Rob has tagged me for a meme. (Thank you, Rob.) I’m not a big fan of memes, though. So I was thinking about ways to honor his recognition and interest in finding out some things about me, and I thought I’d delve into how I came find who I am and what I care about.
With the economy continuing on its downward path, and climate change now looking to be somewhat irreversible, there is a lot to be down about. Sometimes reflection helps remind us who we are, and why…. Here goes!
(Note: as always, mouse over the pictures for more information.)
I was born in a lower-middle class family. My mother was a first grade teacher when she was pregnant with me. During those days (the early 70s) she was lucky to have a job, and she literally hid her pregnancy as long as she could so she wouldn’t lose her job. But finally she could no longer hide her pregnancy and became unemployed.
My father was in the Peace Corps in the 60s, and searched for a job where he could support his family but still do good for the world. He settled into a government job, working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He stayed there until retirement – long after the HUD scandals of the 80s, and after he came to the realization that as a government worker he was working a lot more with red tape than actually helping people. This all made his life quite frustrating for him, which carried into our family life.
We lived in Oakland, CA, where a drought in the 70s forced us to take infrequent baths, all four of us bathing consecutively to reuse the water (taking turns being the last one, as that was always the coldest!). The bath water was then used to flush the toilet.
I can remember having a friend of the family over for dinner once. He was staying in a hotel in San Francisco, and was surprised to hear that there was a drought. He said he’d taken a 20 minute shower that day, not knowing about the drought. We were all utterly horrified… and a wee bit jealous at the same time. (Sometimes I think of this today, when I see others being frivolous with precious resources as I continue to work on reducing my impact.)
While we were rationing water, we were also rationing gas due to the energy crises (and here). I remember sitting in lines at the gas station for hours, my mom fretting that the gas station would run out of gas before we got to the front of the line. We had to plan very carefully, because we could only buy on odd-numbered days and gas became very expensive for our family.
But just so you don’t get totally depressed, we did have a good time during those days! I just discovered this photo of my parents, which I think is hilarious:
And then it all changed in the 80s. We moved from the Bay Area to Seattle, to be closer to my grandparents. I believe you’ve met this guy:
We moved to a house with a pool (that we never used),
and we did a lot of traveling. Life was good in the 80s… For us, anyway…
My life change considerably on two separate trips my family took. The first was a train ride to the middle of Mexico, in Baranca del Cobre (“Copper Canyon”):
The second was a trip around the US in a tiny borrowed trailer we slept in. Not only did we get to all sorts of tourist spots, like historic Williamsburg (that’s my sister in the guillotine, below):
…But we also stayed in trailer parks, rode public transportation through Washington DC, and drove through miles and miles of farmland. I’d never seen severe poverty in the US, massive industrial agriculture, nor the many historic battlegrounds where we fought Native Americans, British, and each other. (Interestingly, I have no pictures of those things that made the biggest impression!)
We also did crazy things occasionally, like learn how to build an igloo (we stayed one night inside – amazingly easy and warm!).
I think there’s a lot I can learn from my own history, and my own experiences, as we look forward toward an uncertain future. I’m seeing cycles of economy, I’m realizing I’ve learned some useful skills to adapt to changing circumstances. And somehow looking back at history grounds me within a wider scope of reality.
Things are not perfect right now. Not by a long shot. But we can – and must – work hard. We have new and useful technologies that we can bring together with the skills we’ve had for decades! We can adapt, but we can also improve as we move forward….
Now, that was only the first half of my life. You’ll get the second half whenever I get another meme (no encouragement here!!). Let me dissuade you with this lovely, lovely, 80s photo:
And now I turn it over to you: is there anything you can remember from your past that would be useful in the current state of our world?