Gifts From Strangers

We are constantly overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers. We come into town and I’m asking people to participate in the project, to share their stories and their lives, and take time out of their busy lives.

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Though we are asking so much from people, time after time people bring us gifts when they come to interview.

Last year, someone patiently explained to me: “When you come here and are interested in our histories, that you make time to truly listen to our stories, that is the gift.”

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People have brought us fresh homegrown cucumbers, zuccinnis, tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, plums, greens, fresh sweetcorn, apples, tomatillos, peppers, basil, and cabbage. They’ve baked us loaves of amazing country bread, cookies, shortbread, and pies. They’ve brought us beer (Jo literally brought us a wheelbarrel of beer). They’ve brought us history books and articles and photos and postcards for the archive. They’ve brought us family photos and films. They’ve brought us rocks and shells. And of course people have brought us their personal stories.

It would be hard to maintain our cynicism in the face of this outpouring of generosity.

If you encounter us on the river, and you feel inclined here’s a list of things we always need:

  • Contacts for amazing people on the river. I’m always trying to talk to people who’s stories are not reflected in the dominant historical narrative, people of color, poor people, native people, and elders who remember the river from a different time.
  • Fresh fruit and veggies. We love your homegrown treasures.
  • Beer, vodka, gin, and good bourbon for the shantyboat bar.
  • Treats for the ships hound Hazel.
  • Fresh baked anything.
  • Old license plates from the states we’re traveling through to decorate the shantyboat.
  • Gourmet espresso-ground coffee. We’re total coffee snobs and a good cuppa Joe gets us going every morning.
  • Visitors while we float through your town. We’d love to meet you and show you the shantyboat.
  • Your stories.

As always, thanks for your amazing gifts and sweetness.

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