My daughter and I are on a road trip north, through the western edge of New England, visiting friends, and ending up in the tiny village in central Vermont where my aunt Nita and uncle Ben lived and my husband and I visited every summer, until my aunt died in 1997.
Today’s stopover was in Williamstown, Mass. After spending last night with a friend, we went to the Clark museum and Mass MOCA before moving on to East Dover, Vermont. At Mass MOCA we experienced one of James Turrell’s light installations (if you don’t know his work, please look it up and visit anything that is near you). I usually don’t use “experience” as a verb, but that is the only way to describe this particular work at Mass MOCA, Perfectly Clear: you stand in a large room painted all white and over the course of several minutes, the walls, floor, and ceiling subtlely change color. You feel like you are standing in the midst of nothing, surrounded only by color, and if you look behind you, the wall of the room you just left has turned some totally different color simply from the ambient light coming from the room you are in.
As we are leaving this exhibit, we are standing by a couple with two preteen-age children. The woman asks me if I’m from New York, and she thinks she knows me, but she can’t think how. After some back and forth of how we might know each other, we realize that she was my student in the late ’80s in an undergraduate Copy Editing class I taught at NYU. When she told me her name, I remembered her instantly; in fact, I’d noticed her name on the masthead of Scientific American some years after I’d stopped teaching full-time. She was one of my best students, too, and I am so glad she ventured to ask how we might know each other.
I’m calling this Small World Story 1, because there have been many more and will be many more. We are all only a few degrees from knowing everyone in the world.