It’s spring on the ranch. Baby calves are born every day, which means they each get vaccinations, ear tags and vitamin shots. This week, those tasks that are ordinary to us became an event as disparate people surrounded Sam and Salvador while they worked: Forest (recently featured in the NY Times) was on horseback, while his wife, Margo, and my younger son, Emmett, looked on. Talia stopped by to snap some photos, and Wyatt, a young man who wants to get into ranching, came to learn. Jesse, our neighbor, walked by with her two-year-old Dirk as my Uncle Kent drove through the scene.
Margo and Forest are brilliant musicians who came back to Wallowa County after cancelling their long anticipated tours. Emmett’s basketball season was cut short, and he’s missing the 6th grade field trip he worked to raise money for all year. Wyatt’s college classes were cancelled. Jesse had to stop going to work when Dirk’s daycare closed.
Sam and Salvador usually do their jobs without help (or an audience), but this week, it wasn’t about getting the job done. It was about being together in the same place, sharing the disappointment each of us feels at not being able to realize our plans. Watching them, I noticed that the group, safely distanced from one another, ranged in age from 2 to 70. On first glance, you’d guess that they had little in common--not interests or skills, political views or life experience--yet were bound by a shared appreciation of the snow-capped mountains, the brown-eyed baby calves, and the joy of being outside on the land. Rather than being inside sulking, they were discovering what could arise in the absence where their expectations once lived.
It’s ironic that our inability to gather physically has opened up the emotional space to expand our community. Against a backdrop of fear and loss, it’s easier to see where people show up, and that illuminates what we have in common. Sharing a single circumstance with someone, inspires you to care for them and make space for their needs.
This pandemic came at an incredibly divisive time, but I am convinced that small bonds will be the lights that show us a path forward. Believing that, I try to recognize the values and ideas I share with others, and leave the ones I don’t behind. If we can gather around what we share, we can hold on to the unexpected connections long after the fear subsides. Because, to borrow a line from Margo’s song, “the day I quit trying, that’s the day my heart stops growing.”