Prill and I have been friends for 35 years. For most of those years, she has lived in the same location, the same house. Because she has the gift of hospitality (second-to-none) and her home is nestled above a creek with a winding path and trees that you want to paint, her home is more like a refuge than any other I know. Recently, I moved back to Michigan after almost 20 years away, and before Christmas, I visited Prill again to have dinner with shared friends who make up her book group–a group to which I once belonged that continued to meet monthly all the time I was away. At the table, along with my friends, was Prill’s youngest daughter who had just flown in from Sierra Leone where she is working to improve distribution chains to get medicine to those who need it most.
I wrote a grace for our meal while watching deer quietly move through the silent falling snow in her backyard. It was easy; Prill’s is a good place.
We sometimes describe a person as being in a good place. I think I’m in that now. It’s a good place because of the history I have here. And it’s a good place because of the people. And it’s a good place because of the timing in my life.
I wondered before I made this move if it would be awkward, coming home after being gone so long. And I will confess it is quite different. We don’t always realize when our own lives are going on that the lives of friend’s in other locations are going on too. When we see them again, we can see the changes that life has wrought both in the places we once knew together and in the faces of people we still know who we haven’t seen in awhile.
Thirty-five years is a good long while to be friends. I’ve known Prill through her husband Barry’s making of robots and taking teens to compete with those impressive machines. I’ve known her daughters since before they were born. I have a charcoal picture of pink flowers in my bathroom that her oldest daughter Catherine, who now lives in Chicago with two young boys of her own, drew when she was just 9 years old.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s often feels surreal. Our minds wander back scanning regrets and reliving joy and just as quickly move to New Year dreams. Our calendars are fresh.
This year, I also feel an unexpected and profound sense of gratefulness and peace. It is no small thing to have friends we have known most of our lives. And it is a holy pilgrimage to return to a place, when that place held us through the blessed moments of life — some too painful to remember and many more too beautiful to forget.
Where Hidden Valley meets Hidden Valley we come
as we have come for lifetimes, far …
to this refuge
this elegant bar.
love is refilled and peace percolates even before we enter the door;
it beckons us each by name.
We enter as if to retreat, knowing that
here, hungry hearts are nourished
here, senses are satisfied.
Here we have sat with our sorrows and whispered our plans of delight.
For years it has bandaged our hearts and feet and dreams
and helped us heal from events that claimed us
and changed us.
Come, all ye faithful
Come and once again dine
Come to tell what has happened
We’ll listen with glasses of wine.
Come and process. Come and pray.
Come and again be a part…
of the holiness here that meets us with hope.
And knows all our stories by heart.