Today I celebrated the day my new friend, John Thorpe, came down on planet earth. I believe in making a big deal of their very important day, if possible. When you think that there are currently 7.5 billion on the planet, the folks you decide to share the times of your life with are indeed special. But I also believe, as Paul Cohello said, “Important encounters are planned by the soul before the bodies meet each other.”
John Thorpe became important to me as soon as we met, which weirdly was only a few weeks ago. I immediately liked him as a person- no bullshit, kind heart, funny as hell, outgoing, and not afraid to bear his fears and doubts with a person he seemed to have just met. So when his birthday came around and he told me he had NO plans, I thought I should create some. Hiking at Rickett’s Glen State Park, one of my favorite places to hike, with its beautiful glen of old growth hemlocks and waterfalls, fit the bill.
John recently shared with me that he has been in terrible pain and experienced great loss and loneliness since his beloved dog, George died. For twelve years, George and John were basically inseparable. Now that he has passed, John has fallen into a funk, not caring about daily walks, or even making himself go outdoors, for George had been his motivator. I quickly began to see that getting John out into nature again as one of my jobs as his friend- something that is easy for me as I go there myself on a daily basis. I also discovered a way that I might help alleviate some of his heart pain- make a little painting of his puppy dog that he could look at always.
John cried for a good five minutes when he opened up his present and saw the image of his beloved George. This, I decided, was one of the reasons I loved this human as soon as we met. He is not afraid to show his soul and that is rare for a man. (He also admitted that he could not remember the last time anyone graced him with a birthday present).
John is also not afraid to stop and pray (to God and the Great Spirit) when he sees beauty and he is moved. Like I do with my friend, Annie Kraft, John and I stopped in Ricketts Glen multiple times when we were emotionally moved by gorgeous nature- sunlight on the water, ice sculptures on the rocks, the sound of singing water over rapids, and bowed and gave thanks. You can’t walk with just anybody and feel comfortable sharing that. These are my special friends. Annie Dillard said, “There is so much beauty out there in the natural world. The least we can do is show up for it.” The people that I chose to be with when the beauty shows up are the most special in my life, and the ones who feel free enough to acknowledge it with me are even more special.
John told me today that our time for being in one another’s company is coming to a quick end. He is moving back to Lake Tahoe at the end of December, after being in the Jim Thorpe area for a year and a half. (John’s grandfather). I felt a bit disappointed that we hadn’t met a year ago. With only a handful of times together in the past weeks and only a handful of times in the coming weeks ahead, that’s not a lot. But strangely, I feel fine with the loss, for as my Chinese cookie fortune told me yesterday, “An unexpected relationship will become permanent.” We will remain friends for a long time, we believe.
John and I have marveled at the strangeness of how our lives collided, how quickly we connected and wondered what purpose we were supposed to serve in each other’s lives; but after John’s birthday, I think it’s becoming clear, at least for me. I think I was supposed to stand in for George and help his best friend and owner heal from his loss, help remind him that he needs to go out into nature and walk- for his own peace, and to help him celebrate the fact that he was greatly blessed to have known George at all.
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