The Sanctuary of Aphaia

Aegina is an island in the middle of the Saronic Gulf. It is rarely mentioned, if at all, in the history books, and didn’t play a crucial role in the Peloponnesian Wars or the development of democracy, architecture, or a unique school of philosophy. And yet, like every other part of Greece, it has its own history, its own charms, and its own interesting features.

One of those features is the ruins of the Sanctuary of Aphaia, shown in the photos above and below. In Greek mythology, Aphaia was a nymph whose devotees believed was the daughter of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. So far as historians and archaeologists can determine, she was worshipped in only one place: Aegina. Why she was worshipped here, and only here, is lost in the mists of time, but she must have been considered important, because her sanctuary was carefully situated on top of a prominent promontory, visible from the seas as you approach the island. From the grounds of the Sanctuary, you have a commanding view in any direction.

The temple to Aphaia was built around 500 B.C. and is considered a classic example of Doric architecture. It is in remarkably good shape for a structure that is more than 2500 years old and has been exposed to the elements for 25 centuries.

Still, the passage of time has had its impact. So far as we know, there are no longer any priests or Aphaia, or any acolytes, or any worshippers to light a votive candle at her temple. At some point, there must have been a last priest, attending to the temple and witnessing a dwindling number of worshippers who left offerings and prayed for the nymph’s intervention. Did the last followers of Aphaia know they were part of a dying religion? We’ll never know, but that thought makes the visit to the Temple of Aphaia a wistful experience.

The Curious Case Of “Lockdown Nostalgia”

I would have thought everyone, everywhere, could agree on one thing: we’re glad the COVID-19 pandemic has officially been declared “over” and the mandatory closures and lockdowns are over. But I would be wrong. Some people are confessing to feeling a sense of “lockdown nostalgia.” Even as they give a nod to the fact that many people died and many more became sick, they feel a certain wistfulness about those enforced, stay-at-home days during 2020 and 2021. Here’s an example of such a piece.

Basically, the underlying message of those claiming to suffer from “lockdown nostalgia” is that the COVID lockdowns made the world a simpler place and modern life a lot less complicated. Before the lockdowns, they say, their lives were hectic and difficult as they raced from place to place. When the lockdown orders were issued, of course, that all stopped–and they had the chance to enjoy spending time at home, reconnecting with family and enjoying the simple pleasures of binge-watching TV and reading books.

I suspect that many of the people who may be experiencing even a twinge of “lockdown nostalgia” are introverts who didn’t like going out to do things in the first place. For many of the rest of us, however, the idea that we would be pining for a time when government edicts kept us penned up, cost many people their jobs and their businesses, and prevented people from visiting sick and dying relatives–or even attending their funerals–is inconceivable.

If you’re thinking that you enjoyed a simpler life during the COVID lockdown period, the answer isn’t another lockdown, it’s looking at your life and making your own decisions about simplifying it. We don’t need the government or lockdown orders to do that.

The Algorithms Among Us

In the modern world you get used to the notion that a big part of your life is influenced, directed, or controlled by invisible, and unknowable, computer code. If you use a computer at work or at home, as many of us do, it’s as much a part of the routine as that essential morning cup of coffee. Every once in a while, however, you realize that, somewhere out in the internet ether, clicks have been analyzed, cookies have been implanted, and huge amounts of data about you have been compiled, and that data is being used to define you and your corner of the world.

I thought about this when I went on Facebook recently, and the first thing that popped up was a Beatles day-by-day post. I like the Beatles and their music, and some months ago someone sent me a link to a Beatles post. It looked interesting, I clicked it, and since then the Facebook computers have served me a steadily increasing diet of not only posts about the Beatles and their music, but also about individual members of the Beatles and their solo careers, and now other artists from the ’60s and ’70s. It’s pretty obvious that some server, somewhere, is trying to test just how broad my interests are and to define, ever more precisely, the exact nature of my existing musical and cultural preferences.

Some years ago we were looking for some new light fixtures. We eventually made our selections and our purchases, but for months thereafter light fixture ads seemed to dominate every website we visited. It was only after months of non-light fixture activity that the algorithms finally gave up and started to probe into other areas. The light fixture data is out there somewhere, brooding yet poised so that a single ill-advised click or search for a lamp could expose us to a new avalanche of ads featuring the latest lighting products.

I’m sure Facebook would argue that this process is a good thing: by learning more about us, it, and Google, and Amazon, and all of the other algorithm users can provide us with targeted information, products, goods, and services designed to appeal to our specific preferences. Of course, that ignores the risk that some bad guy hacks into the database where this wealth of information is stored, and can use it for theft, fraud, and other nefarious purposes. But it also ignores that this process of identifying and targeting interests puts you into an ever-shrinking box, and a kind of thought prison of your own devising. If I’m seeing that daily barrage of Beatles posts, that means I’m not seeing other stuff–stuff I’m not aware of, stuff that might challenge my views or broaden my horizons or shift my perspective. You can see how the algorithms can have a pernicious effect, especially when it comes to information, news, and political thought. Your clicks put you into an echo chamber.

Consider how different this is from the world of the past, when no one or no thing was trying to sculpt the world to suit your expressed tastes. On the school bus, in the newspaper, at the department store, and at the workplace you got whatever came your way. Businesses offered what they thought might appeal to a wide array of consumers–not just you. The world didn’t revolve around you, and the need to cater to your individual tastes. You might actually hear or read about different political views, see products that you weren’t specifically looking for, and so forth. The world seemed to be a much wider place because of it.

Of course, we’ll never go back to that world–at least, not if we’re going to be spending time on computers. But the sense of being confined is worrisome, and now makes me refrain from clicking and responding, just to be a bit of a contrarian and to leave some open questions about my interests, and views, and preferences. I prefer the wider world.

Did I say I liked the Beatles? I was kidding!

The Future We’ve Got

When we think about the future, we tend to take current realities and project them forward to develop our vision of what is to come. At the height of the Apollo program in the late ’60s, the Moon base and voyage to Jupiter in 2001 were entirely plausible. When the world was concerned about The Population Bomb and the perils of overpopulation, Soylent Green seemed like a grim, but possible, future. And to an America in the grips of car culture in the early ’60s, of course the future would have those cool flying vehicles in The Jetsons.

But the actual future has a way of turning out differently from the forecasts of even the most dedicated futurists. There aren’t any Moon bases–not yet, at least–and the mass starvation and terrible poverty that were supposed to accompany the exponential growth of humanity didn’t happen; instead, the birth rate reversed itself in many places, and now many countries worry about not having enough people, rather than too many. And regrettably, there are still no cool flying cars that make those soothing, blurbling sounds that George Jetson heard every morning on his way to work at Spacely Sprockets.

Why are our visions of the future so frequently off base? At bottom, it is because modern human society is simply too complicated to try to model and project into the future. There are too many imponderables, from the actions of power-hungry individual leaders to the impact of new unexpected technology to the abrupt social and cultural developments that change the nature of basic human interaction–among hundreds of other variables. And unknowable curve balls, like the COVID-19 pandemic, produce shifts that no one could foresee, which then have ripple effects of their own. I don’t remember anyone forecasting that, seemingly in the blink of an eye, the American workforce would, in many business segments, move from office-based to home-based, with all of its vast implications for social interaction, the commercial real estate market, energy use, and technological dependence, among countless other areas.

It makes you wonder whether it makes any sense to even try to forecast the future. Perhaps the better course is to commit to personal flexibility in outlook, remain willing to learn and adapt, and be amenable to accepting the unexpected changes that inevitably come our way. The future seems more manageable if you take it one change at a time.

The Car Clock Curse

At some point in the ’60s or ’70s, the true pinnacle of car clock technology was reached. Vehicles had clocks on their dashboards that accurately told the time and–crucially–could be easily changed by the owner to account for a shift to Daylight Savings Time or a cross-country drive to a different time zone.

Typically, the cars of that era used one of two adjustment methods, both of which were intuitive and easy to use. Cars that had standard clocks had a small knob located next to the clock that could be turned to move the minute hand backwards or forwards to reflect time changes. Cars that had at-the-time futuristic digital clocks had small buttons next to the clock that allowed the digits to move up or down. In either case, changing the time in your car clock was simple and took no more than a few seconds.

Cars stayed at this pinnacle for several decades, because designers presumably were smart enough to leave well enough alone. But at some point, they couldn’t risk adding new bells and whistles, and clocks like the one shown above were inflicted on the car-buying public. That’s not an actual clock, regrettably, it’s a software depiction of one. To change the time, you need to dig out the inches-thick owner’s manual, find the instructions on how to change the time, and then follow a devilishly complicated series of steps that could only have been concocted by an anti-social software engineer. A time change that used to be a snap now takes about an hour and is the source of tremendous frustration.

The result is that this particular car clock has become functionally inoperative. Although the clock indicates it is 4:22, it is actually 9:51 in the real world. Currently, at least, the clock is precisely 6 hours and 31 minutes fast. I keep meaning to try to change it, but it’s one of those unwelcome tasks that keeps getting put off. So whenever we drive somewhere, I see the stupid clock and am painfully reminded of my technological ineptitude and have to do mental calculations to get to the correct time.

Fortunately, perhaps, most new cars come with a clock that is set by the GPS system, which changes time automatically–at least, so long as the GPS system is functioning. If the GPS is on the fritz, though, the car owner is out of luck and out of time.

Car clocks are a good example of how some purported advances in technology really aren’t advances at all.

The Professional Hug Quandary

Today I had a professional meeting that involved someone I’ve dealt with for several years now–long enough to raise the awkward “professional hug” question. The Hamlet-like issue is: to hug, or not to hug?

The prevalence of hugging has added a new layer to professional interaction, When do you cross the line between a simple, professional handshake, and one of those one-shoulder, back-patting, professional “hugs”? How long do you need to know someone, and how well, to determine that the “hug” is appropriate? These are questions our parents and grandparents never had to deal with, because in the ’50s, ’60, and ’70s no one hugged someone they were dealing with on a professional level. But those easy-to-understand, clearly delineated standards of conduct days are long gone, and the hug is now firmly established as an appropriate greeting . . . in certain ill-defined circumstances.

The problem is knowing when to dip in for the hug, or to stick the hand out for the shake. And the big challenge is that the decision typically gets made in a split second, without careful advance consideration. You really don’t think about the issue until the greeting is right there before you, and you’ve got to decide. It injects a complication into commercial interaction, and if you are a crappy hugger, as I am, it leaves you wondering when we got to this huggy stage of human interaction.

I, for one, would feel a lot better if hugging was exclusively limited to obviously close friends and family members, and the no one hugged in the commercial context. I doubt that we will ever get back to that point, however. The crappy huggers just have to accept the awkwardness and try to deal with it.

Aged Adjectives

The other day I ran across a story about a senior citizen. In one of the first few paragraphs, I ran across the inevitable, dreaded “aged adjective.” In this case, it was a double dose: “spry and sprightly.”

In case you’re not familiar with them, “aged adjectives” are words that are frequently used in human interest stories about old people. The idea is to describe the particular golden ager in a way that is contrary to what people would expect to see in a senior citizen. And, frankly, the general preconceptions about the lifestyles of the elderly are pretty grim. Most people seem to think that retirees are boring, completely sedentary, and hoping for nothing more than a nap and an “early bird” meal at the nearest Golden Corral. The roster of aged adjectives play against that sad stereotype.

Think about it: when have you ever seen the words “spry” or “sprightly” that weren’t immediately followed by “octogenarian” or “90-year-old”? These are words that are never used to describe a teenager or a thirty-something. But after the years have added up, a reporter assigned to write a feature story about a gray hair who is capable of walking unaided from point A to point B might think that surprising fact was worth communicating to the reader, and “spry” and “sprightly” predictably get hauled out again.

Of course, “spry” and “sprightly” aren’t the only aged adjectives out there. Here are some others that come to mind:








Steady on his feet

If they are used to describe you you can be assured that you are viewed as a member of the Geriatric Brigade–which, incidentally, meets at the Golden Corral for dinner every Tuesday at 4:30, sharp.

A Slob’s Reform

When I was in college, I admittedly was a slob. Dirty dishes were piled up in the sink of my apartment, I never made my bed, I never cleaned the refrigerator, and the bathroom was a horror show of mold and grime and dirty towels. It is embarrassing to admit this now, but my apartment was so trashed that my mother forced my poor sisters to come over to clean it–thank you for that, sisters, by the way–only to learn a week or so later that, after a party my roommate and I hosted, it was a disaster area again. But it was college, there was a lot going on, and I couldn’t be bothered to spend time on something mundane like cleaning up.

At some point after college, though, my attitude changed, and I experienced a radical shift on the rank messiness to obsessive cleanliness scale. I realized that clutter in my living space kind of bugged me, and that I favored a spotless, gleaming countertop over one that was smeared with grease and littered with crumbs. I found that I enjoyed making the bed in the morning, picking things up and stashing them in their proper place, and doing simple chores like putting dishes in the dishwasher and polishing a tarnished tray to a decent shine. And, at the office, I found that I liked a clean desk and that, as between loose papers and documents stashed neatly in folders and then in boxes, I much preferred the latter.

As I puttered around this morning, putting away dishes from the dishwasher and wiping down the sink, I found myself wondering: what caused the change? Was there always a neatnik buried beneath the slouching college laissez-faire attitude about dirt and grime? I don’t think so, because I don’t remember being troubled at all about my crummy college living conditions. I suspect that, as I moved from college to the working world, I realized that maintaining some degree of cleanliness was a part of responsible adulthood. And I think I also came to appreciate the simple pleasures of doing a basic chore than can be brought to a complete conclusion in a short period. If you work at a job where you might not see results from your labors for weeks or months, you find real value in the immediate gratification of a completed task on the home front.

I wonder how my current self would react if given the opportunity to see my grubby college apartment. I suspect I’d collect some cleaning supplies, roll up my sleeves, and happily accept the challenge of bringing it up to code–so my poor sisters didn’t have to do it.

Content For Content’s Sake

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ve read about recently released content-producing artificial intelligence programs that can draft a letter, create a PowerPoint, or write a chat message, or news article, or legal brief in about as long as it takes Google to do a basic search. The technology evidently represents a pretty amazing advance in the ability to rapidly sift through, synthesize, and reassemble reams of existing material to produce “new” content.

The reaction to these AI programs is even more interesting. Setting aside the articles that ring the legal alarm bells–there are issues galore under the copyright and trademark laws arising from where the AI-generated content comes from and whether it represents fair use, for example–the reactions seem to fall into two general camps. One reaction thinks the technology is like a super-cool new toy that can do a credible job of mimicking virtually every form of actual human work product, and goes on about how the new tech can be used to write a speech in 15 seconds that could then be given virtually without editing to an unsuspecting audience. The other camp presents dire forecasts about how the new software will eliminate the jobs of reporters, marketing professionals, and even lawyers, allow tech-savvy students to skirt any remaining vestiges of academic honor codes as they use the AI to write their papers, and cause other calamitous changes to life as we know it.

I think the predictions of calamitous consequences are probably overblown. Much of the clickbait content you see on the internet is so formulaic it has probably been produced by robots for years, and we know that one of the longstanding issues with Twitter has been how many of the tweets on the system are bot-generated. For high school and college students, the internet has already provided them with a handy tool they can use to avoid doing their own thinking and work, if they are so inclined. As for the pieces extolling the uber-coolness of the new AI programs, I suspect that the bloom will wear off, and people will tire of asking for and receiving generic writing.

One question about the new AI that seems to be overlooked in all of the current buzz is why any well-intentioned person would want to use it. If, like me, you enjoy the process and act of writing, you’ll view the new AI programs as anathema. Part of the fun of writing is coming up with your own idea of what to write about, and the rest is trying to do honor to your idea and put something of yourself into the effort –to write a compelling paragraph, to think of just the right word or phrase to best express what you are trying to get across, and to tackle the other challenges involved in creating your own work. AI allows you to come up with the idea (like asking the AI to write a best man’s speech in the style of Winston Churchill) but the second part of the process–the part that stretches your brain and your vocabulary and, perhaps, your perspective on the world as well–is totally missed. Why would anyone want to pass off generic AI-generated content for content’s sake as their own work, and miss the opportunity to truly express their own thoughts in their own words?

I’ll never use these new AI programs because they eliminate the fun of writing. I enjoy facing the empty laptop screen and keyboard first thing in the morning and trying to come up with something to get my brain started for the day. If you read a post on WebnerHouse, you can always count on it–typos, triteness, predictably ill-advised opinions, and all–being the legitimate work product of an actual human being

Longevity Advice

Recently a new individual was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “oldest person in the world.” The prior title holder, a French woman named Lucille Randon who was 118, died, and the second place senior moved up to the top slot.

The new world’s oldest person is Maria Branyas Morera of Spain, pictured above, who is a mere 115. As is usually the case when a new title holder is named, there have been news stories about Ms. Branyas in which she offers her views on living a long life. Typically these news articles focus on lifestyle issues, and if you’ve read them in the past you may have noted there is one obvious problem: the eating, drinking, and exercise habits of the super-old seniors who have lived well into the triple digits often are conflicting. One person will say the key is to live a Puritan lifestyle, while the next will admit they enjoyed a rasher of bacon every day, smoked for years, and happily downed a slug of whiskey before bed. The only consistency between the prior title holders seems to be that they somehow didn’t die.

Ms. Branyas’ thoughts are a bit different, and perhaps more useful as a result. According to Guinness, she says that luck and good genes have a lot to do with it, but otherwise she attributes her longevity to “order, tranquility, good connection with family and friends, contact with nature, emotional stability, no worries, no regrets, lots of positivity and staying away from toxic people.”

This seems like good advice–especially the part about toxic people. Being around toxic people not only can get you into trouble, and maybe cause your longevity luck to change for the worse, but the stress involved in interacting with them clearly could have adverse health repercussions. And keeping a positive attitude as you deal with the inevitable issues associated with aging is bound to help, too.

We’ll probably never know for sure what, specifically, allows some people to live past 110. But even if we don’t make it that far, avoiding toxic people is bound to make whatever years we have left much more pleasant ones.

What Makes A Great Year?

I ran across one of those traditional “end of a calendar year” stories, recounting how people felt about the past year. This one noted that “just” one in three people surveyed felt that 2022 was a “great” year.

I was struck by the use of “just” in the description of the survey results. Given all of the really bad things that happened in 2022–war in the Ukraine and the resulting increase in the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons, an American economy on the brink of recession, a horrible year in the stock market, a fresh outbreak of COVID in China, and so forth–how could even one-third of people surveyed possibly think that 2022 was “great”? Who in the world are these people, and how do they define “great,” anyway?

And that’s just it, isn’t it? When people are deciding whether a particular year was “great,” do they consider national or geopolitical developments, or do they focus only on a smaller circle of their families and friends? Did the members of their family stay happy and healthy for the year–or not? Was a marriage joyfully celebrated, or the arrival of a new child, or a special achievement by a high school or college student? Did everyone in the family have a successful year on the job, or were some laid off in some cost-cutting exercise? Can they heat their homes and put food on the table? For some people, at least, troubling national and international news might be storm clouds on the horizon, but it doesn’t really have an impact until it directly intrudes upon that group of family and friends.

The greatness–or crappiness–of a year depends a lot on your perspective. It’s nice to think that one-third of the people surveyed experienced enough happiness and healthiness and satisfaction in 2022 to call the year a “great” one. However you define a “great” year, I hope that 2023 meets that definition.

Pappa’s Eight Rules Of Etiquette

Last night we went to a great restaurant called Papiamento for a terrific dinner, and after dinner we decided to visit Pappa’s cigar lounge, named for the cigar-loving patriarch of the clan that owns the restaurant. That’s him in the photo above, in the chair facing the camera. While at Pappa’s I savored our meal as I smoked a very fine cigar, sipped some excellent port, and enjoying a nice conversation with Pappa, his son, and one of their friends.

Interestingly, Pappa has published eight “rules of etiquette” for people who come to the cigar lounge. They are a pretty good guide for proper conduct, not only in cigar lounges specifically, but in visiting establishments generally:

  1. Don’t bring in outside cigars. Customers are expected to support the lounge and not take advantage of the amenities without buying a cigar (or a drink).
  2. Stay out of the humidor and ask for assistance.
  3. Leave the cigars of other people alone.
  4. Don’t stick a cigar from the humidor up to your nose, in the event you decide it’s not the right cigar for you.
  5. No trash talking, no religious discussion, and no politics.
  6. Don’t wet the cap of the cigar before cutting it, so as to keep the cutter sanitary.
  7. Watch your ashes to avoid accidents.
  8. Don’t expect freebies, because Pappa’s is “a big boys’ room.”

When you think about it, the eight rules all boil down to having respect for an establishment and its owners and acting accordingly. We scrupulously complied with the rules (especially rule no. 5, which is a challenge for many people these days) and enjoyed a very pleasant, wide-ranging conversation that touched on David Bowie, Salvador Dali, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the guitar playing of George Harrison, the World Cup final, the history of the restaurant, and other interesting topics. The world would probably be a more pleasant place if everyone follow Pappa’s rules.

Using Things Up

Did you ever sit back and consider, for a moment, how many different pens you have in your household? You’ve probably noticed it when you were looking for a “good” pen, not one of those cheap, skinny ones that skip when you write and always seem to be ink-challenged. You may have pens in jars, pens in the kitchen messy drawer, and pens in family room end tables, in bedroom dressers, even hiding in bathroom cabinets. It’s as if your entire life has been devoted to accumulating as many different, partially used pens as possible.

It’s not just pens, though. Perhaps when you were engaged in that frustrating search for the “good” pen you realized that you’ve got a lot of other random stuff, too, and in amounts that are much greater than you could ever actually need. Consider, for example, those little round or square dental floss dispensers that your oral hygienist gives you as part of the dental swag bag after an appointment. You’ve already got dental floss at home, but it seems wasteful to just throw away a perfectly good mini-roll of dental floss, so you chuck it in a drawer . . . and the next thing you know they’ve apparently multiplied and that drawer is absolutely overflowing with them.

The same is true with pencils that are used about halfway down to the eraser nub and have become dull because you’re not sure where a sharpener might be. Or different kinds of tea bags in one kitchen cabinet, highlighters in various colors with barely a whisper of highlighter juice left, mismatched drinking glasses, and random pads of paper of varying sizes, with the remainder of the little rubbery strip that used to hold the individual pieces of paper curling up at the top. Or the kitchen drawer that is groaning with an impressive array of various food-related objects, like ’60s-era ice breakers, that never seem to get used. And a careful inventory of your personal possessions would probably yield other examples, too.

How did we end up with all of this household debris, and what are we going to do with it? You can’t just toss out usable stuff, because you’d feel guilty about that, so the only viable answer is to consciously try to use it all up. But how? It’s a daunting task, for sure. The obvious answer is to specifically change your habits with that goal in mind. In short, it’s time to take up doodling while you are watching TV, flossing multiple times a day, highlighting junk mail envelopes, quaffing cups of tea after dinner, and breaking ice just for the heck of it. And while you’re at it, you might join a skeet-shooting club to thin out the herd of that kitchen glassware, too.

Another Empty Spot On The Desk

Our IT staff came and took away my old office land-line phone recently, as I have now fully transitioned to communication through my computer. It leaves the empty spot on my desk shown above. That gleaming empty spot now joins other empty spots that have been created over the years, as once-essential workplace items have been pitched into the dustbin, their functionality entirely absorbed into the mighty, all-purpose desktop computer.

Once my desk held a dictaphone, a telephone, a speakerphone attachment, a hole punch gizmo, and a stapler. All are now gone. The flip-top calendar that I have had for years won’t be far behind; I’ve stopped using it in lieu of total calendaring reliance on my computer. And the other essential purpose of a desk–to hold the piles of papers that I’m working on–also is falling by the wayside. I’m old school and still print out some documents to review in hard copy form, but the amount of paper in my office is a small fraction of what it once was, with most of the reviewing and editing work being done entirely on the computer. In short, there are a lot of empty spots on my desk these days.

Thanks to technology, I am finally within reach of “clean desk” status.

What’s the purpose of a desk, in an era when the computer reigns supreme? It’s a convenient place to stash the legal pads and pens that I still use, and I need its writing surface when I’m making a note. It’s a great platform for my collection of aging family photos, kid art, and things like little clocks or fancy penholders. And when people come into my office they can be pretty sure that it’s me sitting behind the desk, staring at the computer and tapping away at the keyboard.

But all of those empty spaces make you wonder how much longer people will be using large, impressive wooden desks. In the computer era, they’ve become almost an affectation, a power device, and a prop, and you wonder if they will be part of the office of the future–that is, if offices as we know them will even exist.

Looking Through Different Windows

Stonington, Maine, has its share of quirkiness. One of my favorite examples of that quality is found at this place on Church Street, where a solitary window freed from the structure of a house has been put on a rock outcropping overlooking the harbor. It’s as if the window escaped from its confines and decided to come to rest where it could enjoy a pretty scene. A window like this is so alluring, enticing you to scramble up onto those rocks and take a look through the other side, just to see that specific, chosen view. So far, at least, I’ve resisted the temptation to trespass and check out the lone window’s perspective.

But in a different sense, I feel like our time in Stonington has given me a chance to look through different windows and gain different perspectives. I never would have considered the plight of lobstermen, ensnared in regulatory and economic issues far beyond their personal control, if we had not come up here to live among them. And I’ve gotten some insight into how powerfully small towns can react when a locally supported facility, like the Island Nursing Home, announces that it is closing. For that matter, I’ve come to learn a bit about what it is like to live in a small town, having never really done so before.

I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to see things from a different point of view and to better understand the concerns and motives of people living in a faraway place. I feel like it has broadened my horizons and made me a bit less judgmental, generally, because I’ve learned that there are typically two sides to every story. It also makes me wish that there was a way to ensure that more people could share in different perspectives and understandings before writing snarling Twitter posts or demonizing people they disagree with. and utterly dismissing their viewpoints. I think it would be helpful if more people tried to look through different windows before lashing out.