We always laugh when we first see each other, throw our arms out for a hug, and laugh again. This is our yearly visit.
She looks at me with curiosity as the light from the window illuminates her face. I notice the lines and bone structure of the face of my friend of 35 years. She is in no hurry and folds her legs up under her on the end of the couch. I sit on the opposite end with legs stretched out and crossed. My knees hurt so I can no longer sit on them, but I appreciate that she can. I have always loved her simple, unadorned beauty. She looks older in a most delightful way. Her full head of hair, laced with grey, jumps from around her face.
On this occasion I arrive at five from a day of driving and we step outside and walk down the dirt road getting in sync. A bench appears by a pond in this Western Massachusetts area and we sit there. The sun slants into the dragon flies, swooping and hovering. One right in front of us keeps dipping into the water–up and down. Other dragon flies with clear crystal wings fly back and forth. Water lillies bloom and I can see several houses partially hidden behind water grasses.
Her husband and daughters are all away. Margie loves the quiet house all to herself. I notice how nice it is, much as I love her family, to have the space to talk as long as we want, to walk, to eat. We are both moms used to being available to others and we share the love and practice of acupuncture. This time is delicious.
On a practical note I ask what time she gets up, about her morning routine. “I meditate and study in the morning, for an hour and a half to three hours a day. But it’s flexible when you’re here.” She twinkles her eyes at me.
I know she meditates, practices tai chi and often reads books in depth, taking notes. She keeps a dream journal and works to understand dreams in the context of the study she is doing. With one and one half hours as the minimum time I realize that there is a whole world within her that she explores regularly. In fact, as we talk more about this, some words emerge that describe the effect on her life. I say, “It sounds like your whole life is permeated and informed by your morning quiet time.” “My life is irrigated by it.” she says.
Occasionally, Margie and I have had painful moments or misunderstandings. A year ago we had a scene in which I told her of a book I studied in depth. I wanted to share it. Her response was dismissive to the point that I felt hurt and decided not to bring it up again.
Later on the phone, we discussed that incident. We both prefer to talk in person, but this one needed following up before we would see each other again. I got a view into my need for affirmation; she recognized her tendency to resist authority. We talked about it for awhile and when we both threw our heads back and laughed out loud today, we knew we had moved through it.
Now, as we sit on the couch in a comfy room looking out on pine trees and blue sky, I relax into our friendship. The fact that we worked through the discomfort from a year ago, and that we allowed each other space, makes us enjoy each other more.
I watch Margie as she listens, pauses. In the course of hours, a night’s sleep and more relaxation in the morning, we are more in sync and able to open up to each other.
When she asks about grief, I feel a lump in my throat. Yes, of course, there is grief. I tend to avoid that feeling, though so often I encourage others to stay with it.
She continues with something like, “Not just the intense, dramatic grief, but the way it works on you inside. Not to get over it or push it away, but to be with it.” The seasons and cycles move on, as we both know so well from acupuncture, yet how easily I forget this simple truth in my own life: to be still with a flutter of grief, in no hurry, to accept, surrender. Then the next moment arrives. I feel that lump in my throat, followed by a surge of relief.
By this time we have had a soak in the hot tub surrounded by fields and woods, and are wrapped in towels sitting in the breezy mid morning sun. I was going to leave at 8:30 or 9:00 am for my seven hour drive home, and I don’t know what time it is. It doesn’t matter. I savor the moment.
As I climb into my car with a satchel of lunch Margie put together for me, I feel a sigh of fulfillment. No radio or CD, no entertainment needed. The sun shines on the ordinary day in the country, and I am grateful for this time alone in the car. I happen to drive past Emily Dickinson’s home preserved as a museum in the middle of Amherst. Since I am no longer in a hurry, I stop to see it and buy a few books about her. I reflect on the simple life this amazing woman led and how she wrote poems that were only published after her death. She surely lived fully in the moment and experienced many days similar to the one I am living here and now. A breeze rustles dark green summer leaves as I climb back into my car for the ride home, glad that I have this freedom on this day.