At Your Service: April 16, 2008
Snowdrops have sprung up in the lawn. ¬†Robins have begun their ritual dancing in the grass. ¬†The air is once again filling with the music of songbirds. ¬†The temperatures are rising, the gloves are off and the wave is back.
I hadn‚Äôt thought about the wave in quite some time. ¬†Then the other day, driving across the ridge of Roxbury Mountain an old pickup truck approached in the oncoming lane and there it was. ¬†A meaty hand lifted from the steering wheel in the traditional salute and a smile came through the windshield. ¬†
When I was a child on the prairies, we would wave to cars that passed by the house. ¬†I still remember the thrill it gave us when someone in one of those cars would wave back ‚Äì usually the kids in the back seat. ¬†It wasn‚Äôt until I moved to these glorious mountains that I encountered adults routinely waving at one another.
The first time it happened, I assumed that someone had simply mistaken my car for that of someone else. ¬†People everywhere wave at people they know. ¬†As it dawned on me that it wasn‚Äôt a case of mistaken identity, I began to understand that I had moved to an extraordinary place. ¬†Here people wave at those they meet on the road.
Sometimes the salute is a full lifting of the hand and side-to-side motion. ¬†More often, it is a simple lifting of the hand off the wheel, at the same time keeping contact. ¬†Occasionally, two or three raised fingers are all you see. ¬†There are those who accompany the wave with a nod and others, like my pickup man, give you a full smile. ¬†Whatever the motion, it never fails to touch the spirit.
Perhaps it is because life here is more solitary. ¬†More of us live in isolation on the mountains than together in the valley villages. ¬†We may be able to see our neighbor‚Äôs house, lights through the trees in the dark of night; but rarely hear anything other than their dog‚Äôs occasional bark at a rabbit in the yard. ¬†But, it seems to me that the wave is more than a simple by-product of low population density. ¬†
This is also a place where the diverse forms that human life takes seem to all be okay. ¬†The barriers of belief, race and gender that are at issue in the world at large seem here to be less important. ¬†Au contraire, there is a welcome mat at every door. ¬†At the same time this is a place where people fight for their convictions. ¬†Disagreements get personal and long-term rifts are perpetuated by deep resentment. ¬†Strangely, there seems to be no contradiction between the welcome and the fight.
The wave seems not to care who receives it. ¬†I often find my own hand rising up just because there is an on-coming car. ¬†I tend to use the left (the right must stay on the ready for shifting gears) and my head does a little bob. ¬†Through the on-coming windshield the response is usually a wave in kind. ¬†When surprise is registered it can only mean one of two things: ¬†the person is in the area for the first time and is over there assuming mistaken identity or it really is someone I know and the wave expands into the hello of recognition.
As when I was a child, there is a thrill that comes from the momentary connection to another human being that the wave brings. ¬†It is not unlike the feelings that fill the senses as winter looses its grip and spring fills the air with sound and scent.