As the coronavirus arrived in America, I sewed a pair of masks for each of us, lined with interfacing to improve the filtering, and began my separation from the world. The television, e-mails, and face book became my primary connections beyond our front yard. A friend invited me to join a group meeting virtually for their regular Friday afternoon happy hour, but I was reluctant to use my laptop for socializing.
|Our televisions connect us with the world.|
However, when the Willa Cather Foundation decided to proceed with their annual Spring Conference virtually, I was challenged to give the virtual world a try. It was wonderful! I found myself reaching beyond the group of friends we always look forward to meeting each spring, connecting with them, but also connecting with strangers. As a result, I joined a writing group established during the conference. We meet virtually once a month to do flash writing inspired by quotes from Cather. We select the quote and then each of us writes for 20 minutes, following which we read aloud what we have written, with comments then received from the others. Our small group spans the nation, from coast to coast and in between. We may not create any master pieces, but we have fun.
Having gained a little confidence in my Zoom skills, when I received an e-mail from Baylor University School of Law, inviting me to a Zoom 3-day conference, I signed up! Speakers from across the nation spoke virtually, and it was a wonderful opportunity to update myself about changes in the law, since I am no longer practicing. James A. Baker III was to have been the keynote speaker, but he had to cancel when both he and his wife contracted the coronavirus. I was disappointed...until I learned who had stepped in to take his place. Although the speaker pinch-hitting for Secretary Baker is a lawyer, John Grisham is now far better known as an author. I was thrilled to be a virtual member of his audience.
|John Grisham speaks virtually.|
Secretary Baker and his wife both recovered from the coronavirus, and I recently attended, virtually, his wonderful interview, scribbling notes as I watched and listened. When he was asked if his legal training and experience helped him in his political roles, he said that his training as a lawyer was especially beneficial in his role as Secretary of State, naming specifically in negotiations and in observing details. He also recommended an old saying: "Prior preparation prevents poor performance."
Some of you have even watched my own virtual interview, something I could not have imagined doing only a few months earlier. It is now posted on my face book page. I have changed my opinion about Zoom, and it occurred to me that perhaps some of you who follow this blog have been reluctant to try using Zoom. I have never set up a zoom meeting, but I have been invited to zoom meetings set up by others. A zoom account is not required if you are strictly joining a group that has been established by someone else. As a participant, you simply wait for the person who set up the meeting to send you an e-mail with the link to the meeting. You click on that and it will take you to a screen where you watch for the host to invite you to join the meeting. You click on the notice to enter, and you will then join your host and the other participants. It is all that easy!
I realize that those of us staying at home because of the coronavirus are certainly not isolated in the same sense as my Prairie Bachelor, Isaac Werner. He had neighbors living closer than any of our neighbors, and more neighbors in his community. But in the decade and a half that he lived alone on the prairie, his twin brother was the only family member who visited, and he spent only two nights at Isaac's homestead. There was rural mail delivery, I believe about twice a week. There was a telegraph in town, but I don't know how the messages were delivered to homesteaders.
Perhaps all of us have had the opportunity during the past several months of gaining a better appreciation of what it might have been like to leave family and friends behind and move to the unbroken prairie to stake a claim. Isaac Werner wrote letters and looked forward to the answers he awaited from his correspondents. Surely he could never have imagined sitting before a computer screen in Kansas and having a live conversation with his twin brother back in Pennsylvania!
P.S. Am I the only one who checks out the book shelves and the art hanging on the walls behind the people being interviewed from home during the virtual interviews being shown on television? It is unusual to have a glimpse into the homes of reporters and interview guests. I can't resist trying to read the book titles on the shelves in the background. Plants and flowers are also popular for filling the background, and it is interesting to see what room in the house they choose for their interview!