Not long ago, Dana and I returned from Denver after attending an art exhibition and visiting friends we have known for years. I was struck with the realization that in all we do and say about our careers, our passions, our living environments, and our finances, friends are truly one of the most important elements in our lives.

The art exhibit was a retrospective of work by Mark Zamantakis at Denver University.

Mark is a teacher, potter, philosopher and long-time friend and associate. In my former life as a potter, we collaborated in building the Noborigama in Morrison, Colorado in 1971 — a wood burning, hill climbing, chamber kiln typical of those used for pottery in Japan.

The gathering at the university art center captured a moment in time, segmenting Mark’s work in sections of decades over the span of fifty years—a representation and acknowledgement of a man who has made an indelible mark in the lives of so many of his students and friends.

I thought we went for the exhibit, but in retrospect, I realized that we were there to reconnect with so many important people who have impacted our lives. It seemed as though the past had come alive in the present. Having not seen many of these people for more than thirty years, and having only seldom connected with some of them by mail, my memory was spinning with the crunch of experiences packed into this evening time capsule.

The reconnection with our friends reaffirmed the importance that one can make in the lives of others. Many of these people have followed the path that was introduced to them decades earlier—a path of fulfillment and service above self.

I was again made aware that our future canvas is not yet painted. We do, in fact, design our futures. Friends, family, acquaintances and relationships of all kinds have a strong influence on our present and future years. How we choose to proceed, and with whom we choose to connect is a critical element in the design of our lives. Spontaneity verses fixed, inclusion as opposed to exclusion, flexibility and flow or rigid and blocked — all are important considerations in the design.

In the new-year, remember that by keeping all doors open to the growth of relationships, the invitation to enter again into meaningful unions exists, for it is most certainly true that we are but a collection of the books we read and the people we meet.