Al & my Friendship-as-Garden theory

Here’s Al Abut looking through a lens:

This is not a recent photo. It’s a blurry photo I played around with this morning. I like the playfulness of it.

Adriano Santi took this photo (more or less) of Al in Seattle in 2007. I emailed Adriano and he tells me “I think Pinguino took that one actually!”, in which case thank you Ping!

16 years ago.

Al is among the people who I knew through my mailing list websandiego. I’m pretty sure I met Al originally at the San Diego Macromedia User Group. That group covered Flash, Dreamweaver, ColdFusion, Freehand and Fireworks. All those products were eaten by Adobe eventually. Just as social media ate listservs.

Al and I have kept in touch over the years off and on. Friendly, I’d say. “Small pieces loosely joined.” Positive. But proximity. And activity. These nurture relationships. In the last few months: we’ve gotten out and done stuff. Lunch or coffee. Photo taking. Nature walking. The confluence of me wanting to go in the water and ride waves, and Al wanting to practice taking action photos–that’s a complementary set of wants! And boom: HANGOUT.

It’s great to be around a person with shared culture. What’s my culture? “Web page maker.” I get along with people who make web pages. I have an endless supply of stories about making web pages and more importantly I have an endless appetite for stories about making web pages.

Al moved back to San Diego not long ago. He reached out to me. Was it on Mastodon? Or did I email him? Or was it him who emailed? Or a comment on a photo somewhere? Or E) all of the above. I’m glad of how it’s played out. We’ve reconnected. It’s been a boon.

Last week he restarted writing and posting to the web: Blog Relaunch: Getting back into the writing saddle. Today he posted Hello World: Doing a proper introduction.

I encourage you to read some of his pieces. His writing is good, and his photos are really good. And I’d be saying that even if he wasn’t a friend.

Friendship is funny. It’s so vital to us. But it can be brittle. Fragile. Loneliness and disconnection are endemic. It’s hard to expose oneself to the risks of relationships. “To love is to risk” my mother liked to remind me.

Here I’ll spout my grandiose garden metaphor about friendships. Friendship is a garden that we cultivate. It’s not a bad metaphor. Friendship as a thing which requires nurturing and care, just as a garden does. It’s subject to the weather. It changes with the season. Some friendships fit in the garden, and some don’t. Some plants require particular care and climate. And some are sturdy. Some things grow without prompting. When conditions are right, incredible and unexpected beauty and joy can emerge from a garden. So much so we can share it with others. And some years, nothing goes right, and the garden goes fallow.

Friendships are only partly under our control. Some years are bad. Too much sun. Weeds. Flood. Pests. But also Murphy’s Law applies: sometimes things just aren’t right and go wrong.

But neglect. Neglect is always catastrophic.

Last night I dreamed about a lost friendship. I screwed it up. I let that person down. In the dream I ran across a person who was a friend of many years. It was not a nightmare, but it was not pleasant. As in life, they recoiled. The opportunity to repair the connection was lost. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll get a chance for friendship repair with that person. Or one of the several people who I’ve disappointed over the years.

For today I’ll be grateful that I have better skills in the garden than I did back then. I have more integrity and constancy. If I can’t talk, I can say that. If I can’t take on a task, I can say that. It’s a good practice: accountability. Do people use the term “flaky” anymore? I am hopeful for the future: I can try, try again. Which reminds me, I’m almost done listening to Maria Bamford’s book and some of her writing on her flakiness tracks with my own experiences. People told her that her unreliability was too stressful for them to deal with.

I’m lucky to have friends. And I’m very lucky to get new chances.

two comments so far...

oh my gosh Joe, that was so touching that I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much for the kind words but more importantly, being so kind in general.

Reconnecting with you was easily one of the highlights of recent years. It was definitely over Mastodon! My 1 year anniversary is in 4 days and I hope I can do it justice with a write up.

And now you’ve got me noodling on hobbies as excuses for regular hangouts, what it takes to maintain and then deepen friendships, authentic connections on and offline… all kinds of thoughts that are too much for my uncaffeinated brain, haha, but let me just say: here’s to more adventures and conversations in 2024!

I’m not sure if this is a thing but Joe and I must have shared a dream last night.

Friendship is funny. It’s so vital to us. But it can be brittle. Fragile.

Moving around a lot I got used to having temporary friends. I’ve lost touch with a lot of people and have tried to reconnect to little success. There’s nobody to blame, we’re all different now.

I like the metaphor of friendship as a garden because it feels very true. I like gardens. I like to see stuff grow and enjoy things when they’re ready. But I’m bad at gardening. I hope I can be better.

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