Photo Credit: Nature via Deidre Vercoe/New Zealand Department of Conservation
The Northwest Territories encompasses some of the northernmost regions of Canada and extends high into the Arctic Circle. It is about twice the size of Texas but home to only 44,000 residents, who live in small communities spread across its vast area. The capital city of Yellowknife is 1,500 kilometers from the next-closest major city. It’s cold, ruggedly beautiful, and very isolated.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds myself spending hours on the phone with friends and editors I used to converse with minimally, if at all. Surely this has everything to do with the limited and mediated intimacy provided by our more recent modes of communication—email, texting, Twitter direct messages, chat apps, FaceTime, and now the suddenly ubiquitous Zoom—as well as with our longing for a more immediate, audible sense of connection in these harrowing times. (It may be a generational thing, or my own intractable Luddism, but video-chats just don’t do it for me; they seem stagy and artificial. Besides, who wants to look at oneself bobbing up on a screen that much, even with helpful hints from the likes of Tom Ford on how to look good on camera. Whatever the lighting and the angle at which one tilts one’s phone or screen, one always looks somewhere between wan and ghoulish.)I agree; I too find that video-chats and the like have an unreal quality about them. I tend to avoid communicating in such manner, and prefer the warmth and intimacy of phone conversations to other more modern modes of communication. Only a face-to-face conversation is better, and while this is not currently possible, we always have the phone. Yes, I still have a landline. And, yes, I do remember Bell’s campaign to “Reach Out and Touch Someone to encourage long-distant phone calls with its catchy jingle.
The phone calls have reminded me, with new clarity, about the things that are expressed in tone, beyond words. Last night, I listened to a younger co-worker friend tell me a story he’d planned to share over a drink, about a burial he’d arranged for an elderly friend who’d died. As he described the series of kindnesses he’d encountered—of a city worker, of volunteers at a Jewish service organization, of the men in the minyan who came to the burial—I could hear a whole bouquet of notes: amazement, respect, quiet gratitude, affection, his own understated kindness.That’s a good explanation as any. It just might be that talking on the phone is important, and that it is missed when it is missing in our lives. It is the same reason many of us like to hear podcasts or the radio—we have a need to hear the human voice, with all its inflections, timbre and turn of phrases. Voices are particular to a person, and we can quickly recognize a person who we know well by his or her voice. The human voice meets us in a familiar place and tells us that we are not alone, even in our isolation.
In September of 1918, soldiers at an army base near Boston suddenly began to die. The cause of death was identified as influenza, but it was unlike any strain ever seen. It was the worst epidemic in American history, killing over 600,000—until it disappeared as mysteriously as it had begun.
Our Cockatiel is Arya, a white faced male. Arya has a wide palate; besides the regular bird fare of seeds, he enjoys homemade spaghetti with red sauce, fresh chicken soup with lokshen (noodles) and traditional matzah ball soup.
Photo Credit: ©2020. Perry . Greenbaum
|April 1 at Twilight, which was yesterday at 6:29 a.m. Photo is taken facing in a southeast direction under clear blue skies and a temperature of 0°C (32°F).|
Photo Credit: ©2020. Perry J. Greenbaum