One of my pandemic projects is to study introductory Spanish. Please don’t ask me to speak it. Videos and worksheets are limited tools for learning a language. But they help me understand the workings of an unfamiliar tongue, and of my mind.
Two distinct verbs translate as “to be.” (Spanish speakers, feel free to correct me.) Ser refers to inherent or fundamental characteristics. I am a woman, a writer, an American. Ser o no ser, “to be or not to be.” Estar is for a condition of the moment: I am tired, and my house is a mess.
Language shapes perception. How might I experience life’s ups and downs if I had to distinguish fleeting from lasting, each time I opened my mouth? Learning the difference when I first learned to talk might have given clearer meaning to my mother’s adage, “This too shall pass.”
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.