Two years out of college, and here I sit in some snow-covered house, down some country road in some snow-covered country holler. When I first moved here from the hustling, bustling southern city by the ocean known as Charleston, SC, a fair amount of people told me the winter season in the high country slows down to a chilly drip and sometimes your pipes freeze and there is nothing. They said the first isolating experience would be trying.
The climbing partners and paddling buddies all go back to where they came from or travel to somewhere new, and the few locals who tough out all four seasons in this sky mountain town get into their own cold weather groove. Friends are sparse. I would have to focus on the bright spring light at the end of this dark and frosty tunnel to carry me through the winter they warned me. I was lucky enough to be here in the fall, when a cascade of people from all over the world came to play in the New River Gorge in Fayetteville. There were new faces to greet. Good friends from the South came up almost every weekend. I was clearly having fun, too much fun to foresee the drought of companionship fast approaching.
Presently, I find myself alone more often, holding fast to the few, close connections I still have. My number of friends has dwindled as I age, as everyone becomes more focused on their own journey – the journey we had once begun together. In forging my own path, I worry I removed a bit of myself from them, as they have from me. Or perhaps, I just covered up those parts of my past, like the snow covers my new world.
A once flowering tree stands leafless in the winter wind outside my window. It entertains more meaning for me now. I feel less like the young bird in flight I once was, soaring with vibrant defiance alongside so many other colorful birds. More and more, I begin to identify with this seasoned tree outside my window. I must root down into the rocky edges of soil to stand on my own.
Hibernation has turned into deep reflection. In my mind I made a friendship map, covered with pins and strings tethered to my dearest pals. Gone are the days of doing nothing but dreaming together. Now, we all move apart. We grow closer or farther from those dreams, continuing perhaps to dream up new things, and I cannot help but be both mournful and glad. Some of my map’s strings are tightening so they begin to fray and snap. In their breakage the string always bounces back – to me. Some strings become slack, though I still try and hold onto the tightness, the tightness of our bond.
I recognize a kindred luminosity in my friends from young adulthood that know I may not find again. There will be other pins, and there will be other strings on my map as I embrace new friends I hope, but during this slow and this cold time in my life, I still feel a swift current of energy sent from me to all of you and back again. I will never be lacking, having known and spent time with you, dreaming and doing nothing.