This one's a tribute, off the subject or condition that one must be in crisis to be needy. Or to be fulfilled. In the New York Times Health section today, Tara Parker-Pope published an article about the overarching healing power of friendship.

I read the article this morning and, cynically, wrote it off as simplistic. Interesting anecdotes. Stories of women seeking solace in childhood friendships to cope through divorce or Cancer diagnosis; A 10-year study showing that older people with larger circles of friends were 22% less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. And if there's no other justification for being friendly, Pope reported that studies show that the risk of obesity is some 60% higher among folks whose friends gain weight. Strength in numbers. The power of the Tribe....

Then, funny how this works, I heard the quiet strains of a long-forgotten song about just this power, the power of friends to heal friends, and Pope's article took on the mighty proportion it deserves. Listen to Joni Mitchell's song "Ladies of the Canyon" http://www.rhapsody.com/joni-mitchell/ladies-of-the-canyon--1970. It takes you behind an easel with Trina who "wears her wampum beads", then it sits you down with Annie who "may make some brownies today". Without you even sipping a cup of almond tea or hearing an inside story, "Ladies of the Canyon" brings you into the heart of what it is to be a woman among friends.

I was afforded this great privilege over the weekend, offered entry into a family of women who have become to one another what flesh and blood can never be. In a place just like Joni's Canyon, a place of "empty halls and beveled mirrors, sailing seas and climbing banyons". The time and place were gifts, but above all, what a privilege to be "welcomed in" (as Joni says it) to a tradition set well before I arrived.

Parker-Pope's Times article is a powerful and substantiated statement about what even those with the great fortune of a Tribe may take for granted. She writes:

"Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.

The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared. "

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