Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Firewood and Fish

Boatie people generally derive happiness from simple things - like free wood. This morning a few large branches were "pruned" from an even larger Ash tree by a man with a chainsaw dangling on the end of a rope. The offcuts range in size from 2 inches in diameter to almost 2 feet, and have been left neatly stacked for folk to help themselves to, as is the custom along the canal. We had to go out for a few hours but by the time we returned there was still a fair bit left. Our appointment had been frustrating and not ended with the outcome we expected. We felt deflated and overwhelmed with the unfairness of it. After a mug of tea we went and joined the other hunter-gatherers at the woodpile. It was a lot of fun - lots of laughing and joking and people just taking what they needed. We made several new friends, one of whom  came by later with a  sack of smaller branches that we can saw up easily - she knew one of us has sciatica and that we don't have a log splitter for larger stuff. We do possess an axe which I asked my Dad to sharpen for us. It was returned with a little green hessian bag tied neatly to the blade, but wasn't much sharper...can't see me being able to chop much wood with it, bless him, which may have been his intention! Probably just as well. A complete set of digits is fairly vital to our work.
Other small kindnesses followed - including a text from a friend wishing us well today, and conversations with family. In turn we were able to find a way of letting someone know we were thinking of them. Earlier on this evening I heard a familiar plop! like a stone hitting water and I turned to see a kingfisher emerging from the cold green water with a fish.
The community here is fluid, tomorrow or the next day someone will pull up their mooring pins and move on. We may see them again in a few days, weeks or even months. Nevertheless it is a community  and I have experienced more friendship and generosity and practical help in eight months than I ever did in years of living in a city and its suburbs. We have tied up several boats that have come adrift, and others have done the same for us - no one shrugs and says "not my problem".
Over the last couple of weeks we have been on the receiving end of unneccessary blame and pettiness. But, like that kingfisher rising to the surface with a fish, it is the hospitality and many kindnessess that rise to the surface and sustain us.