Friday, March 12, 2010

March 12: Birches

While I have a birch tree or two in my backyard, this entry was not inspired by any birch I've seen today. Today is my friend Shannon's birthday. (Happy birthday, Shan!) We've known each other since high school, and in thinking about her today, I was reminded of some of the antics we shared more than 25 years ago. We would cruise around listening to the Grateful Dead (American Beauty) or Bob Dylan (Freewheelin' Dylan) really loud. When a song came on that we particularly liked, say, "Box of Rain," she'd enthusiastically honk the horn a few times. And when the music wasn't blasting, we'd share those deep conversations you only have as a teenager, about music and art and places we wanted to visit in the world. Shannon was daring and creative in ways that I was not; she inspired me with her rebellious independence.

We were (and are) admirers of the artist Neil Welliver, a nationally known painter who lived in Lincolnville. Shannon's parents owned a beautiful print of his that I coveted depicting the night sky over Pitcher Pond. As the next best thing, I owned a big poster of his painting Birches, which I loved because it so perfectly captured the light and beauty of the local woods. That image followed me to college and, until a few years ago, hung on my office wall. Sometimes when Shannon and I were driving around, we would come across a scene of wintry birches like that on my poster, and she would honk the horn. For my "senior gift" before high school graduation, I was given a laminated copy of the Robert Frost poem "Birches." I'm sure Shannon was behind that. We reconnected as friends years after high school, and she still possesses that same spontaneous, contagious sense of unselfconscious joy. And she still inspires me.

Friends then and friends now.
Birches make me think of you,
recall youth's freedoms.

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