Military Friendships

Last month I said goodbye to a friend. Who knew two years could feel like one? We parted and my friend’s car disappeared into swift traffic, which, like the spring breeze and clouds, hurried on like change is all in a day’s work.

I could not hurry on, and suddenly my cradling Chugach mountains became just another backdrop to just another short stint somewhere on the map. Time slowed long enough for me to feel its ripening.

Fireweed is back. I see stalks jutting out of the rocks, green-leafed and taller each morning after evenings that never quite drift into darkness. Dusk just hangs there, suspended, waiting for the sun to come back again.

The first fuchsia blooms will start low on the stalk and climb to hip-high heights by late July. Sometime in late August, its leaves will go red. The six-week countdown to snow will begin.

To see them in my backyard now makes me think summer is fireweed. Slow to start and then bursting with life just long enough for us to stretch our legs and explore while the sun still shines – before the snow flies and sticks.

Every now and again I think of my high school friends living out their lives close to home, or those adventuring abroad in exotic places like the Texas coast. I think of friends we’ve left behind after each move. Correspondence maintains, if you want it to. And yet most things fade. We all move on and make space for what our current life seasons hold. If we are lucky, some friendships survive the longest of years and distances.

Every now and again I’d like to know what it’s like to never leave home – or to know where home is – but it wouldn’t ring true. I have always passed my days with my feet on the ground and my eyes to the horizon. What’s next, anyway?

Friendships made in conditions like these are riskier all the time. We all greet one another as old friends, exchange numbers on first meetings, and make the most of the time all the while guarding our hearts against the inevitable.

“It’s a small Air Force,” they say, but my friend moved to Georgia.

Who’s next?

Yet, I’ve never known myself to take a summer wildflower for granted.

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