“The distance of your love is the distance of your life.” Anna read aloud from a Joseph Campbell book. She looked up and out through the window of Erin’s Sausalito house. “What do you think he means by that?” Morning fog was lifting off the bay. I smiled and thought not about the quote, but at how I much loved having friends like these: that carried poems around in their back pockets, scribbled down notes on the fly, loved travel, and openly riffed on abstract ideas like this one.

While threes work well in literature, they’re often awkward in friendship—allegiances shift, one feels left out, there’s tension. But three is a charm in our case. We share space easily together–all assuming the same early-to-bed-early-to-rise ethos, delighting in coffee, and each evening lining up our monogram mugs on the counter: ACE.

Each of us offers the other a little something different: Anna and Erin share an appreciation for beauty and well-arranged cheese plates. Erin and I process emotional tumult together. With Anna I share a sense of place and a quiet understanding. With both of them I can be my uncomposed self– drop off mid-sentence, go on free associative rambles, or not make sense any sense at all. But the primary hallmark of our triad is creativity: Ideas not only spark among us, but actually catch fire. In fact, our Deep Travel workshops were born from this.

A few summers ago when a forest fire filled our small southern Oregon valley with smoke, Anna and I hopped in the car and escaped to a house Erin was renting in Mendocino. It was a long, winding drive and when we arrived at the big strange house surrounded by mist, I questioned the journey. But then Anna made lavender martinis and soon enough, we were spirited into a familiar rhythm: talking about writing, books, travel, and love.

It was in the kitchen of that Mendocino house that the conversation turned to the idea of planning a workshop in Morocco. I knew the country well and could design a rich itinerary; Erin could teach writing; Anna could promote it with her artistic skills. That next spring, we were navigating the twisty byways of Fez with twelve inspired writers—all new friends who also liked books, ideas and writing.

Creativity continues to be a hallmark of our friendships. Shared meals, reading events, literary anthologies, and artistic collaborations are never in short supply. One day Erin coined us the “Literary Avengers.” It sounded cool and stuck. “Wait, what are we avenging?” Anna asked one day. Perhaps the childhood angst of being book geeks, clumsy in gym class, introverts. At last in adulthood, we had finally found our element.

The other day our three part harmony was in full swing when we were hiking Tennessee Valley, cresting the hills, and navigating bright patches of fireweed and pink sweet peas on our way to the Pelican Pub. Our conversation looped and wove, interrupted only by Erin occasionally gasping “Look!” whenever she hopefully mistook the white froth of wave hitting a rock for a rare whale-sighting.

Five miles later we plopped down at a table at The Pelican with tired legs and ordered drinks. Our conversation bubbled on like champagne as we rifled through a Ploughman’s Lunch of picked onions, boiled eggs and Stilton. Anna read a poem about putting sunlight on the to-do list, and Erin read aloud from Lorca. As sometimes happens, our synergy drew other people in and soon enough a table of cyclists were wedging themselves into our conversation.

Later, on the lawn outside the pub waiting for a Lyft ride, it seemed perfectly normal for Erin to be dramatically reading Lorca passages about duende while Anna blithely stretched her long limbs on the grass. “It burns the blood like powered glass,” Erin intoned.

I wondered what we would dream up next and thought of our hike. The day started foggy and cold. The ocean wasn’t very visible. But when we stared out from the hills into that blank sheet of white, Erin saw only potential. “You can just look out there and imagine anything you want,” she giggled.

One thought on “Deep Travel, Deep Friendships

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