Once I created a map of all the places I have lived during this lifetime. In the Northwest: Seattle, Eugene, Portland, Ontario, Boise, and Pullman. In the Northeast: New York City, Southampton, and Cambridge. In the Mountain West: Boulder, Jamestown, and Longmont. And, for about six months I lived in central London. Recently, reflecting about friendship, I realized that in most of those places I have been part of women’s circles. As a student, teacher, and later as a university professor, I studied and taught and felt part of various cohorts—some of which were tremendously challenging, others quite nourishing.
As a child and adolescent, I had a few close friends – Abbie, Teri, Patti, Kris, Stacy, and others. I wasn’t part of the “popular girls” circles, and I envied their gaiety and energy. But my young life was traumatic, and I was filled with melancholy. Yet, after I moved away from home, I made friends in each of the places I lived. I had boyfriends and lovers. I have remained close to some of those individuals, but moving is hard on friendship. In 1997 and 2017, I attended high school reunions and reconnected briefly with old buddies. Traveling as part of my professional life, I’ve had opportunities to see some of my dearest friends, albeit briefly.
I have been reflecting about the nature and longevity – or brevity – of friendship for the past few months. Having completed my seventh solitary retreat at home, I know loneliness, and have had to make friends with my solitude. These words are easy to put on paper, but the feelings are deep and complex. While many of us live with or spend time with family and friends, each of us ultimately dies alone. Having worked as a hospice volunteer and having been present with a few people during their last weeks, days, and moments, this profound reality is always in my awareness.