One afternoon during a visit to my parents’ neck of the woods, my husband and I drove the narrow, curved roads that dissect farm fields and follow the snaking flow of creeks. We came to a straight piece of road, a green field to the left and a dirt field to the right, both lined on their edges by tall trees. A small, white, weather-worn barn stood at the edge of the next curve. Approaching us in a cloud of dust was a green tractor, and at the large, round wheel sat a middle-aged farmer wearing a faded tee-shirt and battered ball cap. The tractor rumbled. The fingers of the comb-like plow it pulled left long lines in the ground behind it. As we passed slowly by the tractor, the farmer glanced down and nodded, lifting his hand to his hat slightly. We waved in return. Soon the distance between the tractor and our car grew. We turned the curve and passed over a hill and the man and his tractor disappeared from the reflection in the rear-view mirror.
It was a passing moment. We know nothing of this man. We probably never will. And he knows nothing of us. But our eyes met. We greeted one another. We met by the road, in a cloud of earth, and acknowledged our common humanity. We connected, if only in the subtle wave of a farmer, and the smiles returned to him.