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The circle of friendship

Everyone you and I know are sick and tired of sitting around.  This self-isolation thing is more of a challenge than most of us ever imagined.  We are social animals.  We enjoy and even flourish in each other’s company. 

Despite our desire to interact with our fellow man, we are also  people that understand the danger of coming together too soon.  This is not a virus on a definitive downhill trajectory.  There is uncertainty about a lot of things, but it seems clear that we are not out of the woods yet.

Our home in Auburn has a stone firepit in one section of the backyard.  It is surrounded by six Adirondack chairs.  We did not pay much attention to it when we bought the house.  Since the previous owners had five children, we thought it was probably a place the kids could gather with their friends.

After weeks and weeks of being isolated, we decided to build a fire.  These cooler days made the idea even more appealing.  Do anything that is different, right?  It was delightful.  Mary Lou and I sat for hours just talking and gazing into the flames.

It was not long before we invited two neighborhood couples to join us.  After all, the placement of six chairs in a ring is the perfect setup for social distancing while interacting with a small crowd.  We talked long into the night.

Ironically, the other two couples had never met each other.  We began to explore the idea of bringing other couples together that had never met.  It is not hard to get a yes to the invitation.  After all, we are all starved for that human connection that has been taken from us during this pandemic.

We love the house where we have retired.  It is not much like the house we lived in for the past 37 years.  It is open and airy and full of outside light.  But the features we now love the most were not the primary reason we decided to buy.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting isolation we are all experiencing has shown us what makes a house truly come alive.  It is the features that bring friends and family together.  That is especially important these days.

We rarely sit on the patio at the back of the house.  You will find us most days, sitting on the front porch waving to the steady stream of walkers, runners, and cyclists that pass by our home.  A couple of dozen dogs each day sniff the bushes on their daily walks.  Baby carriages pass by with parents, grandparents and even siblings pushing the strollers. 

Increasingly, you will find us around the firepit at night.  A feature we dismissed has become the social center of our neighborhood.  The sounds of laughter mix with serious discussions about every subject imaginable.  Everyone is engaged and the conversations stretch on for hours.

I have always been mesmerized by a fire.  Along the way, I became a little lazy and replaced everything with gas logs, even on our patio in Donalsonville.  Flicking a switch was so much easier than carrying wood.

Watching a roaring fire alone can lead you to deep reflective thoughts. Time passes silently as your mind wanders without restriction.

I had forgotten the sound of the wood popping in the background as a fire burned.  Watching that same fire with others can bring about a whole new dynamic.  I tend to think of our firepit as a circle of friendship.  Good conversation.  Getting to really know neighbors in a meaningful way. 

If the pandemic and its resulting isolation had not occurred, I wonder if we would have collectively made these bonds with our new neighbors.  Maybe it is one of the silver linings in these dark clouds we have been living under.  A circle of friends enjoying the dancing fingers and the crackle of a fire.  So simple and so wonderful.