This morning, I heard a little chirp from my telephone. Very few people text me, thank heavens. After a pause, it sounded again: half bird, half cricket, wholly annoying. I opened the darn thing up to find a text from my sister.
On the one hand, I greatly enjoy being a curmudgeon in this modern world, grumbling about electronics and the horrible grammar people are using, watching everyone’s manners go straight down the drain. If I have to get old, I might as well have fun with it. I mean really, you talk on your phone while ordering a latte? Do you have any idea how rude that is? If I ran the planet, there’d be trap doors in front of every cash register, so all the baristas and check-out clerks could push a button and people trying to buy things while talking on phones would fall through the floor.
On the other hand, our phones are miraculous! Thrilling to have on the table in a coffee shop when your only sister texts from Ireland. Ireland! Just like that! I got kind of dizzy reading it, thinking about how far away she is and how easy it was for her to reach me.
Sarah wanted the names of some books our parents read to us about the Aran Islands, off the Irish coast near Galway. She was walking on a rocky beach in Galway as she wrote to me, which I know because she sent a photo. Bleak and wonderful-looking, but completely unbelievable. Ireland? Right now?!
Something in the human brain resists strangeness. Like your friend’s daughter saying she thought those people from Tennessee were playing a trick on her by using Southern accents. She didn’t believe they talked that way all the time. Or when you turn on a Spanish-language radio station and hear only Spanish being spoken and sung. Really? People don’t use English at all?
Somewhere at the base of the skull in our lizard brains we’re wedded, no matter how well our intelligence disputes this, to the idea that we know everything, and that the way we perceive things is the truly right way. Spending your entire life speaking Spanish — or Farsi, or Danish, or Latvian — just isn’t reasonable.
Lord knows, I hate to show any agreement with climate change deniers, but this lizardy piece of me really gets it. How can the climate be changing? And how bad can it be? It’s MY climate, it’s Thursday, and I’m still right here! Don’t be ridiculous. You know this is how it was for people in 1930s Germany, staring in disbelief at the known world crumbling around them.
Google wasn’t helpful about the children’s books until I got home and could see things clearly on my computer screen. The titles escaped me, but I remembered the author’s name when I read it: Ellis Dillon.
If you can wrap your brain around the thought that I was once 8 and my sister was 7, wave to us in the living room on Divisadero, listening to our young mother read the story of The Singing Cave.