It’s a Small World

In 2005, after exploring most of the North Carolina and Georgia mountains Lori and I, like many Floridians, decided to buy a second home in Northern Georgia. The place we found had everything on our list… a creek, a mountain view, a pond, exotic cherry, pear, and apple trees (exotic to a native Floridian) and it was near a nice little town with restaurants, a hospital and all the other things you would want close… but not too close. It was nestled in the quiet beauty of the mountains. Well…beautiful in the summer and fall. In the winter it is a little frightening.

When we first saw the property it was winter and since most of the trees are broadleaf in the region, the landscape was absolutely grim. Everything looked dead and every abandoned car, old tractor, lawn mower and piece of junk that had been lost over the years was visible. I was not thrilled. It was only after I saw the pictures of the property taken during the other eight months of the year that Lori convinced me that we wouldn’t succumb to depression and head back to Florida after only a few hours.

So we closed on the property on Good Friday and began setting up our cabin as our place to relax and get away from it all. We needed basically everything, so of course the first thing Sunday morning… we went straight to the Home Depot, two towns over in Blairsville.

A thousand dollars later we were coming out with our three carts full of “house stuff,” when Lori spotted a handwritten note stuck on the windshield of our well-marked Nelson Marine Construction pick-up truck. Lori, who had up to this moment been treasuring the anonymity of the mountains, read the note out loud. “Ben Nelson… is that you?” Her hands fell down to her sides and she looked straight up. “Oh come on! You’ve got to be kidding! People even know you up here?” She handed me the note. It was from some really good friends of mine who had moved away from Bonita Springs decades ago. I had no idea where they had moved to and I hadn’t heard from them since, so I was pretty surprised. The note said to meet them in the garden center and as we walked in the door, like magic… after twenty years, there they were! We hugged and laughed at how unlikely and serendipitous it was for us to have bought a place twenty five minutes from where they had moved to so long ago and that we had somehow managed to find each other on our first day there, on Easter Sunday in the Home Depot. But that was just the beginning.

“So where did you buy at?” asked Jay as we all walked slowly out to the parking lot together. I motioned back over my shoulder. “A couple of towns over in Hiawassee.” Jay nodded. “Oh yeah, I know Hiawassee really well. Where in Hiawassee?” Our cabin was one of thousands that were out in the middle of nowhere, so I didn’t think there was much sense going into detail. “Oh, way out east of town off Scataway Road.” Jay nodded again. “Sure! I know Scataway really well. Where off Scataway?” Again I kind of dismissed the possibility that out of all the small dirt roads, he would know where ours was. “It’s a little place off Phillips Cove…” Jay interrupted. “Ohhhh… you bought the Rigden place!” Lori and I stopped and stared at Jay with our mouths open. “Wha…” I sputtered. “How could you possibly know that?” Jay grinned a big grin, took me by the shoulders and said “Because I’m your MAILMAN!” “WHOAAAAA!!!” We all said at once.

I still get chill bumps when I tell the story of how we reconnected with our good friends. And when I think about how many different seemingly unrelated, unconnected decisions had to align in order for this to happen it reminds me that every day, unbeknownst to us, seemingly small decisions constantly turn the course of our lives, our businesses and our communities.

It is indeed a small world, crafted by small acts. But they can lead to big wonderful surprises.

Much Ado about Nothing

copyright 2013

Black Locust Trees are beautiful, but they have a habit of splitting in two at the “Y” in the trunk. So when the incredibly large specimen on our property in Georgia began splitting in half, Lori and I began formulating a plan to save at least half of the tree. The plan was to cut one of the two forks off. The problem was that the cut had to be made about twenty feet off the ground and the “limb” was approximately 100 feet tall. This was the kind of project that you usually see ending badly on America’s Funniest Home Videos or on When Trees Attack (that’s not a show, but it should be.) I normally take on projects like this myself, but not having the proper machinery in Georgia and not wanting to die, I decided to find a local professional with experience and a lot of insurance. So I picked up the phone and called the local nursery for a reference.

“Carl’s Nursery!” said a lady politely. “Hi, could I speak to Carl please?” I asked, thinking I’d go right to the guy in charge. “Carl?” the lady sounded puzzled. “There’s no Carl here!” I closed my eyes and let my head flop back. “Well then why is it called…” I held my hand in the air. “Wait! Never mind. I have a large tree that needs to be cut down. Is there a company that you can recommend?” I heard a clunk and the lady yell “LESTER!” After a few minutes I heard “Hullo?” In great detail I described the entire situation and that I was wondering if he could recommend someone to do the job. “How big around is it?” the man said slowly. I took a deep breath and started all over again. “About two feet in diameter where the cut needs to be made… Look, it’s a dangerous job and I just thought you could recommend someone.” There was a pause and then… “What kind of tree is it?” I rubbed my forehead and closed my eyes really tight. “Like I said, it’s a Black Locust… Look, Lester?” “Yup.” “Do you know someone in the tree business who can come give me a price? There are all kinds of complications and someone really needs to look at it first. There’s even a nest of big, ugly wasps or hornets…” “Wasps? Lester interrupted. “What kind a wasps?” I got up out of my chair as my frustration finally boiled over. “The stinging kind! Look! You know what… Never mind! Thank you for your time!” But before I could hang up I heard… “Well, I think I can help you.” I sighed. “Well, thank you Les…” “But my chainsaw don’t run too good. You got one?” “NO, NO, NO!” I pleaded. “I don’t want help doing it, I want…” Lester quickly interrupted again. “Mister, you can’t do a job like that yourself! You’ll get hurt! You’d be better off calling Blue Ridge Tree Service!” I stared blankly at the phone for a moment… “Thank you.” Click.

Three frustrating days later, after making more calls, scheduling appointments, meeting and telling the same story to four people from four different companies, we chose a very professional company whose Arborist recommended that we wait for a couple of months until the winter had dropped the leaves and the hornets to the ground. Then they would move their machinery in and get the job done. We wanted to be there when this went on, so Lori got our calendar out and rescheduled our lives around that date, canceling appointments and setting aside time for us to be in Georgia for this operation.

Two days after we got back to Florida we received a call from our Georgia neighbor Doug. “Ben, your Locust tree fell down. I already cut it all up and if you don’t mind I’d like to keep it all for firewood.” I was stunned. “Uhhh… OK. Thanks Doug.” And I hung up the phone and just stood there. Without me really having to do or say anything… the problem was solved. Indifferent to all of our best laid plans, our frustration, our worrying and our planning, the situation had simply ignored everything and took care of itself.

The next spring, Lori and I went to a Nursery to pick out a replacement tree. As we were admiring a nice Leland Cypress a man in bib overalls walked over to us. “How ya’ll doin’ folks… the names Lester! Can I help you with somethin’?”

The Pursuit of Happiness

hammockI spent the weekend attempting to do something that is rare for me to engage in… nothing.  Lori and I traveled to Georgia, hung our hammocks side by side on the porch, poured ourselves a cool drink and kicked back with books that we weren’t all that interested in reading.  It looked like it was going to be a beautiful, quiet day in the mountains and then… our neighbors woke up.

Old Billy down the creek had apparently acquired four more hound dogs… making it an even eight.  Ironically, we call Old Billy the Dog Whisperer.  I say ironically because he loves to train hunting dogs, but it involves very little whispering and a great deal of screaming and barking.  Today, he was apparently training a dog to imitate a seal.  “ARF, ARF, ARF!”  Ten minutes later, the hound was still at it.  I lowered my book and looked at Lori over the top of my glasses.  She looked back at me with her eyes crossed.  Right!  I got up and walked over to the end of the porch and was preparing to scream a neighborly “SHADDUPP!!!” when on the other side of the ridge I heard someone crank up a chain saw.  It revved up to a high-pitched scream and then stayed that way.  Well, at least I couldn’t hear the dog barking anymore.  I went back to my hammock and tried desperately to meditate the noise away.  But after ten minutes of brain scrambling noise I sat up.  “Oh for Pete’s sake… How big of a tree is he cutting down?”  Lori didn’t reply.  “Hey!” I hollered to her through cupped hands.  Nothing, she just kept reading.   I leaned towards her and then I noticed the headphones.  She was in her own little world listening to her IPod.  How dare she not be as upset as I was about the lack of peace and quiet!  But before the “sitcom” husband in me had the opportunity to try to make sure she was as irritated as I was, I heard my closest neighbor crank up a leaf blower.  This lady has been known to chase a single leaf down her 1,000 foot drive way. Continue reading

Questionable Gardening Advice

waspWhen you’re new to an area it takes a while to become familiar with the vegetation and creatures that inhabit your yard.   Your neighbors will always be willing to help, not only because they’re nice people, but also because it’s so much fun for them to watch you try to implement bogus advice.

Lori and I were just starting to fix up our little place in Georgia, planting trees, mowing and such, when our dog Molly and I had our first experience with a paper wasp nest.   As she watched us from the porch, it took a while for Lori to figure out what was going on.  All she could see was Molly and me running for our lives, spinning around, snapping and swatting at the air like cartoon characters.  Lori’s laughter turned into sympathy when she saw Molly’s golf ball sized swollen, upper lip.  “Awww… Look at her.”  She turned to me, ignoring my one gigantic red ear.  “You’ve got to get rid of that nest!” (YES, I thought… a mission!). Continue reading