“Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.” — Marge PiercyI think a lot about how to love people. What does love look like? How can I best love people, acknowledging their dignity and difference from me? How can I extend that kind, empowering love to my own self?
When I think of treating people with respect and love, no strings attached, I think of my friend R.
R. is abnormally gifted at loving people even when they don’t give her what she wants, when they are demanding or boring, when they don’t make sense or are lazy. She offers friends a love that makes me think of oatmeal (the kind with cinnamon and honey). It’s nourishing and substantive. It’s not particularly fancy — it is homey, warm and full of good humor. She doesn’t have any complicated requirements about how you have to act in order to deserve it, either. There’s no oatmeal-exchange agreement you have to sign, no proof that you’ll return this love in kind. Her friendship is welcoming. I learn, slowly, how to take part in this warm and bracing exchange.
In the winter in New England, we're forced to move a little bit more slowly. There's ice, and weather that resists your efforts to be out and about. The time we spend inside with warm food is sacred. Warm oatmeal turns into an event, a ritual, a joy. When it's bitterly cold outside, when the wind is blowing every well-defined thought out of my head, I'm thankful for R, who offers me a space of peace, acceptance and warmth.