Tuesday, September 6, 2016



One of the gifts offered to the only child - aside from one’s own room, which is a delightful  gift indeed - is the opportunity to cultivate a keenly observant eye and the chance to learn to enjoy one’s own company.  Some only children refuse these gifts, it’s true, feeling deprived of community and wary of solitude, but for myself, I grasped them both with grateful hands.  They have made my life richer, deeper and infinitely more interesting as both held the key to an intellectual curiosity that bubbles still.   Even today I often imagine myself invisible, a holdover from my childhood when I intently observed the often complex interactions of the adults all around me, secure in the knowledge that nothing save watching and listening was required of someone so small.  I still love to spend my time in airports, hotels or restaurants making up back stories for the characters wandering past.   One would think this habit of slightly detached observation would render me a bit unapproachable, the faraway look in my eye label me distant or cool.  I can assure you, this is not the case.   Strangers talk to me all the time.  They ask me things, they tell me things.  They inquire where I purchased my clothing, what I’m knitting, what I’m reading.  They share their plans, disclose their histories and reveal their worries.  I often feel as though I have some sort of flashing neon people magnet glued to my forehead.  I used to wonder why but I’m used to it now.  Besides, these random connections have their compensations.

For example, just last week, I was climbing off one of those contraptions at the gym when I noticed an elderly gentleman making his way towards me,.  Now it’s pretty much a written rule that one does not engage a fellow exerciser in small talk at the gym. It’s as if there’s an fortified force field of privacy around everyone affording each of us the freedom to look our worst.  But it was clear this man was going to pierce my force field like a puppy.  And sure enough….

“Hey there!”, he said, grinning.

I took the headphones out of my ears, reducing Adele to a tinny little squeak in my sweaty palm and smiled up at him.

“Do you like looking at pictures of rainbows?”, he asked.

Oh boy, I thought.  “Ummm, yeeessss”, I said, not sure where this was heading.

“Well, let me tell you.  Go on Google and type in pictures of rainbows and about halfway down the page you’ll see these pictures this National Geographic fellow took right here in the city after those storms that rolled through last week.  He just happened to be in town and I tell you, those are the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen in my life.  My wife found ‘em and I though you looked like someone who’d enjoy them like I did.”

Once again I found myself grateful for whatever is written 
on my soul that causes strangers to share things with me. 
 I mean who couldn’t love this?

It is astonishing to notice how little people make eye contact with each other these days.  And really, who can blame us?  So much distrust is sewn into our very beings in this current culture.  If one’s knowledge of the world was limited to certain media, one might be forgiven for thinking every face on the street is potentially an enemy.  Fear of “the other” seems rampant.   Immigrants are demonized, ( rather ironic here in America when everyone save a Native American is essentially an immigrant).   The poor are losers, the police are enemies.  Guns are good, travel is dangerous. Rather than the balm it could and should be, religion appears to have become a knife used for division and pain.

While I’m hardly a Pollyanna when it comes to the challenges we face in this age, happily, all this is not what I experience when I walk outside my door.  Troublesome issues are rarely easy to solve and very little is exclusively black or white.  But somewhere in the shady areas lies the real world.  It's cooler here in the shade, colors are truer and visibility is so much better far away from the glare of extremes.  

Looking into eyes unlike my own, conversing with those living lives so different from me, sharing a laugh with someone I can barely understand - all this makes my life happier, lighter, clearer.  My interactions with people have taught me to look for the good, and after all, we usually find what we’re looking for.  Author E. M. Forster put it much better and more succinctly that I ever could when he wrote in Howard’s End…. “Only connect!”  These words speak volumes and meant so much to him they are on his tombstone.    

So I’ll keep talking to strangers whenever I can.  
After all, that’s how I get to see rainbows like this…..

photograph by Andrew Evans
National Geographic

Note:  More connections will be made soon as I'm heading back
 to my beloved Scotland in a few short days.  
Follow along with me on Instagram... HERE


  1. What a wonderful post! I so agree with you. And speaking of Howards End (possibly my very favorite book), this is the 25th anniversary of the beautiful Merchant Ivory film adaptation and I saw it here in Los Angeles over the weekend. It is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. I cried throughout, over the story as well as the music and beauty of the film. If you get a chance to see this newly restored version on the big screen, please do, I know you will love it. The final scene with Helen and Leonard Bast's son running in the field and Margaret (Emma Thompson) watching from the porch with the knowledge that she has made him the heir to Howards End is such an emotional and powerful ending. One of many scenes that capture Forster's theme of "only connect." How exciting that you are going back to Scotland. Have a fabulous time, as I know you will! xx

  2. As usual, a wonderful post! Safe travels and enjoy. I know I will enjoy the photos you post of your travels.

  3. As one random connector to another, thank you, Pamela. I seem to be a magnet to passers-by and strangers, and I love it! You took the time the listen to the elderly gentleman, and in so doing, you validated his interest and his offering. In return, you were able to hang your wondrous words on this glorious rainbow.

    A lovely, lovely post.

  4. I used to be too shy to speak to strangers, but I made it a habit and no longer find it difficult. Kind words from a stranger have so often been the highlight of my day that I want to do the same for others.

  5. I think if you smile then people will respond. A smile makes me feel good inside (and lifts me when I'm down) and gives pleasure to others. I think the conversation comes as a result. Enjoy your trip to Scotland....Edward will miss you?

  6. Have a lovely trip. I look forward to your Scottish posts.


  7. I must say that I talk to strangers all the time - always have done and I find that almost always we can hold a really nice chat,
    Do enjoy Scotland - hope the weaher holds for you.

  8. Have a fabulous trip! I cannot wait to follow along.

  9. Lovely post, Pamela. You must have a truly welcoming and non-judgmental energy you project. Have a wonderful time in Scotland. I look forward to following along on Instagram.

  10. 16 degrees in Stornoway today. May the weather hold and the ferry from Ullapool give you a calm crossing !

  11. You have the mindset of a natural storyteller/writer. Yes, listen, watch, and ask questions. This was a marvelous story! (However, might not be the safest strategy in a big city!) I'm back to blogging from a six week MS revision hiatus. So nice to catch up!

  12. Welcome back to Scotland when you arrive! Edinburgh is nice and blowy and wet, but still fresh and green...Autumn is on its way though for sure! The leaves have started coming down.

  13. I always make eye contact, smile and frequently chat with old people. Partly because I really enjoy old folks and partly because I promised my Grammy before she passed on when one day she informed me that the worst part of growing old is that you seem to become "invisible" to the world at large. And, I will usually speak with and be friendly toward anyone with a dog. Those two groups seem to me to be safe to interact with even in larger cities. A caution, however. Eye contact and even smiling are sometimes wrongly interpreted by persons from other cultures and as our society increasingly diversifies it helps to remain personally safe by determining your tribe and acting within that tribe without necessarily shutting yourself off from other possibilities.

  14. I a 65 and all my life strangers have come up to me and shared their darkest secrets. I wondered why for many years but then I understood they were looking for absolution. I must have a kind face. Now I listen and tell people I understand and what they did or what happened to them may not be right but it is OK to be human and we all make mistakes. They seem so happy when they walk away. I am not Catholic but feel like a kind village priest after a heartfelt confession.

  15. This is very educational content and written well for a change. It's nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post.


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!