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Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Saying good-bye

What a difference a week makes. Instead of writing of a happy, if bedraggled, group of family and friends on the olive grove, today I am writing of some of the same people, on a similarly gloomy day, gathering at a local cemetery chapel, farewelling my olive-owning friend’s father.

The mood was sombre, but the service was intimate, personal, full of love and loss. I had pulled myself out of bed, drugged up, and rugged up against the cold, to support my friend, and if I had not been feeling so ill (and had been much less infectious), I would have attended the wake to support her there too.

Whilst a funeral service is the formal part of the farewell, the wake is where the mood usually* lifts, when people relax after the formalities, and chat about their relationships with the person who has gone. In doing so, they fortify the family and friends who are left grieving, and remind them of the good memories, the ones – in my experience so far – that last the longest.

I have to say that I enjoyed the wakes of both my parents – seeing all the people who came to pay their respects and to support us, the people who helped make my parents’ lives what they were, and who helped make my life what it has been too. I hope our friends found this today too.

 

*  at least, this is the case when it is not unexpected, and when the person has gone peacefully, perhaps after a long illness

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Yesterday we got up early (for a Saturday), filled the car with essentials, and headed off, out of the city and up the valley where the Hutt River skirts the highway, its willows rapidly losing all their leaves, into the countryside. It was a gloomy, dark morning, and the rain that was forecast later in the day seemed to have arrived early – it was light, almost misty, and we hoped it would be different at our destination.

We passed the tempting $10 Breakfast sign at the café at the bottom of the hill, tempted to stop for bacon and eggs and a decent coffee, thinking about texting our friends to say we might just be half an hour late. But we didn’t, and we drove up into the winding Rimutakas, up into the cloud, and then dropped back into the Wairarapa beyond, a bit perturbed to find that the weather was no better, and maybe even worse.

We arrived at Alders, site of previous adventures in better weather, where we were due to help our friends harvest their olives. The sight of Peony and her bedraggled sister, both soaked through, supported my decision to bring my bought-for-Iceland-and-previously-only-ever-worn-there rain pants, grateful for my bought-for-Iceland-but-perfect-in many-places fleece and rain jacket, and pleased that my husband had thought to bring our gumboots (and later even more pleased he unwittingly gave me the pair without the hole in the sole).

Our hosts/overseers had thoughtfully provided gloves and plenty of purpose-bought rakes that easily strip the olives from the branches, and we stuck into the work, getting wet not so much from the rain which eased off and just turned to mist, but from the very wet olive trees, and only slightly hampered by steamed-up glasses. With a very efficient crew of workers this year, and even though the trees are so much bigger than when we first went about seven or eight years ago, it was only a few quick hours later that we were told they had enough olives (8-900 kgs or a ton), and sodden, we retreated back to the house to dry off, grateful for the wine, hearty lunch of Indian dahls and curries, and cheerful conversation after a job well done.

Previous olive harvest posts here and here.

 

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She doesn’t really belong on this Friends-I-have-not-yet-met list, because, you see, I have met her. She’s Slovenian, and truly puts the LOVE in Slovenia, reaching out to give and receive love. She taught me to love Slovenia too, as I would never have gone there if she hadn’t been, at the time, a Friend-Not-Yet-Met (so, clearly, she does belong on this list after all).

A beloved wife, friend, aunt, and dog’s best friend. A true linguist, for more than three months, she wonderfully commented on my Lemons to Limoncello blog in Italian to help me practice mine.

She loves her summer garden and cooked us lunch using her home-grown produce. She and her husband recommended driving a mountain pass that, she casually mentioned, she had cycled once (or even twice?). As we wound around sharp, steep corners up, up, and further up again, I thought she must be crazy, though, in truth, she enjoys exercise and appreciates being out in nature.

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A week ago, we packed our bags and the car, and headed over the hill – this one – to stay overnight with friends at their charming cottage amidst an olive grove.

They welcomed us with a lovely late lunch of delicious dark, seedy bread and cheese and tomatoes and asparagus and pâté and salami, and of course, being in a wine town we had to indulge in some local rosé, which is always perfect for a summery lunch and for nibbling with fresh berries from the garden.

Then came the business end of the day, as the croquet lawn was calling to us, and the game of the day was Croquet Golf – or was it Golf Croquet? My husband and I have only ever played once, some years ago, but beginner’s luck must have been upon us, as we took the first game 7-4. The second game didn’t go so well, with my husband wondering aloud, after further fortification from the rosé, just why the ball wasn’t going straight anymore! By that time it was close to 5 pm, and we figured that it must be time for some champagne – of course!

After a delicious biryani dinner and more berries from their garden, we took to the lawn for the deciding game, although by this time, our croquet brains had decided that attack was the best form of defence, and we all aimed at each others’ balls as often as we aimed at the hoops to score points. Appropriately, our hosts’ years of practice paid off and they trounced us soundly, so we retired to the campfire, and as the sun set and the almost-super moon rose, we chatted and sipped some more; a perfect end to a perfect day.

 

 

 

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I’ve had a lovely hour or so, immersed in the lives of the initial x365 bloggers, back in 2006 and 2007. Even ten years later, events of the last weeks have shown strongly that we still have a role to play in each other’s lives, that we are important to each other, and that we feel each other’s joys and, sadly, our sorrows.

Most shocking to us all was when our dear Deloney suddenly lost his Mlle. Vague. Some of our group wrote the most beautiful tributes to her and to him (here, and here), which are beautiful whether or not you know him. Susan in particular talks about grief and love, and should be read. I am not so eloquent so I have written privately, and I continue to hurt for him. But it’s not about me. There’s only so much we can do when we live on the other side of the planet , but I hope there is some comfort from knowing that others are thinking of him across continents and oceans, especially if he’s awake in the wee small hours and feeling alone. I see others of our number, or friends of friends, reaching out to him, and it warms my heart and restores my faith in humanity.

Lali is blogging again, which makes me happy even if I’m not always able to keep up with her posts. Most recently, talked about things she misses from her life in green Vermont, and it reminded me how exotic some of my friends are, when she refers to her childhood in Spain and South America, or life with deer, bears and an ermine. Now, whenever I think of Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, which I saw on display in Krakow four years ago, I’ll be thinking of her. Like several of my very brave friends, she suffers from a chronic and painful condition, and as she remembered the person she was when she could cope with her outdoorsy and active lifestyle, I just wanted to hug her … carefully,  gently.

When Lali or IB write about Vermont, I always think of an AFS friend met in Thailand and again briefly in Delaware at Sharon and Chai’s in the 1990s, and when Dona writes of her family memories that never fail to touch me, I think too of other AFS friends last seen in Thailand in 1981 who live near DC, and other bloggers I’ve met through my other blogs who live there or nearby. I love it when the various parts of my life intertwine

Another of our x365 group has reappeared on Fb, after a difficult time, and I am happy to see her again, but sad to think of what she has been going through, and wish we could sit and talk over a coffee, though I’m sure she has plenty of people doing that with her too, not least another of our x365 number who lives in the same city, and who regularly brings another unvisited city to life for me.

On the brighter side, the lovely and clever Indigo Bunting wrote a birthday limerick for me that has made my day. I also was amused to find that, in her quarterly list of birds (that has taught me to be more observant, and to appreciate and love birds along with their crazy names), there was a Greater Yellowlegs, which made me smile. In another internet life, I was given the nickname Legs, and those said legs are Greater rather than Lesser, and although they’re not yellow, they are very pale and would at least glow in the dark as does (I imagine) the Greater Yellowlegs.

IB wrote a birthday limerick for Helen too, in which she bemoaned Helen’s absence from our blogging community. I concur. It always makes me happy when Helen pops back in to comment. She staunchly resists social media, where even Mrs S has returned to our fold, but if she tried it, she might learn to like it. And when I think of Helen I think of Deloney, and another blogger friend “met” more recently who lives in their city, putting it firmly on the map of places I must go before I die, because there are people I must meet before I die too.

Vesper and Craig have both also had birthdays this week, as have friends in the UK, met on the internet and in real life, and in-real-life friends from here are also marking another year on the planet, so it is not simply birthday season in New Zealand in October, but globally in Mali’s Sphere of Family and Friends. On the Libra and Scorpio cusp, there are so many people I love and admire, and I love to be reminded of this.

Birthday boy Craig lives in Florida, and when – as lately – things happen there, I often think of him in the same thought as I think of the friends I met through student exchanges in 1979 and 1980 in New Zealand and in Thailand respectively, who also now live in Florida, and who all talk about storms and space shuttles and post photos of manatees and sunny beaches and alligators.

These links around the world, born on the ether and solidified over the years, or born in real life and maintained on the ether, make me happy and sad, they educate me and delight me and sustain me, and add to the richness of my life. Our hugs may only be virtual, but our love is real. I am so very lucky, and so very grateful.

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Ten years ago today, I wrote my first blog post. I had decided to try a blog project that involved writing every day for a year, using only the number of words that matched the number of years I’d spent on the planet, about people I’d met in my life. (That blog is no longer public.)

My first entry was about a friend I’ve known since we were both four years old. It was about her humour and kindness and anger at injustice. I’m pleased to say that we’re still friends; my husband and I had dinner with her in Christchurch just a few weeks ago. She’s also the friend who gave me the advice about earthquake preparedness I referenced in my previous post. I like having that continuity in my life.

That project brought a number of people into my life. I have an ornament (see below) hanging in my dining room window from the very first person to comment on that blog. I haven’t met Indigo Bunting yet, but for the last ten years, she has been present in my life. I am confident I will meet her one day. I’ve dreamed about it (though oddly, there was a bad flood at her house in this dream)! Either I’ll get to the US or she’ll get down here, and we’ll get to drink some wine together.

I’ve blogged about some of my blogging friends in my Friends-Not-Yet-Met series. Ten years on, we’re pretty much all still in touch. Whilst we no longer blog every day, and some don’t comment on my posts anymore, and I comment only belatedly on their blogs, we are still in contact. Over that time we’ve seen love stories unfold, books published to great acclaim, children born and other children graduate from high school and college. Each of these events has touched my life. We still talk about a possible meeting somewhere – Italy was always a favourite dream destination, though I suspect it is more likely to be Toronto or Vermont or New York  – and believe that it will happen one day.

Ten years on, I’m still writing, though I’ve been through a couple of different blog projects now, finally settling here at A Separate Life. I don’t write as often these days, and certainly not as succinctly as that first year, when I used only 44 words. I intend to continue, though. It seems that A Separate Life is here to stay.

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I tortured or bored – depending on their perspective – my Fb friends on the weekend, documenting for them the six-course degustation (tasting) menu my friend and I prepared for Saturday evening.

We had made the drive out of the city and up the coast to the beach house of friends we’ve known for years. In fact, one of them remembers me from my job interview before I even moved to Wellington in 1985, and we then worked together for the next ten years, albeit sometimes in different countries. It was nice to get out of town, to enjoy their garden with flower buds and asparagus spears and spring freesias, and flowering herbs and bees and eels and one stray goose, and to walk along the beach (though we did get soaked as the squall we watched come across Kapiti Island caught us before we got home).

Preparing and eating the meal together was fun, and I definitely recommend trying it with friends. Divide up the courses, make things you can cook in advance (my lemon tart for dessert, or the beef tagine that was pre-marinated and just bubbled away in the evening till we needed it), or need little preparation (whitebait fritters, salad, or cheese board). Match the menu with wine, drink LOTS of water and make sure you don’t have to drive anywhere afterwards (we were overnight guests), size the portions accordingly, and take lots of photos.

We’re going to try it again, but might up our game next time, with a more adventurous menu – or not.

 

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