The three of us met about seven years ago,all working at the same miserable job. Describing life in that particular place as fucked up only scratches a small layer of dust off the surface of it. In an environment where we were encouraged to distrust one another, compete with one another, spy on one another, lie about one another, there were a few of us who chose to swim upstream. Sci-Fi Fridays turned into post-work group therapy sessions (and by therapy I mean getting sloppy at the bar and spilling our guts about the terrible secrets of our lives) and toward the end, lunchtime group therapy sessions when the vileness of our employment seemed too much to bear.
Since then, two of us have moved, one stayed but finally moved on from her job, but we've continued to stay together in our thoughts and hearts. It took some time, but eventually we got our shit together enough to actually plan and implement a long weekend to spend some very needed and incredibly missed together time. My sunshine girl came from New Jersey, and I hopped on a plane from Seattle, and the two of us came to see our honey bunch.
I've written about her before. This trip was always meant to happen sooner, and with a little faith and grace it will happen again before too long. It simply has to, because our friend is pretty sick. I can't be forthcoming on the details, she's got an ex who seems to make a habit of internet-stalking her. That and these aren't my details to share. What I will say is that we don't have a lot of time left, and for that reason, coming here and spending this time was of the highest importance to all three of us.
There are things we all three have in common, and there are traits and pastimes that sometimes only one or two of us share.
The one thing that the other two have in common? They are birdwatchers. Not casual birdwatchers by any means. These are women who have life lists of birds and Sunshine can still tell you when and where she saw the Scarlet Tanager and that she was jumping up and down in the middle of the path with excitement. These two have done their best to make a birdwatcher of me, to the point of buying me binoculars and trying to teach me to identify what I see. Truth is, I like birds but I'm too lazy half the time to go look stuff up, so I just try and remember what I saw and when I look in the book weeks later its all blurry and I end up believing that I saw a Kestrel when what I really saw was an Oregon Junco, or I am certain that I have seen a particular kind of tern when in actuality, the bird I believed was flying near me on the banks of the Columbia is, in fact, never seen outside of a small village in the middle of Africa. But I do try. Or I attempt a reasonable facsimile of trying. Because I want to be with these women, and if they are going to be watching birds? I am going to pretend I love it watch birds too.
So we watched birds yesterday. We drove to a place called Goose Island, near Aransas Pass/Rockport Texas. We saw a Big Tree. (That's what it's called, really. Big Tree. You drive up to the state park and there are one of those signs that point to the park office and the picnic area and the boat launch, and a pointer for "Big Tree." And then you follow that pointer and eventually you come to a T in the road and sure as fuck, there's another sign for "Big Tree." These Texans have a knack for taking things extremely literally.) After we saw the Big Tree, we drove up the road a little bit. The girls were very excited, since apparently the cow pasture across from where the Big Tree stands is a place that has, during the right season, a constant presence of Whooping Cranes. So we spent the next two hours driving and parking around a 10 acre field, looking at the same two Whooping Cranes. I can't BEGIN to describe to you the tremendous feeling of accomplishment that I feel being able to mark "Whooping Cranes" off of my life list. I am WHOLE! Wait...I don't HAVE a "life list." Yeah.
It was kind of fun, though. I got to see a Kestrel catch and eat a mouse. I got to see some Whistling Ducks and Ibis and some vultures and a couple of birds that they both told me what they were called and I can't remember. So I'll check them off my list by their formal names: "Bird." Check. "Other Bird." Check.
We also saw a rotting cow carcass in the pasture since apparently the owners of the pastures don't come look at their cattle very often and since apparently in Texas they don't mind if you have rotting dead livestock in your pasture within 50 feet of your pond. And they clearly mustn't mind this, because there were at least 15 other cars parked around the field looking at these birds AND a fish & game truck, and nobody seemed too concerned about the dead cow. Or the other cow who looked like she might end up looking a lot like her dead friend pretty soon. These Texans are a little strange.
Thankfully there are things they like to do that go beyond birdwatching. In truth, I enjoyed the time. It was a kind of interesting, and there's not much to complain about being outdoors in the nice weather looking at birds. Beats the crap out of housework. Besides, I'd rather be with them than not with them. Every second that we've spent together and will spend over the next couple of days is priceless to me.
My reward for coming along and being enthusiastic about walking through the woods trying to find an Olive Sparrow was that we got to do the one thing all three of us really love, which is drink wine and cuddle up on the bed watching Sci-Fi. I brought Season 4 of Stargate SG-1, which contains our favorite episode, "Window of Opportunity." And we are such nerds. We still laughed at every part of it, and next time we watch it we will laugh again, just as loud. Then we watched Caprica and we talked about all the other series we loved and often watched together, and which ones we miss. We fit together in a circle like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Each of us brings something to the party, something that if it were missing, the party wouldn't be right. When two of us are together, it is wonderful and joyous, but we know there is still an edge left open that requires the placement of a piece to make the puzzle look exactly right.
The hardest part is understanding that Honeybunch is in a lot of pain. The amount of pills she takes just to keep being able to walk and talk and not be curled up in a shrieking ball of OW OW OW would drop a Water Buffalo. She's got more cancer in other places, and Tuesday starts Chemo again. I hate the chemo, I hate how it makes her feel. And yet, I love the chemo because I love that it gives us more time with her. It gives us more time to hear her laugh, to be on the receiving end of her pranks. More time to try to plan the next trip to see her. More time that she is here with us where we selfishly want her to be.
Last night, wearing my pink and polk-dotted pjs and giggling and cuddling with my friends, I felt surrounded by love. So much so that this morning, while they are still sleeping and I am drinking coffee and thinking about our day, I still feel it. I want to grab onto that feeling with both fists and not ever let it go. I pray that some months from now, when the world changes, it will still be with me.