Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Afternoon tea

I was thinking about my friends just now, while pouring my afternoon tea. How different things are today, compared with years past. None of my friends lives close enough to gossip across the fence, or drop by for a cup and a chat. My imaginal friends the Ladies experienced that kind of closeness, living in small communities and neighborhoods. I never have.

Something that many of them experienced as well was isolation and loneliness. I have letters from several of them which speak of friends who've moved away, perhaps never to be heard from again. Others, having themselves moved away, wrote to friends and loved ones back home and spoke of how much they missed them.

My great-great-grandmother Mary Ann's homesickness and loneliness on the prairies of Illinois was so great and so lasting that I can feel it to this day, when I drive between the river and the upland fields there, through the stretch of woods that reminded her of her Pennsylvania home. I wonder if she ever quit missing the old place, though she lived for more than fifty years longer, and raised her family, among the cornfields.

What made me think of all this today was, of all things, facebook. I felt lonely this afternoon, working at home by myself. But I can go online and see what my friends are up to, what they're reading, what they're laughing about, what they're working through. Yes, I'm lonely, but I am not isolated in any but a physical sense.

How different this is from anything human beings have experienced ever before, in all the long millennia of our existence as a species. I wonder, as have many others, what this all means in the Grand Scheme of Things....

Meanwhile, join me, friend, for a cup of tea. A place is set just for you.

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