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The word easement has two distinctly different meanings. This is a story about the convergence of the two meanings: First Meaning – a right to cross or otherwise use someone’s land for a specified purpose; Second Meaning – the state or feeling of comfort or peace.

I live in a rural community on the edge of the rapidly expanding urban/suburban territory of Columbus, Ohio. My county, Delaware County, is north of Franklin County, the Columbus metropolitan terrain. Delaware County is a rural community rapidly becoming something else. Farmers are parceling out and selling their crop-growing fields, creating large lots where expansive new homes are sprouting up like dandelions. The existing homes have wells for a water supply. The new residents want “city water”, so the push is on to make that possible. The complex process of approvals to make this happen requires that the water company get permission to create water lines through the existing lots. The newcomers really want this; the old residents, not so much.

I am a hybrid, a recent addition to the neighborhood in a more traditional and smaller home, with a new well that works wonderfully. I also know that my property value goes up if access to water lines is ensured. I don’t “need” or even “want” this water line, but know it makes sense to participate in the emerging future. To achieve that, I need to give the water company the right to dig through my front yard to lay the water line. They are requesting a notarized easement agreement.

So, I scheduled a meeting to sign the agreement. The water company said that they could send an employee who could deliver the necessary form, witness my signing it, and thus concurrently provide the necessary notarization. Carol, who appeared to me to be a woman ushering in the early phases of middle-age years, arrived precisely at the time of the appointment. We chatted, she gave me the form, and I began wading through the legalese. I decided a conversation made more sense. I wondered exactly what this easement process would create, suspecting days of noisy havoc and a lack of access to my driveway. I was particularly concerned about the lovely old trees keeping vigil on the lawn in front of my house: would they be safe?

As Carol and I chatted, she explained that she was the project director and could ensure the safety of the trees and my recently paved driveway. She explained how that could be achieved, and took a few photos to have the information she needed to address my concerns. She estimated two days of significant disruption.I noticed my apprehension waning, was encouraged by her obvious pragmatic expertise and told her that I was impressed that a woman was project director.

Our conversation took an amusing turn to comparing notes about intruding, as a woman, on terrain most men had assumed was theirs to control and manage. I noted that I was 79 years old, and had these experiences as a young academic where faculty governance roles often made me the only woman at the table. She noted that she knew she was breaking ground in her company, and we shared laughter at the antics of men struggling with the new order of things where a woman could “run” what men assumed only men could “run”. She had a supportive boss so I told her to congratulate her boss for me, and tell him that I was much more comfortable with signing the easement agreement because a woman was in charge. She enjoyed this. I realized I was experiencing that second meaning of easement: I felt both comfort and peace that Carol was going to be running the show.

A connection emerged and she went to her truck to get me her business card so I could call her if I had any more concerns. I thanked her, and we parted. She had said she would email my copy of the signed easement agreement form, so I was not surprised to find it in my email about two hours later. The message though, was a joy to read. In addition to a very business-like message about the attached document she had added: “Thank you again for your kind words and paving the way for the rest of us.”

I pondered this for quite a while. It is easy to recall some of the more disturbing experiences that emerge breaking through brick walls and glass ceilings. If is more difficult, yet more important to recognize that these experiences will in time age into wisdom to share and support and encouragement to offer. Her single sentence made it all worthwhile. Easement!

“We—young and old together—hold the future in our hands. If our common life is to become more compassionate, creative and just, it will take an intergenerational effort.”

~Parker Palmer


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