Saturday, January 23, 2010
A long time between posts
For anyone who happens still to stumble in here, it's been an unconscionable time between posts. There are no good reasons, although there are plenty of excuses. The page proofs from hell. Finishing up all but the minimum of paid work and happily entering "untirement". A bout of good strong Mexican flu. The coffee harvest. Too many overdue pieces of contracted writing that had to be produced and delivered before "untirement" generated a total weakness of will with respect to writing for publication. A mountain of interesting things to be done back here in Mexico, such as building a deck and finishing off the relaxation space up on the roof ahead of the coming summer -- when she who now brings in almost all the bacon begins sabbatical. And so on.
Today was fun. In the morning and early afternoon I finished husking the bulk of the coffee beans from the first picking -- ready for roasting. There were still a few hours of daylight left so I went on out to the coffee land to do a bit of weed clearing by hoe, in the area at the front of the land where we've been making a few small decorative gardens amongst the coffee plants. As I arrived the neighbour's young son -- he'd be 5 or, at most 6 (doesn't seem to go to school yet ...) came out and walked over to the land with me. I asked if his dad, David, was working, and the lad said he was off picking coffee.
We wandered over to the workshop/toolshed on our land and I opened it up and got out some implements. A hoe to hoe the weeds and a large bucket on a rope to get water from the well to do a bit of watering where required. I loosened the soil around a few plants in the gardens and headed off to get some water. The boy followed. I brought the water back and watered the plants and did this a couple more times. The boy said he was goiing back to the house so I said "OK,, see you tomorrow (cos I will go out again for a full day tomorrow). I started some weeding and a few minutes later the boy was back. He had his machete strapped on his hip, but he had brought a small (maybe 2 litres) plastic container (from Mum's kitchen no doubt) to which he had attached some cord -- enough to draw water from the well. He proceeded to water a few plants, making several trips. I got on with some weeding and with transferring a few small plants. He said he was going back to the house. So I thanked him for the watering and gave him some pesos.
He went back home -- maybe 50 metres away and with reasonably clear line of vision to their house through various coffee plants, trees, a fence line, etc. So I could see he got home safely each time. I continued working. 5 minutes later he was back again with a small hoe (David's) and a few wee plants. He starts digging in an area between some coffee plants and plants his wee plants. Heads off to the well and gets some water. And then does a bit of weeding. Every now and then he'd say something -- usually asking if I had seen that bird that had flown by.
I was intrigued with his unprompted propping up of a plant that was growing along the ground because of its weight. He found a branch that had divided out into three smaller branches and he cut those branches off, leaving like three "finger stumps: at the end. He used these stumpts to wedge the plant stem so it sould stay secure.
Now, of course, all this time my head was mulling a swag of competing thoughts. Whilst working in Australia, of course, I'd had to have a Blue Card, that gave permission to be around kidz in school areas when on research trips and the like. We all know the issues and the protocols. Yet, like many of us, no doubt, I grieve for what has been lost over the past generation or two when it comes to the practices of safety. Moreover, this right now is Mexico, where in the cities kidnappings are a genuine concern among the social classes who might be able to pay ransoms. On one side of my head were all these kinds of things buzzing around. On the other side was a certain knowledge that the boy's Mum would know where he was, and a pretty strong feeling that she would not be worried. David has become our main work support on the land, and when it comes to coffee picking the whole family pitches in. But above all these thoughts was a contagious feeling of joyful privilege and humility at being accorded a level of trust that made me privvy to watching a very young child enact being in non-pretend adult roles.
It reminded me of that magical sentence in Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society, where Illich silently chided himself for referring to a peasant's son as "nino" and thereby bringing something between the father and son that is not customarily there in their lifeworld lives and roles. There was a smaller sized person there doing exactly what I was doing right there, and what his father will be doing right there the same time tomorrow. And I could not help thinking that part of the mix in the whole situation was a powerful confidence and trust on the part of his Mum that the boy would know exactly how to practise safety. I haven't felt myself in the presence of such dignified circumstances in a long long time. It felt like the most outrageous privilege; something special beyond words.
Something worth rekindling a blog for.