This Spot on Earth

Isabel and Winnie, Quill Nook Farm.

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What are the rules on being able to say that someone saved your life? Must clear and imminent danger be involved?

I’m relieved that we’re becoming more aware of abuse, how to speak out about it, and how to prevent it. However, it remains an ongoing failure that neglect is harder to see and speak out about. Someone calling you out on neglect is inherently life-saving.

When I see someone going down a path that could harm them, I want to say something, but I don’t want to be nosy, and it’s their path.

But we all hold each other up on this thin veneer of a habitable planet. So I have taken to appreciating those moments of grace when someone who didn’t have to say something, says something. If I have to set my pride aside to hear it, I’ll do it, every time.

Isabel was a farm volunteer here this summer. She picked up some kind of rotator cuff injury a few weeks ago (before she was here). Health care access remains tricky for a lot of folks and she wasn’t inclined to seek out care for it. Is it also fair to say that 20-year-olds are less likely than 40-somethings to take care of injuries? I’ve been there and lived with a right shoulder that was angry with me for decades.

Two days ago I encouraged her to get some help for it, which she heard with grace. Maybe it was because of that, or maybe she would have done this anyway. But a day later she saved my life. Or at least, she made a friendly go at saving me from my own self-neglect.

We were working together on getting the chainsaw running. Isabel was decked out in helmet, gloves, and chaps. I was only wearing jeans and rain boots. I told myself that was okay because as soon as I got the saw going and revved it up, I’d be passing it to her. My job was only to figure out the starting problem and step aside. And it was stinking hot so adding chaps was no fun.

Isabel watched me do all this, and then we talked about the logs to be bucked up. Then she told me about the mortician.

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Isabel had been doing some chainsaw work for a family friend back in Wisconsin but ran out of gas. A neighbor poked his head over the fence and offered gas in exchange for doing a little chainsaw work for him.

As Isabel was telling me this story, she kept reassuring me that it all worked out fine. It felt like something weird was going to go down with the neighbor, but nothing bad happened. He just had one memorable story to share.

This guy was a mortician and told Isabel about a recent “customer.” He was a chainsaw operator with a lot of experience. One day he took out the saw to do a five-minute job. Just a “quick thing,” so the chaps stayed on their hook. But the chain flew off the bar, which can happen with a quick job. When that happens, usually it’s not an event. You just have to stop and put it back on.

But in this case it flew off like a whip and cut the femoral artery on his leg. The guy bled out in a minute. Nothing anyone could do.

When we were kids my brother and I would listen to “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death,” the 1987 Dead Kennedys album. (These punks were better at naming things than playing music.) Give me convenience or give me death. That’s now a benefit of Amazon Prime membership, right?

The world will sometimes give us one, or the other, or both. In the end I can’t choose which. But I can make the choice to ratchet up the love and protection I give myself, Kevlar chaps and all. I’ll take the inconvenience for more days at this spot on Earth. Isabel and I both made choices to try to save each other. Thank you for your kindness! For anyone reading this, where are you neglecting yourself, or neglecting a friendship?

Save a life today, even at the cost of a hard conversation.

Tristan Roberts writes about nature and self from Quill Nook Farm in Halifax, Vermont, where he lives with his family.