Friends – old and new


I had a long talk with my friend, Joy, today. We’ve been friends for 38 years. She is in Ohio and I am in Oregon but as soon as I hear her voice on the phone, distance dissolves and we are young again, remembering what it was like when we lived together and stayed up all night talking, laughing and trying to find direction for our lives. We were single mothers, poor, divorced and determined. I found work singing with a classical guitarist, while Joy modeled and kept us in groceries by distributing Leggs pantyhose, which were displayed in little silver egg-shaped cartons in her delivery van.

I’ve heard you can count the truly close friends you have on one hand. That has been true for me. I wondered today, after we hung up, exactly what made the quality of our friendship so rich and lasting. We have a shared history, yes, but also an openness of heart and an ease in conversation. There is a quality of feeling safe and understood, but the big one for me is having a give and take in discussions that does not involve me being the sole listener. There is a natural easy flow between us and an ability to pepper any discussion with heartfelt laughter.

Our conversation filled my thoughts as I began my walk up the driveway, which I do every evening, (well, that’s a lie! The intention is every evening, but the reality is more like two evenings a week) because my exercise ratio is off. I sit 90 percent of the time and exercise ten percent. Not good, so I walk, and to amuse myself, I sing. Tonight I sang a song one of my clients wrote:

Please carry me over to the opposite side of where I’m standing

cause I’m looking at something that’s brighter than halogen.

A small deer walked out of the forest as I sang. I was not sure what to do, because I didn’t want to scare her, so we stood frozen for a few minutes watching each other. Then I began to sing again and to my surprise she did not run away, she walked towards me. That’s what we did for awhile, I sang and she got closer. Then I continued up the drive, which is really long and steep and a pain in the butt to climb.

On my way back she came out of the woods again, I sang again and she walked toward me, stopped a short yard away and ate some grass. Her wild spirit told me that she was as close as she could risk. I acknowledged her and sat down. Deer are such an expression of gentle innocence. I will never understand how anyone can pick up a rifle and end their lives. I sat on the ground with my back to her, hoping she would come closer, but when I turned she had gone. Instead the black cat appeared rubbing her dirt-covered coat against my sleeve, encouraging me to walk home. I was grateful for the company. 

Inside I fixed tea, changed into my nightdress and finished making Joy’s birthday card. Joy works as an actress and teaches film making.  She will be 67 on Monday.

God Karen, she’d told me, I just received a new script. They want me to play a 50 year old woman!  Do you think I look that old?


The Deer

The deer don’t come around anymore. I used to see them every night. They’d cross our downward stretch of driveway after poaching from my neighbors garden, or nibbling the pears and apples lining the hill. We’ve been adversaries, the deer and I, garden foes, and still I slow my car as I inch down our long winding drive, wanting them to feel safe.

The problem is, they’ve mistaken my raised beds for an all-you-can-eat salad bar. They’ve acquired a taste for spinach, beans, broccoli, strawberries, raspberries and even delicate pink roses. All quite satisifying, then washed down with a cool drink from the pond, like a fine vintage port. 

I move morning mediation to the garden in summer. The deer sense me and leave the space alone, but on days I don’t go down, I’ll glance from the window to see them stomping my vegetables –  as welcome as a workman’s muddy boots on a just mopped floor.  I went screaming from the house last August, as naked as noon, to spook them out of my carrots. Get out! Get Out!  I yelled waving a crimson cloth. The neighbor rushed out to see who had been murdered or was about to be.

 My office window faces birdfeeders, ferns and towering maples. It’s patrolled by Hannah, the neighbor’s lab, and is not the usual path for the deer. But one misty morning, I looked up from my writing to see a large gentle creature standing just beyond. Our eyes met. Everything else fell away. Our vision locked. We studied each other for a long time. In that moment, I had a realization of the abundance in my cupboards and refrigerator, and a glimpse of what it must mean to forage for dinner, searching, finding or doing without. By the time the deer walked on, I had surrendered my strawberry pots, wondering if perhaps they’d like whipping cream served on the side. 

That has all changed now. They’ve moved beyond our ten acre wood. It was evening – I’m sure of that, but the rest I hardly know, because the main road is away from our house, blocking noise, squealing tires and the sounds of shattering glass. A young deer lay dead in the morning, bloody and torn, already buzzing with flies. The highway department promised to come, but it was Sunday, and a holiday followed. The deer lay near the road full of decay and emptiness far too long. The rest of the herd knew. They felt it and distanced themselves. And so they are gone. No more deer in my driveway, leaping over the hill, or rummaging my garden – and you know what? I’ll be darned if I don’t miss them like crazy.