Friday, September 10, 2010

"...you have caused me to look up at the stars..."

one of my favorite poems (ever) is tess gallagher's under stars. it starts and ends with a letter and the sender transfixed by the letter's destination, it's recepient, the future and the present...

on sept. 10, i (try to) dedicate a post to my best friend, andra brubaker, who passed away on this day in 1993.

i think i've mentioned before that one of the umpteen things i miss about andra are the letters i would have received from her...

i finally feel comfortable enough to share some of the "visual splendor" with you... the verbose bodies of letters themselves remind me of some of the funniest and saddest times of my youth, when i was just discovering my "voice" and "vision", etc... and i think it would be difficult to share those without giving some lengthy background about our 20-something selves... i'll save you the gorey details... ;)

when i say "visual splendor" i mean it... when andra and i became classmates in an "Art 1", we quickly became friends. her drawings and paintings were whimsical, lyrical and emotive... she was born with a talent that was encouraged by her family.... her hands flowed easily with any tool...

i had some talent but it was something i had to work at and focus on. i struggled with anything that wasn't a pencil. and i never entertained the thought of art or design as an actual career because my parents would have never accepted it - and they proved me right when i finally entertained the thought and got into art school.... thankfully, that's not the case now...

when we started college & writing the letters (in 1989!), we'd doodle on the envelopes like this one (click on thumbnails to enlarge):



or this one:



sometimes, andra would send me class notes (botany) along with her letter - two sided notebook paper + tree hugger:



the last one i'll share with you is a postcard that shows her individual approach to penmanship:



i wish i knew why it is so difficult for me to write a letter today... sometimes, i think it's because it's not as easy to buy stamps anymore... (lazy...) sometimes, i reason, i'm not even sure if the addresses i have are current... (<-- wait. that's a lie. i send 80+ holiday cards in december and i rarely get one back...) often, i let the fear of not getting a response, prevent me from making the effort... this is true of me in many areas of my life w/ re: to socializing... hence, my "loner" ness.

for someone who LOVES getting mail, i just don't act like it... admittedly, i also get really distracted with email, text, twitter, FB and (the dreaded) TV, etc... often, i'm glad for the technology that connects me so quickly to friends and family, but in some ways, they act as barriers or filters of true, honest, "warts and all" friendships too.

the four full years of andra letters that i have i treasure and cherish. i feel the weight of the different papers, the pressure of the pen on the paper... i hear the crinkle pages turning, tangled in other pages... i smell graphite, ink or the earthy scent of "stuff getting old"...

as old as the letters are, they reek of the present to me... they are the act/quality of endurance solidified.... they are the blessings of our friendship. they are andra's hand to hold in fear and in grief. they sit with me when i cannot sleep. they make me laugh... they remind me that i learned from failure... they nudge me gently to get back to the "work in progress"...

today, i realize that andra's letters are reminding me to be more thankful to have the friends i have... and i should cherish them and tell them so... often. :) i should be a better friend than i am by trying to be a friend instead of self-segregating myself from friends out of fear of rejection... that i shouldn't be afraid to accept the offer to lean on friends when i need to, when conversely, i'm never afraid to be leaned on. because i learned the hard way, as a child, that's the best way to find out who your real friends are - they're the ones who don't run away, when they see you in the harshest light.

and lastly, i'm reminded to be patient with myself and others... that it takes two people to make a real, loving friendship, as it does to write letters. that friendships like letters shouldn't be written or read in one sitting...

and in closing... because andra would never want me to stop dancing... i post a favorite song of ours for friday dance:



i miss you so much, andra. our time together was too too short. i hope to see/be with you again someday... til then, i'll address my letters to the stars...

be careful. be good. be nice.

(\__/)
(='.'=)
(")_(")

2 comments:

George said...

Thank you so much for writing about Andra each year. I had the honor of working with Andra and Erika at their church in Des Plaines while I was in seminary. They modeled for the entire congregation the kind of faith and compassion which for others were only words. One time Andra showed up to church in her T-shirt and gym shorts because, she said, "I want to be the worst-dressed person here, so no one else has to worry about what they are wearing."

Andra wrote and drew so well. Her artwork often was used as the cover for church bulletins. After I'd graduated and moved back to California we would keep in touch through those wonderful letters.

She certainly touched and through memory continues to touch many lives.

Geraly Unite-O'Day said...

george - thank you so much for stopping by to read and comment... your story about andra is well... so typical of andra. :) such a funny, great story... i love that all of our mutual friends have original "andra" stories like yours... it gives me great comfort to know that i'm not the only one who misses andra and erika. thank you again...

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails