|Rosemary 1968 |
In Mexico City I met Rosemary at a language school in late 1967. Soon after we were married in Feb 1968. We were very good English teachers but I also taught Spanish to foreign students at the Jesuit Universidad Iberoamericana.
One of the difficulties in teaching Spanish, besides the complexity of conveying the frequent use of the Subjunctive Mood, was a problem with the fact that in Spanish we have ser and estar. Both translate into English as “to be”.
Ser is about being. “I am becomes,” soy. It also is associated with the essence of something. “Borges es un buen escritor” – Borges is a good writer. Estar has to do with where something or any entity is in a location in space. “Estoy en Vancouver,” translates to “I am in Vancouver”.
It becomes a tad more complex when I write, “Estoy mal,” which translates to “I am not well.” Because being sick is not a person’s essence, estar is used.
I am bilingual and I switch to one language from the other even in my dreams. Because of the time alone that I have, and my pandemic isolation, I have lots of opportunity to reflect on language and how it affects my daily life.
When I turn off the light at night my immediate thought is in Spanish, “No está porque no es,” or, “She is not here because she is not (alive)”. The thought is Spanish seems more final, mor compact, and somehow more complex.
Driving in my Cruze I glance at the empty seat beside me and I have that same thought of the lack of her presence.
One of the results of my isolation in my Kits home, accompanied by Niño and Niña, is that I am increasingly sensing a humanity in them. Driving home after taking Hilary to her home in Burnaby I look forward to opening the door and noting their presence – “Son,” or ‘They are.”
I could spend hours with Argentine friends at a café arguing the philosophical ideas behind, "Estoy solo,"and "Soy solo."
Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be,” translates to, “ser o no ser,” so with Rosemary my thought is, “No está porque no es.”
This compactness of thought in Spanish may look simple, but I somehow agonize over that statement all day and all night.