Somewhere out there in the gloom the sun has risen. There is a mood provoked by weather like this - slightly stormy, contemplative, insular. It can be inspirational for a while, but after a long stretch of brooding days it is healthy to pull yourself out of the cave of introspection. A good day of sunshine is a great facilitator. Barring that, a good solution is to call a friend.
There are a couple of things that have piqued my interest in friendship especially this week. I am preparing to do the music for church this Sunday, and the theme of the service is gratitude. It is also "bring a friend" Sunday. I've had some fun digging up piano pieces that suit the theme. Paul Simon wrote a wonderful, meditative song called "Old Friends" which will be on the program, and I've really enjoyed working on it. Both the music and the lyrics are hauntingly moving, about two old friends sitting on a park bench "like bookends", waiting for the sunset. Being able to produce the music that inspires me with my own hands is one of the greatest gifts in my life - but I digress.
The second thing that has encouraged thoughts of friendship this week is a fantastic article in the Wilson Quarterly about friendship in the United States - and the fact that it is a dying entity, to our detriment. It is called, "America: Land of Loners?" by Daniel Akst, and at least for now is available on line in its full text.
It is a must read, and should incite you to arrange some real, face-to-face time with people you care about, who care about you, without strings attached. Facebook friends don't count.
One of the greatest boons of our move to Maine 8 1/2 years ago came in the form of a neighbor. I had never had a friend before who called me up spontaneously for a cup of tea. A simple and ancient idea, and worth every minute. G. and I have reciprocated the invitations for several years now. Often it means we are putting off some task we probably ought to be doing, but the value of time together just to have time together cannot be overstated. We talk about our children, our parents, our houses, our dogs, our husbands, ourselves, our neighbors, our town, the news.
I have enormous admiration for my friend. She has quietly done so much for this entire community, and I find that everywhere I go people seem to know who she is. And yet she can spend half a day helping me move my in-laws into their summer house, or hiking a mountain in Acadia, or helping me pull porcupine quills out of Guster's nose. G. reaches me with her love of walking and the outdoors - and her tenacious perseverance in reaching a goal. She hiked all 48 4000 footers in New Hampshire in just a few years, and is now working on the all-New England set.
We have also taken a small part in the raising up of each other's children. G's son was a regular fixture in our household several years ago when he and my twins were in school together. G and her husband were staunch supporters of my youngest daughter as she navigated the roiling waters of high school - helped her meditate, came to her shows, fed her dinner, built her up with encouragement and praise. Our children all know that there is someone across the street that they can count on in a pinch.
Life is full of trials, but many of the things that consume us don't have to be our undoing as much as they are. We have the resources to support one another through a lot of this mess. G has a favorite phrase which comes up whenever we get to the subject of stresses, tensions, worries, and uncertainties - all of which have plagued our children and ourselves from time to time.
"Just breathe," she says.
It is good advice. Just breathe. And maybe, call up a friend for a cup of tea.