Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fenix Drum and Dance Company

The first time I knew my daughter Margaret was inside me I was sitting in a theater in Oakland, surrounded by a wall of African drumming.  I had taken my parents and then seven-year-old daughter Ciara to a dramatic symposium of dancing and music of the African diaspora.  The first performance was a long parade of djembe and congas that began outside. The sound gradually increased until the marchers flowed down the aisles and onto the stage and it felt like we were in a room of drum, in a womb of drum. Like we were at the dawn of time and the end of time and beating along with the heartbeat of the universe.  Dramatic I know, but that was how it was.

And then there was inside of me a quiet beating back. I must have been about three weeks pregnant.  I didn't have any symptoms yet, of course.  But I knew.  I placed my hands on my belly. You’re there, I said.  Welcome to the drums.

When Margaret was an infant, my teacher DeLisa Branch-Nealy in Berkeley held her as we danced in class.  Margaret used to lie down and press her cheek to the floor to feel the drums.  When she began to walk she bounced up and down in perfect rhythm. Then we moved to Sacramento and left dance and drums behind.  Until this year.

Why have I waited so long to write about Fenix Drum and Dance?  It has been seven months from the first time my Margaret and I tried our first class.  Since then we've spent almost every Saturday night in the studio and performed in public twice. Now Margaret has decided to do the drum class too.  Her favorite is Djembe.  She wants one for Christmas.

Margaret has no fear in dancing and drumming. She jumps into the circle at the end of class for extemporaneous solo numbers.  She loves performing on stage.  Now she loves drums as well.  She sits in a circle among her classmates, mostly grown-ups, her face fixed in concentration as she learns to slap, bass, tone.  Last Saturday guest teacher Lansana Kouyate from Guinea taught the class a complex rhythm called Tiruba. She learned how to do the dance in the next hour.

When we go to the studio and enter the drum sound nothing matters but music.  Do you understand what that means? Nothing matters but music. That moment when we cross the threshold into the studio is the sweetest moment of my entire week. Anxiety is nothing.  It can’t even get through the door. Why haven't I written about this before? Because I wasn't ready yet.  Because it feels a lot like church.

Fenix Drum and Dance Company is run by Angela James and her daughter Olivia Yasmin James.  Check out the website here. They welcome beginners and have a beautiful way of making sure all ability levels have fun and are challenged at the same time.  You should come dance with us.  It's a bargain for all you get and you would like it.  Bring your son and daughter along too.

When we first started taking class I was looking for some exercise, something to share with my kid, a return to the uplift I remembered from African dance and music.  I never expected to receive such a quality education in dance and culture.  I never expected to meet so many new friends.

I am grateful to Fenix for bringing my daughter and me together again over drums. Now she begs me to take drum class with her.  She holds out her hands and says, Come on Mommy.  Welcome to the drums.

That's Margaret in the green head wrap. Thank you so much Miss Angela James for the photo.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Eight-Year-Old's Workout

I brought Margaret to the doc last week for a check up.

"How many minutes a day does your daughter exercise?" the check-in lady asked me.  Clipboard in hand.

"I don't know.  She's eight years old.  She plays."

"We suggest an hour a day." The check-in lady didn't want any of my lip. I conceded to an hour a day.  Sure.  My baby works out an hour a day. More or less.

On our way out I noticed signs for an obesity prevention workshop for the twelve and under crowd.  You could sign up your kid to spend an hour sitting around a table with a bunch of other kids while an adult talked about exercise.

It's easy for me to be snarky about an obesity workshop for kids because my kids are skinny.  We eat healthy foods most of the time but I'm not one of those no junk food moms.  Not by a looooooong mile. My daughters eat what they do want (within reason) and don't have to eat what they don't want.  It's a simple philosophy that costs me very little by way of parenting effort.

Still, that exercise question bothered me.  How many minutes a day does my little one exercise?  I didn't really know the answer.  I am her mother and I should know the answer to a basic health question.

So I decided to find out.  My husband and teenager are on a five-day backpacking excursion too strenuous for an eight-year-old, so it's just Margaret and me.  Hanging out.  Spending time.

I now know the answer to the exercise question.

On Saturday, we went to Yoga in the park for an hour.  I thought that would be enough exercise until dance class that night, but Margaret disagreed.  We had to go to the local public pool.  We have to go when they are open or else we'll be sad on days when they are closed, she reasoned.  So we went to the pool.  Margaret swam for two hours straight, practicing the butterfly stroke.  Which she kept making me demonstrate for her over and over so that she could see how to do it.  Mommy demonstrating.  Margaret practicing.  Demonstrate.  Practice.  Back and forth across the pool.

"I'm getting ready for the Olympics," she said.

We got home in time to dress for dance and go to the studio.  We take African dance together.  I thought she'd be too tired for a rigorous class, but no.  She practiced and danced like a crazy and then volunteered for a solo. So then I decided to do a solo.  It was a lot of dancing. 

For dinner she wanted McDonald's, so we went for a treat.  We can only go when her sister is out of the house because my teenager gives us such a hard time for eating fast food that it just isn't worth it.  Then we had to watch the Olympic trials before bed.  Margaret likes watching people exercise.

She had her post-Mass Sunday donut this morning, and then insisted on roller blading for two hours (the dog and I trailed after on foot in the flames of her wake). As I write this she's out in the living room jumping around and dance practicing while watching t.v.  In a minute she'll go play Dance Dance on our friend's Wii for an hour.  Or more.

Keeping up is hard to do.
Tomorrow she wants to skate more.  Maybe bike ride.  On Tuesday, she tells me she needs to go swimming again. She also needs to practice shooting baskets so she can be really really good next basketball season.  She needs to practice dance.  She needs to take long walks to practice for her own backpacking trip with her dad.  She needs to needs to needs to be moving.  All the time.

You want to know how many minutes a day Margaret exercises? A million minutes a day.  My daughter exercises a million minutes a day.

I should know.

I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Earthmaker, our mother,
Covers the ground with flowers
And breaks open the soil to make way
For the sprout bending its head
Dreaming of the sun.

She releases the seeds of Aspens
That dream of their someday leaves,
Shivering in the wind,
Their undersides silvery and flashing.

Earthmaker, our mother,
Holds in her embrace
Her giant Sequioa sons
As well as the memory resting in the fossils of their prehistoric brothers.
She holds the buried acorns that will be her
Sturdy Oaken daughters,
As well as the memory of those long ago first fern-like plants
About which so little is known.

Earthmaker knows.

Earthmaker, our mother
Sees every child of hers grow or not grow.
She mourns the ones who leave her embrace
She wraps herself in a fourfold robe of night sky, fire, water and loam.
And nurses her sadness for the lost
In the old soul company of the stars.

The love of Earthmaker, our mother
Like every mother,
Is never less than a mountain.
The strength of every mother’s love
Contains the force of oceans,
The weight of seas,
The might of rivers in flash flood,
The depth of springs,
The quiet endlessness of acquifers beneath clashing tectonic plates.

This is love that outlasts death,
This is love with a geologic age,
This is love that embraces every child,
Found or lost
And takes the lost one, and holds him up to the stars
Where he will take his place among them.


I thought apocalypse jokes were funny before I was in one.

Knock knock, who's there?

No answer.

I don't have answers for anything anymore because for me, the world that I knew ended last April when Rachel's baby died of an umbilical cord accident while she was in labor.  It was an accident that no one could have prevented or predicted.  

Rachel's baby's death was an accident like a meteor falling on your head and killing you dead as you were going out to get the mail. You could not have prevented that.  There isn't even anyone for your loved ones to rage against in the aftermath. Who are they going to hate? God?  The Universe? That doesn't work. Your loved ones aren't simpletons.

So all the disappointment and pain and disbelief lay waste to everything anyone felt was true about safety and security and purpose.  You can plan and do the right things and make all the wise decisions and still you could end up in a wasteland.  Choose your own adventure. But sometimes you don't get to choose. Not when Oliver died and this summer that was supposed to be the summer of a newborn boy is the summer of desolate nights and me reaching across the parched earth for my friend Rachel who didn't deserve this.

Things go wrong in pregnancy.  Children die of stupid things for no reason.  I knew this.  I'm grown.  But for it to happen, though.  For it to happen.

Nothing to say about it.  Nothing to do for it.  Nothing but reaching across the sad ground for my friend. Giving the wasteland the finger. Wishing our arms weren't empty.

Wishing for life.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This Is For The Class Of 2012

This is for the class of two oh one two
Mrs. Wanket has had her eye on you.

We read Malcolm X  and Catcher in the Rye
We discussed Shakespeare’s Othello and Into the Wild

We talked about the hero and the great archetypes
You embark now on the Journey and this ain't no hype

You are the hero of your own journey that starts right now today
You have all of the qualities you need so hooray.

You are strong and you are brave and you know you look good
You have both kinds of smarts: I’m talking book and ‘hood.

But listen to me now, let the old Gatekeeper speak
You must always be mighty and never be weak.

There will be Monsters in your path so you better watch out
There are those who would keep you from what you are about

There are Monsters with heads that might look good for a minute, that’s true
But listen to your heart, no sex drugs or alcohol for you!

Listen to the Wise Men and Women, your elders and your teachers
Some of us sitting beside you right now in these bleachers.

We love you and trust you to be honest and strong
Though the Divine Journey you are beginning may get hecka long.

Study hard my heroes, and hit those books
Do all of your work and stay away from the hooks

Of cheaters and haters and those who tell lies
Stay awake and alert, and please open your eyes.

The wide world is so beautiful so full of treasure and light
The wide world has your name on it, your future is bright.

Claim your adventure, class of 2012
Do your best in all things for the love of your friends and yourselves

You are my heroes, so gorgeous and true,
You are forever my heart, class of 2 thousand one two.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mrs. Wanket Says I Told You So

Dear Students,

Remember when I said that if you worked hard in school to maintain that solid GPA, write excellent essays and read read read, that this time of senior year you would have your choice of colleges?

. . . . .that the colleges would be spread out like dinner time at a huge buffet, just hoping that you would pick them?

. . . . . that the colleges would throw academic scholarships at your feet like rose petals because they would know your worth to their programs?

. . . . . . that an academic life is one of honor, peace, good friendship and opportunity?

. . . . . . . .that college absolutely was not only a possibility for you, but a necessary outcome of all of your hard work, despite everything you went through and your parents went through and your family went through for generations and what you and I went through when we hit a rough patch in the classroom?!?

Well, ha ha I told you so.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Own Private Apocalypse

If you do not care about The Walking Dead or zombies or the end of the world, stop reading right now. I get enthusiastic about things (television shows) and don't let them go. I know this about myself. No need for an intervention. You can walk away at any time.

If you do care: I've spent some time (sleepless nights) considering what I would do were I holed up in a farmhouse (or my house) with the impending threat of person-eating persons coming over en masse for a visit.

What I would do:

Build a moat.

For the love of God, has no one read the story Leiningen Versus the Ants? First you dig a moat. Then you fill it with gasoline. Then you dig a second moat and fill it with gasoline. Keep plenty of matches handy. This should not be something I even have to say. It should be assumed. Zombie apocalypses and double moats filled with gasoline go hand in hand.

Procure flame throwers and grenades.

Has no one seen the 1984 masterpiece Night of the Comet? In the event of an apocalypse, the whole world will be a giant free mall. Anything you want is up for grabs. Collect flame throwers and grenades. This is your new hobby.

Commandeer a helicopter.

Wouldn't it be so useful to fly above the landscape and see exactly where the zombies are hanging out? In The Walking Dead, there are helicopters just sitting around with the keys still in the ignition. Take one of those babies up for a spin. Maybe take a few and line them up right by the door. That way when the walkers lurch out of the woods, you're not fleeing on foot or in a wee hatchback with slippy tires. I mean come on.

Build a tunnel.

Maybe there would not be time to build the moats and the underground tunnel (the moats take precedence obviously), but at least try. Have it as a side project. Something to do when you can't sleep at night. Because you really shouldn't be sleeping at night.

Army tanks and Hummers

If there are Army tanks and Hummers standing around with the keys in the ignition, take them for yourself. Park them by the door alongside the choppers. It isn't stealing if the original drivers are now zombies. It isn't stealing if the government infected you with a zombie germ without your consent. (The least they could have done was put it in a bond measure.)

Stockpile food

. . . .and water and medicines and blankets and clothes and books and board games. You don't know how long you are going to be hunkered down for. Plan ahead. I don't mean five minutes ahead.

What I would not do:

Talk about my feelings and cry. Let my kids play in the woods by themselves for hours. Neglect to load extra cans of gas into the back of my truck. Get pregnant. Make my kids do homework. Hurt my chickens' little legs.

It's all about planning ahead. I plan to survive.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Fashion Asperger's

That photo is of me at seventeen dressed like a goth gypsy detective at a wedding rehearsal dinner for my boyfriend's brother. See how everyone else is dressed. Then see how I'm dressed.

I've suffered from Fashion Asperger's for as long as I can remember.

I wore the same two pair of pants all through first grade. My talented (and very stylish) mother sewed me lovely things with lace and Holly Hobbie on them. I loved my Holly Hobbie doll but I refused to wear her or her clothes. I would only wear pants boys would wear.

In junior high, I moved on to clothes that girls would wear if they were wearing boys’ clothes. In sixth grade, I begged my mother to buy me a pair of tan Dickies trousers so I could look like the gorgeous tough girls at my school. She wouldn’t take me to the men’s workwear section to buy my clothes but she compromised on a pair of baggy tan pants. They weren’t the same but I loved them. In my mind when I wore those pants I was an arched eyebrow, black-haired, big-hooped earring girl who could fight you. In the mirror, I was the same Irish white, baby-faced, flat-haired girl as always. I wasn’t fighting anybody. At least not on purpose.

In high school I loved the Mod girls and boys who had short spiked hair and drew crosses with black eyeliner outside of their eyes. They went to clubs in Berkeley and danced like David Gahan of Depeche Mode. They brooded around and looked foxy and were having all the fun with their clove cigarettes and black boots. So I cut my hair short and wore mismatched cross earrings I made myself out of super glue and the tabs from soda cans. The problem there was that my dad wouldn’t let me wear black because he thought it would mean I was depressed. So there are lots of photos of me in the eighties wearing asymmetrical hair and bad jewelry looking incongruent and frustrated in various pink dresses.

By the time I actually got to a Depeche Mode concert in Berkeley, I was dressed as if for a prayer meeting in a pink flowing skirt and a white eyelet blouse. At least I wasn’t depressed.

My fashion icon in college was Ione Skye. Not Ione Skye as Diane Court in Say Anything who wore feminine pink skirts and white blouses and an orchid behind her ear. No, I loved Ione Skye as the gnarly angry girl she played in The River’s Edge. I loved her red buffalo plaid shirts, long messy hair and jeans that were made for a boy.

Therein lies the disconnect that is my Fashion Asperger’s. I say Asperger’s instead of Autism because I’m not entirely out of step with my surroundings. I’ve never had to be pulled aside at work, for example, and told to dress more appropriately for the job. Yet throughout my entire life I have often failed to comprehend the finer fashion cues and have ended up looking. . . . silly.

I have extremely stylish friends. They tolerate my missed connections, but just barely. When going out to dinner with my friend Laura who is so stylish she has her own fashion blog, I pulled on the man’s blue flannel shirt that I had bought from the thrift store just for that occasion.

“No,” she said. “Not another flannel shirt.”

So I changed into something marginally better from my bag. My Army-like tote bag. She eyed it sadly.

My friend
Vanessa is an author who last year appeared in the pages of Glamour magazine. She tools around the globe on book tours and speaking engagements in feminine shift dresses and outstanding high heeled shoes. In an unguarded moment she once confessed to me, “I don’t know why you dress that way.”

I don’t know why I dress this way either. Maybe it’s because of my sensitive skin. That could be why I prefer clothes pre-worn for a few years by somebody else. Right now I’m wearing thrift store jeans four sizes too big, a t-shirt I got at a yard sale and a sweatshirt handed down from my teenage daughter. Everything is very soft and non-irritating.

I only like wearing dresses if I’m also wearing pants. It bugs me to wear something that would hinder me in the event of a catastrophe. Every time I’ve been in a catastrophe I’ve been wearing a skirt or dress and no pants and I was cold and my knees got skinned. So maybe I can blame it on post traumatic stress.

My favorite outfit right now is a mid-calf black dress and black pants with a long black scarf. All in one size too big. I feel flowy but also ready in case of emergency. I look like someone who has to dress this way for her religion.

It's in the gap between thought and reality that I get lost. I want to change my fashion ways but I fear I'm a hard case. I mistakenly wore all white to school a couple of weeks ago. That morning when getting dressed I thought I looked like a breezy lady on safari. Catching myself in a reflection later I realized I looked much more like fat Elvis attending a Nigerian funeral. One student remarked that even my feet were white. Everyone stood up to see and nodded. Yes. Through my sandals, even my feet were white.

"Don't clown Mrs. Wanket," one of my sophomores said. Defending me. So we forgot about my outfit and got down to the business of learning.

I would love to end it there with the realization that it's the business of life that matters, not how you dress while you're at it, but I don't believe that. I believe that fashion is art and self-expression and a source of joy. It is very important.

I subscribe to Vogue. I admire the beautiful clothes on those wispy people within the pages and feel grateful to them for being stylish so that I don’t have to be. They are filling the bill so beautifully.

There is a dress with pants combo on page 283 of the April Vogue that I love. The girl wearing it thinks she’s a bohemian faerie princess in a commune on the prairie.

That's exactly what she looks like too.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Go To Yoga

I used to say I couldn’t do yoga. I used to say I hated yoga. Yoga made me scream.

Then last winter break I broke. Every morning I woke up feeling worse. Maybe I just needed rest. I spent three days in bed. My back and bones felt brittle and frail. It hurt to sit, stand, lie down and run. Walking felt okay. I walked for hours. My feelings were hurt too. Life was too much. I felt like walking for four hours a day and then sleeping the rest of it away.

Go to yoga, said my friends, two of whom are beautiful yoga teachers and who knew what they were talking about as they watched me hobble around in misery.

Finally in January I visited my friend Laura who whispered, go to yoga. So I did.

Here’s the thing with yoga and me: I thought I was a hyperactive person and that holding poses for more than a second would make me die. I thought I was an old person and that I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I thought yoga would not be enough. I thought I needed long runs to burn off all of my extra body fat. I thought I thought I thought.

During my first yoga class in January, the best I could do was child’s pose and sitting up, and that barely. But I came home feeling better.

Yoga effect, my eight year old daughter said. She noticed right away.

I’m three months into a practice. It’s surprising what I can and cannot do. Half moon was impossible today, but next thing you know my hands were folded behind my back like it was nothing. My Boat Pose is whack but Wheel is okay.

My body knows things I don’t know yet. Every practice is a new opportunity to learn what rests deep.

It’s changed everything.

Go to yoga.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Upcoming Posts

My brain is full of stories, novels, articles and blog posts. These ideas are trains bunched up at a station, engines rumbling and ready to go. Where is the stationmaster? Out making a living. What a muggle.

Spring break is coming up soon. Glorious stretches of days with no plans. I'm not making any plans either. I have to spend time writing or else steam will start blowing out of my ears.

Blog posts I can't wait to let out:

1. My Fashion Asperger's

All about how I always misunderstand fashion cues and the right thing to wear and how to wear it. This from the girl who once wore a pink flowered skirt and white eyelet peasant blouse to a Depeche Mode concert.

2. Letters

Hand-written notes and letters have been important to me. A rundown of a few I've kept. Also a mention of a friendship forged in the past twenty-four years almost entirely over the post.

3. Yoga

I do Yoga now. And I'm all smug about it like I invented it.

4. Bad Writer

A few times my writing has landed me in trouble.

5. My Own Private Zombie Apocalypse

You don't have to read this one. Seriously. It will be all about what I would do better than the Walking Dead characters are doing. Hint: I definitely WOULD NOT stand around talking about my feelings.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


So I had this great AP Language and Composition class three years ago. This class of students took AP English because they loved to read and write and wanted a challenge.

Perhaps you will understand better why they were great if you consider the reasons they did NOT have for taking AP. They were not in my class in order to boost their GPAs, nor were they there to have an AP on their college transcripts.

It was awesome.

We read and wrote and discussed and wrote and read and wrote some more. We began to form an identity as a group. We had inside jokes. One involved a hobo and a knife. If you were in that APE class, you remember what I'm talking about. (In case you forgot, a clue: Lockdown).

The students called themselves APEs. There is a photo of us making monkey faces.

It was awesome.

It was one of those classes that a teacher remembers for the students' pure academic courage. These students loved to learn. They had positive attitudes. They were supportive of one another. They were fearless in their writing and in their expression of ideas. They all passed the AP exam with high scores and I wasn't even surprised. Of course they did. They were the APEs.

I'm still in touch with several of these students. And their moms, dads, aunts, sisters. A class like that can only occur in a school that fosters true community. True community spreads and creates lasting friendships and wonderful memories. I'll always be grateful that I had that time.

For Emily S., Emily L., Caitlin, Megan, Hannah, Stephanie, Grace, April, Abbie, Melissa, Annie, Mercedes, Morgan, Whitney, Nora, Brianna, Halie, Adrianna, Diana, Sophia and all of you beautiful, goddess APEs, here is (on request) the journal we used to do to make magic:

The Law of Attraction Journal Game

WARNING: Where focus goes, energy flows, as my yoga teacher says. This works so be careful what you wish for.

Step 1: Number your journal page down towards the bottom 1-20.

Step 2: Write I am so happy and grateful across the top.

Step 3: For 1-10, write down ten things that are already manifested for which you are happy and grateful. These things can be big or small, it doesn't matter. They just have to make you really glad and happy to think about.

Step 4: For 11-20, write down ten things that you wish to have manifested but have not yet arrived. Do not skip a beat from the 1-10 happy things that have already happened. Use present or past tense as though the 11-20 items have already happened.

Step 5: For each thing on 11-20, meditate for a moment and pretend in your mind that it already happened. Feel how happy and grateful you are about it. In class I used to encourage a few people to share one of their 11-20 items, and then I would spend a moment talking to each person in congratulatory terms.

"I'm so happy for you that you got into that college that you always wanted. How wonderful!"

See? It happened, didn't it? Look back in your old journals and see how powerful this is. Reflect for a moment on how Mrs. Wanket is always right.

Remember to always use positive language. Say "I am happy and grateful that I am in excellent health", rather than "I'm grateful I'm not sick."

Say "I am happy that I am free" not "I'm happy that I'm not in jail."

(Not that this would apply to you.)

Say "I am so happy that I am gorgeous and brilliant and brave and good."

Because you are. You always were. I am so happy and grateful to have known you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stuff My Family Says

Serengeti: The technique of ransacking the house for dollar bills and coins behind couch cushions and in coat pockets in order to rake up enough scratch to go to McDonald's for dinner. It's called the Serengeti because we're hunting for our dinner just like our ancient ancestors did on the African plains. This one was my idea.

e.g. Hey I don't feel like cooking tonight. Let's do Serengeti and see if we can grab a Happy Meal instead.

Awnooje: Orange

Swanje: Sandwich (both awnooje and swanje come from mispronunciations by baby Margaret and Baby Ciara, respectively)

e.g. For lunch I think I will have a swanje and an awnooje.

Another word for technique or ritual. An action that is taken with regularity at specific times to achieve a reliable end. Ciara made it up when she was four.

e.g. First I eat breakfast and then I get dressed. That is my morning youtique.

Young People Shouldn't Have To Work: This was a phrase my mother actually said to Jim and me the summer we were seventeen years old in order to lament the fact that we both had to go to work at our jobs instead of frolic in the clover. Jim and I have repeated it to one another in similar lamentation every day since.

e.g. I can't believe I have to go to work today. Young People Shouldn't Have To Work.

Late For The Festivities:
This means being overly hasty in general or driving too fast specifically. It comes from the time twenty years ago when my sister-in-law Lisa was making fun of crazy drivers on our way to see fireworks in San Francisco.

e.g. Look at those crazy drivers. They must be Late For The Festivities.

What are some of the things your family says?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I love being a guest. I mean a real guest, not the "guest" like what Starbucks and Target call you now for buying their stuff. I hate how corporations toss that word around like its meaning is malleable. A guest is a very specific, special person. A guest is invited on purpose into a home for dinner or sometimes to spend a night or two.

As a guest you give up control of your destiny for a time. You are at the mercy of your hosts, especially if you are a houseguest far from your own house. Whether or what you eat, how comfortable your sleep, how at ease your feelings—all are in the power of your hosts.

Last week I descended on my friends Laura and Evan for two nights. Two nights is a long time to have someone over. That is over 48 hours of disrupted routines and the necessity of good manners. I knew what I was asking. Two nights is a lot of time.

I had not seen Laura and Evan for eight and a half years. Laura and I have had a handwritten correspondence that is deep and wonderful and essential to my life. Still I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. After the six hour drive I made five u-turns on their street because I kept driving by their house and losing the courage to pull up and park.

You see I wasn’t at my best. There have been times in my life when I have felt strong and successful and good-looking. This past year has not been such a time. When I finally quit the shenanigans I creaked out of my car and up to the front door in my wrinkled shirt and messy hair, at loose ends and weak and deeply tired. Soul tired.

My friends let me in. My friends and their outstanding sons and Evan’s sweet mother let me in their house and they treated me with the sort of friendship that heals weakness. I don’t know how else to say it. I brought them handmade candy and cookies. I left with my soul stitched back to my self.

The readings in church today were all about the Magi bringing gifts to the Holy Child. After a long time traveling, the three kings ducked into the sacred space and left hopeful and healed and better than they were before. My understanding of the Gospels is that Jesus even from infancy models how we are supposed to be a source of love for others. Love is our main job.

My friends didn’t care that I wasn’t at my best. We talked about everything and crammed the two days with everything we have been thinking and feeling about the things that are important to us. They were honest with me so that I could be purely myself. They allowed me into the sacred space of their home and I left two days later feeling whole again. Yes, my friends were excellent hosts when it came to meals and sleeping and my comfort. But I will never forget this visit because of the way they took care of my heart.

This year I look forward to hosting as many of my friends as often as possible. This year I work on my friendships as though they are my main job. These may be hard times, but real friendship is stronger than corporate manipulations and furlough days and bad news.

Friendship teaches you to forgive even when it is difficult (Yes, Ysidro and Aristotle and Laura you are right about that. Of course you are right). Friendship urges you to drink enough water and to go to yoga class and to wear something besides that old flannel shirt because you deserve better.

Friendship doesn’t make you buy anything. Friendship isn’t just free. Friendship makes you free.