The Man Who Waters Trees.
I was out my front door and right on time for my 6:45 am walk that I do most mornings. I turned on my Runkeeper app as I turned my first corner on my morning ritual walk to greet the rising sun. It is early, so I encounter people that most folks that live in my area don’t see.
For several weeks I have noticed this guy with a big water tanker truck. Some kind of landscaping service and his job was to water these huge Sycamore trees. A long street with no irrigation system. So the watering of these trees must be done by hand. Crucial for our warm climate in Southern California. Affable fellow, diligent and conscientious as he does his task.
Over the weeks we have done the usual “bro” kind of conversations. Starting off with a few head nods then graduating to a few spoken words. And last week, we had a random conversation about weather, family and the unique people that live in the area.
Today being Wednesday – I knew he would be there. I saw his truck and was greeted with a warm, “Hola.” As we chatted he continued watering the trees, sharing with me in detail what he was doing. He was passionate and excited – what he did mattered, even if no one ever noticed. I turned off my Runkeeper app – feeling this was going to be a real conversation. We talked more about his process. “I am responsible for over 500 trees”. He said it with such pride and devotion as if these trees were special trees, under his personal care. And he took great care to make sure they were not just healthy, but thriving. “I water, by hand, about 100 trees per day – every day. Yup, wake up at 3 am every morning – but it’s worth it. Look at how well they are doing.” He stood back and admired his trees. He went on to share how most people think it is so easy to do what he does. “Oh it looks easy – but it is anything but.” Seeing him so lit up and passionate I blurted out how appreciative I was. “You know – your trees look really healthy and robust.” I turned Runkeeper back on after we did our usual “fist bump” and I wished him a happy day.
As I walked away from our casual chat I reflected on his attention to details. Clearly, he loves them and how deep of a relationship he has with his 500 trees. He knows what they need. How much or how little water. If they need trimming, if there is some kind of bug or disease causing harm to his trees. This one guy, doing one job with such care and such awareness about trees. And yet we are all affected by what he does and how he does it.
I continued to walk along the trees, his trees, that he waters once a week – and started to see these trees differently. In small way – more like how he might see his trees. I had a deeper appreciation of the leaves, the bark and soil. I noticed the amount of sunlight the taller trees received. How the smaller trees were in the shadow of their next door giants.
If this kind of noticing is possible for the man who waters trees then it must be true for others. The lady who gives manicures and pedicures all day – I am sure she notices people’s fingernails more than most. A guy who washes cars all day long will notice how long a car has gone without a proper wax job. This is true for all kinds of jobs; the tailor, the shoe repair person, the interior decorator, the architect, the chef, the pest control person, the police person, the real estate agent, the photographer. And on and on.
What we are talking about here is being sensitive to what people are aware of because of the work that they do. The man who waters trees looks at trees in a very specific and unique way. And we want to do this for our characters in our stories.
If the character in your story is a barber, what would he notice about people’s haircut? How long it has been since a haircut, if the haircut is even or not. Do their eyebrows need a trim?
Go deep into this noticing. Take on the point of view that your characters has and see how it will show up in their dialogue. What do they feel is important in their lives?
Now, take this noticing and extrapolate what kinds of thoughts and feelings might they hold. For example, a house painter might hate to see shrubs planted right up against an exterior wall of a house. This would make his job more difficult. He might even like the look and feel of a Japanese / Zen style garden because of it.
Take on the different perspectives that your characters have based on their jobs. See where you can take this idea and expand your and your character’s range of expression.
And don’t forget.
Create. Release. Relax.