In my second post in this series, (which is in no particular order subject-wise) I thought that I would talk about work. This is because not only does my Dad's memoirs talk a lot about the work that people did when he was growing up, but because today our family went to the Sacramento Spinners and Weavers Guild Show. Between the two things, it got me thinking about how we do work.
The Show we went to today was filled with people demonstrating their craft and showing finished products. These people do what they do for the love of it. They are very good at it, but I don't know that many of them try to make a living by doing it. The various types of work my Dad recalls from his youth is more of the latter. In his growing up years they did do the basic work themselves and didn't have many choices. You either did it yourself, hired it done, or did without. Besides farming crops and caring for animals, my Dad mentions people in his life doing bee-keeping, running mills to process food, building log houses, building stone chimneys, digging wells, and repairing fences. I remember my grandmother made most of her own clothes from bought fabric. I remember my mom talking about churning butter. Mostly, the people in their lives did these things because they had to. Some of them, like my grandfather, loved it, too.
How do I see these things in my life? I tend to be in the first category. I love to make things. I like to create useful and beautiful things, which I can point to and say, "I made that." I don't have to do it, but it allows me to put something of me into my surroundings. The people among whom my parents were around as children worked hard providing many basic items for themselves. These days, we have a multitude of labor saving devices to make our lives easier and a huge marketplace to shop for everything else. But are we better off? Materially, yes. But, we have lost something in the process. We saved our labor so that we could do lots of other things that our forebears never did or perhaps never wanted to do. We are just as busy, but don't really have that much more to show for it. Most of us have no idea how to make the things we use in our everyday lives.
There is part of me that wants to turn the clock back in some ways. If only we could keep the best parts of both worlds. I don't have time to make most of my family's clothes. But if I didn't do a lot of other things, I could make a few special outfits. I don't have time or inclination to run a farm, but if I didn't do a lot of other things, I could have a decent kitchen garden to supply us with fresh produce. I don't want to make all of my foods from scratch, but I have the equipment and inclination to make homemade bread on occasion. I could even grind the flour myself, since I have a modern electric powered grain mill. I would love to embrace so many different areas of "Do It Yourself" that I wouldn't have time for the rest of my life. Today at the show, I fell in love with the idea of spinning threads and weaving cloth. There were many beautiful examples of people's work that I would like to do too.
I remember briefly wanting to be a fashion designer when I was in High School. I like clothing with a difference. But, I haven't worn much in years that has that bit of quirky something that I love. I don't find that kind of thing in the stores much. If I sewed my own clothing, I would still be using patterns and fabric bought at the store (meaning many of the same styles found in the stores ready made). But, seeing the handmade fabrics and clothing made from them was like opening a window to new possibilities. The last clothing I made that had the quirkiness I like, was a vest that I made from quilting scraps. I copied a vest that I already had, but made it with a quilted front in a design of my own. Whenever I wear it I get comments from people. Unfortunately, I made it when I was twenty pounds lighter. Since It has gotten harder to button, I don't wear it nearly so often. But, I still got the feeling, today, that I could be that designer I wanted to be and wear my own designs. I could enjoy the creative process and satisfaction that comes from making things well.
Unfortunately, these things are not very compatible with young kids. I can't picture myself doing much of anything lately except basic food, chores, homeschooling, and keeping track of some very active kids for the next six months. Did I mention that the happy boy learned to walk and is on the verge of running? I remember this age with his sisters. It was near chaos every day until they got to be about 18 months old. I'm more experienced now, so I am able to get dinner on the table a little more predictably. But, a new hobby isn't going to happen any time soon. But I would still love to find the peace and satisfaction my ancestors had in doing their daily work, telling stories and doing craft work in the evenings and slowing down life a lot. We don't really need to be chasing after all the things we try to do. I love the ideal of simplifying. It is just a lot of hard work to achieve.