to several funerals together. In March I had to go to one alone. Hers.
I don’t even know where to begin to think about Cathy. She was the kind of person who made you feel she was truly interested in you and your well-being.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24
Cathy truly stuck close to me, like the sister I never had. I could talk to her about anything. I don’t think I’ll ever have another friend like her. I thank God for the time he gave us.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15
In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, Aunt Ellen was described as “…seeming exactly strong enough for what was needed for her life.”
This is so much like Cathy. She had a quiet strength that took her to the end with hope and grace. For the two years we corresponded via snail mail and texts, she never grumbled. Rarely would she mention a hardship, but when she did it was more like she was just telling me about it, not complaining. She would talk about the future, the adventures we would have. When I went to home to Jacksonville and took her out, she never let on how long it took her to get ready; how she had to wait for some of the drugs to get out of her system before she could function.
We would go out to eat and she would eat like a bird, then have the rest packed up to take home. But, we would sit at the restaurant for several hours just talking.
“Books were there… when I found a friend who loved books as much as I did and we could read together or spend an afternoon running our fingers over the spines.” -Mandy Shunnarah, from I Don’t Do It For You: A Reader’s Manifesto via her blog, Off The Beaten Shelf
This was us – we could spend hours rambling around bookstores like Chamblin’s Uptown in downtown Jacksonville. I will always miss my book buddy.
I’ve loved ABC books and A-Z lists for quite a while. This post is one in a series on writing, with the subtopic of poetry.
I’ve read a lot of books that give advice on writing. Sometimes, I think I read when I should be writing. But, one piece of advice I read recently I thought was good. It was about writing a letter, or note, to someone every single day. Not an email, but a true handwritten note. I’ve tried several times to do this and my efforts always fizzle out. Still, I have done it in fits and spurts.
Writing letters benefits the writer as well as the recipient. It hones the writing skills and connects the writer to other people. The recipient, of course, benefits in so many ways. For a shut-in, a letter can be the highlight of the day. A letter can say I’m sorry, I’m thinking of you, I love you, I miss you, or just “Hi there!” A letter can be a thank-you note, an interview, or just a retelling of a day’s events. Why not write one today?
My poetry focus is a Lanturne. I’ve written these before with students, but it has been a long time. The Lanturne is a five-line verse shaped like a Japanese lantern with a syllabic pattern of one, two, three, four, and one
Anyone who lives in or has visited Jacksonville should recognize these pictures of Friendship Fountain. The first picture is actually a postcard. I remember as a kid seeing the fountain at night with the multi-colored lights shining in the waters and thinking it was so cool. We would take relatives there when they visited, and years later I took my own kids. And, then even more years later I took my niece, and finally my grandson.
Here’s a little fountain history: It was designed by the same guy who designed the Hayden Burns Library, another staple of my childhood. When the fountain opened in 1965, which was the year we moved to Jacksonville, it was the world’s largest and tallest fountain. It was refurbished in 1985, completely renovated in 2011, and it is still drawing visitors today.