You know what I did last summer?

This was the summer that wasn’t summer, really. My company had a huge project with formidable deadlines and my sweet flexible little 25-hours/week job doubled into nearly 50 hours, OT and Saturdays. And that was just the work part of the craziness.

So, this October when we met our deadline an entire month early, I took a day off. I spent the morning cleaning the bathroom and doing dishes and laundry. Then I picked up my friend Shawna and we headed out to do something I always wanted to do: see the Spiral Jetty. A coworker and friend of ours had just gone a few weeks prior and we discovered it was a good time of year to see it (it’s under water a good deal of the year), so we decided to go. I invited the family, as it was fall break, but they declined. We almost talked ourselves out of it. It was cool and rainy and it’s a bit of a drive so we considered going another day when it was a bit nicer outside. But I was afraid if I didn’t just do it right then I would find an excuse next time and then the next time, so we went for it.

The weather remained a bit gloomy and the rain started pouring down heavily not even half an hour into our trip. We weren’t even sure how long it took to get there–as the driving directions claimed it was nearly four hours, but our friend had insisted it was about two and a half; and it was already after 1pm. But we were committed and we pressed on.

At about North Salt Lake we could see a bit of sun shining through the clouds to the north. By the time we turned west off the freeway, it was sunny and warm outside. The dirt road to the jetty had been well graded and we arrived in just two hours and twenty minutes. We took off our shoes and waded through the salty water all the way around the spiral (even though the water was shallow enough we could have walked straight to the center) and all the way back again. We had the jetty all to ourselves for the good part of an hour before another vehicle came around the road and pulled to a stop on the dirt “parking lot.” (True confession: when the truck pulled up the part of me that watches too many crime dramas imagined that this would be the perfect place to rob, mangle or murder someone without anyone else knowing, maybe ever.) The occupants of the truck turned out to be a lovely older couple from the east who had moved out west a few years prior and it was their first time at the jetty, too. We took their photo for them, and they took ours for us and we parted all very much alive and practically friends.

The drive back was cozy and friendly and it was an entire half day of summer in early October. Just what I needed. It also increased to two the things I had never done but always wanted to that I actually did this year. (Bet your curious now as to what was number one.)

 

Oh the people you meet

One of the reasons I started my blog–and that I keep (more or less) blogging–is because of the stories. Stories connect us to times and places, but most especially to people. Those who are brave enough to share the truths of their lives, to let me witness some small part of their stories–especially the raw, most honest ones–are those to whom I feel closest. Even when separated by time and space.

I remember once having a rather adversarial relationship with someone with whom I worked closely. It was awful. And perplexing for someone like me, who can find something to like in just about anyone. But I still remember the day I found out that his baby sister had cancer. I immediately felt sympathetic, of course. Then one day i was driving in a snow storm over on Bulldog Avenue I was overcome by true compassion. It brought tears to my eyes, but, more importantly it softened my heart. Over time we became good friends. I came to care for him like I would a brother. I haven’t worked with him for years, but when he is in town some of us still get together for lunch. I truly enjoy and am grateful for the bond of friendship we share.

While I was recently out of town, I Facebook messaged a friend I had met through blogging and later in person, told her I was in her area and asked if we could meet. As we met and caught up with one another over lunch, we realized it had been about four years since we had seen each other. We had a lovely visit and it felt great to reconnect. As we said goodbye, I told her the reason I wanted to see her IRL is because she had shared her story with me in a very real and honest way and it touched my heart, forever–at least in my heart–forging a link between us. It was a time when people didn’t really talk about some of the challenges she faces and I wanted to open some dialogue, hoping people in similar situations would feel less alone. She trusted me with a part of her life and a part of her heart, and I gave her back a part of mine.

When I got back home, I found a package waiting for me. In it was some absolutely heavenly European chocolate from a friend of mine from Oregon. Until this past year, I had not seen her in well over 20 years, the last time being when our paths crossed briefly and rather miraculously in Belgium in 1987. We completely lost touch after that until she took a river raft trip and the outfit told her that if she wanted to see photos from their trip she would have to go on Facebook. After setting up an account, she friended me and, much to my joy, we reconnected after all those years. While I was in Portland last December, I happened to catch one of her status updates. I messaged her and told her where I was. Turns out, she had plans to come up to Portland that Sunday anyway. We met and attended church together with my brother’s family. We only had a few hours, but we caught each other up on one another’s families and lives. Our time together that day was a gift, and also a reminder to me that the past we shared together was, I feel, of an eternal nature. Our families were meant to connect, get to know and love and serve each other in this life.

I fully expect the deep bond of that friendship–of many of my friendships–will continue in the next.