After I wrote that post on Vulnerability last week, I had lunch with my friend Doug. He was the person I mentioned in the post as the friend who’d asked about the blog and then not responded when I shared it with him. Turns out that he’d both read and liked the writing very much but just had forgotten to respond. Doug, his wife and I had a good laugh about that. Fortunately I’d written another post about him on my personal blog that we could also talk about.
Doug is planning a climb of Mt. Adams with his son this summer. It’s a 12,280 foot mountain in Washington State – tall enough to be a challenge but not technical enough to need a lot of equipment and training. The last time we summitted this mountain was with his daughter about 10 years ago when she was 14 years old.
Doug asked if I remembered what packs we carried between our camp at about 9,000 feet and the summit. He is a meticulous packer and doesn’t carry anything more on his back than necessary.
I have a long history with backpacks – picking them out, carrying them, feeling relieved to take them off. At one point when I was in my thirties and planning a lot of climbing trips, I got one that was almost 6000 cubic inches. I can’t even describe how large that is but suffice it to say that when you have a backpack that big, your friends start believing you have room to carry their stuff.
Which is what happened when we were planning a climb on Mt. Rainier that would take place over Doug’s birthday. His wife asked me if I would carry some brownies up to celebrate Doug’s birthday. It was only after I happily agreed that she told me that Doug said he wouldn’t carry them because he didn’t want that unnecessary weight in his pack.
It is probably all this carrying of loads that makes one of my favorite meditations the one where I imagine I sit down, empty everything out of my pack, look carefully at each thing I’m carrying. When I’m done sorting through the worries, the presumptions, and fears as well as the love, the purpose, the nostalgia, the energy stored for digging deep, I mentally load the pack again with only what I need. I always carry a lighter load after that meditation.
But in thinking about those brownies, I realize that friendship means we are willing to carry things for other people that they won’t carry for themselves.
We hold in our packs a version of our friends at their brightest and most creative that can be shown to them when they are in a slump. We carry memories of the times we laughed, did silly things, failed and succeeded. We store all the depth of the ways we have walked side by side on the path as well as the times we waited at an intersection while they took a detour and vice versa.
Then at just the right moment, we unpack the brownies we’ve carried so far and celebrate our friends. There are some things worth the extra weight and friendship is one of them.
Featured photo is my own.
This post is an updated version of a post originally published on my personal blog.
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