"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Friendship Flowers


My flowerbeds have been a constant source of wonder and surprise this summer. When I did my early spring clearing, I left anything that looked like it might be something other than a weed. And even a few known weeds were allowed to stay: Queen Anne's Lace, Pearly Everlasting, Oxeye Daisies.

We planted wildflowers a year ago so I expected some results from reseeding. What I didn't expect were flowers in abundance that didn't show up last year at all. Lupine. Wallflower. Black-eyed Susan. There were a handful I've yet to identify, but which provided some of the prettiest cuttings for bouquets of the summer. Even the buddleia which we had pulled out, managed to return.

While I've loved the variety, and ever-changing palette of colors and fragrance, it's the Black-eyed Susan that's giving me the greatest pleasure. There are at least three different types in my garden. They last the longest in bouquets, complement everything I've found to put them with, and seem unphased by changes in the weather or the passing of time.

Research reveals that Black-eyed Susan is a name given to a number of completely different flowers. Some wild. Some cultivated. Rudbeckia hirta, the flower whose official common name is Black-eyed Susan, has a number of other names, including Brown-eyed Susan, Golden Jerusalem, and Gloriosa Daisy.

Considered the most common of American wildflowers, it thrives in most soils and forgives neglect. The one nonnegotiable that it needs is sun. And when it dies, it reseeds.

Much like long-term friendships.

Several months ago Julie came back into my life. Her oldest son had been my fifth grade student (he's married now with a second child on the way) and then we became colleagues who enjoyed each other's company. I left the school we shared, moved a second time, and one beginning-of-the-year was delighted to find she'd been transferred and would be teaching my ELL kids. A friendship formed based on some common background and a lot of common beliefs about kids and teaching. We laughed together and commiserated together and my day was always brightened by contact with her. When I left that district, Julie was one of the people I knew I'd miss, hoped not to lose contact with, but did.

Then she found me on Facebook, we exchanged e-mails, and started meeting for lunch. It was like we'd never been apart. Even more amazing, in our older wiser less protected conversations, we're learning just how parallel our lives have been. I've felt blessed by her renewed presence in my life and the pleasure it's brought.

After his back-to-school barbecue just a couple of weeks ago, Walt came home talking about a student whose mom had once been my teaching partner and close friend. The whole family was at the event and the mom had asked about me. She followed up with an e-mail, which led to an exchange of e-mails, which led to our first face-to-face visit yesterday in eight years.

Daune and I have known each other as long as Julie and I, but our friendship bloomed in the school between the two I shared with Julie. We taught next door to each other for two years, piloting full-time classrooms for highly capable students. She had the younger, I had the older, and our partnership was powerful. Our friendship grew out of the intensity of that experience, as well as the fact that we live five minutes away from each other, and have more in common than many blood relatives.

I found myself on the wrong side of some political and parental issues, and ended up leaving the program as a result. Daune was supportive of me through the entire difficult time, but my hurt made it difficult to feel safe with her. So without ever declaring the end of the friendship, and without ever losing a bit of love and respect for each other, we drifted apart and all communication faded away.

When she told me yesterday she thought the separation was because I found her boring, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She is one of the smartest, kindest, most reflective people I've ever known. If anything, my own uncertainty about being worthy of her friendship helped keep me silent.

Greeting her at my door yesterday afternoon, it was like no time had passed at all. She looked exactly the same to me - maybe softer around the edges, maybe a little more tired - but so little changed in nearly a decade. Our hug was profound and emotional. Our three hour tear and laughter filled visit ended only because we both had families waiting. Our promise to not let any more time be lost to us is one I know we'll keep.

These recently renewed relationships give me such joy. When I look out  my window or wander in my yard and revel in the golden glory of my Black-eyed Susans, I'm brimming with gratitude for the gift of both flowers and friends. I'm also filled with hope. Hope that, like the hearty flowers which seem to require little beyond abundant light to thrive, other friendships lying fallow might soon grow into new life.

25 comments:

Wander to the Wayside said...

What a lovely post! I love the comparison of flowers to friendships, and know exactly what you were talking about in feeling like no time had passed when renewing the relationships with these two women. I've experienced the same myself since leaving Colorado 22 years ago to move to Georgia, worrying that a particular friendship would have died on the vine only to see it revitalized upon meeting again. It's a wonderful feeling.

My black eyed susans were gorgeous, until 'something' happened virtually overnight and they just fell over. Then we found a dead vole in the yard and assume that they had been the problem, eating the roots! Yours are pretty enough to be on a greeting card!

Wanda said...

Isn't it amazing the stories we make up about what happens in relationships? Guilty.

Gail said...

Beautifully written post.

I love Black-eyed susans!

I guess the true friendships never end, sometimes we neglect them, but they are always there.

Niki said...

How blessed you are! Blessed by the renewed friendships and blessed to be able to appreciate how wonderful that is...I know them as brown eyed Susans...and they remain one of my favourites, just like my old friends :)

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

What a beautiful analogy! I like your stories about your garden of flowers and your garden of friendship.

kario said...

Such a lovely concept - that friendships 'reseed' and come back with minimal effort from time to time. I have a few of those people that I'm certain I will meet again and I can't wait to see how it happens.

Barb said...

Flowers and friendship - both seem to flourish when the time and elements are right. I hope your friendships reseed as your flowers have.

She Writes said...

This reminds me of a dear friend of mine. You are always good at drawing these parallels in life to nature and what ever is around you! BTW I love Black Eyed Susans.

colbymarshall said...

SO nice. I'm going through something wiht a friend right now, but I hope one day we'll pick up where we left off. Stop my blog Monday for soemthing fun :-)

Cheryl said...

I've been a way for a while and I've missed your posts. Always thoughtful and they bring a peaceful feeling. Flowers and old friends - what a wonderful combination. Thank you.

Carrie Link said...

Really, really cool, and of course, no accidents that you two are back in each other's lives now - more important work to do together, I predict!

Amber said...

I love this. :)

:)

Toyin O. said...

What a lovely analogy. Great post.

http://youcanfacetodaybecausehelives.blogspot.com

deborahjbarker said...

A beautiful post Deb. I wrote something about renewing an old friendship recently - nothing as profound as this but bumping into someone I had lost touch with, depsite her living only two miles up the road, made me think very long and hard about why friendships fade away sometimes. Normally, it is through circumstance rather than desire.
Ah, black eyed susan - I used to plant these in my garden when the children were younger along with cornflowers, poppies and geum. I haven't done that for a while either - though I noted some poppies and geum had appeared this summer on their own. Hopegully, the friendships I have neglected will survive despite my tardiness.

Kathryn Grace said...

What a beautiful, beautiful post. I knew something good was coming when you told of the Black-eyed Susan reseeding when it dies, "Much like long-term friendships." What a bounty is your life--the animals trusting you enough to let you see them, knowing you mean them no harm; the wildflowers growing and sharing their light with you; and now old friends returning to your life just when you have the time and energy to enjoy them deeply.

Btw, when my mom planted her first wildflower garden, she had a similar experience. Apparently, some wildflowers choke out others, so the prevalent species may be different from one year to the next. Supposedly, a controlled burn every five years, a la nature, will permit many of the dormant seeds an opportunity to sprout and the cycle can begin again. It's difficult to imagine any burn being safe, so don't know how one would manage that.

Laura said...

How sweet it is to rekindle old friendships and discover the warmth is as inviting, delightful and comforting as it ever was before. It is so often the case, isn't it, that the passage of time is like a "blip" a single breath...when we are reunited with old friends. I love that about my dearest friends...many of whom live far and wide...and I only see them after years have gone by.

Lorna said...

What a beautiful post and beautiful flowers. And the friendships! Some things are just timeless. Thank you for the reminder :)

Patti Lacy said...

Thank you for a lovely analogy.
I too have enjoyed friendships and reconnections through Facebook...AND BLOGS like this!!

Sigh. TWO deadlines are forcing me to quit bloghopping until around 11/15. I sure hope you stop by my place occasionally and say hi, and I'll do the same whenever I can. Prayers would be good, too, as I'm tripling my daily page count!
Those flowers might come in handy!!!
P

Terri Tiffany said...

Deb,
I love these stories of reconnection. I've often found where we think we understand why a friendship died and then later discover it was for different reasons. Right now, I've let a few go because I feel I can't offer much or do much do to finances. I probably have hurt some feelings and don't mean to but it is a season of my life where I have so little to give--just surviving.:)

Jerri said...

God bless Facebook!

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