Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.
Generally speaking, the threads that bind us to each other are no less real for being mostly invisible, no less important and precious. In the long run, each of our stories turns out to be the story of us all.
This picture was taken at Kirstenbosch, the day of my fortieth birthday picnic. Dad and I were putting paper bunting in the trees at one of my favourite spots in the garden. There were so many people there that day. Friends, family, acquaintances. It was a beautiful afternoon. I may have mentioned it here before, but I often struggle with community, with my need for and discomfort with being part of the various tribes that surround me and call me one of their own. In my profound introversion and high sensitivity, I sometimes find gatherings of people (big and small) challenging and frequently exhausting.
That said, I find myself coming more and more to a deep appreciation for these connections. It’s not that I am shedding all the struggle or awkwardness. On some days I still want to burrow into myself and hide. And I sometimes do (I have learnt that I need that). But I am learning to be present to others and to the gifts of community in the midst of feeling out of place or unequal to company and conversation. I am discovering that people will love and care for me nonetheless.
Last weekend I gathered with a few others at a friend’s home for a celebration of her fiftieth birthday. It was her third party; she is warm and gregarious and has many friends. She is also very gifted in the kitchen and had prepared a delicious feast for us to enjoy. Before we sat down to our meal, she told us that she wanted to share what she loved and appreciated about each one. We sat and listened as she spoke words of kindness and blessing over us, and I felt such a sense of thankfulness for the opportunity to be part of this circle of grace. It was a powerful reminder that we are all of us important to someone, and that because of it, our lives matter. I was aware again that when anyone leaves this earth, there is a space left behind in the lives of those they knew and loved, and who loved them. A space that can never be filled.
I feel this way not only about the people in my life, but also about the animals that have come and gone, and those who walk with me still. Wendell berry speaks of us being healed as we ‘come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.’ I love that. Animals have been profound healers for me; they still are. There is no need (or possibility) of pretense with an animal, and that kind of pure presence is surely one of life’s most precious gifts.
So today I am dwelling on the privilege of being part of these circles. I am conscious that in friendship and love ‘my cup runneth over’.