Tammy’s post on Tuesday (Day 24) got me thinking. We usually pass our writing back and forth to get each other’s feedback—does it make sense, is it helpful in some way, are there any grammatical errors? We haven’t written much about our relationship. When it comes to age, we don’t reveal numbers, but all it takes is a little bit of math to figure out. We met each other 35 years ago. Both Bonnie and I (we didn’t know each other yet) were interested in faith, but not quite there yet. Pat & Tammy were young staff with Cru at Montana State and helped us on that journey. We have been friends ever since.
We could say a lot about our friendship and lives together. We talk regularly on the phone (rarely video & rarely all together)…Pat and I now have a competition to see who can get more steps in during our conversations. We try to be intentional about seeing one another in person each year; and on special occasions we have done mission & service trips together. Pat & I have won intramural basketball championships together, sawed logs together (with actual chainsaws), had readings of Hank the Cowdog, yelled at each other from the sidelines to “finish your PhD.” We have known each other before kids and now our kids are almost all grown up. Even though we live on opposite sides of the country, we do our best to make our lives run together.
I remember Tammy’s call when their Zach (with an “h;” it gets confusing because we have a Zac without an “h”) was injured. After enduring a night of questions, rushed medical decisions, and emergency brain surgery, Tammy called to tell us what had happened. I can remember the day (Saturday morning) and where I was (our old house in Palo Alto). Crushing! It’s tough to be 3,000 miles away when friends are under a weight that is beyond their ability to bear.
Tammy has talked about the Charles River in a few of her posts (Day 5) and (Day 24). When I read Tuesday’s post, I was reminded of how important “place” is in shaping (and keeping) our identity. It is one of markers that gives us “confidence in one’s inner continuity amid change” (Boss, 116). From my vantage point, the Charles has helped Tammy find her voice again, allowed her to express herself to God through the rawness of losing (but not losing) someone you love, and has given her a sense of peace in the storm of the changes her family was going through.
Her post made me think of this quote from Ivan Basso in his book, Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache: “geographical features have served the people for centuries as indispensable mnemonic pegs on which to hang the moral teachings of their history.” This idea of a mnemonic peg—a physical marker that helps to remind us about something has become more and more important to me. We need these reminders of who we are through change. Chaos and ambiguity (sheltering in place, social distancing, even working/going to school from home) are changing how we relate to one another; and this can create a challenge or a crisis of identity. Re-working all of these things—place helps to keep us steady; reminding us who we are. Sometimes we can return to a place to reminds us, but sometimes that isn’t possible (I love the Rockies and it’s a little hard to get there right now)—maybe our friendships need to carry us (even from a distance). Both are important. They help me re-center through crisis and re-orient myself to the newness of how we relate together that Covid-19 is producing.
Photography by Bonnie Sanders