It is motoring meditation Along the rutted back roads of my Virginia homeland. Handlaid rock walls and split-rail fences Lace the boundaries of historic farms and country estates. Songbirds — blue, red and yellow — dart like rainbows Across the road and zigzag trees thick with greenery. Buddha cows wade through the velvet of belly-deep grass, While weathered farmers practice the Zen of John Deere and Toro.
On a slow glide towards swollen waters of the Yolo Sea, A lone cormorant sets its landing gear, Braced against his final approach. The highway stretches before me To a shallow sky and Sierra Nevada fat with snow.
The following article was originally published in the Sacramento News & Review, January 21, 2010. This episode in my life still has me wondering. There are still no answers. Dale would probably tell me to stop asking questions.
The word of the day is reconnected.
“I just reconnected with so-and-so!” It’s the latest thing, thanks to the magic of Facebook and the great pastime called “social networking.” Honestly, I never understood the phenomenon or the fascination with spending hours and hours recounting pointless bits of information. Was this really reconnecting?
But a recent Facebook encounter has me looking at social networking in a whole new light. It also has me asking some big questions of the Universe.
Recently, I decided to attempt a modern-day, Facebook reconnect with a friend from the past named Dale H. The two of us met in 1986, dated briefly and then went our separate ways.
Thursday, December 3: Just a few keystrokes and poof! Simple! I located Dale on Facebook and sent him a message.
Friday, December 4: Dale responded. He was happy to hear from me and provided a phone number. We made voice contact. He was living in Los Angeles but spending time in Sacramento caring for his elderly parents.
Saturday, December 5: We are supposed to get together, but missed the opportunity. He had things going on.
Sunday, December 6: We spoke again and say we’ll hook up sometime in the next week or two. Maybe breakfast at the Fox & Goose where we met 23 years ago?
Wednesday, December 9: My cell phone rang. “This is Barbara,” I said.
A woman’s voice asks, “Do you know Dale H.?” I said, "Yes."
“This is his daughter,” the voice told me. “I wanted to let you know my dad died this morning.”
Needless to say, I was stunned. Dale was a young man; just 51 years old.
I was left to wonder, “Why? Why now? Why Facebook?” Was this another case of “be careful what you wish for”? Or was there some other ultimate social-networking lesson to be learned?
Esoterically, a friend told me, “Somehow, he reached out to you to find him.” And I liked that explanation and that idea that, somehow, the phenomenon of social networking brought us back together, even if just for a moment. His family didn’t know who to call and found my number on his cell phone. I had a few people I could reach to let them know what had happened to Dale—some, strangely enough, through his Facebook account.
I have told this story of my ultimate social-networking experience repeatedly to family, friends and strangers. Thanks to Dale, I now say to everyone: If there’s someone out there you’re missing … someone you have wanted to find—reach out and reconnect. Don’t wait!