Community of islands?

No man is an island entire of itself, every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
– John Donne, Meditation XVII

A recent local village election brought to mind John Donne’s Meditation, particularly the clause, “Because I am involved in mankind.” (Following the grammatical convention of the time, Donne used a male noun as the incluse term for humans.) This election was like all of the others in which I have participated over the past 27 years living here, except in a few small but important ways. A friend running in the election for village trustee asked for my endorsement and my involvement. This was a first.

My house is on a main street of sorts in the village. It is situated on the community’s only walkway, an asphalt strip separated from the road by several yards and swept or plowed clear even in the worst winters. My yard boasts three very tall Ponderosa pines, not natives and thus periodically studied by state and local arborists. A couple of times a year, I punctuate the lawn with signs for political candidates. The garden my late husband and I planted and maintain was among the first that broke with the traditional green foundation plantings common in the village.

Paul and Jan 2013In short, it is unlikely that invisibility was the source of my experience of not being asked to support candidates. I won’t speculate on the source, but I will acknowledge that except for two other local elections, I have not stepped forward either.

In the most recent election, my friend went door to door, had others host candidate introduction meetings, and had a posse of folks passing out fliers and yard signs. She solicited advise and arranged for the post election gathering where results were announced. All the normal stuff. But not the usual stuff in my experience in our village. At times it seems as though the message here is, “If you are not one of us, you are dead to me. And that death means nothing to me. I remain whole.”

This past weekend another friend reached out to a long list of neighbors, congratulating us for unseating a long-term regressive force in the village. The few ensuing exchanges again showed more spunk than I’ve seen before. Perhaps it is another new day for community in my village. Perhaps we will not need to listen for the bell before we witness loss of each other.

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