Sitting in my little back porch, the one with the tall screens, I am outdoors but not outside. The outside is in, but the bugs and rain are out. It is the best of both worlds and includes a view of the woods; it is practically smack dab in the trees. It’s one of my favorite places to be and it’s all I need, until winter of course. But let’s not talk about that now, not yet. Not at the height of summer. Let’s just look out at the green and take a collective deep breath and sigh together. That’s it. “Ahhhh.” Summer in the Northwoods is another favorite place to be.

From here on the porch, in the silence that is the wind in the leaves and the birds twittering, I listen to the woodpeckers chat. Rat a tat tat tat tat….tat. One drums nearby. Rat a tat tat tat tat….tat, another answers from a long distance in the forest, barely audible. Back and forth they rap with one another; it’s obviously a conversation of sorts. The first patiently waits for a response; he started it, after all. After some time, she responds. “Rat a tat tat tat…. Tat. He answers right away. Then after a bit of a pause, she responds again.

In the kitchen, my teens are doing the same thing. No, not drumming; texting. It’s nearly the same formula. I sit between worlds and I listen to both; amused and mesmerized at once. We are indeed alone in ourselves, but communicate we do in all sorts of ways. By telegraph, secret code, letter-writing, the telephone, texting. The texting reminds me of passing notes in school. I loved that. Loved the writing, the folding, the challenge of the pass. Loved the pause, the patiently waiting for the look and the familiar eye contact, the knowing smile of a good friend, the laugh. “Rat a tat tat tat….tat.” Now it is replaced by the ding of a text or a beep or perhaps a duck sound; whatever you’ve chosen to alert you to that new message, a written note of sorts, but with back lighting.

We got into trouble with paper then, and they get into trouble with electronic devices now. Not much really changes, does it? Just the vehicle in which it arrives. It has arrived by many means: by messenger on foot, by wagon, bicycle, and boat, via the Pony Express, the locomotive, the airplane, radio waves, air waves, the World Wide Web. Long then, instant now; like magic. Each new form must seem a bit like magic to the users of the last.

I am included in the last gasp of letter writers and land line telephone users, but I do have a cheap cell phone. My service happens to be terrible where I live: on a hill, in the woods, under the black starry skies of low population. So, I wait patiently, just like that woodpecker, for my text messages to cross the expanse.

Back and forth.A new way of communication, but not really new at all. Just like a note to a friend clear across the classroom. Just like a phone ringing on the kitchen wall. Just like the drum of a feathered friend through the woods. King Solomon was right; there is nothing new under the sun. So, here in our Northland, our great outdoors; it may take awhile for those texts to come and go, those messages to get through. But when they do come, they come loud and clear. Like the rapping on the tree, like a smile from a buddy; like the tapping of love and belonging, like a voice in the wilderness. We all want it; and it is ok, and it is who we are, and as always in each form, it makes the spaces in between all the sweeter.


When I carefully consider the curious habits of dogs

I am compelled to conclude

That man is the superior animal.

When I consider the curious habits of man

I confess, my friend, I am puzzled.

Ezra Pound

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