|this photo has Nothing to do with this post but rudy was being hurtful in his morning cuteness. this post is about our neighbors not about pitbulls. and i find that taking photos of neighbors can feel rather invasive and rude.|
there's been a lot of talk --on my side of things--about the generosity of neighbors. as i mentioned in a comment on monday we give milk, yogurt, and eggs to our immediate neighbors. these are they that live on the same property as us. we believe firmly that the food we make here should, firstly, feed those who live here. they return the goodwill with gifts of yurts, soups and hay. but there is another slope of the mountain that doesn't have the means to giveaway $10,000 tents. it's a pretty stark contrast between rich and poor up here. most everyone seems to want to live in the same honest way with the natural world but some houses have solar panels and subarus and others have collapsed barns and skinny cows. i'd be unfaithful to you if i told you i treat both kinds of neighbors the same.
the subaru half went to the same schools we did. they buy the same six dollar dish soap from the same million dollar co-op. they buy the same peonies from the same farmer's markets. they have the same rustic-hippie-chic look nailed down to the dried flowers and herbs in carefully labeled jelly jars and the heavy collection of cast iron skillets.
when people have this sameness with you, its so simple to treat them as old friends. it makes one, me, feel secure in their proximity. it makes dinners and parties natural and easy.
it's class snobbery in a subtle form. like attracting like. and it makes me angry and uncomfortable despite my continuing complacency. we haven't invited the brothers with the skinny cows for dinner. neither the mother and son with the broken barn. or he who lives in the derelict trailer.
i would probably go forth in my cowardice if it weren't for nick. as far as i can tell in these 4 1/2 years together, nick doesn't seem to give a care about sameness. he has a terrifically big and open heart and believes in the humanity of others not out of sympathy but out of camaraderie. he believes so very truly that everyone means well. he only takes things personally when i spend a breathless two hours convincing him that he should.
he believes in the general goodness of people. a kindness i only extend to animals.
a couple of weeks ago we were riding home from town in the drenching rain when we passed a man with cardboard sign that read the name of our town. i did my usual fake half smile and looked onward but no sooner had we passed him nick said he thought we should pick him up. i reviewed for him the horrors of knife-throwing hitchhikers, but nick ignored the true horror of my selfishness, reversed the car and gave me a heavy jar to wield as a weapon should things get ugly. when we stopped the car for the psychopath to jump in i breathed we're ok as it was our neighbor, paul. we rode back in the damp warmth of the car all talking of last frost and planting beans. it was the first time i had properly met paul, as i usually scooted quickly by his very rundown looking trailer, always assuming the worst.
of course, we all know where assuming gets one. now, i can slow down when i see paul out in his garden and ask if he needs anything at the store or a ride somewhere. he says no, thanks, kate. and for whatever reason this makes me smile to town. i guess i get high on the idea of a neighbor knowing my name and that he isn't the only neighbor who does but part of a real community on our mountain where everyone knows your name.
or maybe i'm just being self congratulatory on momentarily not being the bigot i am.
in new york i didn't know a single person in my tower of a building, let alone my block. when we lived in san francisco we always had some neighbor friends but they were generally restricted to the over sized victorian we all lived in. in france, all of our neighbors spoke the obvious french and insisted on correcting me in live-time through every conversation which got old and so i took care to avoid speaking at all. in north carolina we had my cousins across the farm but there was barely any contact with the other neighbors save for when we suspected them of shooting one of our pigs or stealing our onions. in the suburbs of boston we had a burglary in our neighborhood when we first arrived. after that i was certain the whole lot suspected us as we stuck out like sore dirty thumbs with our dayglo knit caps and muddy boots and a dirty, loud car.
but here, the people on this mountain treat each other like breathing feeling human beings. it certainly isn't perfect and i don't doubt some of our neighbors hold the same conscious and subconscious prejudices against other neighbors that i do. yet everyone knows each other in some manner. there are rumors that fly. there is one relationship of outright hostility (something about the rumors) but there is an acknowledgement of humanity that i find so very humbling and so very new. and i am so very grateful for it.
tuesday night, after, what was an exhausting nonstop day before the rains came, nick and i threw ourselves into some town clothes and into the car for an escape to easy consumerism and a pizza. we fought about who was more tired and who would drive and i lost, somehow. but we didn't get more than a mile from the house when we passed rick and bob's hay field. the rain was just starting it's teasing descent and they were out there with a wagon half-full and bales still on the ground.
nick being nick told me to stop the car. it was starting to rain and if you don't get the hay in before the rain, it's ruined. it's moldy and done. we scurried out to help. i very obviously under-dressed in a shift and sandals and silently hoping they'd decline the help. but of course they didn't. they were just two and we were two more. and the heaven's were threatening. as soon as it became clear how grateful they were for the extra bodies i got over myself and into the job.
we ended up there for a couple hours as we helped throw the bales from field to wagon and then fired up the hay elevator and formed a four-man chain to get everything to dry safety. rick was in the wagon throwing me the bales which i plunked onto the elevator to send up to nick where he kept smiling and winking at me and then throwing them on to bob.
we shook hands when the bales were put to bed. exchanged numbers and promised to call one another when we needed extra bodies again.
by the time we got to town we were too late for the easy consumerism i had planned but we were able to get a warm dry bite to eat both beaming off the high of living in a land where a trip to town can be so derailed.
i'm finding it hard to be very eloquent in my conclusion of this post. i'm not sure what i hoped to discover about wretched old me in writing it. i guess just to say the obvious, that neighbors are all wonderful. here and there and where you are. and yes, they can be most wonderful when they give you large wooden tents or have you over to eat dinner out of painted moroccan bowls and sit you down to watch Stop Making Sense. but every neighbor is equal in their deserving of respect and friendship. it's a concept that is so obvious but one that i seem to ignore with each move.
i'm ashamed at my intentional reluctance to get to know some of our mountain brethren. but i'm very fortunate to live in a place where you have no choice but to love thy neighbor. and most fortunate to have nick by my side always teaching me by example that you Get Over Yourself and start making friends.
also, i changed the names of my neighbors in an attempt to respect their mountain-worshiping privacy.