Posts tagged History

A Special Place

Red dress 3-31-14

Not far from my son’s high school, sits a mansion, Biltmore House, which was built by George Vanderbilt in the 1880’s. This was during the time when the wealthy seemed to be having a contest to see who could build the largest house. Many were in new York and on Cape Cod.

For some reason, this picture reminded me of the trees lining the way to the front of the house though to  see the beauty of nature leading to a comforting barn rather than a mansion was much more of my taste.DSCN1812

However, I must commend Mr. Vanderbilt and his family for their appreciation of nature, to help in starting Pisgah National Forest and the Forestry Movement as a whole. There are museums and fish hatcheries open to the public along a beautiful stretch of mountain highway, filled with the wonderful rumble of waterfalls, trails lined with wild flowers and nature preserves where we can still see what the beautiful Blue Ridge looked like before the retiree with money filled so many hillsides with their homes.

A line of deciduous trees is particularly beautiful in autumn when the leaves put on their grand show for a few weeks. Often, in spring, wild flowers decorate the area around the trunks, enhancing their beauty.

When I see a photo that reminds me of a location so very different than the red barn and the Biltmore mansion, it makes me realize that, in our hearts, the rich and the poor, the have and have-nots are not all that different in what they find attractive to the eye or soothing to the soul.59100010

I try to appreciate those, like the Vanderbilts, who saved thousands of acres from development (this was before income and property tax days, of course) donating and helping develop these areas that will be kept wild forever. The sound of a bubbling brook, the quiet of a deep green forest, unusual rock formations, accidental encounters with wild animals, all enrich the days of both the young and old.

It is doubtful that money will allow me to fulfill my dream, yet I keep dreaming.
“If I could just let this farmer know that I would not develop his precious farm before the developer comes up waving tons off money to a man who raised a family on $20.00 a week… If, if, if. I will keep trying, a will my children, and who knows, one day there may be a grove of trees and a barn, perhaps an old farm house with my name on it and my heart in it.

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The Oregon Trail and the Modern World

The Oregon Trail

History Majors are an ever-smaller group at our university it seems. If we aren’t finishing a degree in Computer science, business, accounting or the like, there is little need to get in line at the job fairs held on campus or at the mall. In my mind, that of a Public History Research major from the 1980;s, our “learning” is s far out of date we have little chance of being noticed. Yet, as I see my youngest son, obsessed with his computer and coding, never picking up a book to read, unless it is required, I see more and more need for courses to be required in subjects that teach us not only about the future, but how we got here. Who we are, where we came from and the process of learning are just as important to a Computer major as to one of us poor “do you want fries with that’ majors we used to joke about 30 years ago.

I may be wrong, but this photograph looks like one I once saw of the Oregon Trail. It was amazing to me that over a hundred years later, the ruts from the hundreds of wagon wheels traveling somewhere west of where ever the settlers had begun were still visible on the tall grass prairies which led settlers not only to Oregon, but many other places which, today, are as crowded and crime ridden as the ones these brave souls were escaping when the trails were made.

As a historian, genealogist and general lover of the studies of past places, countries and ways of life that lead us to the unbelievable places we can go today, I find learning about these cultures and how they thrived and often ultimately died of fascinating interest.

I admit, I almost agreed with some of my older children when they called the “Humanities” courses “Department Funders” In other words, they had no real use in the modern world. But as I get older, I have changed my mind. Hear the news about Vladimir Putin taking over the Crimea reminds me quickly of the horrors of Sevastopol during the wars with Great Britain in the 1850’s. It reminds me that thinking an event, or one similar to it will never happen again, is not only foolish, it is simply wrong.

I encourage all Universities, colleges and Even Technical Colleges to require students to have some knowledge of world history so that they can have a basis on which to prevent the errors of the past from repeating themselves.

And, lastly, I would like to see today’s children understand why they have the technologies they now possess and what their ancestors endured in order for them to live their lives of luxury, or at least,lives of hope.

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The Winds of Time

photo by dawn Q. Landau

He stood silently offshore, staring at the remnants of an ancient lighthouse. After hours upon hours of research, he had traced his great-times-3 grandfather to this place. He had been the last lighthouse keeper. That had been in the early 1800’s-during the war of 1812, in fact. He spent weeks here, alone as his family waited on the mainland. During fierce battles and raging storms, they were terrified that he would never come home. But he did, and though the lighthouse did not survive to love he passed on to his family was alive and well.

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The Dance

 

 

 

“My heavens!” gasped Catherine as her daughter swished by in a dress that was little more than a scrap of material. “ Where do you think you are going, dressed like that?”

“Oh, Mother,” Emily smiled as she swirled around in the light blue knee-length gown,” Don’t you ever get out and go anywhere? Shorter dresses are the fashion this spring, everyone is wearing them!”

 

“Well, you certainly aren’t,” her mother said roughly. “There’s no telling what people will say about you, or about our whole family , for that matter.”

 

“Mother, it is 1923, for goodness sake.” Emily cried out. “I don’t want to go to my coming out party dressed like girls did when you were young.”

 

“Party?” Mother huffed as she arose from the dining room table. “What party?”

 

“I told you last week, Mother dear,” Emily replied. “”Everyone is going. It is to be given at the school.

 

It isn’t like I was going to some night club or something.”

 

Emily’s mother sighed, as she sat down. Her hands covering her face so that Emily would not see the tears forming in her eyes. Emily was her youngest child. How she hated to see her grow up. Was she really being silly to forbid her daughter to go to the school dance or wear the silky blue dress?

 

Many years later, Sarah saw her mother turn toward her as she gathered up her books. Sarah really hated reading. Especially these old-fashioned books that her teacher assigned. 1923, why that was 50 years ago. Imagine a mother thinking a dress below your knees was short, or that a school dance was some sort of travesty. She smiled as her mother saw that she had actually been reading. Her mother didn’t see that the owners name was written neatly on the inside cover. Her grandmother, Sarah Jefferson been the author of the novel she had been reading. And the night of the school dance was the very night that her grandmother had first met her grandfather.

 

 

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/writing-challenges/9-18-13

 

DP Challenge 9-18-13

 

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Mill Wheel

Mill Wheel

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Ashes By Now

Ashes By Now

When I see an older home that has burnt down, I can’t help but wonder about the stories of the people who have lived there. Who they were? what they did? Any kids? Were they happy? Every house holds its own story with in its walls.

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Earth Day, 1969-2013

I remember the first Earth Day. I was in Junior High, in the downtown area of my city for the first time, my generations first step away from our neighborhood elementary schools. It was the year schools were integrated in my town. How excited we were, to be part of this first Earth Day, we were the “babies” of the “hippie” culture and were anxious to be considered part of the idea behind Earth Day-cleaning up the environment, getting back to home gardens and self-sustaining ideas. Of course at our age, our ideas were limited, as the concept of waste and growing up in a throw away society was our world.

We had just begun to think like adults, have our own ideas and concepts. This is one of the very first days I remember with my mind in an “adult” format. I will never forget it. In celebration of Earth Day, our art class went out and sat on a grassy bank in front of our school and were told to draw pictures of what downtown looked like. I am sure there were kids who were just glad to be outside, but for me, sitting on that hill drawing a picture my perception of the small city was eye-opening. I had lived there all my life, but for the first time, I REALLY looked at my city. I noticed the huge church next door with the domed roof, I looked out at the dogwood trees blooming on down the hill on our school grounds I looked back at the small chipped-rock playground where “recess” and P.E. were held.

Suddenly” my city” became more than simply “my neighborhood. There were still rows of 20’s era building lining the streets beyond the school. There were woods and grassy areas behind the area where the old brick school building set. A red brick wall divided our school grounds from the street below. s I took this all in, the world seemed like a much larger place for the first time in my 14 years of life. i noticed a possibly homeless man wandering the sidewalk beyond the school. His clothes were old and tattered and he appeared to be rather unaware of where he was or in what direction he was going. Having grown up a protected only child who spent her time shopping uptown with my mother, I had given little though to life outside my safe urban world. There were no real “malls” in my town, a few “shopping centers”. No drunks staggered down the streets where I lived. Being “Homeless” was something that happened “somewhere else”, not in my town.

We had a speaker on that first “Earth Day” that introduced us to the concepts of taking care of the world we lived in. In 1969, the world was beginning to seem much smaller and it was happening very quickly. I could not imagine, at that time, how quickly those changes would take place. There were three black and white channels on TV, huge, unsightly receptor antennas stood on top of our homes to bring them to us. Telephones had dials and curly cords. No one that I knew had a microwave, although, I imagine some of the “rich” kids” did. Most moms didn’t work unless they “had to” or at least until their kids were old enough to get off the bus and stay home alone until she got there. Now, letting even a 14 year-old come home to an empty house gives moms an uneasy feeling. I lived in a very innocent world.

There were many more Earth day celebrations in my future, all in an increasingly frightening, yet more aware world. We planted trees, cleaned up river banks, volunteered in homeless shelters. We became aware of the world around us. Sadly, the opening of the door to the fact that we MUST start taking care of our world, was the beginning of the end of the innocent world I grew up in. The old brick Junior High was torn down the next year. The hill was leveled, along with the woods and playground. An interstate now “by-passes” the tunnel through the mountain, which long separated my side of town just as the high bridge across the river separated us from the other side of town.

Integration was the rule and we were at its inception. The concept of Middle School replaced Junior High. There were several big race” riots in the remaining years old my secondary education. Surprisingly, I don’t remember having problems with people with different colored skin. I do, however, remember that though we went to “same” schools, we rarely did things with children who were of a different color form u, or from a different part of town. Earth Day songs played by John Denver Appeared. The whole concept of saving our world from pollution and saving our poor from deprivation became a project for various civic groups.

Earth Day, in 2013 is very different from the first Earth Day. The focus, has ironically returned to its roots, but it is now organized, with special events, a more modern focus. As I talk to my grandchildren, who are still young, and to my teen, who is the age I was at earth Days inception, their world is already a much bigger place. News spreads fast, violence is everywhere, most moms have to work, cable TV, cell phones, technology in general are a part of their world from the time of their birth.

Still, I feel something very important is missing from their more protected, more violent, more technological world. There is an expectation of “things”, there are less moms fixing dinner for the family as they talk about how their day went. The is a lack of innocence, a lack of closeness and dependence among each other in families that to me is simply sad. Everyone is in their room playing with their ipods, ipads, computer games or watching recorded programs from Cable TV. They are not together, not reading books to the little ones at bedtime, not growing up appreciating the bonds of family or the importance of relationships with real people.

I would like to see Earth Day become part of a new trend towards family, community, doing things because they are right or good, rather that to get extra credit in school or bragging rights at the office. I would love to spend a day, heck a lifetime with my children and grandchildren able to savor the simple things in life, like sitting on a hillside drawing pictures with a pencil and table. My daughter, now the mother of two, won a regional prize or a report with the topic, “We must learn to ‘baby’ “Mother Earth”.

Today, I feel a good topic would be, “We must learn that ‘family life’ exists beyond electronics”.

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