When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone. After all, human beings are like that.Gertrude Stein
I hung out at my friend Gertrude's house one evening. She lives in a little tiny bungalow in a decent but old neighborhood. I had just been to the cheese importer's place and brought back some really nice brie, Stilton and goats' milk stuff with some good crackers. She knew what kind of wine would go with them, so she brought it out and also some fruit. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the wine, but when you had the taste of the cheese in your mouth and then you sipped the wine, they blended. To me, that is like magic. You can't tell me it's wrong to have wine with the perfect food accompaniment. I wouldn't give that up. We sat at the table together, sharing a feeling of contentment and friendship.
And then after we did that, I watched her make tea. Here's what she did that was funny: She had on a maroon, cotton cardigan sweater that had seen better years a long time ago. From the pockets of it she pulled out a spoon and a couple of packets of tea. When the water was hot she pulled the cuffs of the sleeves down over her hands to use instead of hot pads. And when she spilled a little hot water on her wooden cutting board she used a corner of the sweater to wipe it up with instead of a towel. Then when she got a sniffle she used her sleeve instead of a kleenex.
I hoped that sweater had been washed recently. I didn't say anything about it, though. Judging by its condition I was sure she threw it in the laundry quite frequently. Plus, where I come from we didn't put too much stock in always being proper and tidy, so if I had misgivings about where those sweater cuffs might have been, I was able to ignore them. And I was glad to keep her company there in her kitchen. Sometimes I've been afraid she gets lonely. But then, a famous author said this once: Loneliness is the poverty of self. Solitude is the richness of self. I had to trust that what my friend Gertrude has is the latter.
Toward the end of the visit, Gertrude had that look about her, as if expectant that I was going to leave soon. I took the hint and drove home. It's nice to visit, and nice to have the visit end at the right time too. I admire how Gertrude has a sense of boundaries and is nice about how she communicates them. That is just another way I want to be like her.
Guest Gertrude of the Day: Laura Bush. She listens to Bob Marley music and appears on Oprah Winfrey. What I like about this is, she stands for what she stands for, but then doesn't expect everyone to agree with her position or be just like her. That's poise.