This is another in a series of backstories to fill in details for the posts you will read as I travel the West with Ruby next month.
I wasn’t raised in the desert so I’ve been surprised at how verdant southern Idaho can be when irrigated. We can go from want to plenty in a New York Minute and typically do. The land seems to understand that its next drink may come tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. Or months from now. But it waits expectantly anyway. Water will come.
My friendship with Anne has been like that.
It’s said that if you are lucky, you get a few true friends in life. I’ve not always been a good friend, but I have one. Anne. All the things people say about best friends are true of Anne. She gets me, accepts me the way I am. I can tell her anything and she doesn’t judge. She’s safe. She’s constant. I don’t have a biological sister, but Anne’s a sister for sure.
She lives hundreds of miles away and aside from Facebook we don’t talk frequently. But when we’re together it’s as if no time has passed. Our intermittently-dormant friendship springs forth like the vegetation in a watered desert.
Next month, Anne’s will be the final stop I make before returning to Idaho. A drought-of-sorts will be broken. Our splendid friendship will flourish.
Our friendship began and has ebbed and flowed over the last 30 years. Through horses and husbands, kids, moves, cancer and cancer scares, divorces, heartaches and joy, we’ve hung on.
Horses brought us together. We met in the 80s when the Professor and I went to a Mariposa Mountain Riders’ Cow Camp near Yosemite. Anne and her sister in law, Linda, came over from Carmel Valley. We clicked.
A few weeks later the Professor and I went over for Carmel Valley’s annual Ranchers’ Day. Anne was single at the time, but the Professor and Linda’s husband John became fast friends who rode, fished, hiked, skiied, and went to ball games together just to be together.
We enjoyed each other so much that I decided Anne needed to move closer and began matchmaking. After a pack trip in the Emigrant Wilderness with our vet, our shoer, and their good-looking single friend, Krieg, Anne finally had the motivation she needed to move closer. Naively, I didn’t realize that meeting Krieg would change us.
That year, on our annual skiing trip to Northstar with John, Linda, Anne, and Krieg, a minister knocked on the door one night. They were married without so much as a heads up, and off they went on a honeymoon.
I was hurt. Not because she married – I loved Krieg – but because she hadn’t told me. They thought it was a great surprise. It felt like betrayal.
So I did what people who have attachment issues do: I distanced myself in the face of what I perceived as Anne’s rejection. I couldn’t see that Anne was adding to her life, not subtracting me, but because neither of us was willing to talk about it for fear of what we might say we turned away. Our lives went on, holes in our hearts.
I don’t remember how long we were estranged, but when I heard they had a baby girl (I was then pregnant myself), I called Anne at the hospital. Surprisingly, she didn’t hang up. She was as happy to talk to me as I was to her. Kristin’s birth somehow brought healing. A long drought was over.
From then on, we did everything together. Costco, once a week, Tiny Tumblers, Christmas Eves and birthdays, horseback riding lessons, and vacations to the beach, the Delta, and the mountains. Only after we both went back to work full time several years later and the girls were enrolled in separate schools did we slow down.
Anne and Krieg’s divorce, when it came some years later, was devastating to all of us – them included. We were a six-some and didn’t quite know how to function as five. Because Anne was our friend and family, Krieg became an outsider. To this day, I’ve not talked to him. I miss him still.
Anne adjusted to being a single mom and then eventually remarried. Our bond loosened. We got together on Christmas Eve still, but it was different. Her new husband was nice, but he wasn’t Krieg. By the time Anne told me she had breast cancer a few years later, we had moved to another county. I was consumed with my job and wasn’t there for her like I could have been.
In 2011 I moved to Idaho to take a new job without telling her. When she gave me a “what the heck?” lecture, it made me sad. How were we so disconnected? Largely through inattention and neglect – on my part – another typical attachment issue coping mechanism.
I wondered from time to time about her. Did she have new friends? I had lots of acquaintances, but no one like Anne. I missed her as much as I missed the idea of her. I was lonely.
One night in my melancholy, I thought, I’ll probably never have another friend in my life like Anne. I was resigned to the distance between us and sure our friendship had passed.
But within a day or two, again miraculously we reconnected and the drought ended. We picked up right where we left off.
Anne came to Idaho for a visit (I tried to talk her into moving here, but was unsuccessful). We went riding with my colleagues to check out a water development and then to Yellowstone for a whirlwind visit. No arguments, lots of fun. It was like no time had passed. Our friendship is deep and true: every bit as dependable as Old Faithful.
After a recent frightening wildfire in the foothills of Mariposa County, Anne sold the home she built with Krieg (and her horse) and moved to the Sierra Nevada community of Graeagle.
From posts on Facebook, she’s very happy even without her horses. She hikes a lot and in the place of horses, has taken up kayaking on mountain lakes. That’s where I’ll find her next month just after her birthday.
Of all the relationships in my life, Anne’s earned a place up there with family and a scant handful of others. Our friendship is a kind of home of sorts.
And here’s the thing. This girl has given Anne plenty of reasons to close the door, but she keeps it open. She loves and accepts me like my birth mom does, like precious few do.
Ours is a splendid and enduring friendship. It can lie dormant for years and become verdant just like the southern Idaho desert. All it takes is water.
Our visit is long overdue. I can’t wait to see Anne.