July 5, 2007
Independence is sometimes contextual. Like these shore pines, one can stand alone and still be bolstered and protected by others nearby. When a strong wind blows, surrounding neighbors keep the damage to a minimum. Without them, a lone tree could easily topple.
And such is my growing, happy experience on this little island in the farmost upper left-hand corner of the United States. Lots of independent thinkers here. Lots of folks with open minds who choose not to tell others how to live and prefer not to be instructed on that themselves. Yet the palpable sense of interconnectivity is everywhere. Living on a small island, just about every person you meet is framed by a musical repeat sign: you will see them again, somewhere, and often in a very different milieu than where you last met (that’s the jazz version: different harmonizations second and third times around!).
Many islanders have several jobs and serious interests. Our tree trimmer is a brilliant photographer. Our handyman is a charter boat sea captain. Our friend who manages the marine retail store in town is also a widely read liberal blogger. And today when our landscaper’s business partner showed up to help with the plans for our front yard, Charles and I recognized her: she had been our waitress last week at one of our favorite restaurants. It happened to be on a very rare occasion when a dish wasn’t quite right and I asked very nicely if it could be sent it back for a replacement. She was equally kind and accommodating, and of course we tipped well. Little did we know that days later she’d be standing on our deck, happily sharing her wisdom about maples and ironwood and the evils of thistle.
One thing I’m constantly reminded of here: be kind to everyone, because you will see them again and again in all sorts of different scenarios, from professional ones, to running into each other at the supermarket, to helping them get their truck out of a ditch. It’s a far more tribal level of awareness than one would ever find in a city. And it’s a fascinating lesson in the simultaneous truths of independence and interdependence.