One of the scenes I remember most from the movie Dances With Wolves was when Dunbar is on his way west and he and his guide stumble across the bones of a pioneer woman with an arrow tangled among them. "Someone at home is saying, 'Now why don't she write?'" the guide laughs irreverently. Of course, later he meets the same fate.
When I was a kid, we would go back to visit my father's home town every year or so. A small hamlet in upstate New York, not many people left there, and he was greeted as a prodigal son every time he returned. I have clear memories of sitting around kitchen tables or in front rooms on sofas that felt too hard and springy from lack of use, drinking soda and listening to a litany of marriages, births, and deaths, as his kin folk and neighbors welcomed him back by catching him up. It seemed like everyone knew everything about everyone else, and that knowledge was essential to their community.
I've spent more time than usual on facebook the last few days, mostly because of the storm-- I had time on my hands and an interest in how my local friends were faring in the snow. In the last few months, I've gotten back in touch with people who only a few years ago were lost to me forever. As over-documented as these fb reunions are, the experience still amazes me.
I wonder, though, how these reconnections should fit into one's life. Does it lessen their value that in most cases the so glad to hear from you after all these years is about the extent of our contact? One of my long-lost friends posed a question on her wall: "What is the relative attraction of Facebook when compared to Twitter, e-mail, or phone calls?"
And a friend of hers replied: "I consider it my daily newspaper about people I know."
I agree with him. It helps us to maintain the knowledge that is essential to our community and it keeps us from asking, Now why don't she write?