My friend Carla calls from Hawaii. She’s the kind of friend who says, “I’ve been thinking of you,” and I know it’s true because I’ve been thinking of her, though we haven’t spoken in two years. A few days ago I ran into a mutual friend in the grocery store. That sparked my thoughts, but even before I’d had Carla on my mind. It’s August, the month when we used to walk St. Elmo Creek in Cazadero together to celebrate our close birth dates. I would lug stones up the bank and down the dirt road to the car to take home for the garden. They still line my paths and pile near the pond; a small stack marks my dog’s grave.
The friendship that Carla and I enjoy was woven together as were her willow chairs—those works of art that drew me to her the first day of our meeting on an Art Trails studio visit. I dropped by and stayed for hours. I returned time and again to walk the creek and paint log jams of fallen redwoods, pine and brush. Settled on Maui now, she’s surrounded by eucalyptus. She and her husband had the trees on their property cut down to prevent damage to their home during storms, but their neighbor’s towering ones could still collapse Carla’s greenhouse. It’s possible to prepare oneself for misfortune, but not to escape it. Stuff happens.
Much has happened to each of us in the fifteen years that we’ve known one another, but the conversation strips the stuff away. She has dealt with life’s sorrows and difficulties and is learning to draw with one- and two-point perspective. I weave my dramas in with hers—since we last spoke I confronted sadness that I never would have imagined. I tell her about the happiness pie—the 10% situational, 40% intentional, 50% genetic. Picture it, I say. It can be cherry, blackberry. She misses the berries. They’re abundant in Sonoma County this August. We would pick them on our creek walks, the juice purpling our fingers, the warm, sweet berries satisfying our hunger until, back in her kitchen, she prepared a lunch—salad, whatever—always a delicious mix of flavors. I love much about Carla and perhaps most that she cares so well for herself and others in an unhurried way. Even her voice is like a slow walk along the creek bank, her laugh now splashing across the ocean.