Friendship trees

October 6, 2003

Exactly a year ago on October 6, I began the simple ritual of going into the surf everyday. When I first wrote about this to my dear friend Debra Frasier she sent back an email all full of worry. I replied, in part, with the following:

“I am standing on the beach looking out across Storm Bay and into 2000 miles of open ocean. I am thinking of what you wrote in your email about dangers and needless risks and the need to exercise good judgement.

I question myself on why I am down here, on this Sunday, in this weather, standing like a clown with my blue flippers and tiny green, blue and white boogie board with its four foot black cord strapped tightly onto my wrist. It all looks so ridiculous. But only in the same way that a devout atheist might look upon a Muslim kneeling down to pray on a crowded city street in the middle of the day and view this as ridiculous.

I am here to pray. It is a very physical manner of praying and it is guiding me into a deeper relationship with life.

I am here on this Sunday to receive the sacrament from the most holy of waters. The breakers coming in are not fearsome. They are a chorus of white angles rolling in the aisles singing their praises of this world. Before joining that great hallelujah chorus in the pews out back, I pray a simple prayer asking that we humans learn to revere, once again, this wonderful and incredible planet we all call home.

I walk into the baptism willingly and with a hugh love welling in my heart. I take a moment to acknowledge my humble gratitude to this great body of sacred water by dipping my face into her divine wetness fully. I come up kissing. I come up praising.

So don’t you worry about me, Debra. I intend to be around for the complete unfolding.”

friendship trees

This morning, both in honour of the completion of this first year of surfing and of my long standing friendship with Debra, I planted out a friendship circle of trees. Look closely at the photo above and you will see a tiny whitish circle with a tinier red wheelbarrow next to it.

This deliberately chosen site is out in the open, exposed, with infertile soil, prone to salt spray, intense winds, drying summer heat, cracking earth and rapacious rabbits, wallabies and even currawongs hungry for anything.

I wanted this site for the reason that friendships, especially long distant ones, need a more concerted effort to maintain if they are not to be lost in distant memories. In a very real way, keeping these trees alive in this setting is as daunting a task as keeping any important friendship alive.

I figure that since our friendship has seen tougher times and survived, these trees will grow just fine.

friendship 1Around the circumference there are 27 tree placements; one for every year we have known each other (since 1976). Inside each of these 27 protective bags, two she-oaks have been planted side by side within the single dug hole. (How’s this for a symbol of a close friendship?).

All up, this makes for 54 trees or about the half way point between our respective ages of 57 and 50 (sorry for the public outing Debra).

As the seedlings are only about six inches tall at the moment, it will take fifteen or more years for each set of twins to grow large enough to embrace and interlink their branches with those next to them. Whether I’ll get the chance to sit inside this tight circle of woven friendships, we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’ll keep watering.

In the “after” time, I’ll be around watching and helping out where I can. Forever flying in with friends to check out the sunset.

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