Savoring the togetherness.

Deer on a coastal rock.

I hope you have people to love, and those who love you. Every conversation with a neighbor or hug from a grandchild feels more precious to me as the days go by; before November winds all the way down I want to share a few scenes and moments that have been to me infusions of grace and joy in the midst of “interesting times” in the world.

It was almost a month ago that my neighbor Kim had a dinner party for several couples and one widow (yours truly) on our block. It was a very restorative and healing time, I think for all of us. Several of these people I had hardly seen for two years, though they live just a few doors down. Half of them had known my late husband.

After we were seated around a long dining table, our host gave a surprising toast to “The first of many more post-covid neighborhood parties!” All cups were raised, and the general tone of the ensuing comments, and the whole evening, was of holding on to our humanity and neighborliness as much as possible, no matter what comes. No one went home early that night; we sat around the gas firepit, or stood in the kitchen, chatting and sipping and savoring the togetherness, acting out the toast for a few blessed hours.

Closer to Thanksgiving, I returned to the beach with a former housemate who accompanied me three years ago just before she moved to New York. Our time there was refreshing and sweet; instead of the scores of seals we’d seen that time, gulls by the hundreds were swooping and gliding back and forth where a river empties into the sea.

We watched them, and the waves, while sitting on a log. When it was time to go, we climbed up a sand dune and tromped back to the parking lot, weaving through clumps of grass in our bare feet.

A few days later, who should arrive but my dear daughter Pippin and her family. They came in stages; when only three of them had got here, we went for a walk in the hills. It was the first time I’d been with Pippin in that particular park since the day Jamie was born, lo these many years ago, the  day after my husband’s funeral. So Jamie had been along, too, and maybe the jostling of that walk in springtime had prompted him to start his journey into the outer world.

This day, he was climbing trees with Ivy. First they climbed a Valley Oak, then a Buckeye (horse chestnut), and finally a Bay (Laurel) tree. Pippin joined them up in the bay.

We noticed many little trees and shrubs that were fenced in by wire cylinders, presumably against nibbling by deer. From a sign, here is a list of species that have been planted in the last ten years:

Later we worked on pies for our feast, and the children had the idea of making gluten-free pie-crust cookies for Uncle Steve, for whose sake Pippin was making such a dough for a pumpkin pie. I assembled the fourth version of my famous Grapefruit Gelatin Salad, which after ten years I am still refining to accommodate the changing ingredients available in the stores, and the loss of my favorite, odd-sized dish I always used for it. I’ll pass the recipe along when I fix it so that it fits in one 9×12 pan.

Our long weekend was very full, starting with Divine Liturgy on Thanksgiving morning, and including two (food) feasts, the little hike; and a busy afternoon, when Pippin and the Professor helped me to sort through old camping equipment, put hardware cloth over my planter boxes where the birds have been pecking, and hang fairy lights in the living room.

This little report covers only a small fraction of the loving friends and family who have made me feel the solace of God and the blessedness of the world. I reconnected with old friends and drank tea with many others. It has been a good month in important ways. May God keep our hearts during the next one and bring us with joy to the Feast of the Nativity of Christ.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” I John 4

8 thoughts on “Savoring the togetherness.

  1. This post has given me a warm feeling. Your introduction, “I hope you have people to love, and those who love you” is a blessing in disguise. Thank goodness for the people we love and who love us in return – be they friends or family! I don’t know how we would have managed through the past two years without them. Visions of your gatherings with neighbours and families, of baking special things and simply communicating with each other face-to-face conjure up a kind of ‘normal reality’ we are still exploring. Peace and joy be with you.

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  2. We savor these moments, large and small, that seem so much bigger, more meaningful, in these recent days. They are to be treasured, held in our hearts. Reuniting with friends, family, appreciating the things we may have — if not taken for granted — at least not fully or deeply as considered in years past. This is a beautiful post. I’m so glad you saw your friends after so long. So deeply needed.

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  3. We are all making more of an effort to love your neighbors this year, I think. The dinner party sounds nice! That trees are pretty with the bright blue sky behind.

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    1. I don’t really know what he meant… but I assumed he was referring to a whole scenario of events that kept us from having such a dinner before. Which also is probably not “over.” But we behaved as though it is, and did not debate the issues.

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  4. The older I get the more I appreciate those infusions of grace and joy.
    The dinner party must have been lovely after the long time without proper get-togethers.
    So nice that you had a Thanksgiving weekend surrounded by loved ones.

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  5. Beautiful post. You capture what we all want in the depth of our souls: to be received, to be heard, and to be loved, as well as to love, hear, and be fully present with another. So glad it has been a good month for you. ❤

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  6. This was post was such an enjoyable read, Gretchen. Thank you. Your description of your neighborhood dinner warmed my heart to its core. How I miss intimate dinners in our homes with friends like that. We did SO many of them, the year before Covid. I long to do that again. How important it is to remind ourselves of our humanity, of our love and resilience. And your time with family sounds perfect. I do want to read that gelatin recipe. It sounds interesting!

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