Dia de Amistad
|February 14th started soft and sweet. The weather has lifted, the clouds have cleared, and my spirits rise with the high pressure. I say a good prayer of thanks to the rising sun, a ritual I've adopted from Rain of Gold. I'm truly grateful for this day, whatever it brings, for my faithful companion, Xuxa, for Churpa, for friends, this beauty, this place, now. The sky is a pink valentine, laced with streaks of cloud.
I like the spin Mexico puts on St. Valentine's Day, traditionally devoted to sweethearts and lovers in the U.S., but here, it's the Day of Friendship. I've sure had better and more friends than lovers over the years (though, mostly, the categories have overlapped, fortunately!)
I remember a February 14th years ago here on the beach when Steve, Churpa and Jacques all spent the day making valentines. I got no sentimental lacy heart from Steve. No, mine from Steve was a drawing of an anatomical heart with extra tubes and the saying, "Don't by-pass my love." Looking back now, I'm afraid I did. At least, I didn't take full advantage of it.
Steve was one of the most sentimental people I have ever known. Like Maki, he could barely throw away a limp vegetable from the bottom of the fridge, though I don't think, like Maki, it was because he didn't want to hurt the carrot's feelings! Still, he clung to the past -- to old music, old clothes, old tools, old cars and old friends. He was the most loyal of friends, forgiving even the most heinous betrayals and subtle abuses. And so, he was easily abused.
But even when friends ripped him off, he would say, "Friendship is more important to me than money."
Friends. Above all, that's what Steve and I were. He was my best friend. But in the last years there was less and less of the comfort of physical contact. Even hugs grew perfunctory, a coming and going with no moments of being at rest in each other's arms.
For my birthday this year, Churpa's gift was a drawing in black ink, Steve and me framed by a large oval, like an old-fashioned cameo. She has captured Steve well-- big fluffy beard with dark eyes glimpsed through glasses lenses. I am less flattered, and I blurt out, all foot in mouth, "Oh, no! Do I really look like that?" And realize, too late, my vanity has played me false and hurt Churpa's feelings. But, caricature though it is, the drawing packs a punch with the sentiment of its message, Steve and me encircled within this traditional frame, like an old sepia wedding portrait.
Friends. I look at a group portrait in Ken's book, Live Well in Mexico. In the picture Diane, my "best friend" in Mexico, looks severe, mouth twisted in sour discontent, or even anger. I think people die because they give up. I think people die because they paint themselves into corners where none of the options have enough appeal, anymore. I think people die when it gets too hard to go on. Diane, my priestess sister, let go of life three years ago today with her arms crossed peacefully across her breasts. "Cross my heart and hope to die," she seemed to promise silently.
There's no replacing a friend, once gone. You can't just move someone else up to fill that slot. Common to all, death makes clear our individuality, that unique combo of qualities arisen, and, now, passed away.
The end of this beach vacation nears. I will be eternally grateful to the friends whose gifts made it possible. I send out my whole heart to all of you. Steve and I have been richly blessed with friendships in this lifetime. If wealth were measured in enduring, loving friendships, Steve and I would be counted millionaires!
....Continued with Grupo AA: Rio Purificacion