Hayride

EOS 10D CMOS RAW IMAGE

While the boss was in the mercantile, these good buddies partnered up for a deserved break on a long summer day.

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Among Friends

I was at Target last week, waiting in the car while my wife picked up a few necessities. Parking lots are great places for watching people go about their business, and shortly after I’d pulled in a shiny Cooper took a space near mine. A trio of teenaged girls exited as one and headed briskly towards the store’s entrance, synchronized in stride and focused like Hollywood zombies on the phones in their hands. Texting, I’m sure, since they held them in that now-familiar position, like a sort of detecting device—the modern day divining rod.

After they’d disappeared into the store I thought how ill-prepared youth—and that includes young people of any era—are for recognizing the aging process in themselves. It’s apparently easy to spot in others, but up to about age twenty-five no one uses a mirror that tells them the plain truth. It’s around that birthday when many first notice a quarter-century is gone. Suddenly, perspective. It feels somewhat like a magic trick—you think you know how it’s done, but discover you’ve no clue. Aren’t even close. And you feel a little cheated and, belatedly, mortal.

If time were an athlete it would be a world-class sprinter. How else to explain the sudden and unexpected arrival of the half-century mark? (At this point your children may be reaching twenty-five themselves—misery does indeed love company.) If you’ve been lucky or favored by genetics you’ve still got hair and a sense of humor. It’s not easy to keep either. Most everyone tries, in small ways, to delay this process, and like someone trying to catch bubbles in a breeze and put them into a jar, fails.

I’ve only found one thing that offers relief from aging—friends. Old or new, short- or long-term, friends are like a psychological face cream, making one feel young on the inside, where the worst wrinkles occur. Quantity isn’t a requisite, either—one or two can last a lifetime. It’s been estimated that we meet 40,000 people during our lives, so the odds are good we’ll latch onto one or two along the way.

And those are just two-legged friends. I’ve been surrounded by the four-legged variety better than half my life—a lively parade of cats, German Shepherds, and horses—and they’ve filled me with a warm affection that can only be experienced.

As I watched a herd of horses grazing last week their equine friendship was evident, subtle whinnies and knickers given and answered as they maneuvered to new positions, heads down because the grass over there is always the greenest. If I can put words to it, they seemed comfortable with the others’ presence. Grateful might be too strong a word, but why not?

Good friends are like that.