18 Earthworms’ Castings

Jean Ponzi

By Jean Ponzi

Practical Friendship

On a sunny weekday in spring 2020, I socialized at the social distance from Katie, one of my life’s best friends, as we felted cool wool stuff on her back deck.

This was practical friendship in more ways than one. We enjoyed (understatement, in that uncertain time) each other’s company, maintained mutual Covid safety, and (thanks to Katie being a fiber artist) created some happy bits. Hers being patterned woolfelt mats and mine vivid-hued felt balls made to dangle as mobiles for new-baby gifts.

The first time that year I did anything in person, indoors, with a person not my husband, Katie and I masked up and whipped up batches of applesauce, from a crate of farmers’ market fruit, in my open-window kitchen.

These bright moments in a stark, odd time reminded me profoundly how precious such friends are: the ones who pitch in and seek to do, together, the stuff it’s often harder or way less fun to do alone. In ordinary time, I’d be rocketing along way too fast to notice how some shared doing, vs. doing it yourself, is a benefit multiplied.

Pleasure of company + a little purpose = social life, enlivened.

Proximity gives practical friendship a big bonus flow. No need to drive long-distance, pack a bag, or book well in advance. Seems to be a rare friend these days who simply makes a call to say: Got an hour or so anytime today to help me clean these double-hung windows? Bop over, grab rags and a sponge; a stretch of conversation later, that two-person-task glass is sparkling, safely. Then both friends go on through the day.

We used to call on neighbors, or family nearby, for this kind of companionable endeavor. Now we can hire a service and leave, having pre-paid online. Or we DIY, informed by YouTube tutors, and post the results for distance-liking. Convenience? Depleting? Who do we even know, nearby?

Times, peeps, and places change. Gotta grow practical friendship in new directions. While also doing together with this special kind of friend, wherever they may be. Friendships cruising new waters and their lands.

This is literally Life Support! Without the real connections, confidence (Am I needed?) and courage (Can I do it?) for generous and kind exchange hardens into commerce. Soulful fades to merely social, or worse. Hot Yoga class can’t restore a spirit sapped of friendship’s FUN-damentals, but an interlude of something like gardening together can!

Practical friendships for grownups nourish the vital gettogether mess-around bonds we were lucky if we had as kids, a world away from structured, supervised, scheduled “play dates.” They can help us re-member our precious Time and Attention as commodifying forces seek to dis-connect and de-mean.

Making the effort to ask is a whole-being stretch. Come see my project in the works! I’d like your opinion. Even better, extending the hand: Would you like to borrow one of our cars while your kids visit, so you can lend them yours? We’ll bring it over.

Practical friendship fosters trust that someone will be there for you, optimism for simple enjoyment, and the willing grace to both reach out and respond.

You get a little drop-in visit. No need for a meal or other big plans — these pleasures have their own place and time.

Thanks, friend! Would you like a beverage?

Jean Ponzi shares conversations about eco-logical living on Earthworms, her 1988-vintage interview show on KDHX St Louis Independent Media, podcasting since 2015. Pick it up at www.kdhx.org.