Saturday, May 5, 2012

Older than Dirt

I woke up at 5:20 this morning.  I hate when it gets light so early and the cats seem to feel that we've missed some sort of deadline, the bus has left, the meeting has begun, the house is on fire.  Wake up!  They go walking around the house crying the alert.  You can imagine how that makes me feel when I haven't gotten enough sleep to begin with.  I got up and the clock said it wasn't even time for me to get up to make a lunch for school, and it is Saturday to boot!

I've had an interesting day.  I went to a presentation of a role-playing historian, Debbie Dimitre.  She took on the role of Louisa Boren-Denny, the first woman married in Seattle in 1851.  It was a fascinating account of coming West on a wagon and of packing just one 'frivolous' thing for the trip among the necessities, a small mirror.  Ms. Dimitre wrung her hands as she described how the raft on which she and the other women and children traveled almost went over the falls on the Columbia River because the crew had had too much to drink.  She nearly cried when she talked of being reunited with her husband to be on Alki Point, a place that was originally called 'New York!'  I really enjoyed her description of how 24 people lived for three months in a one-room cabin they built there surrounded by the Duwamish Indians until they could build other cabins.  Ms. Dimitre has a long list of roles she plays and I'd like to see every one. 

Then, after washing some dishes to clean up after lunch then picking out some books at the library, I listened to Susan Olds discuss Civil War quilts.  Did you know that there isn't a single quilt from before the civil war to support the belief that people used quilts to indicate that they were a stop on the Underground Railroad?  There just isn't any evidence.  I wonder if it's written in anyone's diaries?  I looked at slides of long narrow quilts that were used for the soldiers of the Civil War, both Yankees and Rebels, on their cots.  These men often wore the quilts across their chests like a sash as they traveled.  They apparently believed that if they were shot, the layers of the quilt might just save a life. I also looked at quilts that were made to celebrate the end of the war.  A lot of them had cats on them.  I asked about that, but Ms. Olds said there was no significance.  I can guess.  A woman was left alone for the four years of the war.  Any of her sons over the age of thirteen were in the war, as was her forty-year-old husband.  She was at home with nothing to do but manage the house and sew for the war.  Where would the cat have been?  The cat would have been right on top of that quilt, listening to the woman talk about her fears.  Of course the cat made it onto the quilt that was made to celebrate the end!  I couldn't imagine being in that position, losing both Mike and Nick to a war that might not send them home or else would send them home broken. 

It was a day of history lessons for me.  I did manage a walk with Teddy before I left.  Poor guy walked with Nick and Mike later too.  He's sacked out on the floor now.  I get to look out of the window and imagine what it must have been like to choose between enduring a war, possibly losing all the men in your life, and traveling westward, leaving behind nearly everything and everyone you know. 

These days, I enjoy history more and more.  I don't know why that is, except that maybe I'm getting some perspective as I get older.  Or maybe it was just the way history was taught in the public schools when I was a kid, leaders, battles, and dates.  BORING!  I thought I hated history.  Now, I'm old enough to have been a tiny part of history itself and people like Ken Burns and Geraldine Brooks has brought history to life for me

Someday, I'll be able to say that I'm older than dirt, but just look where that dirt has been!

Thank you for listening, jb

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