Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lessons From a Bird



Old houses were
scaffolding once
and workmen whistling
-T.E.Hulme

While talking with Mater the other day, I happened to overhear the pet bird of the house- a relatively recent addition to the family- whistling boisterously in the background. On a whim, I asked my mother to hold the telephone up to his cage so that I might say hello.
I whistled, as one naturally does to a budgie when thousands of miles away, and he responded to my earnest greeting with an equally uplifting message.
Thank goodness that Spouse and I have an unlimited telephone plan to Ireland.
In the faded archives of my family history there is a story of a nineteen year old who left Ireland under desperate circumstances to forge a new and better life in the United States. She never was able to return to the land of her birth and communication was practically non existent between her and those she left behind.
I think of her, and of the stark contrast at times such as these. When I am enjoying the luxury of conversing with a bird, neither of us saying anything of substance, I not having to worry about the cost; when I have such time to spare that I might spend a few moments in a bird's company- then I think of my distant cousin and I wonder what she might have made of the fast and furious society we inhabit.
It is humbling to envision my relative sending e-mails regularly, letting loved ones see the establishment of a new life, keeping a family together despite the impossible distance.
I muse, too, on the possibility of my cousin taking vivid digital photographs, sharing them with those on the other side of the Atlantic.
Back and forth, instant news and notifications, constant interaction, history preserved and not a scrap of it lost to the years.
The images are all the more powerful for the fact that they never took place: her life was a long time before mine and such fancies were not yet even a seed in the human imagination.
Her poignant story firmly roots me in reality and I remind myself never to become complacent about the striking differences between her world and mine, and to be glad for the changes which work to shrink the world into one community.
Having a green-feathered bird to talk to on the other end of the line helps enormously in remembering the ease with which I live my life.

11 comments:

polona said...

there are so many things we take for granted, and yet... only a few decades ago so many things we take for granted didn't exist.
thank you for the reminder.

Paul Merrill said...

I remember when we lived in the UK (95-98), it cost a huge amount to call our family in the US.

I'm thankful for Skype. Not free but close to it.

The Texican said...

I love the scene in the movie Dances With Wolves where the crude old mule skinner is examining a skeleton on the grassy plains with an arrow plainly visible - He grins and says "There's probably some pilgrim back East saying, 'why don't he write?'." That was less than two hundred years ago. Less than a hundred years ago when I was a boy, many people didn't have their own telephones. We've come a long way in telecommunications and it has certainly shrunk our world. Another fine story The.

TheElementary said...

Polona, true enough, I don't have to go back centuries... just one decade or two and we wouldn't recognise the world.

Paul, it's good to have a service you can rely on so the worry of making calls doesn't exist. We use Skype for the countries that our VoIP (Lingo) doesn't cover.

TheElementary said...

Texican, ah, that's a good scene and very topical to the discussion. I didn't think of it. That's why input from readers is so great- they think of things you don't at the time.
I try not to take the modern world for granted, I try to remember that it wasn't always this way.

Jaime said...

It really is a global village now. It's still a very large planet, but we all seem a little closer together due to our technological advances, and that's a wonderful thing.

Imagine what it would have been like to live during the time when everyone thought the world was flat! They must have thought that the world was so vast and that the edge of it would never be discovered. Little did they know, that if they kept going, they would find each other again.

TheElementary said...

Jaime,
it's great. It means we can go further and still stay in contact with home and work.
Every age has had its learning experience- I wonder too what people will think of us in three centuries from now. What will they laugh at? What will they be amazed by- perhaps something we thought was one way and turned out to be another, or they might wonder how we managed with the little technology we had.

julochka said...

having gone "back" to the "old world" myself, i have often thought about exactly this. even ten years ago when i was first here, we spent an absolute fortune keeping me in touch with my family. now thanks to technology, it's easy and affordable.

i've often imagined how lonely it must have been and how very brave those who went to find a better life were--knowing they might never see home again. i have a hard time even imagining going so far under such circumstances. they were brave beyond belief.

swedish author vilhelm moberg wrote a series of novels called The Emigrants that explores the topic very poignantly. They're available in a good English translation. I have often thought of the main character's wife, Kirsten's longing for the special light of a scandinavian summer. It is somethig special and she ached so to know she'd never see it again. You should check out those book-there are 4 in the series and they're a quick read.

TheElementary said...

Julie, I'll check those out. Thanks for that. That's just what I was getting at- the loss and the bravery and to know you can't go home or even talk to your family again. It took brave people to do that- or was it desperation, or both? I"m not sure.
As I said you don't even have to go back a century or two- just a short time ago the world was very different. I grew up without a cell phone and now it seems most people have one. And personal computers too...

tangobaby said...

Thank you for the reminder of the luxury of being able to communicate easily.

I still find old-fashioned cards and letters romantic and I'm wistful about the thought of getting a telegram (even though I've never gotten one and now Western Union doesn't even exist), but my need for instant gratification will always override my wishing things were like the good old days.

TheElementary said...

Tangobaby, those are my thoughts exactly- I'd not suggest going back to those days, for all their simplicity. Human progress must have been for something. It can't all be bad so that we hark back to days of no electricity.
If my relative could have had a washing machine and microwave and cell phone I don't doubt she'd have loved them.

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