Tuesday, January 29, 2008

holy ground

I have a good friend whom I havent seen in a long time. As much as I would love to see him, I know it's going to be a long time before that happens. Strange circumstances, which are very complicated and will have to wait until the story unfolds as the plot of a "B" movie, will keep us apart geographically. However, emotionally.........spiritually.......the love that links us will always be there. This is what makes me feel calm knowing that whatever happens in our lives, we are always connected.
Our friendship grew over one particular summer when we were both adolescents and working at a children's camp. We had been given the task to share being in charge of two activities..........the craft shop and the canoeing program. In the mornings Martin was down at canoeing while I was up in the craft shop. In the afternoons, our roles reversed.

You'd think that because our days were spent in opposite ends of the camp activity spectrum that we wouldn't find our common ground, but we did during all the inbetween activity times, in the evenings when the campers were sound asleep, on staff days off away from the melee. Whenever we had time, we were together laughing, singing, playing pranks, sharing inside jokes, listening to music, working on our own art in the craft shop in the evenings, hanging out on the swim dock during the post lunch rest hour break.

Our lives intertwined like it does with your best friend. Even in the absence of one another, we were inseparable.

Sometimes at night, we would sit on the beach in the stillness under the stars. There were solemn spaces between our words as we found peace in each other's company. Those big night sky evenings where heaven feels close enough to touch sealed our friendship. We were safe to share our strongest yearnings, our deepest secrets and our dreams. There was no biting judgement, and no worries that we would hurt each other's feelings. Sure we would argue and disagree, but our respect and trust of one another communicated unconditional acceptance. Comfortably meant to be. That's how it always felt between Martin and I.

One of the dreams we had was the desire to collaborate on a book. I would write the text and Martin, who was very good at drawing would create the pictures to go with the words. We even sketched out various storylines and plots, usually revolving around the magic of summer camp. I still hope that one day it will happen. In fact, I have the text written......... he doesn't know it yet.

There are very few people in our lives where we are completely comfortable being quiet with. Have you ever experienced this? It's a very different quiet than when you're alone because theres an energy........not a zingy zappy energy...........more like a comforting hum that fills the space and envelopes the air.
Henri Nouwen, in his book Reaching Out -- The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, writes about this kindred essence as holy ground. His own experience felt in the quiet contemplative moments shared with another human being offered him this insight. He believed that this kindred essence was the very heart of true community. When I read this last night, I responded as I usually do to new learning and I looped back into my own memory bank to find an example in my life which would offer me understanding of what Nouwen was conveying. I naturally thought of Martin. Since then, I have felt that holy ground again and wondered where he is.

I have no idea what brings two people together into a powerful bond of a friendship like this. Attraction, synchronicity, temperment, being in the right place at the right time.........destiny.... it's that and other intangible reasons. At the time, we never questioned it. It just seemed perfectly expected. It was truly meant to be.

One of the other activities that Martin and I shared on occasion was planning and running the Sunday Chapel together. Chapel at camp was the only time when the whole camp reflected together. Songs, poems and stories were shared.........around a theme, which of course often included friendship. It's the crux of any summer camp....... We would plan the hour, choose the flow of the informal service and then when the camp bell was rung quietly to invite the campers and staff to join us, we would stand together side by side and lead a group of 120 kids and 30 staff through the songs and shared readings, all the while surrounded by the holy ground hum.

On the last day of camp that year, after the last of the kids had boarded a bus for home, Martin and I found ourselves in the craft shop together to clear out the remnants and to clean up the memories of creativity. The old tape recorder played our music, but apart from that, the rest of camp which was normally vibrant with a cacophony of spirited voices, was now settled and silent. As we plugged away sweeping clay dust, cleaning out old plaster molds and throwing away nubs of crayons, dried paints and forgotten masterpieces, we reflected on the summer.....on the fun, the days off, the crazy antics, the hilarity......on the dramas and the relationships formed between staff.........we shared our sadness of another summer coming to a close and planned out our first reunion after we returned to the reality of city and university life.

As the last day unfolded, our reflections held us in suspension of the inevitable.....it was going to be over soon. Our days living together, seeing each other from morning to night were about to come to an end. Of course we saw one another when we returned to our homes, we knew it would be forever different. This led to more quiet........comfortable quiet solitude.

I don't know who said it first. "I love you" was spoken....thrown out there into the hum that resonated between the two of us. It wasn't like it wasn't felt. There was never an urgency to speak it out loud. But the spoken words sealed the holy ground between us. I remember stopping whatever i was doing.....and looking at him as he looked at me smiling. We looked at one another for a long time........both of us knowing......just knowing how lucky we were.

Much water has flowed under that proverbial bridge since our last day in the craft shop and some of our most memorable personal moments we have shared. In fact, I shared an apartment one summer with his fiance whom I grew close to automatically and then he was the emcee at my wedding, having grown close to my husband as well. For years, we wrote each other letters, talked on the phone, visited whenever my growing family and I would returned to Ontario for the holidays. And every time we'd meet, no matter what the circumstance, my best friend always made a point of quietly telling me that he loved me.

But that now seems long ago. As I mentioned, circumstances and life choices have pulled us apart. It's been several years since that comfortable solitude hum resonated between us while we were in the same room and I find myself feeling the hurt of not really being in his immediate life all over again tonight. It's a mixed bag of emotions I seem to carry......there is a calm knowledge that our deep feelings for each other will never alter, but there is a sadness that he isn't just a phone call away anymore.

I will take solace in the new understanding that the kindred essence ground between us will forever remain holy.

"I got God on my side
I'm just trying to survive
That if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear's a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It'll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust"

Bruce Springsteen, Devils and Dust


Gypsy said...

What a beautiful friendship Dana. I know exactly what you mean. I had a dear friend like that once. We could talk about anything and everything, laughed together, shared our dreams, we fit together perfectly. Sadly petty jealousies and other human foibles came into play and I lost my friend I loved so much. It will make me sad til the day I die.

Marja said...

We are very blessed if we meet people like that. It makes our lives so much deeper and my experience is that they provide a mirrow for our deepest thoughts.
I am lucky i got a person like that right now. It is a 70 year old man who i work with on Saturdays in the home. We fit perfectly together. In believes, sense of humour etc.

Shaz said...

Isnt that bond amazing a lot of people dont ever find that and it saddens me for them but what is worse is those who dont recognise how lucky they are. You deserve such friendship because you appreciate it.Love to you friend XXX

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I truly understand this friendship you are writing about...I had a friend for 35 years that was my "soul mate". I spent so much time with him and we shared so much over those years....He died in 1985 and I miss him, still, every day. So very many times I wish I could pick up the phone and talk to him....as we used to....In this case, that is not possible because he is dead....I know, if her weren't we would still be sharing all of the many wonderful and terrible things of our lives.; the funny stuff and the serious stuff and all the creative stuff, too...He was a rare human being and he enriched my life in ways that were and are immesaurable....

I encourage you, if it is at all possible, to re-connect with your dear friend....Life is short and things happen and it would be such a shame to not share more of your lives now, if you can....! That "Holy Ground" is such an important componant....I know it exists even if you don't see him, but think how much richer everything would be if you DID see him, once again.

Awareness said...

gypsy....I still have hope that the jealousies and foibles which are a part of this story will be overcome. While writing this piece, I found myself feeling that sadness all over again. But, there's not a damn thing I can do about it. His personal circumstances have to change before he connects with me again.

Marja....they are a reflective mirror of who we are....I like that idea. Nouwen's story includes a dialogue between he and his friend. The friend states that when he looks at Nouwen, he sees the light of Christ. Nouwen's response was..."The Christ in me reflects the Christ in you."

shaz....you have written in the past about your kindred friend Peter. When I read your post about him, I completely understood your feelings because of my friendship with Martin. Yes, we are lucky to have experienced and recognized it.

Awareness said...

Hi Naomi.....we were writing comments at the same time! I would love to reconnect with him, and if I'm lucky will see him in June at a camp reunion. Unfortunately, he is married to someone who has made it impossible for us to be friends. His personal life made some twists and turns and it now includes a woman who for no logical reason sees me as a huge threat. It's a bizarre and stupid situation.....one that makes me laugh at the absurdity of the story behind it. But, then it also makes me sad. He has made some incredibly confounding choices in his life. She's one of them.

Julie said...


Your post just popped up on my mini feed on Facebook! how cool is that!
Hope you're well

Julie x

Rainbow dreams said...

People like that are so precious... and we are lucky if we have even a couple of friends like that in our lifetime. It's sad when things happen to keep us apart, but some connections can't be broken no matter who comes in the way - it's unspoken, and felt on a deeper level than a friendship...
Holy ground - I like that idea... funny how silence can feel so very different - perhaps that's when we really sense what is being communicated. Some people I can be silent with, quite comfortably, indefinitely...

Tori said...

What a wonderful tribute to Martin. If friendships like this touch our lives we are so very lucky. There is history. There is understanding. There is love.
I love the term 'hold ground' and I imagine that is the space I am at when all feels right in my world as I stand by the ocean.

Awareness said...

Julie...that is cool. I didn't know it linked to other Facebook feeds. I had set it up on my own. Maybe if bloggers are "friends" on Facebook it automatically happens. That's good to know. I'm not on facebook very often...have very mixed feelings about it, but every now and then I hear from someone I thought I had lost complete touch with forever and ever....out of the blue.....and it stops me from closing up shop there.

Katie....I do think it's a rarity which it makes it all the more wonderful when it happens.

Tori....I do hope I see him in June at the camp reunion I'll attending. I will be organizing chapel that weekend. At the last reunion which was a big celebration because the camp had closed for good, I read something I had written for the occasion and led the staff in a Harry Chapin song which I had introduced years and years ago....Circle? Martin wasn't there.....his brother and 3 sisters were..... It was a wonderful sense of belonging kind of experience and I loved the moment. However, there was an aching void because he wasn't there beside me where he should've been. So..........this year.....I hope he will be. I have a new song I want to teach him. And then there are a couple of good jokes I want to tell him.....oh and there's the story I need to tell him about so he can draw the pics........on and on and on.....

Barbara said...

I loved this post. I no longer have a close friend like Martin, but I wish I did. So....when are you going to get this book published?

Thanks for the award, I have been so busy but will collect it soon!

(Martin's a cutie and so is his dog. )

Awareness said...

Layla....my book i've written which needs Martin's sketches? It's a children's book/story. I have sent it out widely once, and I need to try again. I did get some good feedback on it from a few publishing companies but they were taking on anyone new or any new kid books.
I have tested it out too with a few classes and shared it with a recognized children's author I took a workshop with. All received it well. I know it's good.....just gotta find the right publisher. And, no I don't want to publish it online.