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(detail) c. Susan Sorrell Hill

(detail) c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Our friend John died today.

We had known him for thirty-five years and a lot had happened to all of us during that time. John was a presence, a self-made man in the best tradition, a force to be reckoned with. He accomplished and adventured much in his span of sixty years.

John was: lightness and darkness, sweetness and sometimes less so, massive self-confidence and sometimes a little wiggly, independent and sometimes lonely. He was boundless energy personified and sometimes he was nailed to the floor. John was determined to make things happen and sometimes unable to let things happen naturally. He was adventurous and brave and yet there were some places he probably just could not go. John inspired great love, and occasionally the opposite.

In a word…John was human, just like me.

In his last days of consciousness, all of his light and sweetness were very much in evidence, and all of the less-so’s of the human nature had been surrendered. It was a good death, with time for closure with his family and many friends. He was seen and appreciated in abundance for his essential qualities, and I think that had always been his secret goal, perhaps even unknown to him. Perhaps that is all of our secret goals as we machinate through life trying to prove ourselves…?

Watching it all unfold over the course of a month taught me something important. I saw clearly that the light, soul-centered side of one’s nature is always there in the background, sometimes in evidence and sometimes well-disguised. But in the end, the side of Light is the only presence that holds sway. It is the essence of who we each are, and the only part that continues to live on, somehow and somewhere. Watching John go through his dying taught me that each of our essences, the spirit of wholeness and loving peace, is always available, just underneath all that stuff we humans tend to ‘lead’ with in this life. We never lose it, and we return to it at the last, even if we’ve been a bit estranged for quite some time.

Thanks for that lesson, John. I will endeavor to deserve it and practice letting my own light shine more often. Godspeed on your next adventure.

“A New Life”      (watercolor, pen & ink)       

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is sneaky.

Friendship is such a sneaky thing. One minute you are minding your own business…and the next moment you find yourself borrowing sugar or lending ladders, babysitting each other’s kids, and sharing joys and griefs with someone who was a complete stranger only a year ago. But now they are part of your life’s underpinnings…part of the sweetness of life.

Friendships can be seeded by any circumstance: sharing the same grouchy clerk in the market line, the same flood or hurricane experience, the same job, class, world view or ex-boyfriend. Friendships are not predictable or made-on-demand. And like their more intense cousin, Love, they are subject to the laws of ebb and flow. They are subject to change, and therefore call up the highest, most demanding lesson on life’s journey: surrender.

Like all other Surrender lessons, friendships (and love) challenge us to welcome the new when it arrives, stay open for the duration, and gracefully release the old when its time has come. Sometimes the letting go must happen almost immediately, sometimes it will be required only after a lifetime of connection. The time frame and circumstances will vary, but Change will always find us.

Hopefully, it will find us non-resistant.

Isn’t it interesting how The Mystery has built this great need for love and friendship into our very hearts…which, in turn, requires the stretching of those same tender parts?

Two of my favorite quotes about friendship and relationship…

“Shouldn’t relationships come with an expiration date…so that we know when they’re going to go bad?” (Unknown)

“Where do they go, the friends who sail into our lives like green leaves…and disappear like snow?” (Rod McKuen, American singer-songwriter and poet)

“Encounter” (watercolor, gouache, pencil, colored pencil)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

I heard this morning that a dear friend had died…

Paul was a passionate scientist, active outdoorsman, open-minded philosopher and deeply spiritual man—a rare combination, in my experience. While he lived in my town, I saw him often: at the cafe where I worked, out for brisk walks through our tiny foothills town, reading his daily paper at the ancient library. We took a few mountain hiking and camping trips together, shared some excellent trout and pancakes, and once, on the back of his BMW, I was treated to his surprising enthusiasm for the sharp, fast curves on a motorcycle trip to a tiny cafe two hours away for a piece of “the world’s best pie.” Even then, he never let his ‘advancing years’ slow him down. When he moved to Alaska to be part of a spiritual community, and later on to Eugene for a scientific collaboration, it was harder for both of us to stay in touch. We were both very good at expressing our appreciation and love for each other in person, but our very busy lives usually superseded the demonstration of our friendship. Nevertheless, when we did connect, it was always as if no time or distance at all had passed. A special friend indeed. In his presence, I felt more ‘heard’ and respected than I think I had ever felt up to that point. And I noticed that it was not just me that he had this effect on… Perhaps his was the demonstration of what would these days be called ‘totally Present.’ In retrospect, I am realizing what a powerful gift it was.

His passing reminds me that friendships… and indeed all relationships… are not just a way to pass time, to keep out the dark or the loneliness. Friendships are an opportunity to witness the life of a fellow traveler, to affirm to each other the infinite value of our existence, replete with both struggle and triumph. They are most especially ‘food for the Soul’ when we ourselves fall prey to doubt and fear. Friendship is one of the opportunities to be fully Present with life, in all of its manifestations… now, before the moment has passed.

To my friend Paul… who gave the gift of his presence.

“In the hollows of quiet places, we will meet again. The quiet places where there is neither moon nor sun, but only the light of amber and pale gold from the hills of the heart. ”        Celtic blessing, Fiona MacLeod (William Sharp 1855–1905)

“Lisbeth’s Angel” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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