Thursday, March 26, 2009


Soft grey sky and chirping birds this morning, promises of milder weather.  But meanwhile I know that up north of here in Grey County where the farm is, the sap is still running and not all the snow has quite melted yet.

I talked to our neighbour Chris just now.  He lives across the road from the farm, a lovely guy and very skilled wood turner who does precision work in fine woods and ships orders all over North America.  I called him this morning because of course I had a favour to ask: could he please go over and see if there is any leaking water in the house?  We failed to get back up to the farm in late fall to turn off the water, because the snow was deep from mid- November on.  There's a pump in the basement, with an insulated room built around it, and in there is a small electric heater.  If the electricity went off, then the pump may be broken.  If it stayed on, then the pump is probably fine, but if it's fine and there's a frost-induced crack in one of the pipes, then there's water leaking in the house.  hmm  

Chris said, "Sure.  I'll go over this afternoon and have a look.  I'll call back and let you know. But you should have called in November.  I could have gone over then and drained the pipes. " True, I know, but we didn't want to impose on his kindness.  At the time it seemed like way too much to ask, given the terrible weather, and we also assumed that maybe there'd be a melt in late December when we were back from Asia for a few weeks.  There often is.  There wasn't.  So we just closed our eyes, metaphorically, and hoped we'd be lucky.
(The house is very small, with simple plumbing; the basement has a dirt floor so leaking water will drain; and we may also get lucky.  These are the things I have been saying  to myself when I slip into worrying about it.) 

That call to Chris just now was a reminder of how we rely on neighbours, even people we don't know really well, and how we must expect them to rely on us.  In the moment, someone relying on you or on me may feel like an impostition, in fact it IS an imposition.  But it is also a lovely thing, for it is  a reminder of our interrelatedness.  The term "self-reliant" is an attractive one, and most of us want to be and to feel self-reliant.  But when the time comes that we can't cope, or when the difficulty we face is out of our reach in some way, then isn't it wonderful when we have friends and neighbours to whom we can say "help!".

I said just that, plus "I need rescuing" two days ago at a photo store here in Toronto called Vistek, a great place.  One day when I was in Myitkyina photographing in the food market, my camera suddenly read "error".  There was a problem with the little memory card.  I had another so was able to keep shooting.  But later when I tried to read or download from the card it wouldn't read.  Had I lost all those shots?  Scary.

I took the card in to Vistek.  A nice guy there in Service put the card in his magic machine, after a bit of a wait told me he was able to read it, then downloaded the images to a CD - a fifteen minute process - and gave it to me along with the card.  The bill?  "Forget about it"  Now I've looked closely and can report that the photos are all fine. I'm walking on air, yes because I didn't lose them, but also because of how just perfectly nice the guy at Vistek was.

As people batten down the hatches in this time of anxiety about the economic meltdown and its consequences for us all, it's great to remember that acts of personal generosity, small acts of kindness, enrich us all.  So when the opportunity comes to move into a situation and be useful, we're better off to do so wholeheartedly, and with gratitude that we're part of a network of give-and-take, rather than feeling resentful about being leaned on.  

Perhaps this makes me Polyanna-ish? but that's how I feel about it.


Christopher St.Onge said...

Congrats to both of you on your James Beard Awards nomination. It's well deserved.

Anonymous said...

This post fits nicely with current conversations in these parts exploring about compassion.