In a Small World
Atop a windy cliffside in Shetland, a camera hides. So unobtrusive as to be unnoticed by passersby, it constantly records the scenery in real time, affording views that are sometimes sunny, sometimes stormy, always wild and windy. For someone like myself, who has climbed the hills of Shetland, this is a grand gift and one that I open every single day just by switching on my laptop. This webcam affords me entry into my memory, complete with light and sound. I close my eyes and listen to the seabirds, hear the waves crashing below, and I am instantly transported back to this wonderful island.
As I gazed at this view yesterday - listening to the roar of the sea, watching the wind push white clouds across a summer blue sky - I heard voices. Heavy footfalls of climbers, getting louder as they approached the hidden camera. A couple of masculine exasperated sighs and indistinct muttering, and then, quite clearly, a woman’s voice…. “Ach man, quit yer complainin’!”.
The sounds of these two dwindled as they walked on away from the site, leaving me amused and amazed. Just think, from my spot in my sitting room in the Southern US, I was listening to two climbers make their way up a sunny hillside in the Shetland Isles, in the middle of the North Sea, closer to Norway than to Scotland. What an astonishing time in which to live.
When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, the word went out across the world via steamships and mail. The process took weeks and months. Our world is smaller now. These days we are instantaneously connected. If a flower is dropped from a window in Rome, it could be caught in London before it ever hits the ground. Or so it seems. Perhaps this is one reason last week’s vote in the United Kingdom hit me so hard. I sat up late as the results came in, increasingly saddened and stunned at the apparent ending of a half century union created at the close of one devastating war as insurance against another. As a young friend in London put it, “In my lifetime I have watched as walls came down. Who would have thought I would have to watch them go back up again?”
Fear is a cancerous thing. It rears its horned head in troubled times and is always seized by those willing to exploit it for ugly reasons. There are those on the national stages at present who shout their desire to make our countries “great again", the implication being that we used to be great but are, sadly, great no longer. I seriously doubt these pronouncements have anything to do with nostalgia for vinyl records and milk at the door. No, follow this thought process and one cannot help but wonder at what time in history did these people consider us “great”? Before women could vote? Before our black brothers and sisters could drink from the same water fountains as whites? Perhaps when gay men were imprisoned or people were persecuted because of their religion? Or maybe when books were banned and the press was censored?
These are complicated times in which we live. There are real problems that need to be solved, one cannot deny. But to retreat behind our borders in suspicion and fear will only make us smaller, not greater. Change has happened, is happening, will happen. To fear change, whether in one’s personal life or as a country, is detrimental to the healthy future of both. In the eight years I have written this blog I have come into contact with people from all over the world. This has only enhanced my belief that we are all essentially the same. We share the same capacity for love and wonder, the same hopes and dreams, the same curiosity of each other and our world, even as we all love our home countries with dedication and pride.
On the forefront of politics at the moment there are loud voices carrying the echoes of evil times, times we thought were forever buried by the unassailable lessons of history. Now more than ever, we need intelligent voices of empathy and reason. We need people willing to work together, not hide behind walls with fists clenched and eyes closed, proud of their ignorance of others. Though often tempted to shut my doors and retreat into the peace of my own home, ignoring the cacophony and chaos, I know that I cannot. My sphere of influence may be small, but I will continue to spread as much love and light as I can, even as the world gets darker.
In a delightful example of the friendships than can be created in this small world, last week Edward and I were tickled to meet Sharon Santoni, of the widely read and much loved blog, My French Country Home. Sharon was in town to sign copies of her new book, My Stylish French Girlfriends, a lovely collection of French women - women with real lives, real faces, women of widely varied careers and interests. It’s a marvelous, beautiful book and perfect for a summer’s day.
And visit the Shetland webcam for yourself, HERE