When family members I still call “kids” who are now in their fifties visit me today in Crestone, they ask, “Why is nobody waving when they pass you on the road?” In the past, even to encounter another human being was rare enough that you acknowledged it with some kind of salute, whether a wave or a discreet nod, or a forefinger lifted vertically from the top of the steering wheel if you didn’t want to commit to someone who might not know the custom. Waving was unremarkable road behavior and hardly onerous in the days when two cars almost constituted a traffic jam!
Of course, there are many more people to wave to now. When I arrived in the 1980s there were a lot of hermits and artists who weren’t out and about much. Due to our severe winters, many people left for a few months. One February morning we drove up to the gas pumps at Curt’s store and another car was parked there. “Look Mom, ‘social life’!” my twelve-year-old quipped. There was a lot to appreciate about another warm body in a small, isolated and often frigid place. And you never knew when someone was going to be helping you out of a snowdrift or fixing your flat tire in a blizzard! So the Crestone wave kept the social fabric mended and flexible for a seriously hard life in a place with almost no amenities.
It is one of the more endearing animal qualities of humans to acknowledge the presence of one another. “I see you; you see me; we’re in this life together.” I wave, you wave. If you are self-conscious or bad-humored or vaxed or unmasked, it doesn’t matter. Your opinions and your habits don’t reveal themselves in a brief moment of distanced encounter.
I confess I hardly wave anymore unless it is to someone I recognize . . . a rare event now. But don’t you kind of like the idea of breaking the ice with newcomers and strangers by startling them with a friendly wave? “No, you don’t know me, but I know you! You are a fellow human being!”
Admittedly, my wave repertoire is in mothballs. I don’t want to feel bored and obligated when I wave! There is too much taking-for-granted and internet invisiblity. Why not put out a wave that honors our human brotherhood?
I want to wave with heart, even if the wave itself doesn’t look like much. How about a roll of the fingers? Or a finger to the brow. Perhaps I could imitate the toddlers who enjoy practicing their new skill with such pure hearts by adding a shy smile?
Of course there are some days when even a wave is hard to muster. We may have had to drive a lot further since rents in Crestone have gone so high. We may blame the strangers who have discovered how lucrative BandBs are so their house is no longer available for long term rental. We may feel excluded by their superior economic prowess and lack of sympathy for the community they have joined. Is this why we have stopped waving? As newly local peacemaker told me recently, “The only way to peace, as Christ taught, is love . . . we have to include the “excluders.”
When we look around at the beauty that surrounds us and count our blessings for living in this extraordinary place it is understandable why so many people want to be here. On these fall days when the air is so clear and the sky is so blue, I am filled with gratitude for the abundance of beauty we all share at the end of the road. Why not celebrate this good fortune with a true Crestone wave that signals “You and I are both wildly blessed to be here! In this moment of full-hearted gratitude I am thrilled and delighted to see you!” Might the practice of this wave help all feel included and bring peace to our community?