Thursday, December 16, 2010
on friendship (or, how i learned to stop whining and love connecticut. ish)
Note: this post is part of a daily writing project called Reverb 10: reflect on the year, manifest what's next. Click here for more info.
Prompt: Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
Funny you should ask, Martha Mihalick, because I was just thinking about this topic yesterday (in fact, I was so busy thinking that it seems I forgot to reverb. Oops).
It’s not so much a friend, but friendship itself, that has brought a surprising perspective on a subject that has troubled me since I moved here in 2000: location. What I think about when I think about “home.” I have whined about the absence of tall mountains, the lack of community in this bedroom town where I live, about conflicting values (mine and the Joneses) ad nauseum.
But while I was whining, I was also actively seeking out potential members of the community I hoped to create. Adventurous and whimsical folks who aren’t afraid to get dirty. Or cold. Or tipsy. Or sweaty. Or out of bed on dark winter mornings. Mothers who agree that kids should be outside in every season, and that opting out of scheduled activities once in a while isn’t going to socially and emotionally cripple them. People who aren’t afraid to say the “f” word once in a while. Who don’t worship at the Church of the Converted Consumer.
And slowly this community has begun to materialize. Some of its members have left for other states, but they continue to make their presence felt in the friends they’ve left in their trail, friends who have made their way into the village, too, bringing their food, their politics, their running shoes. Their children. Their stories. And in some cases, their chickens and bees (you know who you are).
The change in perspective was not a “sudden burst,” but the realization of it came at a moment I can pinpoint: I was enjoying a veggie burger, fries, and a Pale Ale at the Northampton Brewery after a group hike on the Seven Sisters trail in Holyoke, MA.
Once (as I have mentioned once or twice on this blog), someone asked me to summarize my life in one word, and I replied, “periphery.” I have spent a lot of time hovering on the verge of community. This can be attributed in part to my timidity, which I have spent much of my life confronting and overcoming. And then there is my commitment-phobia (which might have something to do with the shyness). But I’m pretty sure that my restlessness, which drove me from the northeast to the west to the northwest and back to the northeast, has prevented me from forming the kind of meaningful friendships and alliances that comprise a rich community.
Driving home from Northampton that day, I started to wonder, and have continued to wonder, whether I would, given the opportunity, be willing to sacrifice the village we’ve patched together. It seems unlikely that, if a job opportunity in, say, Burlington, Vermont jumped into my lap, I would shake my head and go about my bread-baking. But I would definitely pause. This isn’t the village I imagined (and it isn’t even close to being finished). But if I stretch my imagination far enough, I can almost see myself sticking around for a while..