Just looking at this picture makes me happy. When I first moved to Montana I was ill prepared for the amount of energy it would take to make new friends. I had lived in Georgia for most of my life, surrounded by people I'd known since childhood and immersed in a culture that would invite the Unibomber in and make sure he had a full belly before he left. Southern hospitality is not a myth and I'm sure I had that "deer in the headlights" look for a couple of years when my sincere attempts at friendship were met with the innate distrust that most Montanans feel for outsiders.
I met Roberta at a yoga class. I was suffering from life at the time, having not yet taken the first of the Four Noble Truths to heart: Life is suffering. I sensed the possiblity of a friendship with Roberta, but had no real premonition of how important that friendship would become or how deeply it would penetrate my heart. Our relationship has been a slow affair, building upon our mutual interest in meditation, the dharma, truth and beauty.
Roberta had just moved back to Montana after spending many years in spiritual community on the East Coast studying under Joseph Goldstein. I'm reminded of the saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. That Roberta can maintain the delicate balance of teacher and friend is just one of her many gifts.
Two years ago I moved onto the same street as Roberta. It was purely accidental - if you believe in tremendously auspicious accidents. The summer of 2006 I drank the evenings away and became deeply involved in my own sad story. Roberta never wavered in her unconditional love or her detachment from said story. She would only be involved with me. The me under all the crap that I had accumulated, the me with no stories, the true me. As I observed her integrity and profound love, I, too, began to detach from what was unimportant.
In the years since moving to Montana, I've developed many, many sacred friendships. But the first one remains special. In case you don't recognize her, that vampire on last night's post is Roberta. Did I mention she's tremendous fun?? We dressed up as vampires and went to see the local theatre's performance of Dracula last night. We could've been two 10-year olds playing with mom's makeup we had so much fun.
Sometimes I'm quite sure I'm the luckiest person on the planet.