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Many faces of friendship (06/06/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns

The return: She allows a deep-seated joy to be back at camp guide her down the path leading to the boat dock. The early morning bird chorus is intensified by a series of sputters followed by a hoarse hum and revved to an air-splitting velocity. She peers through the clearing, framed by branches of pine and oak. Riding the wake of his motorboat, a fisherman launches a new season out on the lake.

Group hugs: Today, most individuals, couples, and families are a part of various circles and groups who share common ground. There’s the gang down at the coffee shop, a supportive church group, the office bunch, high school basketball teammates, buddies on the winter bowling team, fellow football tailgating fans, and, as the opening suggests, there are those who are drawn together unexpectedly when they navigate to a mutual place in time, surrounded by perfect strangers.

Incidental friendships: Pat and I have cultivated dear and lasting friendships throughout the eleven years that we’ve been spending time at our camper up north. As we return in spring, fellow-squatters greet one another with warm welcomes all around. We all come there for the same reasons, to relax and enjoy the out-of-doors and to escape, for brief intervals, the mundane routine of work and home. We share no more or no less than we choose to.

The true blue pal: Where bonding and trust have evolved over many years, your long-time relationships cannot be replaced. You once chose carefully the person or persons you confided in, who you entrusted your most sacred secrets and feelings with. In an era where continuous diversion and personal satisfaction are sought, few are willing to invest the energy and emotional strain of intense and demanding friendships. Virtuous character and truthfulness is no longer demanded of casual friendship. Sadly, “friends for life” may be on the way out with the nostalgic and mellow Baby Boomers.

“Those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship,” wrote Montaigne, “for to undertake to wound and offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him.”

Cyber circle of friends: Friends by way of social networking are merely random faces (and all too often bodies) on a screen flashing shallow dialogue back and forth. Computer sites like MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, offer little or no substance or emotional support, certainly no camaraderie like folks once experienced. “Community” through cyber circles is deceptive with senseless small talk, sexual allure, and gimmickry.

Soulmates: William Deresiewicz wrote in “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” “ The image of the one true friend, a soul mate rare to find but dearly beloved, has disappeared from our culture.” I beg to disagree with him. (But then I’m from the conservative Midwest!) Couples spiritually entwined and in tune with one another will always be destiny’s sweetest achievement.

A true friend is someone who knows everything about you and likes you anyway.

E-Harmony or not: Marital success and longevity is not only a matter of finding the right spouse; it’s attempting to be one. Whether by an Internet match or the tried and true “seek, seek until you find,” the highest form of friendship is likely one between husband and wife. They don’t always want the same things, but each is willing to make concessions and sacrifices for the well being of the other. Selfishness is poison to a marriage. Honesty, affection, and plenty of pillow talk keep harmony alive. Stay plugged in. Turn it on often!

Indelible impressions: She makes her way back to their campsite; God’s country has sprouted many of them throughout northern woodlands. Amidst ancient towering oaks, familiar faces and voices of other seasonal occupants mingle with fond eulogies fading in and out...memorials to those dearly departed.

She pauses to reflect on the ones who no longer return, whose seasons of life have led them to their perpetual dwelling...where friendships flourish in spirit and in peace.

Janet Burns treasures the out-of-doors anywhere.. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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