Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pastimes

I am so happy to join my blogger friend Sue (Mac’s Girl) in her photo challenge! We share the experience of living in the Chicagoland area and became WordPress colleagues several years ago.  We have visited many of the same nature areas and museums.

For this challenge, Sue invites photos of pastimes or hobbies.

Yes, I collected stamps for a while as a child. I was a Girl Scout and learned skills like embroidery and knitting. I never spent a lot of time doing crafts (I generally don’t have the patience), but when I worked as a costumed interpreter at Old World Wisconsin, crafting was part of the job. It helped pass the time between guest visits, and it helped create artifact replicas that could be used by that living history museum.

Back in the 19th century, spinning and weaving and sewing wouldn’t really be pastimes or crafts, they would be necessary activities.

Home economics has changed dramatically with technology, but these basic skills represent sustainable living, in my view, and I’d be glad to see them passed down for future generations. 

My favorite pastime, however, is jigsaw puzzling. My grandmother owned several Pastime Puzzles, the kind made of wood and intricately designed. They contained iconic shapes like apples and hats and wheelbarrows and hearts along with curly “gazintas” – the piece that “goes in ta” the others. 

Growing up, my family would work together on these beautiful puzzles while a fire roared in the fireplace, staving off the winter chill and the Christmas vacation boredom.

I later discovered that this passion for puzzling could become a cottage industry. When I was a partner in Scholar & Poet Books, we bought over 300 cardboard jigsaw puzzles at a church rummage sale, put them together to ensure that they weren’t missing pieces, photographed them, and sold them on our e-Bay store.

I couldn’t begin to calculate the number of hours we spent together talking and assembling these puzzles, sometimes late into the night. Our biggest one was 3000 pieces. We developed a kind of system that played to our strengths. Steve was the “sky expert”. He was adept at matching shape and didn’t mind that all the pieces were the same color. I was the “detail expert”. I looked at what was visible on the piece and how the colors and objects made up the whole picture. I was also the “sorter”. I would pour out a few handfuls of pieces into a shallow box lid and find the edge pieces. I would use 8″x10″ box lids and stack them so that they didn’t take up too much room on the dining room table while still displaying the pieces in a single layer. Once the framed edge was in place, we’d fill in the rest, consolidating box lids as they emptied out. Eventually, we’d get down to sorting the almost indistinguishable ones by shape – the two-knobbed, the 3-knobbed, etc. We made up names for the standard shapes like H-pieces and “spadey-feet”. We didn’t come across very many with “gazintas” unless they were puzzles of a certain vintage.

During these hours of sorting and assembling, we would talk over all sorts of subjects and ideas. Often, we’d listen to music together as well. We don’t own a TV, so this was our evening and weekend entertainment, especially when the Wisconsin weather was dreary or harsh. I imagine that pastimes were developed just to create such intimate time in a household. I hope that one grace that emerges from these quarantine times is that more people leave screens behind and develop the ability to spend quality time creating something intimate and sustaining, face to face. 

An American Adventure: Part Fourteen

Down by the Green River, where Paradise lay…

Well, this isn’t that Green River. That’s in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, and I have been there. This is the Green River in Utah that carved out part of the Morrison Formation and exposed many of the geologic layers of the past 150 million years.

The river was running high and fast from snow melt.

Memorial Day boaters were finding out just how cold that water was, and I had to see for myself. It sure felt good after a couple of miles on the desert trail!

On Memorial Day itself the National Monument campground was not completely full, as many travelers were headed back home. We decided to spend two nights. Federal sites command a higher level of respect, I find, and despite the number of families with lots of gear and gadgets, the place was quiet and clean and people were well behaved.  Being in a Park campground means that you get opportunities to hear Ranger talks in the evening. We heard a presentation about Mountain Men of the area. The Ranger was dressed in period clothing and had all the gear and accessories that the kids clamor for: a coyote skin hat, a rifle, a beaver pelt and traps, a flint & steel pouch, a bear claw necklace and a big knife. He told the story of Hugh Glass’s experience with General Ashley’s company exploring the Green River…the story that Leonardo di Caprio acted out in the movie The Revenant. Later that evening, we drove out to the homestead at the end of the road where Josie Bassett Morris lived for more than 50 years. She had divorced three husbands, been widowed once and came out to this spot with husband number five to build her own cabin. Soon he was asked to leave as well. She hosted her four children and numerous grandchildren throughout the years, finally suffering a broken hip while at the cabin in 1963 and dying of complications the following year at the age of 90. 

This homestead offered another version of human habitation in the desert to ponder. Josie was part of a wild bunch of outlaws in her younger days, and when she settled, her community lived in town, many miles away. Her cabin was built right next to a spring, which still runs with fresh, clear water. She brought in a lot of material to make the place “home”. This represents a much more modern version of life than the Pueblo communities we’d visited days before, but is still a sharp contrast to life in the campground we had just left that night.

Which causes me to wonder, what is a “sustainable” lifestyle in this place? What is “enough” to live in a desert? Or in any landscape? How has the idea of “enough” changed in my lifetime? What do I think is “enough”?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Local

What a coincidence! Here I am packing up my home and home business and getting ready to move to the place where I have a part-time job with a Conservation Foundation. Why? So that I can live locally with the land that I’m working to conserve. And this week’s word is LOCAL. 

Living where you work, working where you live, eating what grows on the land where you live, using your energy to shape your life — not extravagantly, not wastefully, but sustainably — is important to me.  I think it makes good, common sense. So, here’s a gallery of my office, my new home, and the surrounding area that’s in the land trust. 


Local

Harvesting Hope

I have just finished reading a very informative book by Jane Goodall on the subject of Food.  Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating has led me to reconsider the way I buy and cook and eat food.  Much of it is based on common sense and natural practices (What would a chimp choose to eat?  Have you ever seen an overweight chimp in the wild?), and much of it exposes the insanity that is our factory food production here in the “civilized” world. How civilized is it to cram thousands of chickens together in a cage, remove their beaks so that they can’t peck each other to death, pump them with antibiotics and force them to cannibalize their own kind by giving them non-vegetarian feed?  And then to slaughter them, ship their polluted flesh over thousands of miles burning fossil fuels, and eat it?  I was not thinking about that when I bought Super Saver packages of chicken breasts at my local super market.  I think about it now.

And here is the surprising gift of hope: my children have been thinking about this for years.  I didn’t lead the way. 

Here is another arena of hope: reclaiming, salvaging and recycling living space.  My daughter and her fiance purchased a home that had been severely water damaged and mold and mildew infested.  The inhabitants had moved out to hospice care and died; the house was abandoned, but the water wasn’t shut off.  In the winter freeze and thaw, the pipes broke and flooded the place.  What a mess!  But Joe comes from a family line of carpenters and construction wizards.  He has completely re-worked the house: plumbing, electric, heating, floor plan and surfaces.  He’s gotten neighbors, friends and family involved in the labor and in donating fixtures. The final step will be relocating the back yard garden.  You see, this house is just a few doors down the street from the one they’ve rented for the past 3 years.  So, by their wedding date one year from this month, they will have their own home and garden.  They are marvelous role models for sustainable living, and I am so proud of them! Yesterday I went down to visit and take pictures.  They sent me home with a bunch of produce from their garden.  I am so grateful and awed by how life unfolds.  The next generation is certainly capable of taking responsibility and working hard in a sustainable direction.  Let’s just hope many of them choose to!