the one good thing about winter is spring. hailing from the tropics, i am struck with surprise every year at this time to see the seemingly dead patch of land in the front of our house offer life from the damp and snow crushed soil. at the sight of the first industrious bud hacking it's way out to the light, out i go with garden spade in hand to offer support to the renewal at hand.
invariably, within two minutes of my horticultural endeavours a neighbour ambles along and makes a garden-related comment. this prompts a friendly exchange that is the first conversation that i have with this person in about four months (the last encounter taking place just after the snow flew the season before). in the space of about 30-minutes, i would have four or five such chit-chats and gardening is the ice-breaker every time. so it strikes me that the garden spade mediates the renewal of my neighbourhood social network each spring. and i love it.
in his new book "New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Cohesion", Rich Ling looks at rituals as activities that foster community by offering a point of mutual engagement through which barriers to social interaction can be reduced (a la Durkeim, Goffman and Collins). my dissertation research on mobile phones and sociality supports Ling's assertion that these devices, and the rituals build on their use, positively mediate close-tie relations in our social networks.
perhaps in a similar way my garden spade mediates the renewal of my neighourhood networks, and underpins a springtime ritual that begins with, "My goodness neighbour, how does your garden grow!". happy spring.
(ne1 can undRst if th will is thR, IMO. nuf Z)