A New Friendship with an Old Friend

New old friend

When I contacted my old friend Gretchen to see if she would mind if I stopped to visit her in Kalamazoo along the way on my amazing adventure, she told me she would welcome a visit, but not in Kalamazoo! Life opportunities were bringing her family to Bethesda, MD, and how fortuitous was that…just a short drive from Greensboro, NC.

I left Greensboro and headed north. Ab recommended that I avoid the tried and true I-95 route, and suggested that I follow I-29 instead. Great advice! That route in Virginia is beautiful….rolling hills, mountains, green as far as the eye could see. I passed through Lynchburg and Charlottesville, hit a snag of traffic and then smooth sailing til I came into the DC area to the joys of urban traffic! I pulled in front of a 17-floor high rise in Bethesda, a beautiful city just north of Washington DC. Gretchen, her husband Tim, their 7 year old daughter Iola and their adorable dog Sushi came down to lead me to the parking garage. Gretchen is simply untouched by the passage of years…what is it about my University of Iowa friends who don’t age? Although 13 years had passed since I last saw my friends, we picked up as if no time at all had gone by. After a delicious dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant Gringos and Mariachis, which rivaled my Louisville favorite El Mundo, we headed back to the apartment and up to the rooftop pool where Iola had a blast making a fort out of a beach towels and pool furniture. Gretchen and I settled ourselves at the rooftop lounge, where we talked for hours about life and the unexpected twists and turns that it takes, bringing you exactly to the place you are meant to be at the very moment.

The next morning, the sun rose early, as did Iola, who jumped onto my bed and promptly serenaded me on the harmonica. I gave it a whirl myself and an absolute priority on this trip is to find one for myself!

IolaThe day started off with a couple of shots of espresso, an egg scramble, and some delicious natural nut butter toast. Perfect sustenance for the next item on the day’s agenda, a visit to Tough Temple Crossfit directly across the street. Some unconventional coaching notwithstanding, the workout of heavy front squats and inverted rows effectively kicked our asses. Iola then joined me for a refreshing swim, after which we visited Whole Foods for our dinner supplies….huge ribeye steaks, asparagus, zucchini and four flavors of an Ohio-based grass fed ice cream brand, Jeni’s. When Tim returned from work, we gathered up the food and headed up to the rooftop again. I watched over Iola as she swam while Tim and Gretchen grilled the steaks and veggies on the rooftop grills. We sat and enjoyed this delicious meal with an exquisite bottle of red as the sun set over the city. Our conversation continued and veered towards our mutual love of music, horn, and Mahler symphonies. Tim quickly obliged us and set Spotify to the slow movement of Mahler 6. We sat in this idyllic setting listening to the beautiful horn solos in that movement and reminiscing about our own horn playing days. The evening could not have been more perfect.

Tuesday began with a couple shots of espresso (I am obviously fascinated and addicted to the Nespresso!), toast and another visit to Tough Temple Crossfit, where I eagerly loaded weight on my bar for a wod with deadlifts, sprints, and pistols (modified of course). After another visit to the pool (Iola would swim from dawn til dusk, I’m convinced), we wandered to downtown Bethesda for a late lunch and some shopping. I made my very first Lululemon purchase (Erin Stimac is so proud of me) and picked up a few more books for my journey at Barnes and Noble. An incredible Indian meal followed as we awaited Tim’s return from a long day in Manhattan. Can’t resist showing off our beautiful meals.

food in bethesda

Good Grub!

An unexpected bonus of this visit was my introduction to single malt scotch. Since living in Kentucky for the last 17 years, I have attained a love and appreciation for fine bourbon. My only experience of scotch has been my mom’s scotch and soda. Single malt is an entirely different beverage. Tim introduced me to 4 different varieties, my favorite of which was Lagavulin 16 year…. aged in a VERY smoky barrel. A new obsession!

Single Malt Happiness

Single Malt Happiness

This visit was remarkably special and this is the crux of this post. When Gretchen and I first met, she was a college freshman and I was in the second year of my DMA program, with about a 13 year age difference. I remember that although much younger than I, Gretchen possessed a quiet maturity and an appealing gentle spirit not common in most 18 year olds. Plus, I was just flat-out in awe of her amazing natural musicality expressed on her horn. So it’s no surprise that we were friends back in school. After I graduated and moved on to Louisville, our paths crossed only twice after that, in 1999 at the horn conference in Athens, GA and then again in 2001 at the conference in Kalamazoo. Since then, we’ve kept in touch only through the magic of facebook. So it is absolutely incredible to me to reconnect and rediscover our many common interests and mutual core beliefs, most of which we never discussed so many years ago: our love of music, our journey with the horn, our love of teaching, our passion for fitness, crossfit, and eating real food, each of our life’s journeys and the challenges which have been presented to us and how we’ve faced and dealt with those challenges. When I marveled aloud at the similarities in our priorities and spiritual paths and the ease of our friendship despite the span of years, Gretchen uttered a simple yet profound statement: “When there is a connection, time is irrelevant.”

I remarked to a very special friend yesterday how grateful I am that both my visits so far have been filled with such meaningful conversations. And she stated “Kindred spirits abound when you are open to the Universe.” True words and I promise to stay open to the Universe on this adventure.



5 thoughts on “A New Friendship with an Old Friend

  1. Gretchen Williams says:

    Alise—what a beautiful post! We are honored that you chose to spend some time with us, and I can only marvel at your ability to be both introspective and totally adventurous at the same time. My voice has been a little tired today–most certainly due to the HOURS of conversation we shared. I went to Crossfit this morning with your voice in my mind, giving me good coaching and encouragement as ONLY you can–and PRd my back squat 🙂 We love you and can’t wait to see you once you’ve had some more incredible experiences. Iola will be ready for a harmonica duet and another ribeye….and I’ll be ready for another marathon chat with my friend.

  2. Alise, you are a true Oliver, as revealed in your most excellent writing skills. Very enjoyable reading. Your adventure evokes memories of my own past experiences, pushing past fears and false beliefs about the world and myself. A phrase that I used to help place one foot ahead of the other when my stomach was knotted in fear… “Look back and know, look forward and realize, that my fears are unfounded.” You are doing great. Lots of love, your bro Joe

  3. Melanie R says:

    That quote gave me the chills. It’s so contagious to read about you being so happy. I find myself smiling when I read of your adventures. Please continue posting. And tell your friend that her daughter Lola is an absolute darling!

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