Friday, January 19, 2007

The Intrinsic Value of a Neighbor

Like most folks these day, I find that I pay too little attention to my neighbors. I pass their houses several times a day. I wave to (some of) them when they are in their yards or if I see them at the supermarket I will say hello. One or two of them I have a drink (or three) with on occasion. There used to be a Christmas party in the neighborhood a few years back, but those folks moved away, and now there are only the lights on the homes to unite us in our common holiday.

We have in common an extraordinarily beautiful environment -- one long country lane that dips and winds across a rough terrain of one huge granite ledge, a tidal river and marsh to one side. Many of us share views of that river (some have better views than others -- but that's between my next door neighbor and me).

Recently, though, I received an email from a most interesting neighbor, and he has permitted me to share it with you. He asks to be known as "The Octogenarian," and if I play my cards right, we'll be seeing more of him here.

So here is the message I received from The Octogenarian (edited only to change names):

Dear Anna and Friend:

Tonight I am so glad I live where I do. My wonderful neighbors Hank's and Mary's house is up there on the hill shielding me from that nasty Nor'west wind. Down here in my little nook it is calm and peaceful. Cold? Yes, but nothing like Shaw's parking lot. I had visions of my Cambell's soup being blown over to my house when I set them down to get my keys out.

The marsh will be a block of ice in the AM my kayaking pals. Do you have ice skates? One winter years ago we (my wife and I) went out in the canoe on the ice with ski poles instead of paddles. We went skittering around laughing our foolish heads off - I'm not sure if I was still in my drinking days. Lots of fun though. Another time my wife and I ice-skated almost down to Supper Island (what's that, about 2 miles?), But fortunately, my wife heard cracking sounds and we turned back in time.

The ice does unusual things to the marsh grass making it look almost like a moon scape. Especially with the low winter sun reflecting off the ice. When the tides are very high, ice is occasionally lifted in thick blocks up onto the top of the grass. Sometimes these are very large and are fun to skate on because you're not going to fall though into the water.

Years ago, men used to come with chain saws, cut a hole in the ice here and there and stab for eels. The eels were about 18" long and bought BIG bucks in Japan as they were flown over there from here. By stabbing, I mean they had a long pole with a multi-barbed forked tip. When you stabbed an eel, he'd wiggle like crazy (I guess I would too) and you'd know you'd gotten one. Ayah!

The geese now come to it looking for open water to land in. I don't think I've ever seen them land on ice. I don't think they can, but it might be a whale of a show. They'd look like a bunch of commuters on a stretch of black ice on Route 128. The ice-boaters will be out on Mushquashicut Pond any day now. Flittin' back and forth like barn swallows do in the summer.

I had a feeling we'd pay for all those nice early winter days. On one day in my canoe years and years ago I came upon the man (his name was Hunt, I think) and he was the founder of our Gulf River Association. I remarked about the nice day and he said; "Don't get too excited about it; we'll pay for it soon enough." He always paddled his canoe from a kneeling position and every time I saw him, he'd say; "You're not paddling right." I'd try to explain about the job the Navy did on my knees, but he'd paddle off in a huff.

Speaking of pumpkins, do they hibernate? If they don't, they'd better damn well learn.

Love, [The Octogenarian]

I received this message because he and I are united in a common concern (along with others): the proposed development of a property nearby into 48 condominiums. Only because of that did we initiate an email community that led to his sending me this poignant picture. He lives two houses away, down the hill hard by the marsh, yet I hadn't seen him since another neighbor had had a Christmas party some eight years ago. Eight years.

I think that after this condo project has been resolved, I will still be hearing from him, and he from me.

If indeed he hasn't become a regular right in this page.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?