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South | North

Joyfully Working

In the Edwardian period, there was a great shortage of iron and, in this area, a number of skills survived into the modern age.  You had iron ore, and if you wanted iron, you could actually make it, in what is essentially a very primitive furnace. . . In these rural areas, skills survived for generations beyond which they were almost obsolete or extinct in cities, because what you didn't have, quite often, was money.  And if you had the raw materials, which they had down here, then you could always get yourself out of a fix.

Edwardian Farm

These words really struck me last night, as we were finishing up the series.  This was our second time watching it, and I think I got a lot more out of it this time around.  The final installment was a mix of sadness and joy--they had come to the end of year and had a good harvest, but things in the Edwardian period were about to be turned upside down with the first World War.  It was, as they said, the end of a golden age.  So, it's really only been a hundred years since things shifted in such a huge way.

Lace CuffsMy great grandmother was a child of that period, born in 1907.  She saw the world go from horse power to cars to outer space to the internet.  She never drove or used a computer, but she watched her share of television soap operas.  She died just days away from 103 years old.  Her older sister had died ten years before and always preferred her wringer washer and cooking at home.  They were like night and day--one messy and youthful, the other more mature and immaculate.  I think of them often, especially when I see Laurel Mae.  There are things about her that remind me of Virgie, along with my Grandma Lois.

The place that is being referred to by the presenter above is Morwellham Quay on the River Tamar.  The series follows the many, many directions that folks took for earning money in the area during the Edwardian period.  Really, something quite similar could be said about the place where I live.  Canning is in vogue again, but it never left our area.  Gardens, woodpiles, having your own hog, and the like have always been a visible part of life.  They are part of ours (except the hog, though Mike did call me about a cow), even though we could easily save work (and sometimes money) by just buying it all at the store.  I feel so very blessed that my children get to see these things as part of their everyday lives.

What I try to remember is that part of my task, as I see it, is to be an archetype for my children.  That means they will draw on images of our times together many years for now and I have certain things I wish to represent to them.  Part of that is, of course, the devoted mother who loved her children and gave her life to them.  For me, it suits me to have my life be fairly one dimensional (though there are many dimensions to caring for a home!).  I am very glad to be doing just this and don't long for something else.  Contentment doesn't always look like what we think it will.  I am not always happy, but I am always committed to being here.

Most of our limited television watching is spent on the BBC series with Ruth Goodman in them.  What she conveys to the viewer is someone who is joyfully interested in her work, as difficult as it often is.  She comes across as a strong woman who is just happy to be here.  She cackles when her rugs fall on her as she beats them.  She learns each new skill with excitement and enthusiasm.  That is what I wish my children to see.  I want them to be up to the task of life, to see people who are glad to do the work they have.  And what a lesson that is to me, too!  These simple, non-heroes are the very people who should be heroic to us.

Ever since I first read it, I have really loved this exchange in All Year Round:

Ann Druitt: I once overheard two small boys who were watching bricklayers at work on a new house: the one said, "Gosh!" as he watched the hod-carrier with his load, "He must be awfully strong to lift that!"  The other replied, "So what? Superman can lift a house!"

Christine Fynes-Clintion: Well that's a very good example of how, little by little, qualities which can fill out, round off--ennoble, if you like--our development as people, can be eroded.  That which lies just beyond our reach exists as a very healthy source of motivation for our personal growth.  Do you recall the deeply satisfying childhood moment when, on tiptoe you reached at last the rim of the sink, or the top shelf of the bookcase?  In just the same way we monitor our own inner growth when we find ourselves equal to some of the tasks in life perviously carried by our elders and betters.  Superman can't build our confidence--he makes us feel helpless and weak--but ordinary men and women whom we look up to, can.  They help us to grow.

And with that, well, I have plenty to do here. I've been doing a lot of sewing and now it is time to tackle some deeper cleaning before the crowd gets back from Linville Falls. Happy Sunday!


( 2 trees — Plant a Forest )
Jun. 7th, 2016 07:53 pm (UTC)
I love this post SO much! Thank you for taking the time to write all of this out and share your thoughts. My husband & I are against "superheroes" (like Superman) for the very reasons given here in All Year Round. It's not really heroism or bravery or achievement if you have "powers," is it? Something about superheroes tends to foster cynicism and a lack of appreciation for human achievement in children - like the child's comment above. Somehow the dynamics are very different in modern superhero stories vs the archetypal old legends, myths, and fairy tales where magical powers or feats of strength occur.

I'd much rather have my son playing blacksmith and charcoal burner and stacking wood with me than playing 'Superman' - who is a mysterious figure to Jack (he may think his name is 'Superguy' after seeing superhero stuff at someone's house!)

I enjoyed your reminiscences about your great-grandmother and her sister. I think often of the older generation in my family, that has passed on, and the great changes wrought by the 20th century.

I love what you wrote about being an archetype for your children, about wanting them to have memories of you as a devoted and loving mother, committed to your life with them. And I couldn't agree more about wanting to provide examples of people who are joyfully interested in their work. That is a true gift, and one I want for my children as well. I hope that these examples touch them deeply, become part of them, something to draw on as they grow - even if it's unconsciously drawn upon. - Stacey
Jun. 8th, 2016 11:24 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I'd rather go for a charcoal burner. Maybe we will do that during our homeschool years. I think there are gifts that we do not open until many years later.
( 2 trees — Plant a Forest )

A Blessed Wilderness

It was just like being in heaven, being in there. In those days there was no road. The park was all a blessed wilderness. I have often thought what a wonderful people we would have been if we had wanted to keep it that way.

~Adolph Murie, biologist, on Denali


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