posted on Nov, 4 2018 @ 03:04 PM
Sophistication vs Specialization
The multi-faceted role of survival skills and sophistication within a culture.
“All Wooded Up”
We live in a very small community. My partner and I are two of ten people who live on our side of the canyon wall while there are only three on the
other side. Across the mountain ridge, in the other canyon, there are no more than 350 people. It’s a mountain community, that has a good share of
rugged folks. In order to survive, some of them fall trees, haul and chop wood, and keep the wood stove going 24 hours a day in the winter. They
each have developed their own style and have acquired the right tools and wood stoves in order to ensure survival through the coldest part of the
year. There is a sense of fulfillment and security that these people get each autumn when they feel they have prepared enough for the coming winter.
Some call this being “all wooded up.” When only the stacking of firewood is left to do, survival is already assured.
“Evergreens and Deciduous”
We’ve lived “on the mountain” for a few years now, but it wasn’t until recently that we moved to the most remote part of the area. Before
this, we lived in a small village with public streets. There weren’t many people who lived there full time. Those who did, we called
‘Evergreens’, while everyone else who showed up almost cyclicly, we called ‘Deciduous’. Coincidentally there were only two main streets in
this village: Yellow Pine and Aspen.
The deciduous folks would show up during the summer or on holidays. Some folks came up to their mountain homes more often than others, but there was
always periods of time where the entire village was very much alive with the voices of children and the music from stereo systems. There was always
the occasion, during the summer months, when we were introduced to some of these folks. They were always shocked when they realized that we lived up
here full time. They’d often ask, as to verify, “You mean through the winter?”
“New on the mountain”
Recently, we’ve moved to the more remote side of the sky island. There are no public utilities in this canyon. All electricity comes from solar
power or a fuel based generator of some kind and water comes from wells. There are not many people who live here full time. However the ones who do,
all were concerned as to if we knew how to survive the winter. Likewise, they were all relieved to discover that we were not “new on the
Many people don’t last a full year up here. It’s remote, it’s cold, and it gets a ton of snow.
“We make things”
As we introduced ourselves to the few new neighbors we have, they would often ask “What do you do?” And we would respond “We make things.”
They would soon find out the kind of things we make as we began making our way to their front doors and dropping off homemade wines, beer, cheese,
breads, pies, cookies, and other goodies. It wasn’t soon after that they began returning the favors with homemade zucchini bread, tomato soups,
etc. Some who didn’t cook, dropped off tools that we could use to make more of the good stuff. We also discovered that most of these folks were
inspired by us to attempt something new to give away.
We both grew up in different places, but we both have memories in our childhood of how the old folks always made things to give away to neighbors,
friends, and family. Lately we’ve realized how much of this is a dying tradition. Upon deeper inspection, we have also realized how fundamental
making things at home has been in the past to the fabric of our cultures.
Looking at the monthly “Peterson’s Magazine” from 1860 published in Philadelphia, we see a periodical aimed at a much different type of
demographic than we find in most households of today. Each month this magazine was filled many items: long stories with many chapters, at least 20
recipes for everything from cakes to wines, patterns for that months fashions of clothes, embroidery, knitting, poetry, songs, and a variety of other
ingenious suggestions for homemakers. These people were busy doing things that were important to the home, the family, the community, the culture and
their own well being. These people had a sense of meaning in their lives that had it’s heart within the home.
“When do you find the time”
We recently had a plumber come out to clear a clog in the main line. He did a great job, was quick, and had a wonderful demeanor. In return for the
blessing he was to our household, we sent him home not only with a monetary tip, but also with homemade cookies and beer. He was happy to receive it,
but asked “When do you find the time?” I told him that we didn’t watch TV, and he nodded as if to say “That makes sense.” Passive
activities like watching TV tend to get in the way of making things at home, whether that be home cooked meals or something even more industrious.
There’s also the ease of purchasing something when stores are within a short drive. For example we are so remote that when we need furniture, we
build it. It is cheaper, more durable, and provides a great sense of fulfillment every time we use them. We’ve built tables, chairs, beds and
couches, but I suppose we also have missed quite a bit of TV.
“Machinery[…] has made us dependent” - Ghandi
India, which is now an independent nation was previously colonized by the British Empire. This colonization was not only of the land, but a
colonization of the economic system, the politics, the culture and the psyche of the individual. A major patriotic movement which helped in asserting
and achieving Indian independence was a return to the home and hearth habits that were the norm before colonization. Their political leaders returned
to spinning their own thread and making their own cloth, so as to pull the economic power back from the British textile industry. They returned to
making their own salt, foods, etc. The ability to make the fundamental aspects of human life within the home and community is what creates a strong
and independent culture of resilient people.
As we look out amongst the woodpiles and solar panels of our small mountain community on this cold autumn afternoon, I am warmed and comforted by the
knowledge that we can provide everything that is needed for our family’s survival. At the same time we can also strengthen the bonds of our village
of independent people by sharing what we make.