Monday, April 28, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- X is for our Xanadu Pleasuredome Travelling Sisterhood of Forever Friends

Welcome to Day 24 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge where --

X is for our Xanadu Pleasuredome Travelling Sisterhood of Forever Friends

In the 13th century, Mongol ruler Kublai Khan held court at a summer palace in Xanadu, the Mongolian name for modern-day Dolon Nor. When Marco Polo wrote about his visit to Xanadu, he mentioned the "Palace built of cane...It is gilt all over, and most elaborately finished inside...The construction of the Palace is so devised that it can be taken down and put up again with great celerity." 

Fast forward six centuries, and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge based his Romantic-era unfinished piece Kubla Khan, or A Vision in a Dream, A Fragment upon Samuel Purchas' account of Xanadu, itself based upon Marco Polo's writings:

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasuredome decree"

In modern-day popular culture, Xanadu is synonymous with Utopian splendour. Knowing that the original palace in Kublai Khan's Xanadu was a temporary construction to house his court brings me to my high school friends Dawn, Maureen and Shelley, and our four-decades-long friendship.

photo by Maureen Kemp

We met in the late 1970s when we all sang in our high school choir. At that time, our student population was large enough to require a row of portable classrooms running alongside the back of the main building, including our beloved music portable where we basically spent all of our time.

This is a shot of a typical gathering of music students enjoying some early summer sunshine just outside the portable, likely during our lunch break. The four of us are in the top right of the shot: In red, Mark, then Alanna, Shelley, Maureen, Dawn and me.

photo by Maureen Kemp

Even the portable is now dismantled. Our creative haven, where we rehearsed for choir performances and musicals, attended music classes and chilled out if the space was free is now an empty spot of asphalt behind the high school.

L to R, above: Dawn, Alanna, Michael (standing,) Mark (seated,) me and Shelley

Yet the bonds we forged during those years held us close, through those initial flying-the-nest university years when we scattered across North America, when our trips home at holiday times meant the first of our travelling pleasuredome constructions.

In picture above: Maureen at left, middle row / Shelley at center, bottom row / me beside Shelley, second from right, bottom row

Just like the Kublai Khan's transportable summer palace, we made our joys whenever we found ourselves together at a crossroads in our various life paths.

Through many moves to many cities between the four of us, now settled into two of us on the east coast (Shelley and myself) and two on the west coast (Dawn and Maureen,) we've nevertheless managed to attend each other's weddings whenever possible, welcome children and celebrate many life milestones together. 

Something that we do every now and then is organize a Girls' Overnight if we all four happen to be in the same place at the same time.

photos by Maureen Kemp

This was one of those overnights at a Halifax hotel. They always begin with a dinner out at a restaurant where we catch up and talk and laugh.

photo by Maureen Kemp

Toasting to our Xanadu with my former dance partner Dawn.

L to R: Dawn, me and Alanna in a can-can performance at the end-of-the-year variety show the music students used to produce ourselves, June 1981

Nowadays, the kids are starting to graduate university. That's me sitting beside Maureen's daughter at one of the get-together dinners, also including Shelley's longtime friend Krista.

photo by Maureen Kemp

This year we've been celebrating 50th birthdays. Happy Birthday, Shelley!

And last year, a 50th anniversary with Dawn's parents.

When I launched my debut novel in 2011, Shelley was there to celebrate with me. It's now been re-launched as Vampires, Saints and Lovers.

In our four decades together, we have sometimes come together in order to bid farewell to departing family members. At those times, it has been a source of strength to sit shoulder to shoulder as we shed our tears.

photo by Maureen Kemp

Most of the time, we set up our pleasuredomes to celebrate those moments when our paths cross and our smiles provide the pillars for the palace.    


Jemima Pett said...

That's so great - and very special. Make the most of your friendship.

Well done on getting through the A to Z - only a couple more days now!

Blogging from Alpha to Zulu in April