Friday, December 11, 2015

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS AND FRIENDS

Mary Ann and Darrell
The Greek word philia means affection or friendship, and C.S. Lewis wrote one of the best treatises about this special relationship with others in The Four Loves, my favorite book by the great Anglican apologist of the 20th century: “It may be a common religion, common studies, a common profession, even a common recreation. All who share it will be our companions; but one or two or three who share something more will be our Friends. In this kind of love, as Emerson said, ‘Do you love me?’ means ‘Do you see the same truth?’”

Pistachio cake

The Christmas season provides fertile soil for commonality among cherished friends, and lately I’ve been blessed to have been invited to a few celebrations in which I’ve enjoyed the “real glory of friendship,” as Lewis puts it. The most recent of these celebrations took place this week when I and my friends Vickie Sullivan and Mary Ann Wilson, went over to Church Point, Louisiana for dinner especially cooked by Darrell and Karen Bourque. Darrell, a former poet laureate of Louisiana and acclaimed poet (as well as my mentor in poetry), had prepared a succulent pork roast, fresh asparagus, quinoa with chunks of sweet potato; and Karen, master glass artist, had created an artistically-arranged green salad with thinly sliced avocado and homemade dressing. The piece de resistance was a beautiful white pistachio cake with coconut frosting, pictured here.


Karen and Diane
As we sat around the table, I thought about Emerson’s words: “Do you see the same truth?” Most of the conversation centered on common interests: books, art, and politics, but table talk soon turned to concerns about a mutual friend who has been diagnosed with cancer, and we discussed the humanitarian work she has done during her almost-80 years. Our friend, Jane Bonin, a former professor of English at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, was affiliated with the Hunger Project for many years, presenting talks to various groups to raise the consciousness of people regarding the problem of hunger in both Acadiana and Washington, D.C. where she migrated after leaving Lafayette, Louisiana. She was dedicated to the sustainable end of world hunger and to the maxim of “Creating An Idea Whose Time Has Come.” A few years later, she joined the Peace Corps and served in both Malawi and Niger, Africa for six years. Her experiences in Africa have been recorded in The Color Of A Lion’s Eye, released earlier this year.


The note of solemnity that had begun the conversation about Jane’s condition, changed to one of shared acknowledgement as we talked about Jane’s resilience and strength. And after a few moments, we were laughing about adventures several of us had experienced with her; e.g., “The 6-Day,” a leadership training course in which we rappelled off the side of a mountain and endured the famous “Tyrolean Traverse.” During this exercise, we were strapped at our waists and had to propel ourselves, hand over hand, across a wire strung above a ravine yawning beneath us. What we remembered was how long some of us (Jane and I included) hung in the middle of the wire and, finally, those who had made it to the “farther shore” sat on the end of the wire so that it sloped downward, and we could get off. These efforts of fellow participants underlined the support we had been promised when we entered the rigorous program. We were greeted by cheering supporters who massaged bound muscles in our arms and told us how accomplished we were to have moved across the wire. Actually, the Tyrolean Traverse is a good metaphor for the support of friends.

It was late when we drove away from the dark countryside near Church Point, but the three of us left the celebration at the Bourque’s table feeling not only the warmth of strongly-supportive relationships in which all of us “saw the same truth” but were buoyed by the “real glory of friendship.”

And we just know that Jane is going to make it across that yawning ravine again.




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