Ticks and Friendship. I have a special friend in my life. A mentor, actually. She is forty years older than I am, but the first conversation we shared on a walk one day proved that age is no barrier for a true anam cara, or "soul friend". According to John O'Donohue, in his book Anam Cara, a soul friend is "a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life . . . You [are] joined in an ancient and eternal way." My soul friend mirrors me in many ways. For one, the mirror reflects back to her younger years, when she shared with me struggles of those days regarding issues that I am currently facing. And the mirror also shows a common thread even today, as we both share a love of writing and hiking and collecting treasures of nature. Recently, we shared a very intimate and humbling morning together, and I wondered if it had become too close for comfort. You see, it all started with a longing to transplant some wildflowers . . .
I love spring wildflowers, and so does my friend. She told me her daughter lives in the woods and has a steep hill possibly loaded with flowers we could transplant. We didn't know what we would find, but it sounded like an adventure perfect for us. She met me at our local park, and we headed to her daughter's house, with boxes, plastic tubs, gloves, and shovels in hand. When we got there, I noticed the hill was very steep and wondered how we would carry the filled tubs and boxes back up. I was about to mention that we stay close to the house and not go too far down the hill, but I didn't want to spoil the excitement in her eyes. So we started down the hill and found some dwarf irises. Perfect! Until my friend, in her excitement, tripped over a root, fell, and went rolling down the hill a bit. She hurt her knee, so she stayed on the ground for a while . . . just long enough for ticks to start crawling on her pants. Yuck! I figured we had better stop while we were ahead, take our iris prize, and call it a day. But she insisted we continue down the wooded hill. And we did, and we dug up more plants, and by then we were literally infested with ticks all over our pant legs. Yuck again! I booked it up the hill in less than a minute, only to realize that she could not move that quickly, and we had supplies to carry up. All I kept thinking of was Lyme disease and how quickly I could get the ticks off of me. But I had to help her, so I did. But like a true friend, she instructed me to get inside the house and shower while she gathered the rest of the things. But first, she insisted, I had to completely strip all my clothes off on the side porch, wrap myself in a black trash bag, and then I could go inside. What? Are you kidding me? Naked, outside? Yep. That was the way it had to happen so ticks were not brought inside. And I listened. And I showered. And then, in a very serious tone, she asked me to scan her bare body for ticks. And she did the favor in return for me. So there we were. Two women forty years apart, standing in front of a full-wall mirror, helping one another remove ticks but also realizing the passage of time on a body from your 30s to your 70s. Pretty empowering, for both of us, if you ask me. I know so much about this lady on a soul level. And now, well, lets say there's not much left we don't know about each other. After we were tick-free, I put on her granddaughter's too-tight-for-me clothes and shoes. And sans makeup I got in her car and she drove me to mine. I left all my tainted clothes and shoes behind in the trash bag. I told her she could put them in her daughter's trash can. I wanted nothing to do with them. I also declined the offer to take some plants home, for fear of bringing more ticks home to my garden. It all felt contaminated to me. The whole day did, actually. Until two days later . . .
My friend called me and said that she had washed all my clothes and shoes. She also said that she had set the plants in her garden to rid them of any ticks, and she had them all ready to give me. She had also gone back to her daughter's yard and collected anything we had left there in our frantic mode. All in all she had taken care of me. She let me shower first; she washed my tick-infested clothes; she aired out the plants she knew I wanted and had all of them waiting for me. Obviously I saw this day as a disaster and wanted to erase all signs that it had ever been, whereas she accepted the moment, thought calmly what needed to be done, saved my clothing, and still retained the true meaning of the day: gathering plants. The plants she saved for me were all delicate, spring beauties, and a few moss rocks (my favorite!). But her lesson in following through, looking out for another, and keeping the goal in sight amazed me. A true anam cara!