on rivers and losing friends

Oil on canvas, February 2009.

Losing a friend is difficult.   But sometimes an old friendship needs to be reviewed against the very same guidelines that created it.

I’ve found comfort and company in thinking of a relationship as a river.  It flows as two people flow, and gains strength as these two people share themselves with each other and begin to merge.    Imagine what happens when this river gets reigned in by a dam… It will hate that dam, and with all its might, try to break it down, find a way around it, over it, under it— any way to get through and flow like an invincible river again.

The dam can be anything that halts the friendship: a deep disagreement, harsh judgment, loss of trust.  With effort and love, though, even the biggest dams of this type can be torn down and order in the friendship restored.

Sometimes, a special halt happens in a relationship that no amount of effort can put right.   There’s nothing specific to resolve, nothing that needs a return, or a re-take.   The dam is there because it is part of us– we are both the river and the dam.   It becomes deeply frustrating, and also hurtful to be in this situation because ultimately we are fighting against ourselves.   We can keep on insisting on returning to our natural course as friends–or we can recognize that the dam is not meant to be overcome.  We are not meant to be anything but ourselves.

There is good news though:  the river never stops flowing.   Even in this state that now seems unnatural and stifling, the river is actually flowing just as invincibly, if not more so.  It is gathering speed, generating power.  Power for what, who knows…? But wherever it ends up, it will always be that river…

Friends come and go, and for those that go, we weep and reminisce.  But we must also remember to see goodbyes as gifts, and be thankful, and let them push us to where we’re supposed to go.

The goal of the river is to create a wide, flat valley where it can flow smoothly towards the ocean.