She called just a day before she would be rolling through town, hope dripping round the corners of her question. Was there a chance I might be available for a visit when she passed through? It would be a quick stay, just overnight, but wouldn’t it be lovely? Gratefully, our days are wide open as of late and I had just washed the sheets and whose heart doesn’t smile all Cheshire-like when old friends come calling?
I hope she heard the joy in my response because, although I was excited about our reunion, it had been quite a number of years since last our eyes had met or our arms had encircled. Childhood friendships can run deep as the ocean but years apart can also seem to magnify the wide expanse of those sacred waters and such a gulf has the potential to swallow you right whole.
She arrived with a bottle of wine under one arm, a loaf of crusty bread under the other and a laugh so strong as to unshackle fear in any heart. Oh, how I remembered that laugh! How it was both winsome and inviting, how its genuineness removed all self-effacement. Smiling, I took her offerings of bread and wine and placed them on the table and I felt something let loose within me.
We set to the task of preparing dinner, each of us stationed across from one another. She sliced cantaloupe, I cut vegetables and, together, we began the slow dance of catching up on lives lived apart from each other for years. At first, we revisited what was familiar. We recalled favorite memories, we reenacted infamous moments. All that we held in common became burnished to glowing by our careful curating of memory.
But as the night continued and the sky wicked from blue to purple to indigo, the stories took different turns. We moved to the porch and we lit votives and we pressed our glasses to our lips between breaths.
This old friend of mine, we’ve known each other forever. Our mothers grew round and full with the both of us the same year. We were delivered less than a week apart.
But we have lived lives apart for so long. There were so many details of her unfolding that have remained a mystery, so I sat and I leaned in and I listened long in order to hear how her story continued without me in it.
And this was when the magic happened.
For you see, my friend? She is an artist. She takes pen and ink and spins symmetry. She swirls color on canvas and calls forth life from darkness and it is beautiful. She gathers children into her fold and she weaves story and meaning from the drippings and the dross and she teaches these same little ones how to do the same. She enchants and blesses and rings glory where there has been shame and the world is more beautiful because she dwells in it.
As she shared her life with me I felt new places break open in me. As I heard stories of her travels and gazed at pictures of her portfolio I began to understand how art can’t help but spring forth from her center. And I saw more clearly what had been loosened in me upon hearing that laugh of hers and what continued to unravel as the night progressed.
My friend’s life—her art—was one grand story. Yes, there were twists and turns and knots and bends, for sure. But all along, she was looking for the truth and the beauty among the darkness and the light.
This art making of hers was and is genuine and it asks the same of every one who experiences it—that you respond authentically, in kind.
Because aren’t we all artists? When we open ourselves to the world and welcome all the beautiful and terrible things and we do not let it destroy us? That is when the magic happens.
That is when we, too, can spin symmetry and swirl color and weave story and make the world more glorious because we dwell in it.
Image credit: Steve Snodgrass