I just want to be present in the absorbing of what on calendar looks like a semi-impromptu four-day visit from a dear old college friend. (Though in airport pickup to slapdash departure it’s really only two and three-quarters.) I purpose to savor the split seconds between bookends of preparation and leave-taking. To notice.
There was little time to stand and ponder, but this and other scenes somehow imprint on my memory. The sky was shadowy; still here, there, a sunny glow peeked through slats of grey, making it appear more adventuresome than pure summer sun. Droplets played tic tac toe on our heads as we dashed for the restaurant on the lake, laughing with abandonment.
Following our waitress to the waterside patio, my eyes took in the whole effect, the old world style columns and fireplace tucked to one corner, small table circles set in sunken areas of stone, that south of France (or possibly Italy) feel, the stormy summer sound of thunder rumble-rolling in the distance. Rain began to pitter patter against the red umbrellas out just beyond us to the open deck and the earlier humid air became sweeter, delicate and pungent.
“Oh, no,” Sharon bemoaned sotto voce, watching one of the waitresses slide the massive windows, one against the other, beside us. “Don’t close out the rain …”
Silently I willed the young girl to leave the one just aside us open…and she did.
“I actually love these unpredictable storms!” exclaimed Cathy, another of our close college buds who’d just slid her chair in to join us. “There’s just something so fun in all this weather drama, isn’t there?” As one, we relished this clime so different from ones we knew in growing up years — staring gleefully out upon the world before us, now a living diorama of change.
I’d been hoping for sails slicing sun and color reflections across the lake… but mmm… there is majesty and, yes… escapade... I thought, to skies opening a sudden gullywasher, wind whipping frenzy to waves and trees. Making us raise our voices to be heard above – even enjoy – its madcap game.
“HOW ARE YOU ALL DOING?” roared our server’s voice trumpeting close to my ear. I nearly jumped across the table, spluttering a sip of water into gales of more laughs.
And in between, over plates of bread and parmesan cheese, gazpacho soup for one, salad for two, my hamburger side of French fries split between us three, catching up stories, reminiscence and heartfelt God-share — years pealed back. (“Girls, didn’t you see the olive oil?” Cathy chuckled at the two of us unobservant nuts, while Sharon and I piled the strange combo of dry bread with bits of grated cheese with wondering looks…)
To the parking lot we out-raced the lesser but still dripping skies, piled into Cathy’s van to ride around the torn up streets and tear back to my car parked farther on down the road. There we lingered an hour or so more, huddled chumily against raging sounds of storm, planning out a few more adventures for this time stolen together.
Living life and catching breath together in a space of paragraph-length time.
We want to try and NOT pack in too much, yet embroider in the moments we each want – for sharing God, breathing in local beauty and charm. For embracing a few mutual buddies here in town, confidences laced in catching up, grace and prayer before bread-breaking.
So into these few days we stitch quick dashes to a local farmer’s market (where we marvel over the most gigantic head of cauliflower we’ve ever seen), French-inspired tea prepared and served by two of Cathy’s daughters, a home dinner a la grill and a girls night Italian one out. We tie in snippets of heartfelt confidences, tears, sorrows laced with joys. Know a poignant if rushed visit with others we love, coming together in the midst of momentous life-rending events.
I’ve been thinking all along that God has His reasons that we are all here in this time and place and moment… that Sharon has joined us in this paragraph of shared story because He wrote her in. And I catch a glimpse of that in the eyes of one she hugs for the last time. I hear it in his voice as he tells her what a gift it’s been to share this day, of maybe last days, with her.
It’s a visit threaded with smiles and tears in this bittersweet of teas. Time to depart for the airport careens in… and sweeps these moments to a close.
Somehow, leavetakings at airports always muddle my heart and mind. Leave me distracted with words unspoken… and loneliness lingering in my home like a sifting, changing sea. Life is so much like that right now. Unwanted goodbyes sailing red sails against the sunset. And memories – sad and lovely and fine – tangled up in the lines…
Lord, I purpose to savor the split seconds between bookends of preparation and leave-taking. To notice.
I think of words shared by one involved in this goodbye. His thoughts on Jesus telling one to ‘take up his bed and walk.’ Another to ‘rise and come forth from the tomb.’ And I hear our Lord whisper.
Stillness, He says, as He commanded to the storm of Galilee. Peace… be.
“What a long way we’ve come,” I say to myself with a little sigh for the good old days that are past and gone forever. Still… with hope and thankful heart for light and reunions yet to be. And a knowing that though storms produce cloud covers and obscure our view of the land ahead… the sun of a new and refreshed world is waiting, just beyond. Sailing us all…home.
© Pam Depoyan
Shelf photo: mine
Other photos: dreamtime.com