In the year of too much, 1968, I lived for a time in Washington, D.C. Some of my compatriots/housemates/co-workers (I was a volunteer) were part of what we then called The New Left. In feeling again how much happened in such a short time, I wonder that we kept our bearings at all.
After Dr. King was assassinated, after the riots (there must be something else to call them that addresses rage and betrayal), my roommate would park near Capital Hill for her job in the Library of Congress and I'd walk across town to my job in Northwest. This April morning has some of the look of those days, with greening trees and fast-moving clouds in air not-yet-humid, winter not entirely packed up and moved on. It speaks of the degree of disconnection within me that I could pass through neighborhoods in ruin, noticing briefly without interpretation or emotion. My response would be different today.
Beside the season and the sky, what brings that time to mind is a "Coming-Going-Staying" party held by friends for those who were...coming or going or staying; D.C. in the late sixties was a transitional place and state of mind. Today a friend and art sister from Colorado will cross our border and be here, in the same time zone, at sea level, not in the thin mountain air. Tomorrow the life-long friend who hosted that memorable gathering will fly to Mexico to spend time with her musician son, coincidentally going from an island to the mile-high capital. In Australia, my brother is recovering from a surgery which demands that he not laugh for weeks and, in aid of that, I will try not to call until he is well enough, for we have never in our adult lifetime spoken without laughing. Coming, going, staying put.
As people fold in and out of my life, I am aware that because of once-resisted electronic methods, I am allowed to widen my circle every day; more who come and stay, fewer who go. A blog and Facebook and e-mail encourage me to make or maintain connections simply because I wish to and the world is so vast, information and ideas so overwhelmingly accessible. That sentence would earn the Doctor Obvious tag from my son, as did the morning segment on local news, reporting that people enjoy eating soybeans. Obvious and unsurprising to him, yet to some of us still a wonder of cosmic proportion. And I don't even have a cell phone that does anything other than voice and text communication. Imagine...
The predictions that face-to-face socializing will become extinct seem absurd. I may see this too simply but is day-long texting any different than passing notes in class? Considering all the innovations that have taken the blame for civilization's looming end, how remarkable that we are still here, many of us still reading books, magazines and newspapers, grappling with abstract thought and nurturing friendships with those we have not met by means of complete sentences and something as close to correct grammar and spelling as we can get.
I am uplifted by the chance to put ideas into words and send them on journeys of seconds, rather than days. E-mails and Facebook messages have pushed me to be more clear in my correspondence, to work at saying what I mean. I would not have been one of the dedicated who took pen in hand to send copious snail mail, yet I am called to write every day and I take it as a chance to be precise, to be funny if that happens, and to stay in touch. So many gifts have found me because of e-mail, and they continue to arrive. A blog gives me a voice, my own version of the Pershing Square soap box or a street corner for evangelizing. And, like the old drive-in movies, I hold in great affection any place that lets me show up in my pajamas.