friends and strangers

In feudal times a person could live and die within 8 miles of where he was born and know only his family and fellow-workers (serfs?)  in that range, unless he went on a Crusade. Allden Nowlan, the Canadian poet (dates?) went on record saying he didn't went to know any more people than he could manage in the city of Fredericton.  He reckoned he knew about 1000 people, by sight at least, on the streets and he didn't want to Iive in a larger city.  He was, you may remember,  a prominent member of The Flat Earth Society.  There's something to be said for such conservative thinking. 

When I first started to travel without a companion after my husband died, I was prepared to sign up for a room-mate on a ship to save the single supplement. I figured, like the little girl said, "A stranger is a friend I haven't met yet." It usually worked out, and so did ship-board friendships and also "retreat friendships", writers I met at Writing retreats, workshops, seminars, what -have -you.  I suppose that's a given, among like-minded people.  Many of the friendships I made have lasted lo, these many years.  As I age and people are getting picked off around me, I have been grateful for new friends, not replacements, exactly, for old friends (it takes a long time to make an old friend), but welcome additions.  I remember on one cruise a woman I walked with every morning and talked with every day summarizing our acquaintance with a cordial recognition that we would not continue the relationship past the trip.  

"Thank you,' she sad," for being my friend/companion on this trip. It's been good." And that was that. She was more travelled than I at that point, and very realistic. That's what so-called shipboard romances were all about: temporary and irrelevant diversions in an ongoing life. The same principle applies to friendships, but it took me a while to realize that. 

I've been thinking of that rough generalization as I progress on this lengthy cruise.  I'm seeing people daily and continuously, more frequently than I see friends at home, and with incredible opportunities for fellowship and connection condensed into a compact and crowded time-span, full of life-changing events and experiences. We have quickly ascended or descended, not sure which, into familiarity, while still retaining respect and some distance.  And yet, I think we often tell each other things we have not shared with friends of longer standing. It's a hothouse atmosphere.

I'm thinking about it.