Monday, September 05, 2005

Following the Road of Life

I've lost my voice. As have many of you. I actually had lost it before the tragedy...a post that will hopefully make its way out of my head someday soon. However, now the reason is different. I've had to pull myself from CNN as I witness this tragedy unfold and see my brothers and sisters in pain and unable to help themselves - dependent on others who just aren't there.

Rob and I have discussed our reaction to this quite a bit. First off, we have decided to hold off monetary gifts for a few months. If a call for them goes out - we will step up. However, too often humans have a short attention span. We know this tragedy will continue to play out for weeks and months and years.

We have discussed how self-reliant we are. Our summary, we are not. We depend so much on society and on our government. We don't collect any kind of welfare or unemployment but we both assume it will be there when/if we need it. We travel weekly to our grocery for our food. We buy all of our clothing in a store (except what I knit! But the yarn comes from a provider.) We know how to cook basic food from scratch, but we choose not too. What would happen to us if we were left on our own with nothing to hold us up? Our taxes failing us, our government and, in some cases, our fellow man fighting against us. Where would we be?

While it's interesting to wax Phil about these issues the butter is in the action. What are we going to do to change that? The only action that we can do (at this point in time) is to prepare ourselves for a tragedy of 9/11 and Katrina-kind. As crazy as it sounds we realized that we don't even have some of the basic items that would help if we found ourselves in a situation where we were on our own. Little things - extra batteries for our flashlight, water purification tablets, a cat carrier for the cats, a tent or other shelter, etc etc etc. It sounds a bit hokey, but for us, it makes us feel better to know that there are things that we can do to protect ourselves - even if our government can't.

On the other (and more important) hand, how can we help NOW? Well, I just traveled over to my local Boston Area Red Cross website to volunteer my time. We're not rich and can't afford to give loads of money but we are rich in health and time. If I have to use my vacation, so be it. If I have to beg my employer for a week of unpaid vacation, so be it (Red Cross asks for a 2-week commitment.) I have no idea if they'll call on me to attend training AND travel to the South or even help here in Massachusetts (temporary shelters are being set up even this far from the tragedy.) But I am ready and willing.

I'm curious. I find that many of us knit for reasons that are tactile or that we feel connected to the past. Many knitting/bloggers have other hobbies that are "old". (Forgive the characterization, my creativity is stifled.) Do we knit because it makes us feel more self-reliant? Do we have other hobbies that give us that feeling? I love to hike in the woods, I love to camp, I love to make soap (from scratch), I love to garden. I wonder why I love these things. I think it's because it makes me feel attached to the earth and to life. How about you? Do you do any of these things? And if you do, do you think that it makes you more self-reliant? Any other thoughts?

(If this post strikes a cord I'll be back in the comments to discuss it with you all.)
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Blogger Dani said...

I love this post Wendy. I think tragedy's like this really make us sit and think. I agree, knitting makes me feel attached to the earth, it makes me feel reliant, that hey, if all else fails, I can make socks to warm my feet! I think this is why knitting became so popular after 9/11.. it not only creates self-reliance, but it reminded us of our roots and the fact that we should be proud to be able to do soemthing that our grandmother's grandmother did to provide for her family.

Anyhow, I am so proud of you for volunteering your time. It takes a special kind of person to just drop everything and run to help. I donated blood and yarn for auction rather than giving money right now. The gulf is going to need help for years and probably decades to come...

9/05/2005 2:37 PM  
Blogger Kelli said...

Hi, Wendy --

I don't think you've lost your voice. I think you've found mine! I haven't blogged a word about the country's latest tragedy because I haven't taken the time to sort my feelings, nor the time to even try to put any of them on "paper." But many of your sentiments echo my own.

I can't afford to donate a penny right now, unfortunately, but plan to do so in the future. As you and Dani said, help will be necessary for longer than we can fathom. As for volunteering your time, what a fantastic idea. I may look into that now that a lot of the victims will be in our area.

~ Kelli

9/05/2005 4:23 PM  
Blogger Jennifa said...

I think that was a reaction to this tragedy that most people haven't arrived at yet...what can they change about themselves, their lives, to make sure that this never happens to them? I'm not even sure if mnay will arrive there, or follow through. I hate to say it, but I believe that Americans rather rely on the saying "Ignorance is Bliss". Sad,but true.

I do get a certain pride in doing things that most people can't, or won't, rather, do. Knitting is calming, and when I'm finished, I have something to show for it, made from my own hands. I felt the same way when last year, my boyfriend and I gardened. We grew food, on our own, and were able to eat what came from our own labor. It's a very strong happy feeling, that's for sure.

9/05/2005 4:40 PM  
Blogger Teri S. said...

Excellent post, Wendy. I've thought about how I can help and since I'm currently unemployed, volunteering makes perfect sense. I'm going to follow up with our local Red Cross chapter tomorrow (I sent an email over the weekend). My husband put his name on the Habitat for Humanity list for when they get to the point of rebuilding.

I think Tom and I are in pretty good shape for being self-reliant, although we haven't really discussed what our disaster plan is, be it a hurricane, a terrorist attack, or a house fire. That's a bit worrisome.

I've been trying to sort out my feelings about this disaster. Incredible sadness, but also anger and shame towards the government. And now the finger-pointing has started. Sigh. Why can't anyone in this Administration take full responsibility for what they do or don't do, no matter how bad? It's very frustrating.

9/05/2005 5:04 PM  
Blogger Dani said...

I think about this kind of stuff whenever nature gives us a kick in the pants, big or small. During the ice storms that we had here a few winters ago, I sat in my cold house without electricity being very thankful that I had insisted on a gas stove when we built our house because I was able to cook for my kids.

I've always been attracted to making things that people normally buy, but supplies have been priced right out of the bargain basement and into the hobby market.

Dani, (a different one)

9/05/2005 6:15 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Hey Wendy. Self-reliance is a subject near and dear to my heart, and it's something that James and I have been working on. Not to be Chicken Little, but we are concerned for the future of this country, and wanted to put ourselves in a position where we could provide as much of our own needs as possible. I'm sure it's possible to do some of that in suburbia, but we felt we were better suited to a bigger property, so ended up in a very rural location.

Even though we're rural, I'm surprised by how many of my neighbors don't grow a garden and cut their own firewood. It feels good for us to do these things, as well as putting up food for the winter, so we don't have to rely on transportation from CA.

Canning makes me feel self-reliant. I don't necessarily like doing it (it's a ton of work) but it has a very tangible result. I think James feels the same about cutting trees for firewood.

I'll check back on the conversation. I think you've started something interesting.

9/05/2005 7:15 PM  
Blogger wenders said...

Self-reliance can be even just having a plan of what to do in a variety of situations - that are reasonable to where you live. We may not get a hurricane in Boston, but it's no stretch of the imagination for me to think of being snowed in, seriously, in my North End apartment.

And, this may just be me - don't FORGET...I was in DC on 9/11 and promised myself that I would always have water/food in the house. Do I? No. What happened?

Anyway, I think that most knitters, in a horrible situation, would fare okay. I think of it this way: after 9/11 and this past week, I've heard that the biggest problem was a "crisis in imagination". That makes my stomach churn. We're artists. We're creative. Both in imagining scenarios and solutions. This is disjointed and almost a post in and of itself. Sorry. :)

9/05/2005 8:03 PM  
Blogger Gwen said...

Self-reliance...I don't know. I'm far from being the person in charge at my house, so I can't say I've given it a lot of thought. But maybe I should've, huh? I mean, if we're hit by something like Katrina in my town, I could very well get seperated from my parents and have to deal on my own. I think I'd be able to do pretty well at basic survival (yay for being a Girl Scout) but I probably couldn't THRIVE without some supplies...which we don't have. Even if we did, who says they'd survive whatever disaster put us in that situation?

But, there's a reason I haven't given that sort of scenario a lot of thought. Call me callous if you will...I never really know how to react to disasters like this. September 11 happened when I was in middle school, but I didn't really understand or feel bad about it until we moved to New York and I actually saw ground zero. I know what happened because of the hurricane was horrible, but... perhaps I'm just jaded, growing up in times like these.

Now I'm getting philosophical too...

9/05/2005 11:41 PM  
Anonymous elisa said...

I think my desire to craft has its roots as far back as the Industrial Revolution. Pre-Industrial Revolution, people had crafts - if you were a shoemaker, you knew how to construct that shoe from start to finish and a pair of shoes was a labor of love. You knew every stitch in the shoe, you knew the leather, the laces, everything. You were connected and identified to your craft and to the tangible things you made. What do we have that is like that now? I create a budget - but it is intangible and it is only one of many pieces of a larger puzzle that I am actually responsible for.

I think the other part of our return to knitting, etc., has to do with there being a generation of women (namely my mother's generation) that turned away from craft and cooking. My mom was not interested in cooking (why should she? pre-packaged food was in abundance - just pop a Hungry Man in the oven and there you go), she was not interested in sewing (again - why would she? it was antiquated and she could buy clothes for close to the price it would cost to make them by hand). In turn, my mother did not have the same skills that my grandmother had, and she didn't want to have them. What I learned, I picked up from other women, or books, or websites.

Knitting, cooking, sewing, all of those things I think tie us back to a time where it was easier to take pride in what we did. The clothes you wore were knit or sewn FOR YOU by someone, and most likely that person loved you. The food that was prepared for you came from ground you tilled and was prepared, again, by hands that loved you. In times of crisis, it is understandable that we would want to do things that 1) reinforce our ties to those we love and 2) reinforce our understanding of the process involved in *creating* anything. Our forefathers and foremothers created out of necessity - we do it because sometimes we become aware of how removed we are from the earth's processes.

Whew - great post, darling. You may feel like you've lost your voice, but judging by the comments, you've faciliated others finding theirs, and that's a gift, so thank you.

And as for the volunteering? It's wonderful - and I am not surprised by your generosity one whit. xoxo.

9/06/2005 5:36 AM  
Anonymous Juno said...

Interesting - I've been feeling some of the same feelings - am I prepared to survive? And pondering what goes into my emergency jump bag....

At least for me, part of the appeal of spinning (knitting to a lesser extent) is that it is basically a survival skill. It is primal, from the ground up. And the more I learn about wool, how to knit without a pattern, how to spin, the more I feel like I am not completely dependent on my first world status for survival.

I mean, it's an illusion, I don't really know enough to survive, but it feels like one step closer, yes?

Robet Heinlein said that a human being should be able to "change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

When I realize how few of the things on that list I can do myself, it makes me think....

9/06/2005 8:43 AM  
Blogger Gypsymoth4 said...

Great post, Wendy. I have recently (before Katrina, but now especially after) thought about ways in which I can be resourceful... I have always admired people who grew their own food, made their own clothes, ran a farm, or were virtually self-sufficient in some way (and also helped others to be). I would like to be this way. I think of knitting as one step in this direction. But I have a long way to go.

9/06/2005 9:00 AM  
Blogger maryse said...

excellent post wendy. as always you rock. but i just want to add one more thing.

nothing will ever change unless we remember to go to the polls and get these crazies out of office. bush is done in 2008. but there are plenty of bushwannabes in the wings. and in 2006, there will be plenty of senators, congress people, governors, etc. running for re-election. let's get them the hell out of there.

9/06/2005 11:45 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

I have often thought about basic survival. We often go on backpacking trips, and carry on our backs everything we need to live for several days. We have often gone through scenarios of what would happen if, for some reason, we got stuck in the woods for longer than we had planned. In most cases, our biggest problem would be food. We would be able to find some edible plants, and maybe even catch some fish. But eventually (especially in winter), we would probably starve.

Ironically, we would be less prepared to be stuck in our own home, given the current conditions in New Orleans.

9/06/2005 12:27 PM  
Blogger katiedid said...

that robert heinlein quote is amazing. never again will i lament the fact that i am a "jack of all trades, master of none."

excellent post though. i too, as another commenter said, am saddened and ashamed of the government's slow response to this tragedy. i'm also waiting to donate until the media calms down a bit. people will forget and i want to be one who remembers and donates in the later time of need as well.

as for knitting... i was definitely attracted to the self reliance aspect. i think it has to do with two things: my strict religious upbringing (the idea of armageddon still in the back of my mind even though i'm not practicing religion anymore) and because we were poor for a lot of my life. i want to know that i could survive on my own if i needed to. whether that be knitting or slaughtering chickens (yes, my dad is going to teach me) or growing my own food (hooray garden!)

sorry that got long. great discussion though!


9/06/2005 12:50 PM  
Blogger Bookish Wendy said...

You girls totally rock the house. You "got" it. Thank you. I love Juno's quote and if you haven't already you should scroll up and take a look. Upon reflecting on what knitting gives, I suppose, for me, it's not so much about self reliance as it is back to the earth.

After reading through your comments I see the many different facets of self-reliance. We could live "off the grid" and truly not be dependent on anyone. Or we could live in cities with subways and buses without our own transportation. Or we could live a billion other ways, each a differing degree of self-reliance.

Liz ~ your comment strikes me because your lifestyle is one that's highly appealing and a way that my husband and I have seriously considered.

But in the wake of disaster (in this case flood) even the world that you live in could be turned upside down. It's such a weird feeling to wonder - How can I live my life in a way that allows me to be protected from LIFE itself? You can't. Can you? That freaks me out.

Have any of you read Drop City by TC Boyle? He deals with some of these issues specifically how self-reliance still leaves you unable to escape society.

In terms of New Orleans. The storm could not be avoided (unless you consider the validity of the global warming argument,) the devastation could. Society and Government failed on many levels. Maryse points out one level. I specifically kept my post a-political because I really am curious about the self-reliance thing which, in this case, has little to do with who's in office. (As a side note, my husband said, honey I am surprised you didn’t get political. People who know me know that I ALWAYS get political.) However, I am of the opinion that environmental disasters such as this will happen more frequently in our future, which does have a lot to do with who is in office. For me this leads to a soap-box that I won't step onto tonight.

Other random thought: one other thing to put into the survival bag - water-proof matches. I forgot about those!

9/06/2005 8:18 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I know that my way of life is not immune to a catastrophic disaster such as this flood. But that's pretty unlikely to happen where I live. We've considered events more like the ice storm of ' power for weeks in January. If I have no power, then I also have no water (my well has an electric pump). We heat with wood, so we won't freeze, and have a propane oven (and could also use the woodstove as a cooktop). We'd have no source of water, and to me that is scary. I don't care about flushing the toilet (I'd poop in a bucket), but you *need* drinking water.

I love Juno's quote, too. I think I can do alot of those things except program a computer.

You can't protect yourself from LIFE. But you can try to prepare the best ways you know how.

9/07/2005 9:55 AM  
Blogger amandamonkey said...

My thoughts echo what many people have posted here, so I'm not going to repeat it - thank you all for being here. The best thing about a blog is that you're always here.

Another reason why I like things that are 'old' is because it slows down the pace of life and allows me to reflect on what I'm doing in real time. Two years ago I didn't have IM, three years ago I didn't have a cell phone, and ten years ago I didn't have an email. Stitching and gardening offer a respite from the right-now-ness of my life.

9/07/2005 1:29 PM  
Blogger Bookish Wendy said...

Liz, that's a good point. Did you specifically seek your location because of any environmental issues? I think about that a lot when I consider people who live on eroding coast lines or rivers. Do you reap what you sow when you live in these locations?

Also – rumor has it the levees that broke were ripe for repairs. If this is true (for arguments sake, let’s say it is) what is government’s responsibility when the tax payers don’t want to pay?

I’m going to continue to internally ask questions. I know that I’m tired of thinking of all of this but the only way I can deal with what happens is to think about the possibilities, the reasons, and the solutions.

Amandamonkey - I'm totally down with slowing down my pace - except when I REALLY want to get a sweater done. ;)

9/07/2005 8:21 PM  
Blogger LazyDaisy said...

Nice post, Wendy. Pete's cousin was smart. She's super afraid of the storms and had a whole bunch of stuff packed to go: important papers (esp. insurance), a couple changes of clothing, some food and water. Her father (Pete's uncle) on the other hand, was NOT prepared. He's a diabetic and basically left with just his dog at the last possible minute. He's very much the Southern man whose wife took care of all of his needs. She passed away a couple of years ago and you'd think he would've learned to take care of himself by now. You'd think!

We've been talking about putting together an emergency plan. It's definitely on our priority list.

I knit for enjoyment and accomplishment. Self-reliance is another matter. I don't grow our food and I'm totally dependent on a car (hello, suburbia). We do have two woodstoves so if things got really bad, we'd keep warm. Provided we could get wood. Hmmmm. Maybe I should plant a few more trees on our acre?!

9/08/2005 4:15 PM  
Blogger Lorette said...

This is a great post, Wendy! John and I have talked about this at length, both now and in the past. We live in earthquake territory, as well as in the shadow of an active volcano (Mt. Rainier). We have an earthquake box in the garage, and a plan to get out if we need to. Where we would get to, and how we would survive after the stuff in the box was gone, is another story.
I find it interesting that as a society we've gone from self-reliant to our current state in little more than a generation or so. My grandparents homesteaded a farm in the midwest in the early 1900's. They grew their own food, built their own buildings and furniture, raised their own children, made their own entertainment. There were some things that they needed to buy from town, but even most of that was local stuff. It was certainly not an easy life. I don't think we want to go back to that, but perhaps we've swung too far in the opposite direction.

9/08/2005 6:05 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

We didn't have disaster on our minds when we moved to Maine, but self-sufficiency was. We also felt that it's important to preserve open spaces and old houses, which is how we ended up with so much land.

I *do* think that people who choose to live in sensitive environmental areas should do so with a mind to what possibly could go wrong. Wetlands and barrier islands play a very important part in protecting the mainland, and people need to be aware of that.

I also like what Lorette said about us moderns going too far in the direction from our grandparents. The pendulum swings both ways, and I think we'll find ourselves as a society embracing some of the old ways again.

9/09/2005 1:37 PM  

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