Trees, Shade, and Friendships

We went to a town hall meeting last night, Tuesday evening, to listen to one of our elected officials speak before his constituents. It was a very interesting event; Representative Ron DeSantis is a straight shooter and we enjoyed listening to his views on the pressing problems currently facing the nation.

At the end of the evening, my wife greeted DeSantis and passed on her words of encouragement. At the same time, I looked beyond them to see a friend, Jaime, who I had not seen in more than two years. I was very glad to see him. After everyone else left, we stood in the passageway catching up.

On the drive home, I reflected on friendships and their creation, the nature of their early development, how they were cultivated over long and short periods, and how we maintain them over time. In his book, Wind, Sand, and Stars, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote so articulately of friendships and how very important they are in our lives, from the beginnings, through our lives, and to the end of our time.

“Nothing, in truth, can ever replace a lost companion. Old comrades cannot be manufactured. There is nothing that can equal the treasure of so many shared memories, so many bad times endured together, so many quarrels, reconciliations, heartfelt impulses. Friendships like that cannot be reconstructed. If you plant an oak, you will hope in vain to sit soon under its shade.
For such is life. We grow rich as we plant through the early years, but then come the years when time undoes our work and cuts down our trees. One by one our comrades deprive us of their shade, and within our mourning we always feel now the secret grief of growing old.
If I search among my memories for those whose taste is lasting, if I write the balance sheet of the moments that truly counted, I surely find those that no fortune could have bought me. You cannot buy the friendship of a companion bound to you forever by ordeals endured together.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Another passage written of friends and friendships, particularly pilots who are friends, is that sometimes we don’t have the chance to get together as often as we wish because of our flight schedules or bases being located so far away from one another. However, that does not mean we have given up on our friends or friendships; it just means that we have not had the chance to get together to enjoy one another’s company. Often, when this happens, when either we meet purposefully or more often by accident, we pick up a conversation at the same place as when we last were together.

That was the way I felt when I ran into Jaime last evening. Our conversation picked right up where we left off a couple of years ago. It was a grand feeling, as it always is. And then I started thinking about others I needed to get in touch with that I have not had the chance to see over the last few years.

I realized that I was thinking of various friends and appreciating their friendship. I thought of many and how I needed to talk with some, write to others, communicate that each is very special to me, that I enjoy the privilege of their companionship.

When we arrived home, before going to sleep, I checked my email. What I discovered was that “the years,” as de Saint-Exupéry so eloquently personified, had come along and completed more of their work. Another of my friends had passed. My friend, Lou, had gone on to the next great adventure.

Before I or too many other of my friends take the same road as Lou, I want each to know how very special they are to me. I have an orchard and from the orchard, I enjoy great shade.

The number of my trees has decreased by one and my shade has dwindled to a little less.

-30-

©2014 J. Clark

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