Sunday, July 10, 2016

In a Small World

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.

Find it HERE.

And visit the Shetland webcam for yourself, HERE


  1. Dear Pamela,
    As you so very often do, you have captured exactly what I feel! Yes, I was horrified at the results of the Brexit vote and have remained very sad since.
    You are absolutely right about the cynical politicians selling the promise of a false past - yes, back then when domestic violence was 'just what men did' and gay people had to hide. Also, interestingly, America is doing reasonably well economically right now - compared to many other places. Not perfect - what ever is?
    So forces of fear, please go away! By the way, such a lovely article in the New York Times yesterday about Canadians sponsoring Syrian families and welcoming them. Super challenging and not easy.....but obviously not the American way.
    So sad sad sad.
    So, as we celebrate the 4th, let's celebrate friendship - and extending friendship to others who may not look exactly like us. Let's all try harder!
    Gosh, end of sermon and sending lots of love.
    Love to Edward and Apple.
    Happy 4th!

  2. Dear Pamela - we have been communicating with one another for a long time now. And every word of what you say is true - we must all spread as much love and light around as we can.

  3. Keep spreading the light, Pamela - and I will try to as well. I believe the better angels of our nature (paraphrasing Lincoln) will eventually win out, but, oh the trials we may yet endure.

  4. Hear Hear Pamela. We can not let the bad guys win.

  5. This was a wonderful post, Pamela. My husband and I were saddened by the vote, too. We have British ex-pat friends in Spain who will be affected, as well as relatives in France who worry about how to visit other relatives in England in the future. Everywhere personal lives will be affected, not to mention refugees who will be more worried than ever. We're also alarmed at the apparent success of "he who shall not be named" in this country, and the desire of some people to turn back the clock. You are so right that now, more than ever, it's important to spread love and light.

  6. Just three days after the Brexit, Spain voted fear too. People voted the government party, a party who has been robbing us, a party utterly corrupt. Just out of fear of change. It has been so sad, I've never been so upset about political matters before. I also want to close my house and my world and stay inside, but I also think this is impossible. Bad times are running over Europe, I see so many people thinking that fascism and racism aren't something wrong anymore. I am really devastated, and feel that worst is to come yet.

  7. As an American immigrant in France, married to a Brit, the consequences of the Brexit vote for us are many. None are good, but we're hoping for the best. I'm grateful for your sympathetic voice. Sadly, many of my fellow Americans have not understood the fallout of Brexit and are making uninformed judgments online. Ah, how the world spins!

  8. fear is the enemy indeed.
    and those most famous words... "we have nothing to fear but fear itself."
    your posts are always insightful and with a kind wisdom that illuminates our lives.
    thank you!

  9. I knew I loved you for your writing style. I love you even more now. Keep spreading your light and we out here will keep spreading ours. Soon we will reach critical mass! Love will win.

  10. Dear Pamela as an English citizen living in Australia I was devastated by the Brexit vote. Your comments above go straight to the point and I embrace them entirely. It is my view that we need to ensure that children in schools are taught critical thinking, we might then in the future have a generation able to weigh up the protestations of the fear mongers and make an informed decision. I fear that is pie in the sky stuff though and meantime for all our ability to make immediate contact globally we are closing our doors and looking inward. We in Australia have just had (yesterday) an election for our next government which has seen several far right candidates elected to our Senate so the rot is happening even in our far corner of the world. Thank you for your insights.....cheers from Brisbane Australia.

  11. Thank you so much for this. And for the link to webcam. It is just past 4:30am there and yet there is a bit of light and gulls are gives one hope. And a bit of peace.

  12. A very thought provoking post Pamela.

  13. Great post. Love will win in the end, I just hope we don't have to go through too much more horror to get there.

  14. Was America not great when it sent its Sons to fight in a war that ended slavery? Was America not great when it made black American citizens and gave them the right to vote? Was America not great when it defeated Nazism and Imperial Japan and beat them both the development of a nuclear weapon which they would have used to enslave the world? Was America not great when America was good, as was recorded by De tocqueville?

    1. Of course. But taken as a whole, the words heard from the mouths of those of whom I speak do not lead me to believe these are the days they long for.

  15. Dear Pamela, my tour is now over and I am literally in an airport lounge, waiting to be called to a flight home, and finally finding the time to visit with you.
    It was so lovely to meet you , and of course Edward, in Atlanta, thank you for making the drive for the signing.
    I love your analysis of our digital world "If a flower is dropped from a window in Rome, it could be caught in London before it ever hits the ground." ..... and after I hugged you goodbye in Atlanta, I was also thinking about how amazing this blogging world is, in that although you and I had never met in person before, it really felt like greeting an old friend.
    While on the tour I have been blissfully cut off from any real news of the world, and quite happy not to have to think about the vote in England .... and now that you have given us the link for the window on to the Hebrides, I think I shall check that out instead of reading the inevitable bad news from the news channels
    Much love to you, and I hope we'll soon find another opportunity to meet and more time to talk

  16. We each must hold our own candle high and not give in to the voices of fear and ignorance around us.

  17. Thank you, Pamela, for your words of light and courage.

  18. Dear Pamela, thanks to a beloved great-uncle I was introduced to the classics at a young age and as a constant reader still as I rapidly approach my 50th birthday I relish what the great writers say and how they can turn a simple sentence or idea into one of beauty. You write in the same way.
    I have now read this article every day since you posted it and it still gives me something new to think about each time. The way you introduced the article with a story from a remote Shetland Island should give everyone a chance to pause and consider what a small world we now are. Even those who do not agree with your sentiments would find it hard to react with hate and outrage to such a mature and thought provoking reaction to an event that seemed to affect so many people outside of the UK, let alone inside.
    Thank you again for your blog and your beautiful writing. I hope this article is published in mainstream newspapers as so many people need to hear your voice of reason and the truly beautiful way you write. Kind regards Lisa from Sydney

  19. Love to read your thoughts on the world Pamela.
    Thank you for introducing me to Shetland web cam.
    Anita xx

  20. Thank you, again, for your words of reason and wisdom. I agree, fear is being used by many politicians to steer us towards a closed, less tolerant society.
    I agree with your reader that says love will win in the end. I hope so!
    Thanks for the link to the webcam.

  21. Pamela,

    Your writing is always so thoughtful and empathetic. You never seem to be reactive but have a perspective that shows deep consideration. I respect that. I have just read the blog "Splenderosa" and can't help but compare the differences. Thank goodness there is intelligence in the blog

  22. You rant against national borders is extremely naive and delusional. It is distressing to see how many people will not face reality and instead are still holding hands, singing Climb Every Mountain, thinking if we say the world is a place that is kind and evolving into a higher consciousness, that will make it so. I applaud the patriots in the UK who want to preserve the last dying vestiges of their culture and stop the dismantling of their countries in the name of globalism and political correctness. If you believe there are not things to fear in this world you are sadly out of touch with reality. Don't bother to respond -- I don't care to hear anymore of your drivel.

  23. Well said! I too fear the rebuilding of walls. These are crazy times but it is good to remember the nice connections we make online. Physical walls can't stop that (well, I suppose some countries have cyber-walls). I am holding out for hope.


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