I also sought to broaden my circle and reached out to a few people I knew a little but not well. One light friendship unexpectedly evolved into a briefly shared intimacy which joyously warmed my winter, then froze unexpectedly and ended abruptly, prompting several seasons of introspection regarding my role in the rupture. Few things get our attention more than heartache, and fewer still cause me more concern than the recognition I’ve caused distress in another. Foolishly or not, my soul still aches about that lost friendship; indeed, on dark nights it occasionally haunts me. The delicate seedlings of friendship sometimes withstand unforeseen storms, sometimes not. But it’s painful to consider one’s inept gardening may have hindered from blossoming something that felt vital and beautiful. I’ve accepted my limits to change what will be. Ever the optimist, I remain hopeful the ice may one day melt and mutual understanding and compassion might grow. Nonetheless, it’s intrinsic to being fully engaged in living and surely played out just as it was meant to in life’s ongoing cycles.
All relationships, all life, is in continuous renewal. Seeds randomly sprout, once fallow fields fill with blossoms. Branches bud and reach to the light, leaves burst and breathe, glow, then let go. Old trees grow weary, fall, and decay. Rains and flood waters replenish the earth for another round. Sadly, a few wonderful old friends died in 2019, before COVID, leaving only cherished memories to hold. As is natural, some other friendships have been bent, cracked, and shifted. (Of course in writing this I’m reminded to try and reconnect with those folks.) Congruently, other contacts initiated from that holiday travel idea a few years back have become steadfast friendships. Several remain supportive bright lights in my days. I’ve tried to consciously grow from all these interactions and am very grateful for each one.
Even as I began to lay a foundation toward a more satisfying and sustaining life at the outset of 2019, everything was utterly reshuffled for us all in early spring 2020. No one knew what to expect. Formerly unrecognized luxuries were rescinded. Travel became very limited. Most restrained from gathering; many of us isolated. Everyone faced compromises. A niece’s wedding has been rescheduled twice. A major art show I was excitedly working toward was postponed. I’ve visited with my mother through glass more often than directly this year. Still, I’m very aware I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate. My mother is alive and well. I’ve lost no loved ones to COVID-19. I’ve been able to continue earning a living. Technology allows me to keep in contact with my family and friends. But I was surprised to discover how the strange uncertainty and limbo from March to September stifled my creativity. I felt unable to steer my vessel or even know which way to aim. Maybe this happened to others. For me, a few simple pleasures like walks and floating on the river became centering, almost sacred rituals. For sure we’ve all developed coping mechanisms.
Already solo in my work life and art-making time, the isolation (felt keenly by those of us living alone) impacted me far more than I expected. As an unabashed deep hugger I’ve come to learn how much those warm hugs I so freely shared with my friends on a regular basis bouyed my outlook and provided hearty sustenance. Perhaps as much as anything I crave the opportunity to directly engage with others; feel the tone of non-digitized, in-person voices; sense a friend’s presence walking side by side; gently touch and exchange physical energy with people again.
Once more we mark twenty darkening days until the return of Light. The first ice of the season has formed beneath our feet, a few more months of cold winter days are approaching. Once again, we’re called to nurture our internal fires, keep our individual flames lit. For a bit longer we have to draw on our inner resources; allow the sparkle in our eyes to shine bright enough to radiate beyond our masks; see the coming dormant season as a necessary part of the cycle, and, even still, recognize the profound beauty within it all.