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Don Rogers: With a little help from friends

Boom. Five years. A newborn grandson has grown ready for kindergarten, friends’ high school daughter has graduated from college, a president was elected, served and was replaced in that period.

Still, it feels like a fingersnap since walking in the front door of The Union my first day in May 2016.

I’m halfway to Ackerman. That’s Jeff, the last publisher to stay longer than a cup of coffee. Jim Hemig and Dave Schmall passed in quick gulps between Jeff’s decade-long tenure and mine.



So soon, though. The pandemic must have done something with time as well as everything else. Does this clock still count? Life in some ways froze between March 2020 and 21. Colleagues retreated behind screens. Visits with farther flung family stopped cold. Whole chunks of our social circles calved away.

On a trail this week, I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen for the duration. Felt so, so good.




Hey, I realized, as I resumed my run in the cedar and the pine, the day’s light softening. I’ve lived here long enough to make some friends I would miss this past, lost year. That’s something. Actually, everything.

CORNERSTONE

I have this theory that the center of our lives isn’t romantic love, family, and certainly not what we do for a living.

Neither is it health, happiness, pursuit of some purpose higher than our own selfish selves.

Well, partly it is that, all of that. But the very heart, the little wheel that makes the others spin, is simple friendship.

I mean genuine friendship with your true love, relatives who also are friends, colleagues with that extra gear, that twinkle. And especially those plain ol’, you know, buds. The good folks who choose all on their own to hang out with you.

Set aside the kale, the extra mile, the meditation. This is the key to happier, healthier, longer lives.

Researchers might phrase these connections as social circles, networks, contacts. I mean the real life variety in which you have a beer, go for a walk, discuss a book or a game, chat at an event, share a dinner, an insight, a joke, possibly sorrows and prayers. This glue binding a community.

Social media’s a sad cheat, sugar to steak. TV’s dumbed us down, cable’s only corrupted, and a fragmented internet has alienated whole swaths of us from each other.

We belong together, in person, talking maybe long enough we begin to listen, too.

I’m saying if you can only have that one thing on the proverbial desert island, it’s not the woman or man of your dreams, creature comforts, or a lifetime supply of coconuts and fish hooks.

It’s just friends. That’s your best shot.

CIRCLE WIDENS

I would have said thanks but no thanks. Vail was a fine home for most of 18 years, where we mostly raised the kids. Work felt dialed in with great colleagues. I liked my routines, knew my communities, had no wish to leave my friends. So why did I?

Well, love. My wife yearned for northern California. I also did it for the challenge. Could I step up? And strictly true or not, I believed my company needed me to do this, so responsibility factored in there. Oh, and for the growth opportunity. Always was a sucker.

This hardly matches my little theory. My motives ran in line with everything but my friends. I mean, I abandoned my friends, right?

That’s one way to look at it. Maybe it’s not so much the specific people (though yes, it is the people) as having friendships.

I reconnected with old friends from previous lives in California — from firefighting, from college, and maybe yet from high school. Here I’ve made new friends, dear ones, as at other stops.

And friends from Vail didn’t stop being friends, after all. The circle has only widened and deepened with the move.

My work, if familiar, continues filling to the brim with new lessons, challenges, and yes, surprises. There’s no higher calling than local journalism as far as I’m concerned, especially now. And no better place to live than here for the lifestyle and the outdoors.

Maybe it’s the pandemic, but I find myself thinking mostly about the people, though. My friend on the trail I’ve missed. The friends I’ve seen. Coworkers, family, all my relationships that boil down at the heart to friendship. Which actually makes sense, considering we’re all in this thing — life! — together, me counting down now to Ackerman’s tenure and whatever comes next.

Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 530-477-4299.


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