I am increasingly aware that things do not happen by coincidence or accident. We are where we need to be at any given time. The only question is; are we able to see why we are there? Today began with a very different connection scheduled, one that occurred earlier in the day in a very different part of town. What actually happened was dinner, watching the sun set over Shem Creek with new friends. It was no accident, there was a purpose for it, and I am not foolish to believe I fully understand that yet, nor do I need to. That is how I met Susan Johnson.
Susan is definitely a dose of that fabled charm of the South I have heard so much. She is energetic in the best way, radiating warmth and welcome from across a table and over the marshlands of the creek. It's fitting that looking over at her she is backlit by a setting sun, with hues of orange, red and purple mimicking her warmth from the sky. Do not let her charm deceive you though, for within her is a boisterous sense of humor and an incredible laugh. When she laughs I am reminded of my friend Mike, of how much I miss him, and how much joy I have at knowing that laughs like his have not left the world with him.
From the moment we sit down, Susan and I are destined to be lifelong friends.
There are many reasons. We have been down rough roads, some very similar ones, and so we can share moments of pain and vulnerability. Even more so since we are both very open and unafraid to be exposed in that way. It is a rare gift to share so much with someone so new, to feel such comfort, to add to your family of friends in a few moments and realize it will likely last a lifetime. We are both storytellers, great ones actually. I catch glimpses of other people on the rooftop where we are eating glancing over, chuckling and smiling, their eyes gleaming like kids trying to get a peek a presents a day early. This part of the country has a great tradition of storytelling, and we are definitely carrying that legacy this evening. We share tales of joy and of pain interspersed with jokes holding no particular gravitas or meaning, save that they are funny.
After some time to talk we are joined by Abigail, Susan's friend, who has a smile that could light up a room and a presence that just makes you feel good, about life, the universe and everything. We talk of dreams and purpose, of how I took a leap to live my life of purpose, of Susan's road to do the same and of Abigail's path as well. Storytelling takes a sidebar to philosophy and the construction of theory and practice at a wooden table by a saltwater estuary. We eat, we drink, we are merry, for tomorrow we may die...and we all know that. Not in a way that is filled with fear, but in a way filled with hope. What a wonderful world we live in where we are not promised tomorrow and yet we can make new friends tonight.
This is the way of these dinners with friends, either new or old. They dodge and dive through the waters, cresting waves of stories, riding undertows of philosophy, observing the colors and wonder visible beneath our depths. When we break bread, we build trust. Where we build trust, we build love. What could be more wondrous than hearts gathered around a table, mouths open in laughter and story, ears poised to hear and observe, people present?
As with all things joyous, our time passes far to quickly. Defined by springs and summers of smiles and laughter, falls and winters of tears and sorrow, we move through our seasons and into the unknown of a dark night. Thanksgiving is a painful time for me, and yet this feels like what that holiday used to feel like so long ago, before tragedy imbrued it with its particular shade. Leaving the table tonight, with these wonderful women, is a blessing, something to be thankful for months before November, and not care that you are early.
Favorite Dinosaur: Triceratops
Why: They are perfectly preportioned, with enough spikes to protect themselves. But she is not trying to be a triceratops anymore. She is learning to be more open and vulnerable. Trying to be a Brontosaurus.