Monthly Archives: April 2023

Once Upon a Time

I was starting my sophomore year at The College of William and Mary in the fall of 1981 and would have, in my earnest, innocent way, identified as a feminist. That year, the annual speakers’ forum opened with a debate about the Equal Rights Amendment, featuring Phyllis Schlafly, founder of STOP ERA, and Karen DeCrow, former President of the National Organization for Women, a group which advocated for passage of the ERA, among other things.*

I have a clear memory of sitting on the bleachers in William and Mary Hall listening to these two women debate each other, something that, in and of itself was a bit unusual in my experience thus far. I suppose it was seen as “women’s issue” so women were permitted to talk about it. I don’t remember much, except being surprised to find that Schlafly was thoughtful, even compelling, in her beliefs, (despite disagreeing vehemently with everything she said) and that both women remained civil to each other throughout the evening. No name calling, no shouting over each other.

The report (see page 2) from The Flat Hat, the college paper, indicates the audience mostly sided with DeCrow, wearing ERA Now and .59ยข buttons, the latter referencing the fact that, at the time, women made 59 cents to every dollar a man made. That gap has closed, and is now, according to the US Department of Labor, 83.7 cents. I discovered that there is a “holiday” in March each year to commemorate the fact that it takes women 15 months to earn what men do in 12 months. This gap, of course, widens when it comes to women of color.

Political issues aside, I titled this post “once upon a time” because there *was* a time, in the past, when people who disagreed could be on the same stage together to describe and defend their ideas in a civil way, to give listeners a chance to hear and evaluate those ideas and use them to form their own opinions, perhaps becoming more nuanced by being exposed to the other side. Civil discourse seems to be a thing of the past, and I am not sure it is something we can get back.

*I am grateful to The College of William and Mary’s digital archive for access to The William and Mary News and The Flat Hat. I was able to confirm the date of the debate and read the follow up review to refresh my sometimes faulty memory.

Returning to the World

I have been mostly away from the networked world since late March, visiting with family, then completely disconnecting for a few days last week at Fairy Stone State Park in Stuart, Virginia. I did not make any particular commitment to this disconnect but without having to monitor work or students, I found it came naturally when I was with my family in Pennsylvania, preferring to be with them in the moment without the distraction of social media and news feeds.

Once we got to Fairy Stone, it was nature itself that imposed the disconnect. Internet at the park was almost nonexistent: they suggested one particular spot where you might be able to get to access but I did not feel compelled to seek it out. Meanwhile, my phone just displayed SOS instead of bars. I’m not sure if that’s because I could still get emergency access or because the phone was in crisis mode without it and wanted to let me know.

My husband and I both found the quiet liberating and restful. We rocked on the porch of our log cabin, reading, chatting and meditating on the spectacular scenery. We explored the area and I will have some stories to tell about those explorations in later posts. Here are two pictures of the cabin (one of eight in the park that were built by CCC workers in the 1930s) and the view from our porch.

We returned home to lots of gardening so my technological disconnect continued until this past Monday when, after nearly three weeks, I opened the lid of my laptop and reconnected to the larger world, digging into a database project and meeting online with a colleague. My phone and iPad had been sufficient for use during the travels, mostly using them for reading and picture taking and game play. (I do like a bit of Wordle.)

I know my life is very different from that of others now that I am mostly retired and that makes disconnecting much easier. But, I can highly recommend trying find at least a little respite from the constant connectivity. It helped me focus my intentions upon my return related to how I wanted to spend my time and treasure in the next few months. I even generated a few blog post ideas.

During our explorations of Patrick County, we might have been living in a pre-Internet era: at some points, I was navigating using a paper map! (Yes, they still make them.) When I picked one up at the Brunswick County Visitor Center, it was from a feeling of nostalgia. But when I couldn’t get to Google Maps on my phone at some points, the map became a necessary part of our travel toolkit. It is now tucked in the passenger side pocket of the Kia, ready for our next escape.

One of my last blog posts before disconnecting was about World Poetry Day. We are now well into National Poetry Month and I want to go back to Wendell Berry as his poem “The Peace of Wild Things” was very much with me and, as the world seems to spin out of control more chaotically every day, the words continue to echo in my mind: “When despair for the world grows in me…I come into the peace of wild things.”

Here is Berry reading the poem: