Over the July 4th weekend, things around my place were very quiet — except for the occasional explosion from firecrackers. (I sleep with earplugs, so my sleep wasn’t disturbed too much by the celebrations.) I especially enjoyed waking up to quiet. There’s been construction going on on my street for weeks now. Also, last week, my duplex owners sent over someone to sand and repaint the eaves and window frames. He’s been very respectful of my plants and scrapes the old paint straight into his shop-vac, which I’m grateful for, but that’s another level of noise.
Sunday I woke up to as near to silence as you can get on a busy Midtown Memphis street. I spent a long while enjoying my morning tea and looking at all the nothing that was going on. It was as if the world has stopped to sigh.
I spent the rest of the day taking care of things around the house and garden. I read. I napped.
I could have indulged in the illusion of independence. But I didn’t. Because I’m not independent. And no one is. I’m interdependent. My need for help from others is more obvious than an able-bodied person with a job and car might be, but we’re all dependent on one another. Even the inconvenience of having construction up and down my street, is a reminder of how much we depend on others to keep our lives flowing.
They’re updating gaslines, that run underground into almost every home around here. It’s how we cook and heat our homes. This work is only the visible part of a long chain of work that started with planning, funding, revising and making sure the work would be done safely. Then the physical work begins — crews of workers jackhammer through impossibly hard surfaces to dig and tunnel, insert pipes through the ground. I can go my whole life without otherwise thinking of such things. I haven’t even had to go a day without gas power. The energy arrives and is maintained as if by magic.
But it’s not magic, it’s hard work — and we all pool our money, in the form of the much maligned system of taxes, and many of us get all the services we need to speed through life thinking we’re the masters of our own destiny.
A little over a week ago, one of the men was boring a hole for a pipe, hit a waterline, and sent water spewing out into the street. For awhile it was like a muddy creek in front of the house. Soon, they had to shut off water service to the whole block. A new crew arrived, a new hole was dug. A pump was set up to empty the hole as it continued to fill with water, and men scrambled around in the mud to replace the water pipe.
I was on the porch watching, but also admiring and pruning my plants. A neighbor came over and asked if my water was off. I said yes. She was so angry. She couldn’t take her after-work shower. She spent a minute dissing the workers, but I didn’t take the bait. “They said it should take a few hours to repair,” I told her. She saw the crew out there scrambling around. Her temper went down and she went home.
At one point, I heard a lot of yelling from a hole in the street. A guy who wasn’t in the hole ambled over to the pump and kicked it. He yelled something back and then started looking at his phone. A guy manning the bulldozer rushed over and pulled something up with a sort of sling. Another guy jumped out of the hole. He looked at the pump and looked over at the guy who was on his phone. The guy from the hole went to a truck, came back with a gas can, refilled the pump’s motor, started it up, got the water pumping again, put the gas can away, and then went back in the hole to finish the repair. All the while, the other guy stayed on his phone.
The crew worked til after 8 in the evening. And then the water faucets in our house worked again, and the stream in the street dried up. Our water was full of sediment for a few days, so we drank bottled water, but after that, no problem.
I think about that guy who jumped out and took care of the pump, then kept working til the job was finished. I think about the electricians who work 24 hours a day when storms knock out our utility lines. I think of the whole invisible crew of workers who maintain roads, utilities, and all the comforts we take for granted.
Also, I think of doctors and nurses. Those who are working right now to make better ways for me to live, redesigning and improving wheelchairs, mobility devices, medicines, vitamins, diets. Those who are advocating for more accessibility, broadening our definition of beauty, moving us toward an easier and more respectful society.
And friends, who help me get to the doctor, weed the garden, buy supplies, encourage me.
So so many people I depend on to be independent. And that’s what I think of every independence day. And I continue to dream of a world where we acknowledge and are grateful for our interdependence. And this year, my metaphor for that is a world where more people are
willing to jump from a hole, soaking wet and stressed out from their own work,
do what it takes to keep what is necessary flowing,
then going back in that hole to do more
without cussing anybody out
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