June 28, 2006


I had planned to spend a productive morning cleaning my office on campus. It's an office that I just moved into and I figured I would spend a couple of hours unpacking all the stuff I piled into boxes and sorting through some of the papers that seem to multiply when you put them into piles. I didn't actually get much done because I ended up talking to a friend instead – I am very easily drawn away from a task like cleaning – but I still figured that I had done enough to deserve a reward, like a nice lunch with PoetWoman.

We walked to a Middle Eastern restaurant in Snowstorm City, both of us pointing out landmarks as we walked along. I've live here for 45 years and Poet Woman for 60, so between us we can narrate the history of every tree and building. We both gave our approval to a street that was redesigned a few years ago, a design that includes places where students can gather to sit in the sun and talk. In fact we took a few minutes to sit there ourselves, talking in the sun. Poet Woman, who is a photographer, artist, and scientist as well as a poet, pulled out her camera to take photos of the flowers behind us, the yellow, purple, and green.

Few things are as relaxing and satisfying as talking to a friend who knows all your secrets. We talked about our relationships, our writing, and the things about ourselves we are working on. After filling ourselves with warm pita bread and falafels, with big spoonfuls of tabouli, hummus, and baba ganoush, we wandered back through the campus of Snowstorm University which is right next to the campus of Small Green, where I work. The warm summer air smelled so fragrant that I began looking for beds of flowers.

"I think it's a linden tree," said Poet Woman. Sure enough, as we rounded the brick building, we stepped into the shade of the sweet-smelling tree.

Poet Woman pointed to the beautiful brick building that holds small musical events. The main room is an intimate setting, polished wood railings and a balcony. "That’s where I saw Joni Mitchell,” she said, “Back in 1970. I was in the first row. I’ll never forget that.” In addition to all her other talents, Poet Woman can sing the words to any Joni Mitchell song ever recorded.

When we reached the big, ugly dome-like building that holds big sporting events and modern concerts, Poet Woman ran over to stand between two of the concrete supports – and then jumped up and down. I ran over to do the same. The way the building is designed, stomping in that spot causes reverberations that sound way cool. It's impossible to resist.

As we walked along the edge of the building, we both kept ducking between concrete supports to stomp up and down, until finally we started laughing.

"Some things you never outgrow," Poet Woman said.

"Didn't you just turn sixty?" I teased.

"I'm a hippie," she said. "Hippies don’t get old."

Poet Woman is, in fact, an authentic hippie, who has had some pretty amazing experiences. Every time I think I've heard all of her stories, she'll write another poem with some amazing narrative behind it. "Oh, yeah," she will say, "Did I ever tell you about the time I lived in an abandoned car for a few months?"

As we walked back toward my campus, the sun came out from behind the clouds and the sidewalk began sparkling with tiny shining bits that caught the sun. Glints of mica, most likely. Or even bits of quartz. That was Poet Woman's scientific explanation. But I've seen this kind of thing before -- sometimes when you are walking with a close friend, the very sidewalks beneath your feet can sparkle.


listmaker said...

Beautiful - thanks.

ccw said...

I love your friends. A very beautiful post.

Kathryn said...

Linden trees are my absolute favorite because that lovely smell reminds my of being young and in love on my college campus. A couple of years ago we lost a tree in a storm and finally had room to put in a linden, I can't wait for it to reach blooming size.

You describe the whole experience so well I can almost smell it now.

Chip said...

Sounds like it was a wonderful day!

BeachMama said...

That sounds like an awesome day. And the smell of sweet trees, how wonderful. And it's great to be able to enjoy some of the fun things. I hope I never grow up so much that I don't enjoy being silly on a summer afternoon. Love your sparkle analogy.

susan said...

Just beautiful. You are so right; there is a special quality to friendships that have lasted so long. And you are so lucky to have lived in a place for so long, too. So few academics get to do that.

Dr.K said...

All I can say is that I'm so @#$%#! jealous of someone who saw Joni Mitchell from the front row in 1970 that I just can't stand it! Sounds like a nice day.

liz said...

Your post sparkles like the sidewalks you saw.

gracie said...

wonderful day.. thank you for including your readers in such a liberating friendship

Anonymous said...

I have a friend I have known since I was five and you have perfectly captured the easy comfort I feel when I am with her.



Mona Buonanotte said...

I want that lunch, that tree, and that friend.

You have the awesomest days!

Piece of Work said...

What a nice retelling of an awesome lunch. Baba ganoush, yum.