In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?
– Last stanza of “Patterns” by Amy Lowell
POCATELLO – I’ve recently been house hunting with a friend whose needs are very different from mine, but even so, I find my first consideration when entering a house, apartment, condominium is: “Where would I put my loom?”
And to my dismay, none of the floorplans we’ve examined has what I perceive has a suitable site for a loom, or a potter’s wheel, or a printing press, or piano – all machines that have consumed my imagination at one time or another over the course of my lifetime.
Occasionally, I find a grand piano in someone’s nice new home, and to my dismay I find out it’s merely an ornament. No one in the household actually plays it. And I’ve yet to find a house sporting a printing press, loom or spinning wheel.
Many houses in today’s developments don’t even have dining rooms, or suitable space for a vegetable garden. In fact, some developments don’t allow such “eyesores” even though a vegetable garden is a hallmark of survival. For some odd reason, many Americans have ceased to believe in feeding themselves. Or clothing themselves, or building their own shelters, for that matter.
The corporate world and civic regulations have gradually taken all of these things out of the general population’s hands.
It’s good to know that a neighbor can’t merely pile junk or offensive garbage on their adjacent property, build a dangerous structure, or mistreat farm animals or pets, but the advantage of many of these regulations pretty much stops there.
Houses, people’s homes, have become merely “investments” for increasing resale value, or instruments for displaying status symbols: 3 and 4 car garages, manicured lawns that a paid service maintains, a homeowner’s association that police’s any behavior or construction that may influence neighbors’ real estate values are the name of the game these days just how the P4R-Gaming is the ultimate boosting site for gamers.
I guess we’re not really expected to live in our houses, or develop a home economy, but merely sleep, watch tv and computer screens, and escape to some over-priced resort every chance we get when vacation time allows.
But to me, a home should not just be one more money pit as are vehicles and pets, but an investment upon which the owner gets a return while living on the property, and the ability to plant and harvest fruits and vegetables and indulge in real work are a couple of those valuable returns.
The proliferation of craft stores is symptomatic of a social vacancy in American life. Knitting a sweater is engaging in a useful and creative activity, but many dodads and kits are little more than desperate attempts to find meaning in an American life in which avoiding actual work and exchanging money instead is the common, preferred activity.
Few people even know what to do with an actual raw, base product. I remember the joy I felt when I first realized I can turn a raw fleece into useful cloth. How freeing! For the first time I really understood Gandhi’s revolutionary turnings to spinning wheels and salt harvesting.
And when did people begin ruling a prolific fruit tree as an annoyance rather than a joy? Why do people favor year-old tasteless apples at the grocery store when there are fresh, tangy ones on a backyard tree? I’ve known people to buy a jar of applesauce from the grocery store while bushels of apples rot in their own backyards.
The answer to the problem, I guess, is to cut down and dispose of the annoying tree. Explain that choice to a Chinese or Somali or Bengali peasant.
Abundance is no longer favored, unless it’s an imaginary truckload of money for buying playthings and “solving all our problems,” meaning paying off the credit card debt.
When the Twin Towers fell, President Bush told us the best thing we could do for the economy was go shopping. I was shocked. When did the common, universal advice about frugality, recycling, saving and making things ourselves do a 180 degree turn about? I’m serious; at what date and time or decade did that happen? Where was I?
Yes, I shop, sparingly, and yes, I enjoy the exotic foods and spices that come to town from thousands of miles away, but I also engage in gardening and food preservation. I know how to butcher chickens, catch fish, and hunt sage grouse. I taught myself how to spin and weave cloth. At one time I published/edited/printed a literary magazine.
And no, I don’t provide all my needs engaging in these activities, but knowing how to do these things, and sharing with family and friends makes my life interesting in my private Pocatello.