Levi and Amanda: My Newest Old Friends

I was going to write about the amazing church I went to last Sunday, or how much I love driving into San Cristobal, off the pavement, past two cattle guards and over a narrow bridge and I’m home.

I thought about writing about how much I love making a fire for myself, even when it’s a multi-stage act of prayer, because I feel like after all of my years of longing I’m finally getting a titch of my Little House on the Prairie dream. Or about how I actually love how my phone doesn’t ring at the cabin and I wonder (and worry) about how I’ll ever go back to all the noise and chatter.

I considered about writing about my new writing group and how I can’t believe now—after three weeks—that I ever doubted it would be a good thing for me. They tell me my writing is engaging, snappy, confident and—my favorite—honest. I adore these people for their passion for writing, their compassion for others, and their stories.

But I decided had to write about Levi and Amanda.

There are the people you know forever—they make your heart tick and skip and weep—and then there are the people you know for two days.  My friend Geoff recently embarked on an ambitious project to write tributes for sixty-seven people (in four days!) who meant a lot to him and who’d influenced his life. The second line of mine is, “I thought I knew all the people I wanted to meet.”

I love it. Sometimes I think I hardly don’t  have time to visit and spend quality time with all of the people I already miss and love, how could there possible be room for more? But then I meet Levi and Amanda.

The first morning I was doing my usual—drinking coffee and sitting outside in my favorite early morning spot of sun—when Levi popped out of his cabin. I knew people were coming in to the cabin next door, and quite frankly, I wasn’t excited. Will they be loud? Obnoxious? Irritating? I’ve become protective of this space and my routine in it. I enjoy the quiet.

But I liked Levi out of the gate. He’s a farmer in Maine, and has a CSA. He farms land that his grandfather, who came from Holland to Maine in 1950 to build boats in Bath, left to him. Grandpa’s name meant “beekeeper” in Dutch and he lived up to it. Levi’s business cards for Center Pond Farm boast a honeybee, and though he doesn’t keep bees yet it’s in the farm’s future plans.

I appreciate Levi’s tribute to his grandpa, and his connection to the past; none of us would be here without them. Fact. Levi’s only been farming for three years and this year is the first time he hasn’t had to have a fulltime job off the farm. I barely knew the guy yet I told him I was proud of him.

Levi and I did a lot of chatting before Amanda emerged and then I got to hear her story. She works at a foreign exchange student organization; she didn’t study abroad herself but there was an interesting story why and it came full circle for her. This is a story she’s told before, but it wasn’t tired or worn out: it was authentic, just like her.

We connected immediately on my adventures living in Honduras and my “full cultural immersion” experience which I boil down—because I’ve told the story before too— to bullet points: I started a business, bought a house, and dated a native. She laughs.

I get one laugh and all of a sudden I’m doing standup at open mike night. I take a few risks, it’s going well, then something comes out of my mouth unfiltered, “The ranch supply store in Missoula has a sign that says, “Behind every successful rancher is a woman who works in town’” and as the words come out I felt then leaving but couldn’t stop them. I saw stars and hoped for the best. At least they’re only here for two more days. How much could they hate me for two days?

“Ha! Can you get me one of those?” Amanda asks, Levi laughs, I’m in the clear.

We talk and talk and talk. But they have sights to see and I have writing to do. We part.  I saw Amanda briefly that evening as I was leaving to go meet a friend and they were walking down to the fields to watch the sun set.

The next morning we chatted again, this time like old friends catching up. “What happens if you don’t finish your book,” Amanda asked, just like an old friend who can get away with a question like that. I paused, caught my breath, “It’s just not an option,” I told her. “I plan to finish it here, but if it’s not here it will be somewhere else. But, really, I’m going to finish it here.” Like a friend with a stake in your happiness, Amanda told me she has no doubt I’m going to finish it, especially because it sounds like a story the world needs to hear and I’m obviously compelled to tell it.

Can you say girl crush?

They had a busy day of activities and I had a long list of errands before my massage and writing workshop. I loaned them yak trax and ski poles for their hike, and told them to just leave them next to my woodpile if we didn’t cross paths again. I wondered if it was goodbye, but we just offered “See ya later. Have fun!”

Williams Lake, where Levi and Amanda went before they went back to the hot springs in the gorge of the Rio Grande and  to check out the earthships.

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I got home after nine hours in town. I really try to maximize the trip whenever possible and I actually made it through my errand list and to my appointments on time. On time. If you know me then you also now believe in miracles. The only thing I didn’t have time for was taking Lucky for a proper walk, so he crashed the workshop. He was naughty for an almost eleven-year-old boy. He sniffed everyone (one woman had a biscuit in her pocket), snuggled his face into everyone’s lap, and put his chin up on the table between each of us. He drank from the toilet (my fault) and acted like a pup. “Don’t make eye contact with him,” I finally said; he’ll settle down. And he did:

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My propane heater was on the blink, and after so many hours away the cabin was freezing. I was hungry and had a screaming headache. And then there was a knock on my door. I wasn’t sure if I should be scared or irritated; I wasn’t expecting anyone at 10:00pm. “Hello?” I said. “It’s Levi,” he responded. Oh. Thank. Goodness.

I opened the door and he had arms full of eggs, butter, half & half and a lighter—all welcome, useful things. “I love butter!” I squealed, “I put it on everything.” {it’s true.} He laughed. He came in and we chatted about their last day in the area. They really sucked the marrow out of this place hard core and I loved hearing about it.

They were getting up at 4:00am to drive to Albuquerque for their flight back to Maine, so it was time to say goodbye. “I’m going to miss you guys,” I said, sort of out of nowhere although the truth is it came from my heart and as hard as it can be to speak from a place of vulnerability it’s usually worth it.

We hugged and Levi said, “We’re going to miss you too!”  This surprised me. I mean, I’m here, often alone, tapping away at this keyboard sometimes for days on end; it makes sense I would miss my friendly, temporary neighbors. But they miss me? Some wacky writer girl who gave them a few tips? But I’ve been on the vacationing end, too, and I get it.

I don’t even have a phone at the cabin and sometimes the only voice I hear is my own telling Lucky how cute he is and how much I love him and within our three hundred square feet it gets old—I can say with certainty—for both of us. Our outside world is big. We walk, we run, we feed chickens, we turn our faces to the sun. But the fact is: I get hungry for conversation.

Levi and Amanda were a distraction, but a very welcome one. I enjoyed the exchanges and hearing something first thing in the morning besides my clicking and myself.

“Come visit us in Maine,” Levi said, “We have a guest room…” And I trust he said this knowing I don’t really have anywhere to be and don’t (physically) have any idea where I’m going. “Awesome! I’d love to get to New England this summer and I’d love to get my hands dirty. I’ll help out on the farm!” {despite the headache and the hunger and the frigid cabin I really did speak with all of those exclamations.}

I didn’t have a chance to tell Levi and Amanda about my inner Wendell Berry, who was my first real writer-crush. Laura Ingalls Wilder was my first, but I was just a child then. Berry is a standup guy. He is a poet, essayist, farmer and human who I admire for his willingness to speak up on controversial issues and I’m grateful I got to shake his hand once at a book event in San Francisco. But anyway…I didn’t tell Levi and Amanda that. Amanda had already friended me on Facebook that morning, and Levi had given me his honeybee business card. This was surely not the end.

These are not friends for two days; these are the friends you know for two days and hope to know forever. As Amanda said, “I’d really like to continue this conversation.”

Oh me too, new friend, me too. We have lots to talk about.

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10 thoughts on “Levi and Amanda: My Newest Old Friends

  1. Levi & Amanda are my neighbors and are truly wonderful people. They have two adorable little girls that are the “apples of their eyes”. Hope you do get to visit our piece of paradise here in Mid-Coast Maine!

  2. Thank you for sharing your impressions of my daughter and her partner. I am looking at their adorable children as I read.

    • Robin! Thank you for reading and taking the time to respond–it means the world, really. They are truly lovely people; I wish I had more time with them in New Mexico but look forward to meeting them further on down the road. Jaime

  3. Jamie,
    It’s taken me days to settle in and get to this – I scanned the blog for a moment on my phone before losing service in our travels. It was a tease! But I saw enough pleasant adjectives, I knew I wanted to be able to be fully present when I read it. Once we were home, so many people commented on the piece and I had to keep saying – don’t tell me about it – don’t give it away! What fun to be the topic of conversation!
    It reminds me of my wonder about how many times I may be in the background of someone’s family photos while travelling. Leaving a mark…an impression on someone that you may hardly know. I’m glad you shared this with us. We really did enjoy your company as well.
    I’m looking forward to carrying on, and seeing you in the coming months. Looking forward to reading your print.
    Fondly,
    ~Amanda

  4. Yeah! I’m glad you appreciated it; I usually tell people before I write about them (or at least leave out their names), but went out on a limb with this one. I’m glad you and so many of your friends and family enjoyed it. A friend of mine may be getting a puppy in Maine this spring or summer, so the plan to New England is starting to take shape. But for the moment: Be Here Now. xo, jaime

  5. That’s hilarious! I thought you meant that they *sound* like authentic peeps (and they are) and I meant that I hope you have the opportunity to meet awesome people like them in your life. And I had no idea you actually know them! I love it!!! I guess that’s how you found me!

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