What greater pleasure than to sit outdoors with old friends on a late summer's evening, enjoying a glass or two (or three!) of wine, good food, and conversation ranging over the vicissitudes of life, the shared joys and sorrows, the successes and challenges, the rewards of art--and family? I can think of none.
We were joined, last night, by a marauding raccoon perched in the alley of grapevines that graces our friends' garden. Wondering what might be causing the disturbance in the foliage, I got up from the table to take a look and found a gray striped tail drooping down from the vine, just inches from my face. A moment later, the tail disappeared and was replaced by one of those familiar masked faces. Then the creature hurried down the vine and scurried off into the darkness.
All this, in the central Wilshire area of Los Angeles! The previous afternoon, driving little Luka around Griffith Park in the attempt to get him off to some needed sleep, we passed within a few feet of a bold coyote, scavenging for food in broad daylight. And, a few miles further on, a whole herd of deer. Quite a surprise, that these animals adapt to human habitation and modern city life.
They, too, the Buddha teaches, are our friends, fellow travelers in the never-ending cycle of birth, aging, sickness and death. But the best of friends are the human variety, those a bit more like ourselves. We drove home grateful for the knowledge that we have shared so much with this couple, over, now, several decades. And that we remain fast friends.