Monday, 20 July 2009

A Sheltering Tree

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions - the little soon forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimals of pleasurable and genial feeling.

Coleridge, 'The Friend. The Improvisatore [1828].

I went and had lunch with a friend and her husband today. 'A friend' is such a general term, and can mean so many different things. 'J' and I have known each other since our children were in their teens; we now have grandchildren in their twenties. We have lived in the same general area the whole time, not usually in the same town or city but close enough that keeping in touch is a local telephone call. And we don't see each other very often because we both live very busy lives. Often we are exchanging news on the fly in the parking lot of the grocery store in our common shopping town or making a quick phone call for a particular purpose. Yet if I had to define 'friend', it is J whom I would describe.

Here is a woman who not only laughs at my funny stories but rings in her husband and he laughs too. And they don't seem to get tired of listening to me tell them; how brave is that, hmm?

When I went through a bad patch in my life, J opened her home and her arms and her heart to me, listened to me rant and, when she thought the moment was perfect, told me it was time to suck it up and get on with things. And I knew she was right.

Here is a woman who never minded when I and other friends and co-workers laughed at her attitude to yard sales. Who roped me into helping her sort out her mother's worldly goods for a yard sale. Who worded her wedding invitation, when she and her present husband both embarked on their second marriage together, like this. "Wedding at xxx p.m.. Reception and yard sale to follow."

She reads my blog and tells me I write well. Priceless praise because if she didn't think so, she would tell me that, too.

Here is a woman that, when we haven't had a good sit down and chat for years, can pick right up on where we were when we left off, remember the kids' names and careers and make me feel as if those years were only days.

She is a woman with a lot of friends, and we all feel special.

She is funny and generous and courageous and down to earth. Her career included teaching and she can give 'The Look' like no one else I have ever met. And her smile would melt an icicle.

'Friend' is such a general term. It can mean much or nothing much. If, like all well raised Canadian girls, you are familiar with Anne of Green Gables, you could call J a kindred spirit. If one of the miserable dot com's had not co-opted the word, you could call her simpatico. What I am doing is quoting Coleridge -- again. 'Friendship', he said, 'is a sheltering tree.' J is such a tree, complete with strong branches for birds to nest on and children to swing a tire from. And I find happiness there.


  1. Let's hear it for kindred spirits (and for Lucy Maud Montgomery for giving us Anne.)

  2. this is a lovely post and a great tribute to your friend

  3. You're lucky to have her. This was such a nice post, Mary.

  4. Alice Walker calls it "familiar companionability". I've always thought that's the perfect model for human relationships. :)


  5. a sheltering tree with branches enough for anyone who needs respite, it would seem. a graceful ode to your friend who, i'm sure, would wax poetic about you as well.

  6. beautiful -- tree, post, and friendship.

  7. If any of us finds such a kindred spirit, the other friends can be any myriad of differences. What a nice tribute.

    And, next time I'm in the eastern part of the province (and there will be a next time, because I didn't finish taking photographs before my camera battery conked out!) I'll let you know. I really like your writing style. Am off to read more.