Sunday, January 23, 2005

A friend, found again

In the worst of the bad old days, which I hardly know how to characterize, I took a three-week vacation and went to Haystack at Deer Isle, Maine to sit in the wood and make pots for three weeks. It was a blessing, a gift from God, those three weeks. Sitting in Haystack’s clay studio, using my right leg to kick the wheel and gazing out at whales in the ocean, far beyond tall firs in the foreground, I found respite. I found peace. I also found a friend, Deborah.

Most of my best friends have become my friends despite my reserve. Debbie dragged me out one day to explore the coast of Maine. We visited Fort Knox (the Maine one, not the Kentucky bullion repository), almost an identical design to Fort Pulaski on the coast of Georgia, obsolete before it was completed thanks to the invention of spiraled rifle bores....and we talked and talked and talked. Debbie was in Maine to make baskets; I was making pots. We shared suspicion of the makers of “vessels” and we laughed and talked and became friends.

That August, Debbie was still in the early stages of knowing David. She was still amazed that he could love her, and later that year, when he proposed through a slip of the subjunctive, she was whole. One in a string of badly chosen boyfriends—who went to the same high school as Debbie, at the same time as Sarah Jessica Parker—was my preoccupation then, and I somehow was not there when the two of them were united, late-blooming flowers in a garden watched over by a blow-up Godzilla. But I wished them well, and I still do.

They moved South, and the next time I saw Debbie, she was on her way to Russia. It was the first major separation from baby Eli. How can Eli be fifteen? And Avi nine? Honestly, I know I sound like an old woman when I say this, but how can it be possible that time goes by so fast?

I can’t get the sequence right, but somewhere in there is a visit to Debbie and David in Boston. Traveling with the ill-advised boyfriend, I ran into my ex-husband in a garden store. The emotional impact of it all short-circuited my brain and my usual courtesy. I am afraid I was very remote and even rude to Debbie and David. I still feel the need to apologize for that weekend.

But now I know just how the father of the prodigal son felt. I had a friend who was lost, and now she is found. Let the feasting…on Ben and Jerry’s…begin. You see, it turns out that there is a major ice cream obsession in Debbie and David’s home. Maybe the ice cream will entice them to Vermont even if an old friend cannot.

I don’t think I have made a pot since that summer. In one of those weird turns of fate, the pottery teacher was BOTH a disciple of a disciple of the famous and brilliant Bernard Leach…and the next-door neighbor of one of my cousins, the pig farmer now turned pilot (okay, so that’s not so surprising, since I have so many cousins)…and bore a strong resemblance to a painter to whom I was briefly engaged. It was one of those circumstances that leads one to beg God please to stop…it is all too much.

This weekend is another such time. Too, too many things are converging. I am almost with Goethe’s Faust…”Stop, moment, thou art so fair…,” but like Faust, I realize that if I ever reach such a moment, I will vanish in a puff of smoke, as if I never existed. Do I really want that?

But today, I had a holiday letter from Debbie, and for that, I am most grateful. Who says holiday letters are just drivel? Not if they get me a friend back, a cherished friend who was lost, they're not.

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