“How are you doing?”
“No, how are YOU REALLY doing?”
An indigenous basketmaking man named Richard lives in our town, and we’ve had occasional conversations through the years. It’s not like we’re close, but we like each other. As I drove by the other day, I saw him alongside Highway 88 cutting willow branches into a pile. I made a u-turn and parked my car.
Richard has friendly energy, and he instantly could tell I felt upset, even though I pretended to stop by for a quick hello. Ghosts come into my heart from time to time, memories of dead people I love. I miss them and it shows. I try to move through whatever emotion pops up, which was why I stopped to talk with Richard. He could tell something was weighing on me, because he looked at me directly and saw it in my eyes.
“Please show me how to strip willow bark so I can help you harvest the branches while we visit.” I wanted to keep busy while we talked. He showed me how to strip willow bark with my thumbnail and expose the flexible wood he uses to weave baskets. We stood side by side on 88 for about 20 minutes, while I told generally told him what was going on in my spinning brain.
“It’s good to do something like this to ground you to the earth.” He was relaxed and it helped me stay in the present and let go of the past. Richard told me that he learned basketmaking skills from an elder, and felt grateful for the connection. I needed the reminder that not all ghosts are hauntingly harmful. I can love my ancestors wherever they are. I’m alive, standing on the earth stripping willow bark, and it’s enough to be comfortable in my skin.
I felt a million percent better after trusting my instincts to turn around my car and reach out. I helped Richard harvest, which made me feel productive, and not like I was a drain on him.
I struggle with feeling like I impose on other people when I’m sad.
Eye to eye friendly connection helped cut through feelings of isolation that I so rarely make time for.