Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thought nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.
— George Eliot (English Victorian novelist. Pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1890)
It’s been close to 100 degrees this past week in southern California, a pervasive heat wave driving people indoors, fans and air-conditioning needed even at night. Just yesterday the heat broke, with magnificent cumulus clouds cooling the air, a small spattering of rain hinting at autumn around the corner.
Yet it’s not been too hot to connect with our friends, unseen for many months. Despite the blasts of hot air wafting down from the hills and coiling up from packed freeways, conversations have flourished. Novel-length stories from recent life have been necessarily shortened into real-time short stories, with enough sensory detail and flourishes that everyone gathered around the dining room table or ensconced on comfortable sofas deeply intuits what each person, each family has lived through this past year. The laughter, the oohs and aahs, the glances of surprise, the touch of a hand—all visceral, palpable shared moments opening up and somehow brightening the complicated, multi-faceted experiences of our lives.
They are sustenance, these stories, holding each of us up, a deep realization that no one stands alone—however long it’s been since we’ve hugged, talked, or shared a meal together. We have been connected all along, our shared stories like crumbs through the forest of the past, leading to the present enjoyment of each other’s company. Stories that will now be the stepping stones we each will follow toward the moment of our next meeting.
What sustains you? What holds you up? How long has it been since you gathered friends around to share stories?
I’m returning home nourished, filled to the brim with friendship and a profound remembering of what it means to be human. And love—overflowing. Don’t forget the love.