There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. ~ Nelson Mandela
Things in Henderson County aren’t back to normal yet. Snow still mounts, welcoming the next flurry. Residents have lost electricity, heat and water; some can’t get out of their driveways. We realize we are all vulnerable to the weather. The frigid weather has steamed many about changes in schedules and plans.
During these times, we move closer to the ways that our forbearers lived: the settlers who came before us to carve a life in these forests and mountains. I’ve often thought it took mighty strong stock to settle the Appalachians. Men, women and children worked together cutting trees which would become their homes and the fires to warm them. They carried water. They planted and tended and harvested and cooked as well as hunted and traded. These were truly hand crafted lives: everything they did was by hand!
There were no home improvement stores that sold and delivered lumber by the board. There were no grocery stores where one could stock up for impending weather. Everything was made by hand – one’s own or someone else’s.
The kind of weather conditions we’ve experienced recently reminds me of how much our ancestors had to focus on survival. Much of their energy and focus went into taking care of the most basic of life’s needs – just as many of us have had to do without power or water.
I love canning tomatoes. It’s hot, hard work: picking the tomatoes, splitting the skins in boiling water, lifting large pots of hot water or cooked fruit, pouring the sauce into sterilized jars, sealing them in a water bath, and listening for the “pop” of the lids to signal a perfect seal. At the end of a long day of canning, my reward is rows of red jars with gold caps standing in line on my shelves. It feels like wealth to me. And the exercise – while a labor of love for me – helps me to better appreciate the strength and endurance of those who came before us. Of the mothers who had to properly can and preserve the harvest, or her family wouldn’t eat. Of them having to clean, wash, sew, nuture, and birth – all by hand and at home.
Several years ago during an extended ice storm here, our home lost power for 10 days. And while having central heat, light, and cooking reinstated was wonderful, we were all a little sad to lose those evenings of togetherness around our wood stove. We resolved to turn off all the lights (and TV) at least one night a week and play games, singing songs. I think that resolution lasted about a week. We were solidly back into our routines.
How have you changed with this most recent experience of being entirely at the mercy of the weather? When your electricity returned, how long did it take for you to take it for granted? Part of a hand crafted life is appreciating what we have. Another part of it is not letting our modern conveniences get in the way of recognizing all that we truly have.
I hope you have a day filled with a vision of living your own life.
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