There’s a Light Beyond These Woods…

Back at my desk after spending literally 26 of the 60 hours between the end of my worknight on Friday and the beginning of the day behind the wheel of the car…so I’m feeling as though today, I wanna break with my usual barrage of nostalgia and quirky, ironic photos to actually use social media for the purpose it was always intended:

To share intimate, borderline awkward and uncomfortable information and observations about people around you in a potentially unsettling manner.

Or, as we used to call it before the Internet – observing life.

In fact, I’m not even gonna single out the folks mentioned by name. If you know the song from the link below, or if you’re a glutton for punishment and choose to invest even MORE time in this diatribe by watching the video, then we’ll just refer to them as “Nanci” and “Mary Margaret”. (If you know me even a little, though, then figuring out whos’ who will pose about the same intellectual challenge as one of those eight piece alphabet puzzles they make for infants with chewable pieces the size of your palm.)

So let’s begin, shall we?

If you use this platform – social media – for anything other than political rants or cat videos, it can’t help but expand your world. It makes the space you inhabit a little bigger, whether you notice it or not. It strengthens threads that might grow thin over time without such a means of keeping in touch with people.

One of my least favorite things about myself is that, where friends are concerned, I’m something of an “eat what’s on your plate” person. I tend to focus on what’s presented to me by my life as I’m living it, and when my circumstances change – people tend to drift off into the sunset. It’s never about them, nor is it a reflection of my esteem for them…it’s just how things have always ended up working for me. I focus on what – and who – is in front of me at a given time. Before this cyber-social phenomena existed, there were folks I loved with all my heart that faded off into the mists of history because I lacked the basic ability to maintain long distance friendships. There were exceptions, sure…but very few.

This platform has given us a tool to make those connections easier, and I’m thankful for that. It’s put me back in touch with folks from my hometown, Navy buddies, fellow nomadic musicians who land in different cities on a regular basis…and it’s made maintaining those connections easier – even if it’s a far cry from actual personal contact.

But I’ve always admired people who had the ability to nurture those threads without the need for a status update or a photo of their dinner…old school, as it were. It says something about their character and about the value they place on the people in their lives.

I’ve known the “Nanci” in this story for a number of years…since before she became the mother to the two amazing daughters that are perennial highlights of my Instagram feed. Her children epitomize what children their age should be – a living, breathing highlight reel of wonder and imagination. They have an inherited respect for nature and they wear their innocence on their sleeves in a way that dares you not to fall in love with them.

This weekend, though – I got to meet “Mary Margaret”.

Somehow, in the exchange of a few minutes’ conversation, Mary Margaret became an instant friend…the kind of instant friend that you find yourself willingly and comfortably volunteering information to, during conversations about things that aren’t always easy to talk about. She has a kind demeanor and empathetic eyes that convey a deep well of gentle understanding.  Right away, she felt familiar and comfortable to me.

We were all in Philadelphia…I was there for a show, Nanci was in town visiting her parents from her home down the road from me in the Nashville area, and Mary Margaret – long ago relocated to Texas – came there to Philadelphia to visit her old childhood friend for a few days of Grownup Girls’ Adventuring… or, as they initially framed it, “looking for rich guys in the bars in Chester County.”

They were best friends as children…and while it’s entirely possible that Nanci’s demeanor during the telling of their story was an exaggeration for effect, it wasn’t hard to get the impression that she never really got over losing Mary Margaret.

But the thing that left the deepest impression on me, as I’d see the two of them exploring the park, talking and laughing with one another, and just bearing witness to their friendship was – well, quite literally just that. Bearing witness to their friendship.

Yeah, yeah, I know…startin’ to sound like Crazy Stalker Talk. Stay with me and ride along to the next stop. I promise it ain’t like that.

Over the years, both Nanci and Mary Margaret grew up. Separately and together.

They’ve both had families of their own…A pair of daughters in Nashville, and four children between 10 and 2 in Texas.

Yet watching them together yesterday, even casually in brief fits and starts between trying not to fluster the soundman and making sure everything was in tune…was an oddly spiritual experience. For reasons that weren’t immediately apparent, it affected me deeply.

It was almost as if – in seeing the two of them together that afternoon that I was stealing a glimpse of the two of them as children, in tiny summer dresses, climbing trees in the woods like a pair of budding tomboys, or trying to walk across the shallow ebb of the creek without getting their clothes wet…

I saw two lifelong friends who refused to let something so trivial as time or geography erode the genuine love they had for one another…who valued each other enough to remain connected as they’ve grown up and into their own separate lives, as they’ve started their own families. Nanci and Mary Margaret love each other enough to become children again when they land on the same patch of grass a thousand miles away from the separate places they each call home.

I’ve known Nanci a good while.

Today, I feel like I know Nanci a lot better than I did a short time ago.

And Mary Margaret will take a tiny, souvenir-edition shard of my heart with her back to Texas.


“It’s nice to see your family growing, Margaret…
Your daughter and your husband there, they really treat you right
But we’ve talked all night….
And what about that light that glowed beyond our woods when we were ten?
…there’ll never be two friends like you and me….”