Cast of Characters: Shelley
“You’re pregnant, Rachel Cane,” Shelley says on a regular basis. With my beach ball belly sitting on top of my still skinny legs, it’s hard not to point out the obvious, and Shelley doesn’t resist. “God, she acts like she’s pregnant or something,” she jokes when I take my time to get out of the car or waddle down the street. When we got our printer finally working, the first thing she printed out was a document that said “Rachel Cane is Prego!!” in as many fonts and colors as would fit onto the paper.
I first met Shelley in 2006 while working on a cruise ship in Hawaii. The first thing that drew me to her was her smile and her laugh, and as I got to know her better, her care free personality. In Hawaii we had another friend named Candy, who we of course dubbed “Candy Cane.” We in turn became Rachel Cane and Shelley Cane, and though we’ve lost touch with our third Cane sister, our names have stuck.
On the cruise ship we became friends, but I’d say our bond didn’t seal until a few months later, the first time I visited her in Portland where she was staying. She had every intention of laying roots there, to make it her new home. She met me in the airport and on the train ride home I told her about the last few months I had just spent at camp in North Carolina, and how I was about to go to Zion National Park in Utah to work for the fall season for the second time. There was a spark.. something was going on in her head. A contemplative look came over her face as she started stroking the side of her mouth with her finger. “Zion… huh?” She had heard me talk about Zion before. She couldn’t resist. Her mind was made up. The next day I called the hiring manager there and told him I had a friend who would like a job as well, and she turned in her notice to her employer. Two weeks later, we were both in Utah. Since then, we’ve shared adventures, bottles of wine, and our love of life and making the most of it. While we were in Zion one day we saw an advertisement for “Spa Adventure.” “Hmm… Spa and Adventure… two of our favorite words!” she said. It didn’t take much to convince ourselves into making appointments for hot stone massages. Yes, we needed those massages!
Shelley and I have always shared our love of life and adventure, but there is so much more than only that connection. She is a fellow seeker, one of my true spiritual sisters. A conversation with her is a celebration of life, no matter what life holds or where it takes us. She has lived through her share of trials, past and present, but she has somehow become a master of positivity and gratitude. Maybe it’s because of a lifetime of lessons learned, but she refuses to let anything get her down. I’ve seen her in situations of success as well as distress, and the one thing that is a pervading factor in her life is laughter and making the most of every day. Several of our conversations these days are about this moment in our lives, how we got here and where we’re going. We talk about how amazing it is for my situation to work out as wonderfully as it has; how wonderful Doug and Maura and their families are, how incredibly lucky I am to have Bill around, how the timing of the birthing classes we’ve been going to worked out (it took a while to find one that worked with my labor schedule since I was already in my third trimester when I arrived), how much we love the house we’ve rented and its location, and all the possibilities of the future as we once again plan to head in different directions.
This summer she was working in a small town in Alaska about an hour away from where I was when I told her I was pregnant. Soon after, she made the trip to come and visit me and some other mutual friends. There were four of us having dinner together, I was splurging on a quarter glass of wine while the rest of the group was gladly taking care of the rest of the bottle. I had already chosen Doug and Maura as the adoptive parents, they were coming to Alaska to meet me for the first time in just a couple of days, and I was telling Shelley and the others about it and my plans to go to North Carolina after Alaska. There was a spark. A contemplative look came over her face. She stroked the side of her mouth with her forefinger and said “North Carolina,… huh?” We both knew it was going to be. Later she told me about a story in Buddhism of a young monk who asked an older and wiser sage how to gain spiritual wisdom. “Did you eat your rice this morning?” the sage asked. “Yes,” replied the monk. “And did you wash your bowl afterwards?” “Yes.” And that was it. The sage walked away and that was the end of the story. The point of it is to take life one step at a time, and to learn something from each of those steps, no matter how mundane they may seem. Shelley compared that to coming to North Carolina with me. “I have to do it, it’s like washing my bowl. My step just happens to be all the way across the country to be there for you. It’s just what comes next.” Simple as that. “Besides, you’re going to need someone to tie your shoes when you can’t bend over anymore.”
A book she sent me once, “Snowflower and the Secret Fan,” tells the story of two girls in China and the special friendship between them that bonded them together for life. They became each other’s old same, an expression used to describe that certain kind of bond. Shelley is 20 years my senior, but because of her ability to relate to people of all ages, as well as her young spirit, I don’t notice an age difference (she just has more stories and wisdom to share). The other day she said she should call me her young same, but I told her no way, the names have to be the same for both of us. Shelley Cane my Old Same.