Living

Friendship Highway: A path of our own making

The Claddagh ring famous to the Galway region of Ireland but recognized worldwide as a symbol of friendship is often artwork seen in the Irish city where the Claddagh legend arose from an unrelenting friendship of two departed lovers.
The Claddagh ring famous to the Galway region of Ireland but recognized worldwide as a symbol of friendship is often artwork seen in the Irish city where the Claddagh legend arose from an unrelenting friendship of two departed lovers. Special to the Sun Herald

Whew! Is 2016 truly over?

Has a year passed since I wrote about anticipating a goldfinch sort of year, one especially filled with camaraderie? I remember being inspired by the bevies of tiny, colorful American Goldfinches that I observe in the woods outside my home office window. They winter in great numbers, appreciating the food and melted water I provide.

I, in return, can observe their companionable lives, which reflect my own hopes that we mere mortals can appreciate and nurture the need for each other.

Lessons learned

My friendly goldfinches can teach us much, such ponderables as the benefits of sticking together, shared shelters, the need for assistance during challenging times and sadness at unexpected loss (oh, to bring back the one who flew into the closed glass door…) But the biggest lesson of all is sheer joy. That’s joy! with an exclamation point. To be able to soar, whether literally on wings or figuratively, is important to us all, don’t you think?

One of the great joys is friendship, be it a true closeness with siblings, parents, or other relations, schoolmates or the people in our lives with whom we choose to make a genetically unrelated unit. I call them my “family of friends.”

Contemplating goldfinches

As another year passes I find myself unexpectedly contemplating the same goldfinch thoughts of a year ago, although I am thousands of miles away from the window that normally provides an interesting view as I write these Sunday missives. By the time you read this, Lord willin’ and creek don’t rise, I will have returned to that window in the Virginia Piedmont.

Before long I will also be at that special place you know yourself, the Mississippi Coast. This is where I have spent about two-thirds of my life with related family and the family of friends who tolerate my wanderings from sea to mountains and beyond. I write this today, for example, from a place where the view out the window is of Galway Bay, where resides yet another family of friends born during the year I was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Ireland.

Friendships

Maybe this is why I again write about the wonders of well-nurtured friendships. Galway is famous for the Claddagh, a symbol often found in rings that includes a heart surround by hands and topped with a crown to represent love, friendship and loyalty. The Claddagh is definitely more easily understood than goldfinches.

When I first wrote about having a goldfinch year, I didn’t imagine I’d spend so much time away from my homeport hill. A combination of friendship, familyship and work came into play. Pennsylvania, Alabama, Louisiana, the Coast and all states in between suffered my wheels in 2016, as I put thousands of miles on my car odometer and sky miles card.

But please don’t envy me and think of such travels as holidays or escapism vacations. Far from it, I’ve learned that being a good and loyal friend is time-consuming, often hard work. The axiom is true: The only way to have a good friend is to be a good friend. But the rewards are priceless.

Imagination

Yes, I realize that finding a link between goldfinches and a companionable life is a bit of a stretch for many, but no one can accuse me of lacking in imagination.

This more imaginative perspective on life comes from a newfound closeness with nature, defined as encounters with shy Black bears, hummers by the swarm, smelly skunks, pecky woodpeckers, fennel-devouring caterpillars, burrowing voles and pesky raccoons. They sometimes share my slice of a small woodsy Virginia Piedmont hill, near my little sister who is married to an an Old Dominion native. Even as young siblings, Estelle and I were best of friends.

With a foot here and a foot there, I do a travel juggling act. As my Southern Possum Tales’ business card attempts to explain, “Roots running between Mississippi and Virginia.”

‘On the road again’

Since my official retirement from the Sun Herald newsroom, I have spent much time “on the road again,” in the lyrical words of Willie Nelson. Interestingly, instead of the wunderlust, exotic explorations of my youth, the travels of these so-called golden years seem more easily guided by the siren call of friendships.

A much needed listening ear? A hug? A helping hand? A crazy celebration? A memory-making roadtrip or holiday? With so many ingredients for lasting, companionable realtionships, we all must plot our own travels down Friendship Highway.

I also make the 1,000-mile trek between Virginia and the Gulf because I cannot ignore the siren Call of the Coast as I continue to write this Sunday missive and other occasional sense of place assignments. I’ve never stopped pursuing my first journalistic love, which is putting the Coast’s vast history in perspective for modern times.

So when I write about friendships and goldfinches, I am off my usual course, if not off my rocker. Chalk it up to the natural reflections of a new New Year.

Reflections are so much better than unfulfilled resolutions, don’t you think?

Kat Bergeron, a veteran feature writer specializing in Gulf Coast history and sense of place, is retired from the Sun Herald. She writes the Mississippi Coast Chronicles column as a freelance

correspondent. Reach her at BergeronKat@gmail.com or at Southern Possum Tales, P.O. Box 33, Barboursville VA 22923.

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