Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The need to use our hands

My mother recently lamented that the "old" knowledge, consisting of skills once common, was lost. We'd been talking about my most recent farm experience, in which I helped Courtney process four hens and how thoroughly fascinated I was (not grossed out like some folks would be).

"Sad, the skills that have been lost with the passing of the old-timers. Most I have known were quiet humble men but were willing to share their knowledge when they realize you are genuinely interested."

I countered saying that the skills were still there, one simply had to ask around. Those quiet humble men, and women, are still more than willing to share their knowledge to those who are genuinely interested and willing to ask. The problem isn't that the old skills are lost, it's that people aren't asking for them as much as they used to.

That conversation came to mind this morning while I waited for my tea kettle to whistle. After my last farm experience, I decided to pick up, again, a book I borrowed from my mother awhile back: The Foxfire Book. Talk about learning the old ways. I'm currently on an early chapter that discusses building log cabins. The chapter gives instructions for a lavish log cabin, a not so lavish one, and then variations. But the last two paragraphs of the intro are what brought to mind my mother's comment.

"To those who would look upon such a project as a farce, or a chore not worth the time, we have little to say. We speak instead to the individual who feels some loss in the realization that this age of miracles, miraculous though it is, has robbed us of the need to use our hands. We speak to the individual who feels that someday, somewhere, the use of the instructions contained in these pages will be a source of tremendous satisfaction. And we speak, in a sense, to the child in man - that free spirit still building tree houses in the woods.

To the enthusiastic, all-things-are-possible child spirit, and to the man who longs for the peace that independence and skilled self-sufficiency brings, we address ourselves in this chapter. And we wish him well. He's one of us."

In our age of iPods, iPhones and iPads, internet and cable/satellite TV, we HAVE lost the need to work with our hands. Ask me what it is I like about my farm days, and that's just it: the need to use my hands. The need to stick hand in dirt (or in chicken!), wrestle with prickly weeds and free carrots from the clutches of crab grass, to spend a few hours on the back of a potato planter poking at spuds with a tobacco stick and trying not to fall off.

And if I had the resources, I'd totally be building tree houses in the woods. All things ARE possible. :)

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