THAT WHICH IS UN-PROTECTABLE

 
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While on the phone with a utility company yesterday, a well-meaning woman transferred me to a home security company to discuss "how to protect your investment." . . . Full transparency here: I hung up. I admit that I felt a twinge of guilt, but to her credit those words have echoed in my mind long after I disconnected. Protect your investment. 

Earlier in the day I had stopped into the hardware (one of those magnificently creaky, family-run ones) to pick up a $4 bag of bird seed. For many months, my 2 1/2 year old nephew and I have been doing this together—pick up the bird seed, walk it home, fill the feeder, marvel at the sparrows and chickadees who come by, repeat.

When we ambled to the register, the owner handed me my assumed-to-be-lost credit card. "I came to your house a few times and knocked, but you must not have been home," she said. Ok . . . the owner of the shop where I had left my credit card came to our house to deliver it. Bless her. It was an unbelievable moment for me, captured in my mind's eye with perfect clarity. I am not so naive to believe my loved ones are exempt from indiscriminate danger and misfortune. Devastating events happen in small towns all the time, regardless the perceived safety that accompany interactions like the one I had at the hardware. But the interaction did absolutely reaffirm why Mark and I moved here, why we choose to live rurally. What I wanted to say to the woman from the utility company was that the investments I want to protect are of much greater worth than the Stuff in the House. 

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The investments worth protecting are our relationships. Mark and I choose rural living because of its slower pace — dull, at times — and because we can leave our doors unlocked. The relationships we establish take more work than when we lived in the city, they're harder to come by, and they tend to be with people much older than us, but they boast a richness. Let this not be a diatribe about Why the Country is Superior, Et Cetera. Instead, let it be a call to dig deep, discover within yourself the investments you most want to protect, and allow yourself to be guided by those principles. (And, hopefully, the things you most want to protect are not Things at all.) I write this for myself as much as anyone, especially as Advent dawns and Christmas approaches.

My mom and I spent a day festive-izing the house with my grandma's Christmas decorations. Of course her folk paintings, hand-sewn Santa dolls, and window wreaths are immense treasures. Each has a story. Still, it's just stuff. They are nil compared to the beauty of my nephew learning to be gentle when stirring honey into a mug of hot tea; nothing compared to our baby kicking fervently when Mark plays piano; nothing compared to the interaction I had with the hardware store owner. So that's it, I guess. Just a long post about cherishing people and moments that are, by nature, un-protectable. 

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—S