Friday, February 24, 2012


So.  I actually did finish the sweater last Monday night, in time to wear it to teach on Valentine's Day (one of my regular students, who has taken many of my classes and knows me well, knew me well enough to ask whether I'd knitted it, which was kind of nice).  I have been putting off posting until I could get some pictures of it (and of the new happy project I have OTN, plus the spinning I'm working on), but I have not been able to motivate myself to get my camera out and get cracking.  So I thought I'd better post in any case.

It's been a rough month, frankly.  I lost a friend at the end of January, and very soon after that, another friend became very ill - the kind of ill that sometimes turns out in the worst possible way.  The very good news is that she is recovering, but those things have been on my mind, in unpostable sorts of ways, and it's been making it hard to get myself moving.  It doesn't help that February once again (I seem to remember this happening last year) turned into a month of deadlines, so that what little motivation I have had has been expended on those, and I have been letting everything else fall by the wayside in favor of being at home with my family.

I have been thinking, though, about the role of the internet in both of my friends' illnesses.  In different sorts of ways, their experiences had an online presence, which gave friends and family from near and far the ability to know how they were doing, and to send their loving thoughts.  And now that their illnesses are over, one way or the other, that record of their experience, and of those loving thoughts, remain.  Part of what got me thinking about this is the fact that in both cases, I tended not to log my responses to this online presence through comments - for some reason, when it comes to things like that, I tend to prefer either private email, or real person-to-person contact.

Like many of you, I am old enough to remember clearly a time before the interwebs (I did not invent the world wide web, mind you - I just remember what it was like before it was created, heh).  And, for that matter, before email.  A time when people sent, you know, letters.  Written on paper.  With ink.  And as the use of email expanded, I would occasionally soliloquize mournfully (in my head) about the loss of these artifacts, these letters, and wonder what future generations would think of us, when there was nothing concrete remaining of these quotidian messages, windows into everyday lives?  (Note the irony: I have never been good about writing letters, EVER - I am a much better email correspondent than I am a paper mail correspondent.  The post office gives me hives.)  But honestly, I think I have always thought of electronic media as ephemeral.  (And, in my defense, if you've ever had a hard drive wiped, or lost an entire linguistic database because of a computer upgrade that somehow left it behind because your new Parallels H-drive can't see your old Parallels H-drive - why yes, I am speaking from experience - then you know why I thought of e-media as ephemeral, and in fact, as aggressively and capriciously ephemeral.)

But here's the thing.  Right now, my friend's words live on, even though she can't write any more.  And the love and worry and support that her friends wrote to her also live on.  My other friend regained consciousness to find an entire record of her friends' love and concern for her, all expressed while she didn't even know it was happening.  But there it is, out there in the ether, in little electronic impulses of 1s and 0s (if I understand this right) - ephemeral but somehow, simultaneously, entirely real and enduring.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like love itself, doesn't it?  Utterly ephemeral, and entirely real.

That's not where I thought I was going with this, but I think I like it.


Jane said...

What a hard month it has been for you, family is where you need to be at times like these. I know what you mean about writing or speaking to someone privately, I think it's letting everyone else seeing that hidden part of you.

lori said...

oh...air leaving my body. i am so sorry you lost a friend, and your other friend had that suffering. loss is always such a shock, even when we know it's coming. i am so sorry.

and like you i'm a much better correspondent over email than in letters, even as i also see them as ephemeral. from the beginning of the social online self i've participated and found great value in leaving a record of myself, my world, friends and their connections, and look back over it all again and again to remember the experiences and the connections. i think there's a lot of good to it and don't tend to join the chorus of people wailing about it. you and your friends have this lovely record of a difficult time -- but the focus is less on the difficulty and more on the love and connection, and what a treasure that is.

here's to a better march, for all of you, and to a full and vibrant recovery for your friend. and you. <3

Nana Sadie said...

First of all, I'm grateful to be one of those friends you e-post to regularly, so I've know this was all coming and wondered how you'd handle it here - Beautifully, btw - but I've thought much the same things. I have the letters my grandmother saved and while I've never read them (can't) I keep them still. I've thought of those who've gone on, and I do like that it's possible to go and check out what was said, what was thought and agonized over, what was celebrated, once I'm past the knife-edge of grief. And I agree with you, it's all there, and it's a lot like the fact that they do live on even when they're gone, in the people they loved and whatever they might have created.

(I still can't get into those letters, tho')
I'm hopeful that March will be a better month for you!

Unknown said...

Your post is beautiful, I'm glad you let your thoughts and writing move along as they did. Beautiful.

Condolences on your loss.

Lynne said...

Jocelyn, I'm sorry for your loss and your pain. Sending cyber hugs you way - I hope things get better for you soon.

twinsetellen said...

Beautiful and comforting post. I hope you found it to be both, too.

Blessed be.

EGunn said...

I'm sorry this has been such a dark winter for you! I agree with you about speaking in private rather than in public about personal things; very little of that part of my life makes it onto the web, or even outside a very close circle of friends. (I also love writing and receiving real letters!) I'm so glad that your friends were able to feel the presence of their loved ones in their time of trouble, by whatever vehicle those thoughts and feelings arrived.

Rachael said...

The interwebs are an interesting phenomenon in many ways, but I am glad to have gotten to know you as a friend through them - without them, in a 20th century world, we would all be much poorer in friendship, and for that I am very grateful to the interwebs - regardless of whatever other questionable things they may bring.

Here's to a speedy and uneventful March!!!

Mary Lou said...

I'm sorry for your loss. This was interesting reading. I have had two friends with terminal illness be part of the CaringBridge. It was really helpful to see the news, but I almost always responded in private emails, as well. They both said they found great comfort in the record of visits and comments.