Picking peas with Jim
New relationships are always interesting. The poke and prod of discovering one another, the exploration of similarities and differences, the peeling away of layers of self to find the core of connectedness.
Jim and I were doing that recently as we sought to form a relationship new to both of us. We talked, shared values and beliefs, and told pieces of our histories to one another.
But the real moments of relationship development, when we made those momentary connections which lead to developing a meaningful relationship, came when we engaged in ‘doing things’ together.
We were told we needed vegetables for dinner and that the two of us should go pick peas and broad beans from the garden. So off we went, two grown men, woven baskets in hand, to raid the garden. This first time, Jim picked the peas, I got the broad beans. As we worked our way along our individual rows we began to joke with one another. A little competition developed, with me boasting about how quickly my basket was filling, and Jim commenting on how I had the smaller basket and the larger vegetables. (He was right, of course, but in typically male fashion, I discounted his reasoning.)
As we rushed along filling our baskets, each humorlessly disparaging the achievements of the other, caught up in the individual and collective rhythms of our experience, one of us (which one is forever our bonding secret) tripped and fell into the rows of peas and beans, spilling his basket. As the other rushed to rescue him from the perils of clinging vines and creepy crawlers, we began to laugh together at the whole scene: the picking, the competition, the falling and rescue attempts (feeble attempts they were, I might add!). As our hands joined in rescue, so did we.
And there we were, two ‘new friends’ wallowing in a moment of connected experiencing, like two people with a longer history.
Later as we sat at the table, now relaxed in each other’s presence, shelling the peas and beans we continued our playful joking and had our picture taken, smiling like two kids in the kitchen after an afternoon playing in the yard.
And behind that simple picture lay the pathways that led us here — the reaching out, sharing, joking, joint rhythmicity, and doing something together all leading to this moment, captured on film, where the history of shared experience reveals two men involved together in the moment.
We are both sufficiently skilled with words, Jim and I. And our words were important — for it was the words which lead us to open the door to doing something together. Important as they were, however, it was the ‘doing together’ that created the opportunities for going beyond engagement to moments of connection.
Later, we did other things together; wandered in the woods, walked the dogs, shared childhood stories over a draft. With each new ‘doing’ our relationship changed and developed. And when the time came to go our separate ways again, we identified something we might ‘do together’ in the future; each of us recognizing somehow, without saying so, that ‘doing together’ holds out the possibility of future engagement and connection.
I wonder sometimes if, in our work with young people and their families, we do not talk too much and do too little.