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Living Aloud 

Picasso, chocolate, the Queen of Wands, Facebook and me


Now that my life isn't filled with teaching, my extroverted side cries out for company. I live in the country where I only see neighbors during walks on our rural lane. I belong to two book groups, volunteer for arts organizations, spend time with grandkids and see friends for lunch, but that's not quite enough.

I check my email first thing every morning, and now there's Facebook. I confess, I like it and count on it. You could even say I'm addicted. Like the chocoholic craving one more truffle, I sift through Facebook messages, pictures and links. I enjoy the easy banter, dipping into other people's lives.

A brother-in-law put out the hook, placing a photo album there, so I joined with the intent of looking and leaving, but it turned out to be a big box of chocolates.

Now I'm part of a vast electronic village. I learn things about my children, in-law family and ex-in-law family—even my husband's ex-in-laws. I find out about really old friends, newer friends and some friends I don't think I even know.

A young friend invites me to find out which philosopher I am. Aristotle! In a past life, surprise, I was Picasso! (Even though I was alive when he was, these quizzes being geared toward a younger crowd.) One of my daughters, a stepson and my nephew were also Picasso in their past lives—something about family dynamics. Facebook is a place where I network with other artists, post paintings or plug an art opening. It has a practical side, I tell myself, as I turn on the computer for more yummy chocolate.

An actress friend sends a YouTube video showing her live-action scene in Avatar. A baby is born, and there are cute pictures. My niece had to put down her kitten. Someone invites me to take another quiz. It's like being asked to come out and play.

"What Tarot Card Are You?" "What Celtic Goddess?" "What Is Your Animal Patronus?" I'm the Queen of Wands, fire behaving like water, as in a rainbow. I'm Branwen, goddess of love and beauty. My animal patronus is the snake.

I get invited to a belly dance performance and a burlesque show. I see that my daughter has posted a new photo album from Shanghai. There she is, taking turns with her African husband being the head atop a headless terra cotta warrior. My ex-husband invites me to be his friend, and I see pictures of holidays at his house. His thought for the day is that his "world is expanding" and that he has had "a glass of brandy and is ready for bed." TMI.

There were times in the past when I couldn't buy anything extra and weeks when I barely had time to open a book. The life I lead now may seem luxurious, but it's my retired life, and if I want to sit in the garden by a yellow rose bush and sip tea or spend an hour perusing Facebook, so be it. It's a rich life filled with modern mythology and electronic neighbors. A virtual world brings its own kind of immediate reward to the person craving connection.

From time to time, swimming in a confessional pond takes its toll. All that salty water, all that water under the bridge, all those babies who now have jobs in New York City or San Francisco, or who are having their fourth child and this time it's a boy with sonogram for all to see. Someone feels close to Jesus, someone is going to the dog park, someone posts a giving link for Haiti. In an emotional state, life is magnified, even in the virtual world. Sometimes Facebook can just be too much.

But there's that next piece of candy, sweet and tasty, and I log on again and again. I don't quite know what to think about the voyeuristic qualities of Facebook, but I do know I'll be on there soon, writing my thoughts for the day and sharing in that salty pond with all the other fish captured in the net. And I'll be eating chocolates, salted with caramel centers.

Marylu Downing may be found checking her emails when she's not in the art studio or writing in the hills above Freestone in western Sonoma County.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 700 words considered for publication, write

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