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June 21, 2008

A CELEBRATION OF FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS: LOST & FOUND, OLD & NEW

Recently, my oldest and dearest friend, Patti Taylor Edmon recalled how we both shared a love for the children’s stories “Frog and Toad” by Arnold Loebel and how they came to be a symbol of the enduring nature of our 40-year friendship. See: (http://pattiedmon.blogspot.com).
At one time, there was a gap of almost a decade in that relationship that was healed when we both realized what a terrible, horrible, unrelenting void existed without each other being present in our lives. It was a huge lesson for me in the importance of friendship to our overall health and sense of wellbeing in this world (and how not to allow other people to interfere in soul relationships).
We both grieved and mourned the loss of this time deeply, but; happily, we picked up the thread exactly where it had been left off as if no time had transpired. Has this ever happened to you?
So much of our life story can be told by following the glittering, sometimes meandering thread of friendship. Our friends are a lifeline that conjures a story path that is perhaps more in tune with who we are as spiritual beings. After all, our friends are our chosen family. How we meet them is often a story in itself.
A friendship story that I love to tell is how my adopted sister, Lisa Mitchell and I met. We were both walking along the main street of Sierra Madre, CA. When we saw each other, we both stopped dead in our tracks. We looked at one another and both blurted out, “Don’t I know you?” Well, we didn’t, but from then on we were like peas in a pod. We just had an instant connection that was inexplicable. Twenty years later, we were talking about our family lineages and we realized that our grandmothers both came from the same small town in Russia. It’s highly likely that they were friends there, or even more interesting is the possibility that Lisa and I are actually related . . . Imagine that!
Lately, I have had several friendship experiences that re-awakened me to the necessity of keeping open to others – a desire and skill that seems to become a bit rusty with most of us as we get older.
The first is with an amazing 89-year-old woman who came into my life when I first moved to Berkeley a year ago. Dr. Annemarie Roeper founded a school in Michigan for gifted children, still in existence today, and she continues to counsel gifted children and adults. See: (http://www.roeperconsultation.com. I connected with Annemarie’s intense and perceptive spirit the moment I met her. She was like the gift of an angel sent to me after the loss of my adopted Grandmother, Alma Johnson. Her insight into the human condition is extraordinary and she is constantly teaching me great lessons about the resilience of the human spirit and the meaning of growing older. Every moment of the time we spend together is nothing less than magical!
The web has greatly enhanced our stories of love and friendship. Being able to locate friends who would have disappeared due to marriage or otherwise has thankfully rekindled many relationships.
My own recent experience with this was reconnecting with middle school friends artist Carol VanZandt (http://www.CarolVanzandt.com) and art lover/historian/therapist Barbara Brownlow Terranova, both of whom I hadn’t seen in over 35 years. Just by coincidence (or not!), we had all relocated in the Bay area around the same time. An e-mail from Carol to my friend Patti Edmon (while I happened to be visiting her) was the catalyst for our reunion. Once we realized we were all here, a powerful trinity was resumed. We all three feel, that having each other nearby at this time is somehow destined. I would do anything for these women, who are so strong and creative in their own right, and I know they would do the same for me.
To have the comfort of people around you who know your story and whom you don’t have to explain yourself to is one of the most beautiful elements of friendship, wouldn’t you agree?
Another childhood friend, Emily Goldknopf. was found after a long stretch of internet searching, living in Los Angeles. Dear sweet Emily had been my very best friend in Syracuse, New York at Edward Smith Elementary School, and I had always wished to find her after we lost touch when each of us moved away! We share so many precious and hysterical memories (Science fairs! Ill-fated Halloween costumes! Fifth grade teacher Mr. Borsky!) of that time that are now being awakened and remembered thanks to finding each other.
And, just a few weeks ago, my artist friend Teresa Unseld (http://www.teresaunseld.com) and I reconnected via e-mail after several moves on both our parts, thanks to a link from my daughter, Marina Mendez.
Serendipity is so often at the heart of female friendships. I have made a number of incredible friends here in Berkeley that I feel very close to in this way. What they share is the element of chance in how we met.
I happened upon friends Andrea Dorn and Laurey Foulkes while strolling along Highgate in El Cerrito. (I admit it, I was lollygagging, looking at flowers and hummingbirds and otherwise not engaged in anything resembling work.) We all stopped to peer in the windows of a house (it looked like a very intriguing, witchy kind of cottage, all overgrown but somehow enticing) that was for sale and became instant friends from that moment on.
Bass player and Copy Editor extraordinaire, Patty Hammond, happened to sit next to me at a wine tasting on Solano Avenue when I first moved here. Who knows if it was the fine, free-flowing Chardonnay or just the fact that we both had the same weird, dry sense of humor and an affinity for the writing life that did it, but we were just destined to be good friends. (Check out her incredible band, Kickin’ the Mule at http://www.sonicbids.com/kickinthemule).
Sounds like all I do is wander about drinking wine and looking at butterflies, but one day, while I was sitting on my favorite rock, meditating in the Blake Garden (http://www.laep.ced.berkeley.edu/laep/blakegarden/garden.html), portrait photographer Shoey Sindel happened by. (It may have been that big camera hanging around her neck that gave it away!) It just so happened that exactly at that moment I had been daydreaming about the perfect photo for my website – and Voila! There she appeared, offering in her absolutely genuine, generous way (it’s why we all love her!) to take my picture. (http://shoeysindel.com) The rest is friendship history!
Speaking of gardens, there is always the story of finding a friend while looking for something else. This happened to me while I was trying to locate the Harland Hand Memorial Garden (http://www.harlandhandgarden.com). I knew it was somewhere nearby, but was surprised to discover that it was located two doors down from the house I lived in then. After several attempts to contact the owner, I started leaving little messages on her doorstep until finally my badgering paid off and she gave me a tour of the garden. (It’s quite remarkable, by the way). So it was that I met my friend Marjory Harris. It turned out that we had much in common and have greatly enjoyed our friendship ever since.
I won’t get started on work friends (you know who you are) who turn into family or lovely people like artist/physical therapist Donna Morton, who happens to be a new neighbor that I adore and would trust with my life.
One last story. (You see how this goes? Once you get started . . .)
This week I had lunch with a new friend named Olga Aura. Isn’t that a great name? You have to love her without even meeting her, just based on that! Olga is a former Olympic gold-medal-winning Soviet gymnast who defected to the U.S. when she was 14 years old. Since then, she has become an expert on raw foods, natural health and healing, dance movement and many related things. She is an incredible teacher who has been able to transcend the eating disorders and displaced body image she was subjected to as a young gymnast and is able to transmit a very pure, wise healing energy to her clients. (http://www.IAmFullyAlive.com). I love what Olga says about being present: “Empires may rise and fall, people may fall in love and then separate, bodies may form and decay, but it is the tenderness of the human heart that holds the key to living fully in each moment.“ An ad on Craigslist to trade writing and marketing for health guidance was at the center of our connection, but we already have plans to partner on projects that will continue this philosophy and benefit women and men of all ages.
These beautiful stories just continue. I won’t even get started on wonderful people like my spiritual mentor, Feng Shui Consultant and Landscape Designer, Ann Bowe (http://www.annbowedesigns.com). How did we meet? It’s like we have been friends since birth! My favorite moment with Ann (and there have been many) is being followed, or was it chased, through the woods at Ravens Run by a huge pileated woodpecker that actually allowed us to see it feeding its young. It was a soul-stirring day out of many soul-stirring days that occur naturally with Ann. She’s just that way.
Other stories I could tell: how I bumped into Search Engine Optimization guru and hiking partner, Susanne Cubbage (http://consultingace.com); or stamp artist/psychic channeler of undocumented wisdom Marylinn Kelly (http://www.itsmysite.com/marylinnkelly); or Annie L’Esperance; or Kellie Considine; or Mikal Shaefer; or Midge O’Brien; or Kathy Hicks; or Rachel Deeds; or Sarah Jane Clifford; or Linda Faubel or Kathy O'Brien; or Marylee and Eliza Kozlowski; or Connie Milligan (now there's a story!) -- all of whom are continuous sources of joy and inspiration to me . . . (if I’ve left anyone out at this point, it’s strictly a matter of running out of room!)
There are so many women that we have connected with at different parts of our life cycle that were critical to our well being. Where are they now? What are they doing? Where are they in our story of being female? And there, are of course, those who have left this planet for one reason or another. Can you feel their presence, their continued blessings? How they continue to influence us?
My belief is that all friends are magnificent flowers, each different, each intensely glorious, each there for a reason in the ever-evolving garden of our life. We should surround ourselves with their fantastic colors and forms and breathe in their fragrances and energy. We should hold close and record if we can, the memory of their vibrancy – and stay open to allowing these very important relationships to blossom.
May you spend a moment celebrating the radiance of all your female friends and may your own stories and memories of female friendship be never ending! I’d love to hear your own friendship stories. Send them to me and I will post them!

4 comments:

Patti said...

What an inspiring, wonderfully crafted definition of the relationships that we, as creative women, foster and nurture. This journey, one of a collection of moments in which we live and breathe and celebrate, is ever more remarkable when converted to story. Thank you deeply for sharing such warm stories, resonant with meaning, particularly since I came first! :)
Much love on this, the 40th anniversary of the beginning of our friendship.
patti

Marylinn Kelly said...

Dear Karen,

It is an honor and delight to be included in this bountiful tale. Here is to all friends and the miraculous way that absense and time are transcended by moments shared long ago. A loving homage to all our intersecting paths.

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Marylinn Kelly said...

Here's hoping many with stories to share find their way to Bio.graphia. Thank you for helping me connect with the greater world through your mentions. Blessings.