Brandenburg Concertos 4, 5, 6 on NPR. I’m sitting on a high stool, the Oneonta Star lying open to the Obituaries on the counter in front of me, and I am transported to Married Students Housing, Berkeley, 1950. I’m listening to Doug Pledger, daylong (WQXR?) classical music disc jockey. I’m sitting cross legged on the beautiful wood floor (former Navy housing. Where did the luxurious wood come from for flooring these otherwise shack type buildings?) playing with David and his wooden puzzles that he is so good at. I am still experiencing the big change that has taken place in my life in the past two years. I used to be a school girl going out on dates in Minneapolis, going to dances and bars like Mitch’s. Then, when I went to a concert by the Minneapolis Symphony, I went to spend the intermission cruising around the balcony to see what important people I could talk to. I worked for the Minnesota Daily and got free tickets to concerts and football. And now I am listening to Bach and playing on the floor with David, my treasured baby. Pretty soon I’ll take him outdoors to climb up and down the stairs of our two story building. He climbs up, I carry him down. This lasts quite a while, longer, really, than it takes me to return to the present, since David, age 62 and a distinguished music scholar and great cook, will be coming to spend a week with us in Oneonta, and Betsy is trying to figure out what food to buy to be ready for him to cook. I need to make a list.
Betsy is making a presentation in Florida next week and she is going to take Jim and Fiona with her, and since they don’t want to leave me alone, David has chosen this time to visit. Since my wild summer of dancing at weddings my right hip has gone bad and for several weeks now I have had to be waited on. I’m not driving any longer and have gone so far as to loan Jack my car. Face it, that just about killed me. I had to have help in cooking. I had to hire a cleaning lady. I got out of breath walking a block down town. Too much.
I focus back on summer, an afternoon of fun with Anne and Betsy planning a new business. This business, soon to be underway, is slated to change the way people think.
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Different changes require different solutions. During my mid-life change, when we got back from a year in Europe and Betsy was in middle school the change may have been too cheerful. David and Charles were doing their hippy traveling, and although worrying seemed an appropriate way to respond to their adventure it was a kind of worry you could take or leave. They hardly ever wrote unless it was asking for money. I could be proud that David formed an SDS in a German University, or that he played his guitar for money at the Rome train station. I could like to think of Charles hiking acros the Khyber Pass with Dave smoking hashish with village elders. They were being educated with little help from their parents who had begun to do all the things they had wanted to do before they had all these children. The girls went to college. Only Betsy was left and she ran what might be called a Girl Camp from her bedroom.
So we began living our separate lives and doing what we wanted. It was all so smooth, not much dramatic ever came to pass. One thing led to another. Walking in Europe led to walking at home. Knitting to keep hands busy while listening to my mother led to spinning, and spinning led to meditation. Questions were asked. How did they do this? What was it like to cook in a huge fireplace? to spin on a spindle the way I saw a woman in the alps tending cows in a mountain meadow. What was it like to preserve all your food, or for that matter to grow it?
The sixties were a time of change in many directions. The Beats had no sooner produced their new poetry as pioneered by Alan Ginsburg, than the Civil Rights Movement exploded, and at the same time there began a rebellion of sorts against what was called at the time, the rat race, run by men in gray flannel suits working in lock step for the huge corporations. Sons and daughters of these successful men (not many women yet) opted out of similar careers for a move back to the soil. They wanted to live in the old way, farming by hand, no electricity, thus no refrigerator, shovels or possibly a horse with a plow, and because they needed to experiment to live in this oldfashioned way, they had to learn the old crafts, needlework, and leatherwork, growing and canning and preserving in all ways.
Rita and Judy and I had noticed Betty Russ spinning at the craft shows that had become popular. Betty said that for a price she would teach us to spin and we accepted the offer in the spirit of the time. We bought spinning wheels made in New Zealand, rather sleek and modern looking compared with the elegant monsters of the American 18th century. I’m finding it a little hard to describe the simple process of spinning. In essence it is the process of twisting fine fibers into a strong thread that will not break. A spindle was the earliest spinner. It was a ball about the size of a tennis ball with a notched stick. You twisted a few fibers with your fingers, attached this bit of string to the notch and then spun the bulb. You learn quickly how this is done and then learn to wind the spun yarn onto the ball. The spindle was th first spinner. Gorgeous fabrics of silk and wool and linen were once constructed by yarns and threads spun on a spindle. The spinning wheel is a more practical development of the same process.
You sit at the wheel, feed fibers into the spindle which is being turned by the wheel that you are turning with your right hand. It is incredibly easy and simple. Even if you are spinning some thread that may be unusual in some way, you do not have to pay much attention, but leave most of the work up to your fingers. You can converse, watch television or meditate. All three of us took to spinning in a big way and soon found ourselves dressed in 19th century farm dresses putting on shows ourselves at the craft fairs, teaching little kids how to spin at their schools and in general spreading at least some of the ways their great grandparents lived.
That is such a tiny slice of thirty or forty years of easy living. Harry had become a great teacher, I got to be a master gardener and a good cook and wrote a family memoire. There were good friends, and still are. There are one’s own children left to carry on whatever mysterious message your genes are passing on. I guess I just hope that they might be passing on a request to the world to stop burning carbon and ruining our atmosphere
And as for the new stuff? It’s all process and I’m ready to go in for it.
After all I’m
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