Today is June 7.
June means lush early summer, seeing which of the seeds planted out back might actually live. It means clear blue skies, and on the 9th, my big sister Beth's birthday. (My sisters’ birthdays are the only birthdays I know for sure. Not even my own childrens’ are so memorable (I was busy those days, dammit!). Birthdays are reckoned numerically, you know. And me and numbers? Well… no. This mind does not reckon numerically.)
Today is the day of the Belmont Stakes, a mile-and-a-half series of Grade-One Thoroughbred horse races broadcast around the world from rural New York, USA. The main race is “the final jewel of the Triple Crown,” but most American horses never run so far. American horses usually race for less than a mile, fast and furious. This race is old-fashioned, downright European. It sorts the speed-demons from the capital-TH Thoroughbred Horses. The Belmont is why so many shiny USA ponies win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but finally are sorted-out in the long run.
Maybe that is where we get “in the long run.” From Belmont. The real test.
Patrick and I spent a couple of hours early today looking at racing forms and videos of old races, having fun, enjoying one another. Since I was a little girl I had a feel for horses – like lots of little girls. I learned to ride, I learned to compete, and I learned about aesthetics and athletics on the hairy back of a horse. I was not a talented rider, but I learned to look at horses, learned to see at a glance which type and breed it was, and which animal was in tip-top condition and who is not-quite fit. Paddy, a horse-race handicapper from way back, taught Puritan old Me to read the Daily Racing Form, a publication he re-designed when he moved from England to America, a while back now. From the DRF, (and from the stock market) I learned I am not so terrible at numbers when it comes to spotting trends. I learned to make that pay.
Anyway, it is June. June 7. According to the great FaceBook Oracle, this is the birthday of Sandra Svoboda of Detroit, a journo and friend I worked with back in Toledo, Ohio. Sandi is talented, outgoing, articulate, good-looking, well-traveled, and well-connected. Her FaceBook feed has more than 100 “happy birthday” messages today. This made me think. It sent me on a scan of the people on my own FaceBook Friends list.
I was shocked to see I have more than 400 FB friends. I did not know that I knew 400 people in this world, much less 400 people with internet access and (I assume) desire to have contact with me.
So I started reckoning. Here are my mother and sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins in rural America, my step-sons and in-laws (some I have never met) in metropolitan England. Here are second-cousins in Maryland who are US Marshals in search of international criminals, a beloved brother-in-law who is a sheriff’s deputy in El Dorado, Arkansas, my nephews and step-grandchildren in two countries whose parents have (maybe wisely) blocked their access to my thoughtless language and lefty political and religious opinions.
Here are the people who sat at other tables in the lunchroom at Apollo Ridge High School, the stoners and cheerleaders and drum-majors, people who kinda liked me anyway, outsider that I was back in 1978. Here’s my college roommate, a public defender married to an Indian-American called Amit, who advised me on how to behave when my son married into a Pakistani family. Here’s the guy who taught me how to draw and shoot rotoscope animation cells in 1980, now working for Steven Spielberg. Here’s a wonderfully funny editor from my long-ago stint at the Beaver County Times. Here’s a Hare Krishna, a Mormon, Benedictine nuns and holy rollers, a genuine whirling dervish, Anglican deacons and priests of several stripes, a Vegan Jew and some crystal-packing New Age feminists. Here’s a Czech pilgrim who stopped here in 2007 and showed me how a drop of dish soap makes cement creamy-smooth but sticky enough to make walls from. Here are professors, lawyers, musicians, painters, scientists of DNA, dreamers, priests, prophets, editors, carpenters, weavers, moonshiners, movie stars, models, analysts Freudian and Jungian, cowpokes, bronco-busters, bull-shitters, politicians, and poets. Even a couple of international criminals, the people my second-cousin the US Marshal tracks down for a living.
Oh, and pilgrims. Pilgrims, pilgrims.
I think they all are, somehow, pilgrims. People on a holy path, on their way to some sacred place.Not all my FB friends are educated, articulate or even respectable. Some feel I am rather scruffy and common and American. I am cool with that. I have no great desire to join them at the villa in Provence or the shmooze at the gallery. I would only be bored, and probably would be boring.
And so, on 7 June I encourage every one of you to have a look at your FaceBook Friends file, or your email address book. Reckon all the memories, the mugs and old lovers and geniuses and idiots in there. And consider what they’ve given you along all the many miles of your journey – the seeds they sowed, the robberies they witnessed or committed, and the joy and tenderness they may have brought you, too.
FaceBook, they say, isn’t so cool any more. But it is warm, if you let it be. It is what we’ve got, far away as we are from one another.