Friendship is, to me, an opening of the heart, a leap of faith, an embrace of trust. I have not often been a good friend in my life, not often had good friends. I am a loner by nature, and a freak and oddball as well. I was not like the other children, and am not like them now, I have shunned groups and labels all of my loved, moved restlessly and frantically from one place to another, been too busy, distracted and self-absorbed for the business of friendship which takes care, thought and consideration. These are rare traits in people.
But when I get down to it, friendship is about the heart, it is an emotion, an instinct and an impulse. As I stood by the gate of the pasture yesterday towards the end of the Open House – I had done a few donkey visits, a couple of sheepherding demos and and greeted hundreds of people, I was wearing out. I hadn’t eat since breakfast and I am learning that diabetics can’t really get away with that, not in summer sun. I just had a few minutes to go and looked up and saw two of my good friends standing right at the gate – Jack Macmillan came over happy to help, directing traffic, doing crowd control and watching the pasture gate, Tom Wolskii with a camera pointed at me, and I pointed mine right back at him and we got shots of each other.
Tom is not fond of gatherings and crowds, but he showed up to say hello, to just be present. For both men, acts of friendship, each revealed in different ways.
The sight of these two men, and the symbolism of Tom and I photographing one another – he is a farmer vet turned photographer, outdoorsman, athletic competitor – revived me, I laughed and smiled, Tom and I get the ridiculousness of one another, we both have tolerant and forgiving wives, we are both lovers and students of non-grumpy change. Jack is different from me, born in the country, with country routes, he is a skilled and helpful man who seems able to fix just about anything and is happy to do it. When he does, and it takes a lot of time, I insist in paying him, and he accepts. Friendship is a much about boundaries as affection.
I don’t dump my stuff on friends, they don’t dump theirs on me. But if we need help, it is there.
For me, good friendships are not born in drama, they are not about rescues, good friends don’t just call when there’s trouble, but appear when there isn’t any. Friendships are mutual, not one-sided. Friendships are honest, not intrusive.
Good friendships feel good, you don’t leave them wondering what he or she meant, what they were thinking. Good friends don’t stand you up, if they say they will be somewhere, they are. You can always tell when you are around a good friend, because you smile, it feels good to be around a good friend, it doesn’t feel good to be around a bad one. Friends are aware of who you are, they learn what you are about.
Friendships are new to me, and I am happy about this, because it means I am changing, I am available to other people, I have left behind panic and confusion and anger. I know who I am, thus people can know who I am as well. For most of my life I was one of those people who seemed to confuse everyone and leave them uncomfortable. They always did wonder what I meant, if I would show up, and I was rarely available to anyone, there was so much drama and distraction in my world. Crisis is almost a plea for help, if you are in crisis then you don’t have to follow the normal rules of the world, you don’t have to pay your bills, you can always manipulate someone into paying your way, into rushing to your aid, you are in perpetual need of rescue. Those friendships, I learned, were not friendships, they were something else, something unhealthy. A friend doesn’t save your life, he shares life with you.
There are always people in the world who think they can rescue other people, save them, buy their way out of trouble, and I know this well because I was one of those people, yet another addiction I am happy to have shed. Jack and Tom are not the only friends I am finding, I am strongly connected to Scott Carrino, my Tai Chi instructor and friend, we always smile when we see one another, we understand each other without too many words, different as we are.
I was touched by this photo, I looked at that and thought, wow, Jon, you are getting there, you are figuring out what a friend is. It is, of course, when all is said and done, about love and connection. And when you figure that out, good friends seem to appear magically and mystically, the good angels are poised and ready to bring them into your life, to stand by your gate.