Over the years, we have all known the time would come when the conversation of the "how and where of retirement" would morph from words and dreams into reality. That time is here, and I feel shear delight for these two dear friends as they head to the Sunshine State. I also feel huge waves of nostalgia as memories of life over the years with them and a close circle of friends surface.
It's hard to fathom. I met Doug thirty-four years ago shortly after Sam Wilder and I moved to Marietta. At the time, he and his wife, Sally Johnson, lived out on Bear Creek with their three young children. They were back-to-the-land hippies, and Doug had set up his glass blowing studio just outside the farmhouse where the kids played in the yard and explored the woods on the far side of the old barn. My first visit to their farm was for Cathy Rees's birthday. I distinctly remember the cake Sally decorated with wild sweet pea flowers for the occasion. That evening we danced in the barn, and I realized there was a group of folks gathered there whom I wanted to get to know better: Ann and Mike Trembly and their three children; Jack Ford and Sue Boyer; Sherm and Caroline Koons; Geraldine Plato and Gary Goosman; Michael Stewart and Judith Angelo; Ron and Cathy Rees.
I was fascinated by the alternative life these friends had fashioned: combinations of those folks who lived together, attended the births of each other's children, gardened together, and traveled from craft show to craft show together for years. Artists, mid-wives, social workers, they were my kind of folk.
Years go by; and change happens. Children grow up; more children arrive. Relationships drift in different directions. Second marriages expand the friend base. Divorces inevitably redefine dynamics. Folks move away; some come back. Others take early flight into the world of spirit and live now in our hearts and memories. We've all woven new a fabric and definition to our lives.
But, a constant during the decades has always been the farm on Bear Creek, Doug and Paulette's home - - a gathering place for sweat lodges, water balloon parties, New Year's Eve gatherings, potlucks, fire circles, and the rebuilding of Doug's studio after it burned to the ground. Paulette's great sense of beauty and art blossomed in the farm house and yard, and ultimately, their new dwelling down the road from the farm house became a showcase for her incredible eye and talent.
Doug and Paulette may be one of the most amazing couples I've ever known. No relationship is without its moments, but these two have raised four amazing children, cared for their parents, traveled to distant places, worked and created together very successfully, and manifested an admirable life filled with art and experience.
Yesterday, a small group of us hung out together as Doug and Paulette had a yard/moving sale. I think we all had a similar unspoken realization - that the afternoon was one of the last we would have together on Bear Creek. It was a very special time.
(Pictured here: front row: Sue / second row: Ann Trembly, Paulette Hall, Doug Sweet / In the back: Mike Trembly, Shila Wilson, Sue Boyer)
(And here: Sue, Mike, Ann, Doug, Tanya & Paulette)
You know, it's not like I see these folks with the same sort of frequency like when we were younger and involved in similar projects. But, there's always the security in knowing they're just across the river. As I experience intermittent pangs of "letting go," I console myself with the thought that Dougie and P. will be within an hour's reach of Fort Lauderdale, my frequent airport when I go to Miami. Chances are I'll see them on a semi-regular basis, and that eases the angst of their departure quite a bit. But still.......
The old Girl Scout song recycles in my mind this morning: "make new friends, but keep the old...some are silver and the others, gold." Man, am I ever blessed!