While driving through Clifford this week, a woman with several parcels in her arms was checking traffic looking to cross the highway. Not being in much of a hurry to complete my errands, I slowed quite a distance before her, made eye contact, flashed my lights, and she crossed safely.
As I proceeded, I recognized her as a long time friend and Main Street Clifford business person. Yielding pedestrians the right of way is an often ignored law; within this context it is a small courtesy, but one that brought a smile to both of us.
Later that evening, while having dinner at Chet’s Place, an extended family came through the door led by a young father holding a bassinet in front of himself. He walked with obvious care as he meandered his way from the door to the dinner table, proudly introducing his new son to the few patrons.
“Wow! That’s a really new baby!” I remarked.
“Seven weeks.” replied his father.
The boy was sleeping quietly; his face placid, his new fingers graceful and perfect resting on his chest. He was beautiful.
Soon the boy’s grandmother came over with a big smile and said “Thanks for not running me over today!”
“You’re welcome – thanks for sharing your beautiful grandson! I didn’t even know that was you at first crossing the road. I guess I did a nice thing for someone even though I didn’t think that I knew them! ”
We laughed, and she began saying how much she loved being a grandmother. How the child was still so young that all you could really do is hold him, and tell him stories. She then recounted how her daughter had begun telling the boy nursery rhymes that she herself had heard from her mother and grandmother.
“I don’t think that you can love or hold a child too much, particularly at this age. Generally, society nowadays doesn’t seem to put as much importance on physical bonding with their infants as in older times, or as do folks in other parts of the world even today. Many families here don’t see their children much during the day – they are forced to put their children in daycare to allow both parents to work so they can make ends meet. Think of the mothers in third world countries who wear their infants on their bodies swaddled in sarongs, or ancient folks like the Native Americans who carried their children close to them in papooses.”
Though not having first hand experience with children, I agreed, noting that some philosophies posit that abundant love and affection, particularly until the child is four or five, can have dramatic, positive effects on a person, making them more compassionate as adults, more effective as a community member.
This conversation caused me to recognize one of the most wonderful parts of living on The Hill: more people are literally more grounded than you’ll find in many other places.
Some of the folks who grew up around here and are now grandparents had parents that schooled in one-room school houses without electricity. Horsepower from horses was more common than horsepower from automobiles. They were familiar with, submitted to, and lived in harmony with the rhythms of day and night, the weather, the seasons. They either farmed, or worked in some capacity to support the farming community. They were expert observers of the weather and the phases of the moon. They functioned as a community as if their life depended upon it, because it did.
Nowadays, a bad week in the office can cause a lot of stress. A hundred years ago, a bad week in the fields could cause a crop to fail. A failed crop meant no food for the Winter. No food for the Winter meant no Spring. Simple.
Neighbors may or may not have been fond of each other, yet if one needed help, everyone showed up. They helped each other unconditionally knowing that, for the community to survive there was no time to be petty or proud. The critical challenges weren’t between individuals; they were between the community and nature.
Just as those nursery rhymes have been passed down generation to generation in folks that live around here, so have many of the values of a functional farming community. There is an integrity, an authenticity to the ethics adhered to by folks who lived and worked very close to the ground, to nature.
They saw first-hand that it was impossible for an individual to survive alone in nature without community, and they behaved so.
It was not a lifestyle choice – it is a lifestyle necessity.