Joan told me I had a certain energy during my yoga flow that she really admired. I thanked her and probably blushed because she is the sort of woman I’d like to be someday. We practiced yoga in the same studio when I was living in Idaho. I could never tell how old she was. She wore her age like an accessory. Her grey hair was always in a long braid, her arms thin, yet strong, her lips drawn in a smile, little wrinkles tied around the edges and near her eyes. She was always in the room before me, and there after I left no matter how long I tried to meditate for. On this particular day I’d decided to wait her out, sheer curiosity of how long she might stay in that hot room. I bowed my head because it felt like the right thing to do, and she hers and then she left. And this was the start of our friendship.
Over the winter we’d exchange the same sort of words now and then, sometimes just a look or a smile. Joan wore a wooden beaded necklace she laid at the top of her yoga mat at the start of class, loose pants and a long sleeved shirt, no matter how hot it was. She moved slowly, her own breath setting a pace none of us could ever truly match.
In January, I’d been practicing inversions, and stayed after class. When I was leaving that day she stopped me and said, “It’s when you stop really trying that it will work for you. There’s work in the foundation to be done.” Perhaps because I was exhausted or because I knew she was right, I started laughing. I didn’t mean to be rude I just couldn’t help it. And thankfully, she laughed too. And then she said, “You’re too thin. Let me buy you lunch.” And the two of us walked down the street to the Co-op and ate at the hot bar and drank kombucha and started what is still to this day one of my most cherished friendships.
For the next year and a half while I still lived in that little neighborhood in Idaho and frequented my favorite little yoga studio, Joan and I would walk after class every Thursday afternoon for lunch and a chat. When the winter cleared and spring came we sat in the gazebo, and when winter came again, we moved into the warm window seats. This eventual rhythm became something I relied on, her stories something I loved, and her advice something I needed.
Joan had traveled through Europe when she was my age. She’s lived in San Francisco and partied with poets, she’s been married twice, she lost her son, made a lot of money, and then invested it all. She had been living quietly and comfortably in the north end of Boise, Idaho for the last twenty years. She was sixty-two and read everything Bukowski ever wrote, so naturally I admired her. But beyond this, there were little pieces I learned, little things I take with me and carry around now as I travel the world and move through my own life. A kind of grace and patience and peace that I try to channel every day.
These things include but are not limited to – time passes and it speeds up as we get older, you will rarely ever travel to the same place twice so you should eat everything you can, men are more sensitive than we imagine, great love comes in seasons and usually hurts, forgive, write things down because you will forget, eat the brownie, go to the party, write the story, say yes. Sometimes she would stop herself and put a thin hand over her mouth and laugh about how “Yoda” she sounded, but then would follow it with a clear sounding, “But I’ve earned it.”
In sitting down to write this I was wondering whether I could have gathered this particular fondness or growth from any kind of friendship. And perhaps I could have, but I doubt it. There is something about the years she had on me, the perspective, the assurance that everything (even the bad things) will roll on and unravel as they’re meant to. There was a certain kind of calm to her that infused those months of my life. And when I find myself now pressed between a rock and a hard place, it’s her I call on, sometimes in my mind and sometimes quite literally on the phone.
Friendship doesn’t have to be between two people in the same stage of life. Sometimes we can learn the most from our vinas who’ve lived a little bit more life than us. Have you ever made a friend twice your age?
(Feature image via Atelier)