I’ve been thinking a great deal, lately, about relationships. When I use the word ‘relationship,’ I speak to all human connection, and not simply to romance, though what follows in this article, I believe, is as true for lovers as it is for friends. Recently, a person I love has become physically absent in my life. She’s fine. I am too. We are making the best, I should say, of the fact that right now we live in different places. For the moment, our paths seem to be diverging. Recently, I went to the Adirondacks to clear my mind, or better said, to step out of it. To be away from my thoughts of this individual whose absence I felt so clearly and deeply in my days. The mountains let me do that. Step out of myself for a moment, and be, I mean. There. With a full pack and no destination, I felt but just another creature wandering the forest floor. Upon my return, I found a package waiting for me. She had sent me a letter and two books. We had that kind of relationship. We would camp, and at nightfall, read Rilke by lamplight. We would spend entire afternoons swinging together in a hammock, sharing the green of the grass, the crisp of the breeze.
One of the books she sent me was Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. We read it together a year ago—rather, I read it aloud and she sat beside me, her eyes lightly closed and her head rested on my shoulder. She liked when I read aloud. We had that kind of friendship, so aloud I read, and we finished the book in a single afternoon. It is a small book. When I saw it there on my doorstep, I was again with her. I felt the sun of that day we spent on my cheek. I have been trying to hold that warmth, that feeling of her, despite the actual, concrete miles between us. Consequently, I have been reading, again and again, this passage:
“If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think we might see each other once or twice?”
I read this, and have to believe it. Some people are connected. Simple as that. And they always will be. This is how I feel about my friend who sent Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Today, she might only manifest in my life as the yellow flowers I notice sprouting from the roadside as I drive to work—she always loved yellow flowers the best—and I have to be okay with that. I have to look at them, and know her. This is my choice, and one I willingly make. Given the world we live in, the world of iPhones and twitter, where connection is immediate and at all times a given, it is hard to remember that friendship and love—real love, the kind that is selfless and unattached and always—depends not on time or space or the frequency with which two people speak or see one another. I remind myself of this on a daily basis, and think we all should. I think we must try always to recognize those moments when the people we love, those who are not directly with us, speak to us from afar, in some quiet way that comes with no vibration of our phones. These moments do not beg to be seen, but exist, and are, and are there for us to see, always. As long as we are willing to listen.