Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What is it about one's "old" friends that makes them so special? I guess it's the long shared history, but it's that ability to walk into the room and pick up right where we left off that makes the relationship so special.

We just spent four days with Elizabeth and her husband in Naples, Florida. Altho we had only seen them a few nights over the past few years, it was like a continuation of our last visit nearly four years ago and for the two of us it was a continuation of a friendship of 45 years. We have been friends since college - rooming together from time to time and staying in touch all those years by mail, phone, email and cell. I never thought of "us" in terms of modes of communication before, but our first summers were spent in letter-writing - certainly not the expense of calling long distance!

Naples is a lovely city. One can see how the early Italian settlers thought it resembled their city of Napoli, and modern builders have done all they can to enhance that look. Mediterranean buildings predominate in all the new development, and even many of the older structures are painted a light terra cotta or the pastels that we all consider Floridian.

It's a lovely place in other ways, too, with little ponds and pools everywhere and the wonderful variety of palms and plants that grow in delightful profusion. When it sun is shining it's the kind of light that sparkles and makes everything glow - not Virginia light at all! Altho we were there in the coldest, most winter month there were still plenty of lovely plants to see. I'll post photos from the botanical garden at It's My Garden in the next couple of days.

We had time enough to start exploring the area this trip, with a visit to the county museum as well as the botanical garden. The museum is a charming little space on the grounds of the county administrative center. They have collected historical structures from various cultures and time periods and brought them together into an historical village surrounded by small ponds and shaded walks. There's an early train engine and a very well done exhibit on the history of Collier County, Florida. The most interesting exhibit, tho, is about the Big Cypress Swamp - which is next to (and perhaps considered by many to be part of) the Everglades. If you check a map, you will see that about half of Collier County is Everglades and Big Cypress, so they play a huge role in the decision-making and life of that county. The exhibit contains both photos and a great video of the swamp. It explains the unique ecological system found there and its role in keeping many plants and animals alive in our world. Made me want to take a walk (slog?) in the swamp!

The highlight of our trip - eventwise - was a concert in the downtown park by the Naples Concert Band. Elizabeth's husband is an accomplished drummer, who not only played, but also gave me my first drum lesson - theory, not practice!

The true highlight was, of course, spending time with my old friend - catching up on her family and seeing her new home, but touching base on all those things that women do. Asking the hard questions about health or plans for the future, relearning how tough the band is that unites us, and knowing that we will do this again. But until we do, being sure that our hearts will lie close together ... even at at distance.

Now, off to Orlando for a conference. More tomorrow.

Technical note: Cannot get photos to upload properly this morning. It may be a weak wireless connection or just the technology gods are unhappy with me this morning. So, no pretty buildings or palms today. Maybe tomorrow.

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