I have lived on my Whidbey Island farm for 18 years. In all that time, I have never had an internet connection. The data plan on my phone has been sufficient for the uses I make of social media or for my YouTube or Hulu streaming. The rare times I have needed a WiFi connection, like when I’m trying to post this blog, I have gone down to the library where the internet is free. Even if the library is closed I can sit in the parking lot and connect to their WiFi.
Through the years I have been grateful for the absence of an internet connection on the farm. It is a reminder not to take too much of my work home.
Three weeks ago, all of that changed.
When it became clear that I would be working from home for the foreseeable future, and that all of that work would be via electronic connections, I knew the time for farm connection had come. I called Whidbey Telecom and learned they were booked two weeks out. I would have to wait.
One week later, when I was well over my data limit and all of my devices were slowing way down, a Whidbey Telecom truck came up my drive. Several cancellations had moved me up on their list. Telecom Randy was there and ready to work. I showed him where the phone connection came in, and he got busy.
It took less than an hour for Randy to discover that the phone line from the house, which I had not used since 2006, was no longer functioning. There was no connection going from the house to any nearby lines. The signal coming from the little box on the side of my house ended somewhere undetectable. Randy concluded that I would probably need a new trench dug and new wire laid.
“How long will that take?” I asked.
“I don’t know when we can get a trench crew out here,” Randy answered. “Probably several weeks from now. Someone will call you.” Then he drove away.
But just two days later, Randy returned with different equipment, and an extra worker. “We are going to try to find out where that line is grounding out, and fix it.”
I have no idea how they did it. But step by step they traced the signal from my house underground to where it first shorted out near my compost bin. They dug a hole and repaired that wire. When that repair did not restore the connection, they kept working.
Again, step by step, they traced the line. They painted little orange dots on the grass to mark its underground path. To our surprise the line did not run west down my driveway, but south across my pasture. From there it continued through the field where my friend and neighbor Meighan had recently installed a drain field. The trench that had been dug there last summer had obviously severed any line running through. Because that was a much bigger break, Randy and his buddy had to go get a bigger repair kit. They would be back.
The next day they came early. A third worker came with them that last day, to install the router in my house. He put on a mask and booties, disinfected his hands, and proceeded to work.
When everything was in, the crew tested it one more time. This time the signal came all the way across Meighan’s field, across my pasture, past my compost bin, all the way to my garage. There, for some unknown reason, the connection to the house which had been working a few days earlier was no longer functioning.
That last 50 feet across the driveway and to the house was now shorting out. Again, it looked like some kind of trenching would be necessary.
But Randy would not give up. He decided to bridge that last little bit by stringing the line overhead, up the wall of the garage, under the eves, across the fence and over to the house.
With that, after three days of work, the connection was complete.
Unused for years, the line of connection across my property had become fragile and broken. At times it looked like it could not be repaired. But Telecom Randy kept coming back. Patiently and tenaciously, he worked. He repaired and rebuilt the line, all the way to the house. Because of his hard work, in these days of physical distancing I am staying connected with my beloved congregation in new ways.
The lesson for me is a simple one, in the midst of a complex time. Even now, connection is possible. But connection takes effort. Connection may require some repair of old lines. Connection might have to be rebuilt, step by step. Connection will look different and might be new. And connection matters.
That last observation has always been true, of course. So may I persevere. May I repair, rebuild, and look for new solutions. May I connect. May I be like Randy.