Monday 13 November 2006


Waving to people --
acknowledging that others exist around you

this is something that we have encountered as an aspect of country living that we hadn't noticed we were missing before

when our housemate Adelka was about 4 years old, she started playing "the stranger game", in which she would walk through the yard with a peculiar, abstracted expression on her face,

"stranger face",

affecting not to be able to see or notice anyone in the yard except perhaps for her "baby" with whom she was walking or "driving".

the components of "stranger" were,

  • to seem to be thinking about something or to be busily engaged in negotiating from point A to B
  • to be semi-magically "unable" to see all those whom one is in fact passing right by and whom one of course does see very plainly
  • therefore to pass right by others without acknowledging such or seeming to recognize their existence --an unnatural thing to do -- which she called "being a stranger-girl"
where we live and work, most of the people who drive past out produce stand are in fact our neighbors, whether we happen to recognize their cars or not. We arrived about 5 years ago, and of course as newbies we didn't know at first who was who in the area... Then as we started to realize, even if the stand might be the midpoint of a 40 mile commute for a passer-by, that person is still our neighbor almost just as much as the folks around the corner. Or if the passers-by might be travellers (=visitors, =guests) then all the more should we wave "hello" to them and show hospitality. So we started waving to everyone, if we weren't doing anything else with our hands at the time, or if we were then nodding or smiling or otherwise indicating (the obvious) that we could see them and they us, and (the not always obvious) that we are glad to share this environment with them, and that they are welcome to stop and enjoy the spot also

on one of the san juan islands (just out west of us) --well probably on all of them but famously so on Lopez -- everyone waves to everyone on the roads. it's just what one does. and when we were there i found that even though its an "empty custom" (maybe that's what i would have thought at one time) it really can make a visitor -- me for instance -- feel welcomed and not hated

when we came back from a trip out there i decided i would make a habit whenever possible of always waving, as a driver. it's actually pretty easy, since you've got a hand up there anyway. now i most typically flash either one or two fingers (nice fingers of course, like "one love" or "peace"), which looks like a decent wave at 40 or 50 miles an hour

i've noticed that waving really can change these brief encounters. not always, but frequently enough that i'm a convert to waving now. especially in our area, for example, there are many guest workers from mexico and central america, with or without documentation, and many of them feel really scared or squeezed or despised or other sad kind of feelings. boy they sure appreciate a smile and a wave sometimes. or kids too, whether they're 8 or 17 or in between, often feel marginalized and judged by adults. a smile and some kind of acknowledgement seems to mean something to the youths more times than i would've thought

isn't this "common knowledge"? that it could be anybody on any given day who might truly appreciate even a glimmer of recognition. the thing for me has often been that i become aware of it too late if at all, which is where making a habit of greeting everyone (basic manners right? unfortunately compulsory schooling got me too) seems to really pay off

even i do the same with other animals now, which turns out to make the same kind of sense as acknowledging the humans around! what do ya know? and i'm experimenting with plants, rocks and "locales" too

i would suggest that habitually playing "the stranger game" leads to depression and a lowered quality of life. the "down", down-cast quality that we see on the faces of vancouver and seattle -ites is both an indicator of their cut-offness from all the others around and the environs, and of the effects of being cut off.

straight up: city folks don't just look sad, they actually are

Hey brother! Hey sister! what's happening?

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