In These Times, Friends Matter


It’s a poem I wrote a few years ago. At a time of clarifying more of the story behind the story. For humans. And in many forms of system, be it family, community, team, or organization.

It’s a story that remains very accurate to me. One that I hold sometimes with joy, seeing that others are so seeking this kind of relationship together. And sometimes with sadness, seeing that numbing, and rushing to create more numb, and isolation — these are often the default ways of being.

This week I am co-hosting a group of 40. In a shape that will likely look something like this. Where we will likely remember some of the story behind the story, of how connection always matters.


In These Times, Friends Matter

In these times,
friends matter,
the people we turn to.
To listen.
To be heard by.
To be seen by.
To see.
To love.
To be loved.

In these times
staying awake matters.
Interrupting the many seductions
of numbness.
It takes discipline, doesn’t it.

In these times
dwelling in complexity matters.
Old fixes don’t work.
Imposing them more loudly doesn’t work.
Looking for patterns does.
Welcoming surprise
and union with life itself.

In these times
presence is core competency.
It is the core competency.
We grow it together,
telling stories,
and asking questions.

What matters to you?
What is it like to be you?
What has your attention?
Sometimes even,
What makes sense for us to do now?

In these times
friends matter.
Turn, and turn, and turn again
to one another.



September has always marked a significant moment for me in the calendar of changes. It’s close in impact to a new year change. The why of September’s impact, like it is for many, is having grown up in a school system in which the new grade started in September. Yup, end of summer, and back to school. My mom made it a tradition to take a picture of my sister and I on the first day of school. Before we would walk to Braemar Elementary. In the picture, often holding up the number of fingers to indicate what grade we were now entering.

I remember as a kid, and into my teen and young adult years, liking the transition. Sure, I also remember a fair amount of sadness that summer was over. Because summer was the time when we got to go on holiday with parents, with grandparents. Summer was being with cousins. And summer, where I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, was also, somewhat jokingly, three weeks long. I was the kind of kid / teen / young adult that appreciated the shift. I was glad for the school year to end. But I was also glad for a new one to begin. New friends. New subjects. New teachers. I liked it when summer started — there is undeniable “schools out” fever. I liked the shift to a summer job. And then, in late August and early September, I like the shift from that summer job back to classmates and a part-time job.

Well, September doesn’t actually sneak up on anything, but it does feel like a rather abrupt turn. “How did it get to be September already?” The brain will catch up.

This morning I find myself reflecting on that old narrative of change from summer to September. Because that shift also included some regrets — did I do enough in the summer? Because now it’s time to get back to work. Did I do enough of what people are supposed to do in the summer, before getting back to work (no, I don’t know what that means — I just remember feeling it)? It’s a bit of a weird story line, isn’t it. It’s got a fair amount of trying to assure or assuage some fear of “not enough.” Oh dear, now there’s and old and pervasive story line from my life, and I know, for many of us.

With adult life, often comes the ability to change the way we think about change. Or to re-narrate, and sometimes release, the old stories of what was supposed to be. If we are lucky, we find ourselves into more conscious choice of what a season of life meant. Or what it meant in memory that is now available as another choice.

Well, those are a few thoughts on a Monday, Labor Day, where I live, the start of the first “work week” of September, 2019. With little pangs of sadness that summer is shifting, but with grown desire to be in a joy of what is more permanent, and a joy in what shifts. And with appreciation for the simple, far-less-calendared reality of things like these Black-Eyed Susans growing in my front yard, that have been astonishingly plentiful this year.



It begins with a simple hello. There is joy in connection. A joy that is as natural as this mountain stream cascading over stones. There are four of us on Zoom, which gives us video and voice connection. We are colleagues. We are also friends. We haven’t connected in this way for a couple of weeks. If we were wolves or dogs, this simple helloing is some tail-wagging and playful bumping into each other.

It continues with some restatement of purpose. There is joy in this too. “I think what we are up to today is a bit of reconnection (in this case, before going into a Q & A session with prospective participants to an upcoming Art of Hosting that we will all hold together).” We are cultivating our learning field among us, which has direct bearing on what participants will experience.

It continues with deliberate check-in. It’s updating a bit of where we each are on our respective paths. We each know that it won’t be everything. It’s not a report. It’s a moment of witnessing with each of us choosing right-sized bites to share that build us into an “us.” There is more than tail-wagging. We are inviting the belonging that is pack.

Aside note — I recently listened to “The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack” by Jim and Jamie Dutcher. It was road-trip listening that carried me through much of Montana and southern British Columbia last week, headed north to Fairmont, Canada. I loved the book. I loved the imagery of the wolves. I loved the insights into their social behaviors.

Back to the call — I’m close to these people on this call. There is already a chemistry. And it’s growing. Because we are committed to hello, and purpose, and deliberate check-in. We are going together. We are growing together. It feels natural to be in our sharedness and in our difference that is held by honest relationship — I’m glad for that.

And then the call continues. Others come to join — these are the participants. They are yummy. They share a bit of intro. They share a few questions. And then we think and be out loud together. Without script. But with much purpose, honesty, and expectation to learn and connect.

All of this, I would suggest, is tending to a “field.” It is a less visible connective tissue. It involves words, but is more than words. It involves images and is social cues, but is more than that too. “Field” is the ethereal that carries more of the whole of us. Into knowns and unknowns. I love this. And I’d suggest, that this is so much the work of people in varied organizations today. Reclaiming connection. And honesty. And unscriptedness. So that we can go deeply to the inner and the outer.

Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, is often quoted for this expression of field:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”

Here’s to our awake together. To our fields of awakeness. And streams. And to all the good that grows from that. Inner. And outer. In groups small and large.


I’m told that “banuua” is a Swahili word that means joy.

This is my 12 year-old son in a mens / boys performance at his junior high school. Elijah is in the back, five from the right. He’s got a big smile.

I love it that he loves this. He gets to move. He gets to sing. He gets to be in the company of men offering something beautiful.

I also love his teacher. You don’t see so much of it in this video, but this dude is great with these young men. Engaging. Funny. Talented. No small thing to get them into it and legitimize their inner love of voice and movement. His love of music shines through clearly and makes me recognize what a credit he is to the public school system.

I’m totally going to use this with groups I work with!

Here’s to joy. And to our sons, or any of us finding it in good company.