"Commentary from the Countryside"
Thoughts on current events,
history, homesteading, preparedness, real food, and anything else I find interesting, from a cranky, middle-aged woman's common-sense perspective.

Friday, April 5, 2013

When Would You Go?

Well, the Easter Holy-day has already come and gone, I hope it was a blessed one for you and your family.  I love the simple, time-honored rituals and pageantry of my church during Holy Week; the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services of black drapings, darkness, and sad hymns of the Ultimate Sacrifice; then the glorious and triumphant Easter morning of white and gold, trumpets and thunderous, joyous hymns of celebration and thanksgiving!  I know that my Redeemer lives, what comfort this sweet sentence gives! 

Spring is officially here, though the weather is only reluctantly acknowledging it.  But the robins and red-wing blackbirds have returned and the sky is full of noisy geese honking their way northward.  The nasty grackle has come back to my feeders, chasing away everyone else, beating up the goldfinches and greedily tearing apart the suet block.  The trees haven't budded yet but the sky has that sharp blue of early spring and most of the snow is gone.

I was in one of the more remote parts of the county when I snapped this picture:

It might be difficult to make out, as my phone camera isn't the best, but there are no less than eleven jet trails across the sky.  Add in the electrical wires in the foreground and the view is rather cluttered, to my way of thinking.  I remember right after 9/11, when all air travel was grounded for a while, how clean and empty the sky was.  My Dad said it reminded him of his childhood, when there weren't any jet trails and the sky was always clean.

Which brings up a favorite topic of mine:  time travel.  I've always found the idea fascinating, and it's been the basis for a plot line in some of the best stories, from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, to "Time and Again" by Jack Finney, to "Somewhere in Time" by Richard Matheson.

So if you had the opportunity to time travel, when would you go? 

The heart and mind shrink away from the immediate thought of being in the crowd of listeners as Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount; seeing the Son of God is so beyond any fanciful discussion.

But there are thousands of years of history to explore.  Would you see the pyramids being built?  Duck as Martin Luther throws his inkwell at the devil? Follow Lindbergh across the Atlantic?  Listen to Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address?  Watch the last spike be driven for the trans-continental railway?  Struggle through the first winter with the Mayflower pilgrims? Hear the hoofbeats as Paul Revere rides?  Watch men land on the moon?  (Some of us can remember that!) The possibilities are endless.

And then there's the central thought to all time travel stores:  would you try to change history?  Would you try to prevent the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand?  Perhaps evacuate Pearl Harbor and set up anti-aircraft guns on December 6th?  Conk J.W. Booth on the head when he enters the back door of Ford's Theater?  Hit "reverse" on the Titanic's engine control?  Abduct Hitler as a child, and leave him on a remote sheep station in Australia?  Again, the possibilities are endless, but when one considers making changes to history, the ethical and moral dilemmas are also endless.

But most of my thoughts on time travel are much more humble.  I'm not so interested in the mighty battles and famous people, I think about here. Good old Michigan. And I want, in the worst way, to see it as it was 200 or even 100 years ago.

I've traveled quite a bit of the state, and love to explore historical sites and read the markers.  There are hundreds of ghost towns; some with a house or two still standing, most with nothing but the outlines of stone foundations alongside the ghostly trace of an old railway.  Everywhere there are barns, beautiful, graceful structures that once sheltered a farm family's hopes and dreams, now in various stages of decay.  It amazes me how well built and sturdy these structures are, their century old timbers stubbornly resisting the elements even after decades of neglect, and it makes me so sad to see them knocked down and burned in the name of progress.

I wish to see the beech and maple forests, the deep, dark woods of giant white pines that ruled before the loggers came.  I want to be part of a pioneer family that cuts the trees and raises the barns, to be part of that energy and hope and struggle when the earth was quiet and the skies were innocent of jet exhaust. I want to see and coal-powered steamers on the Saginaw River, and tall-masted sailing ships on the Bay.  I want to visit Mackinac Island, walk the wide porch of the Grand Hotel in it's heyday, and attend a worship service in the old stone church just below it.  Then there's the local tragedies that send echoes of pain and sadness across the years, like the bombing of the Bath School in 1927, or the Great Fire of 1881.  I found this stone in a tiny cemetery on a dead-end road in the middle of nowhere, it tells a sad story:

Occasionally it seems I can almost reach out and touch history - in some areas here history wasn't so long ago!

I used to attend a Bible study led by a a wonderfully gracious and intelligent woman who had spent decades as a teacher in a local rural school, a true one-room schoolhouse that served kindergarten through eighth grade, a remnant of the pioneer schools.  I remember the tales she told of her mother's life in the Michigan woods, especially the time she was home alone with the baby in the cabin, as all the men-folk had left to hunt the bear that was terrorizing the neighborhood.  Of course, when she went out to hang the wash, she came face to face with the bear right there in the yard.  Being a pragmatic pioneer sort of woman, she simply dropped the laundry basket, grabbed a shotgun from the cabin, and shot the bear.  The amazed consternation of the men-folk upon their return was the topic of many a family gathering, to be sure.  Within my own family I marvel at the memories of the horse-drawn milk wagon making the rounds every morning, the struggle to 'get by' on the home garden and chicken flock during the depression, and the nostalgia for a time when a good job at Chrysler or GM meant security.

I hope everyone takes a moment or two to appreciate the history that's all around us.  We can't time travel, but we can think and read and learn and remember.

Until next time, God bless you and keep you, my friends.