Commentary: How a Jeweler Would Untangle a Community

By Linda Hart Green

My jeweler/watchmaker father earned a nickname in the community where his business was located. In fact, the headline of the feature article written about him at his death at age 66 was titled with it. The Untangler. Women who wear jewelry, including the jeweler’s daughter, encounter this problem. Somehow, one’s necklace chains get all knotted up in one’s jewelry box. It happens so frequently one begins to suspect supernatural forces are at work when the box’s lid is closed.

Women showed up at my dad’s shop with forlorn looks and plastic bags filled with knotted necklaces. His method for untangling involved long needle-nosed tweezers in each hand and a magnifying loupe on his eye. He would scan the disaster area and then deftly find a potential opening. Carefully and skillfully, he would pull the chains apart. He did this with more patience than he was able to show his teenage daughter who knew how to press his buttons.  He would tell the customer,” Come back tomorrow.”  After dinner, he went back to the shop to work on these and other uninterrupted projects. When the customer returned to pick up the jewelry, relief would flood her face. Of course, she told her friends. That was social media at its finest.

As I read the news and attend meetings about the complex issues the city of Fernandina Beach is embroiled in today, I am convinced we need Untanglers! We face a perfect storm of development, environmental and cultural issues that are intertwined. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Nor are there any quick fixes. All this is happening in a larger political environment of polarization that makes it harder for us to listen well and work together. Past actions have broken trust. We live on a wondrously beautiful barrier island that is groaning under the weight of our presence.

I will dare to suggest some gleanings from my father’s untangling process. They are not solution oriented but are process oriented.

1 Magnify your vision. Just as my father had to wear a jeweler’s loupe to look closely, we need to step back and magnify our vision to a bigger, longer term picture. What may serve interests in the present could create much larger problems. For instance, I moved here just before Hurricane Sandy hit up north. Everyone in New Jersey was worried about me moving to Florida but they were the ones to face disaster long term. The ecological effects of too much buildout on wetlands and floodplains, which my maternal grandfather fought as far back as the 1950s came home to roost.

2 Carefully examine the problem before you jump in with a quick fix. WhenI tried to copy my father’s skill, I would make the knots worse. The chains would get tighter! He turned the knots over and over and over before he inserted the tweezers. Do we take the time to look carefully at all angles before we act? Do we study best practices that were successful elsewhere? What good is a solution in one area that causes problems in another?

3 Patience, patience, patience. Expediency is not our friend. What good is it to free one chain but break the others in the process? See number 2.

4 Don’t give up. It goes without saying that what we have here on this island is very special. It has been entrusted to us in the present moment. I believe that is a sacred trust. It is in our hands to pass on to the future. You don’t have to learn how to untangle everything. You can work together with others, blending skills and abilities to untangle in an area of your passion and interest.

Roll up your sleeves, fellow Untanglers! We have work to do.

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Trusted Member
8 months ago

Wonderful analogy of the difficult times we live in. Our island is worth following these simple principles. Thanks for the insight and sharing this reality.

Noble Member
8 months ago

1.      Magnify your vision. It is being magnified by social media, but not in a good way. People are magnifying their vision all right, but within their own “groups”, which is increasing polarization and acting as a catalyst for both the alt-right and alt-left.

2.      Carefully examine the problem before you jump in with a quick fix.   In the age of Twitter “X”, Instagram, etc, it is not happening. In fact, the opposite is happening, quick fixes are the current big trend to get views/clicks.  All the kids now want to be social media “Influencers” and make a million dollars by age 18, which is not done by carefully examining a problem. 

3.      LOL wont even bother to comment on 3 and 4.  

Paula M
Noble Member
Paula M(@paula-m)
8 months ago

Very good analogy…thanks!

Peggy Bulger
Noble Member
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
8 months ago

Linda, you always have a way of gently reminding us that we cannot work alone, but need to have faith that when we take time to listen and work together, we can actually accomplish something! Thanks for all of your insights and thanks for reminding us of how much we need to work as a community, not as two opposing teams!

8 months ago

Thank you so much Linda for your insightful posts about our beloved island community. Your words capture the essence of this special place and the love you have for it. Your passion is evident and your words always resonate with me and others who call this island home. Thanks for consistently challenging us to do better.