Tonight I went to an Independence Day party hosted by a friend who lives in Manitou Springs. This particular friend and I go way back, to the beginning of my time in Colorado. We have never been extremely close; rather our politics and passions draw us every now and then into the eddied currents of life– at fund-raising events or rallies or marches. Because it is such a singular friendship, her circle of friends is different than the ones I see in the course of my daily life.
At her parties (she has two or three or more a year– her house is perfect with its large, open living space and cool, enclosed patio overlooking the little village that is Manitou) I often run into friends and acquaintances that I haven’t seen in years.
And such was the case tonight. I sat for a time with three other women– none of whom I knew well but well enough to feel peaceful and at ease. We chatted about our lives, filling in the blanks of missing years. Of the four of us, three of us had dealt with cancer in varying degrees of severity (uterine, cervical, ovarian). We discussed living through that, our surgeries, how it changed us. Three of us (a different three, well one person sat this one out) were single– the other celebrating 19 years with her partner. We talked about relationship transitions, women we have known, ways in which we have grown.
Others came and went into this circle of conversation. We told raunchy jokes we remembered from our baby dyke days. We talked about softball and sports injuries, flash mobs and 5ks, pets and hoped for chickens to raise, sabbaticals and growing older.
Several times, or at least it seemed to me, we reflected on our age, our longevity, our stamina. As I looked at the faces of the women around me in the deepening dusk, I marveled at how beautiful each of us are, at how we are bearing our lives with grace and laughter.
I left the party before the fireworks began and drove through the throngs of people who had parked their cars on the narrow lane that passes for a street in Manitou, there to see the show.
As I drove home, my heart was filled with the gratitude and a sense of wonderment at our lives, and how we choose to live them and the myriad paths that lead us to this moment. Right here. Now.
"Se a Vida E (that’s the way life is) by the Petshop Boys began playing on my iPod. I listened to the lyrics :
Come outside and see a brand new day
The troubles in your mind will blow away
It's easy to believe they're here to stay
But you won't find them standing in your way
Se a vida e', I love you - Come outside and feel the morning sun
Se a vida e', I love you - Life is much more simple when you're young
Bemused I wondered, was life simpler when I was young? Maybe love seemed simpler– taken for granted even– but life seems imminently simpler now. Now when I have more birthdays behind me than before and I can look back on times I was convinced I could not survive, and yet here I am; losses whose grief was a sea so deep I feared it would swallow me whole, never to be seen again, and yet I made it to shore again and again and again.
As the song was playing and I was driving, I caught out of the corner of my eye a brilliant green-red burst of fireworks in the sky--starting small and then expanding in an ever widening arc, like the big bang, like the feeling of possibilities in my heart, growing brighter and reaching farther with every second of their glory, proclaiming Independence even as they reached out in a fervent dance of connection and hope.