Giving and receiving: a celebration of friendship
I am starting to blog again after a month’s absence. I needed time off from everything to recharge. It has been a very intense six months starting with the occupation of Jewish women of the Israeli consulate to protest the assault on Gaza , going through the launch and tour of Transforming Power , and ending with the launch of Fierce Light, my friend Velcrow Ripper’s new film, in which I play a small part. By the time it was all over, not counting my work at Ryerson, the solidarity with the Tamil and three presentations at the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, I was exhausted and recovering from a torn ligament in my knee and pneumonia. I just needed to stop.
My old and dear friends Sue Colley and Gordon Cleveland invited me to join them in the Piedmont region of Italy in the Alps to stay at a home exchange they had there. Sue and Gord had been on the road since January so it was a great chance to catch up and to rest in a totally different environment. Tanquility, fresh air and sunshine, beautiful scenery, wonderful wine, food and friendship. We’ve been friends so long and I often visit their cottage so we’ve learned to be easy together, give each other space and enjoy each other’s company too. Great friends, family really.
When I got home, I spent a week at the cottage of some other friends, then went to Ottawa with Velcrow for the launch of Fierce Light there. I met Velcrow at Media that Matters when I was starting to think about my next book project. As he is very into spirituality, he seemed like the last person I would connect with there but in the magic of human relationships we did connect and became fast friends. In French the world is “grands ami,” we don’t really have an expression in English except BFF (best friends forever) that kids use. That’s us.
At the end of his exhausting film launch and tour , Velcrow broke his arm. In typical stoic fashion he simply carried on but then he found out the break was worse than he thought and he needed surgery. The following week, he had the surgery and it was rough. I’ll let him tell that story. My story is that I insisted on helping him. I pushed him to stay at my house at least the night of the surgery. He thought he could return to his home on Toronto Island. I convinced him by pointing out that with general anaesthetic anything could happen and I live next to a hospital. The night before the surgery he agreed. Velcrow is a wonderful, supportive friend. He is always there when I need him and sometimes even before I know I need him. But like a lot of people who are successful in the world, he doesn’t like feeling limited in any way or that he needs help.
As for me, I am not that great at being a helper. I am generous and kind person but nurturing is not my strong point. I’m awkward at it and when I saw Velcrow coming out of the hospital in a wheel chair and shaking his head to tell me how terrible he felt, I thought my heart would break. He is such a free and positive spirit in the world and in my life and now he was in pain, drugged up and weak. Mobilizing myself to support him was stressful but I know that being able to there for a friend in need is really what friendship is all about. And for him, I think, trusting me to help without smothering him or making him feel he’d lost agency was also important.
He stayed at my house for two days. I had to go to Orillia the next day for a reading but he stayed and slept most of the time. Then, on Saturday I went with him to his home through the downpour and on the boat and into his magnificent island house overlooking the city. We shared a glass of wine and then he went to sleep and I went back to the boat. On the way home a very good jazz band called Club Django spontaneously unpacked their instruments and played a couple of lively, happy jazz pieces and it felt like magic, maybe like a celebration of friendship, which during this time of rest from work has deepened so much .