Yknow how folks have been claiming the Internet was ushering in the End of Days ever since the Internet ushered in, well — itself?
I’m hear to tell you: it just ain’t so.
But! This being my blog, and me being a story-telling type, first I’m gonna tell you a story. (Don’t forget that “ruins relationships / ruins everything” stuff, though, cuz I’ll be coming back to that.)
* * *
Back when I was 8 or 9 — you might recall it as the time when mastodons roamed the plains and phones were things you actually dialed — my folks and I spent a summer weekend in upstate New York, at a gathering of extended family members. The house where we stayed belonged to the parents of the wife of a second-cousin on my father’s side, if memory serves: though at the time, I was pretty fuzzy on how all these people fit together.
Or where I fit in with them. It’s always awkward, being 8 or 9 years old in a house full of grownup strangers.
At one point early Saturday afternoon, the woman who owned the house — and who had stepped out for a moment, from the living room where everyone was gathered — stepped back in, carrying a basket.
“Isn’t my new basket lovely?” she asked the room.
No one seemed to notice. I noticed no one noticing — and felt bad for the tall woman, whose husband had promised to take me blueberry picking the next afternoon.
“Yes! It looks very pretty!” I piped up.
The tall woman smiled warmly at me for a moment, and I smiled back, relieved she knew that she had not been ignored.
Also? It really was a lovely basket, of fine brown and black wicker woven into ornate patterns.
I didn’t think any more about this exchange until Monday morning. As my dad started the car slowly down the curvy driveway for our journey home, the tall woman strode out of the house, waving one arm over her head to get him to stop. Her other arm cradled the basket.
“For Alice,” she said, passing it to my mom through an open window. “Because she was the only one who admired my basket.”
I stuttered thanks at her, overwhelmed by a sudden feeling of deep specialness. The pleasure of feeling noticed — and appreciated — by an important adult with nothing to gain by the gesture awed me. She not only did not demand anything from me in return; she wanted to give me something.
I treasured that basket. I kept it with me for many years and across many moves, until its wicker finally dried out and cracked beyond repair.
I have kept the lesson of that day for even longer: The act of paying attention is transformative.
* * *
I love noticing people.
I love to see a woman deeply involved in a practice that she loves, or to listen to a man describe an object that he treasures. We reveal ourselves in a thousand tiny ways every day, as we engage with our own worlds.
When I make an effort to truly see the people around me — to value and appreciate something about each of them — I find my own world blossoming in technicolor and joy, becoming indescribably more beautiful.
People, too, often seem to blossom in response, as I myself did that long ago day when a tall woman with a basket made me feel recognized and important, just as I was.
I like the world better this way.
I like myself better this way.
And, sometimes, I even get a basket in the process.
* * *
Now. Where was I?
Oh yes! The Internet — scourge of human interactions the world over!
Only it isn’t.
Like, at all.
Blogging and social media provide unprecedented opportunities to see people doing and valuing and engaging. Some of the relationships that I have formed and/or nurtured through this series of tubes are as meaningful as any I have in meatspace.
And — as I learned this weekend — some even come with their own “baskets,” too.
* * *
Claudia McGill is a fellow blogger — and a prolific one, at that. She Writes Poetry (Did You Know That?). She curates a Museum of Things She Picks Up From the Street. Like me, Claudia likes to notice things (Sometimes Getting Confused in the process!). She populates her art world with beauty, whimsy, and clay figurines — like these Ladies Who Are Friends, all of whom I’d love to take out to brunch sometime, for pancakes and girltalk.
About a week ago, Claudia posted pictures of an art book she had made, called Beyond Vision. [You can flip through it here, if you’re interested. Which — trust me! — you are.] I left her a comment, pointing out a few details I really appreciated in it.
Then Claudia commented back with an offer to gift the whole thing to me.
The package arrived Saturday. She had included a couple books of her poetry, too!
* * *
Thank you, Claudia, for sharing this piece of your wild, wonderful, weird beautiful self with me. I am moved beyond words.
Which is perhaps why I promptly celebrated by baking scones to accompany my poetry reading! (I’d offer you some…but I really don’t think they’d travel well by mail.)
* * *
And thanks to everyone else who is reading these words now.
Thank you for being here and appreciating my own weird wonderfulness.
Thank you all for the weird wonderful beauty that you make in your own lives as well.
What indescribable rainbows we all are.