Sunday, February 26, 2012

Time Machine

Travelling backward through time; what’s not to like? We could be our former selves, more energetic, younger, and beautiful, with years and years left to sort out all the things we didn’t do quite right in real life. Of course, we’d have our mature, current brains to help us with that! Lovers of history could go back to witness first-hand the dramatic events that molded the world we live in today. Edge forward in the crowd to watch Lincoln give his Gettysburg Address, buy a ticket to watch Mozart perform his pieces in person.

HG Wells put his Time Traveler into the future. That’s fine with us, since his present is our past. His future was a little uncomfortable, with the Morlocks and Eloi, but it was terribly exciting, and scary. Modern movie-makers have done a lot with the subject too. In The Butterfly Effect, the main character keeps going back in time to “fix” the things that went wrong that kept his beloved from being his girlfriend. But then when he went back to the present, those little events he changed had unseen, unfortunate consequences. He was never able to make it work for him. I just finished listening to an audio book called Blackout/All Clear. Set in the near future, the scenario has “historians,” traveling back in time to observe but not alter events. In their understanding, events CANNOT be altered because of the fixed “space time continuum.” Things begin to breakdown when the historians during the London Blitz get stranded and they fear they have indeed altered events, perhaps enough to change the outcome of the War, and their present world.

When I was a kid in high school English class, we had to write some science fiction stories dealing with time travel. I remember one of them had an outcome that only a kid would come up with. The guy does some bad things, stealing some money and basically burning his bridges. But that’s ok because he is going back to the past with it and will be rich. Only when he gets there does he realize, as his purple bills blow away in the breeze, that his money’s no good here. My other story dealt with the paradox of changing the past to affect the future. The protagonist does not believe that changing the past will make any difference to what has already happened. But he must prove it to the others. So he goes back in time and shoots his father, only to feel his atoms disintegrate and dissolve.

It’s all fun and imagination; Time Travel can’t really happen.

But it can. Most of us have a Time Machine of sorts. The other day I was transferring hours of old family VHS video tape to av files on my computer so I could organize it and make dvd copies for my kids. It was very affecting to go back in time 20 years and watch our little family. The kiddies’ cute little voices saying, “Mama! Mama?” My young handsome husband tossing the baby up in the air and making baby talk. Myself, unwrinkled and thin, wearing my contact lenses. My dad, still alive, sitting on the back of the tailgate, talking with my grandma, also still alive. Truthfully, I couldn’t watch a lot of it all at once.

My Time Machine made me laugh, it made me exclaim, it made me a little melancholy. While it made me think of former good times and reminded me of how adorable my kids were, it was also a fraud. What I was seeing wasn’t real; it was at one particular moment in the past, but now it was just a very vivid memory in flickering lights. I could long for that memory, feel sad about how things have changed, wish I could reach out to that image and set that baby on my lap. But no one can do that because the only thing that is real is right now.

My Pop introduced me to a fascinating (ok, lowbrow fascination) show called “Hoarders.” The woman on one episode had hoarded so badly, her house ended up being ruined and unsalvageable. She collected and hoarded Victorian memorabilia. You could see that she was drawn to that era and used the items to mentally put herself there. They were her Time Machine. But while clinging to this idealized past time, she was destroying her “now,” her house, her relationships with friends and family, and her sanity.

Do you have any Time Travelling devices or knick knacks? I like all my little Time Machines, but my goal is to let them take a back seat to my appreciation of the present, and my living of the NOW!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Making Do With What You Have

(image: Dadant Beekeeping Supplies)

Our grandparents could give all of us advice on how to Make Do With What You Have. In fact, I’m certain that 90 percent of you have already heard that lecture from your grandparents, or parents if they were the ones who went through The Great Depression and had to “Make Do, or Do Without.” At least that was the reason I always was given to understand all the things my grandmother had tucked away in her house. The storage drawer at the bottom of her old refrigerator was full of tidy balls of stray string and neatly folded paper grocery sacks. There were two drawers full of jar lids, a cabinet in the back porch full of little margarine tubs, a drawer full of clear glass pill bottles and carefully rinsed plastic straws, and in the storage room were stacks of strange, old fashioned high heel shoes she must have worn in earlier days.

I’m not exactly sure how useful most of this stuff would have been in an emergency, but you never know.

We tend to be a generation that, when we need something, we go and buy it. And then we throw the old one away, And really, that makes more sense today because of technology and the way things are made than it used to “in the old days.” But sometimes, sometimes we need, not want something. And we need it NOW, but we don’t have it. And that’s where a quick, outside-the-box-thinking mind saves the day.

Our family does Civil War Reenacting. Several years ago, the town of McCloud, in Northern California, used to put on a big Civil War Reenactment and show. The playing area was big and beautiful with the meadows, pine trees, and quaint town. My daughter Bethany, aka Red, was a cannoneer. The fighting was intense; the Rebs were giving them what-for, and the Red’s cannon was pulled by horse team to an advantageous knoll and dropped off. Their team of 5 artillerymen leaped to their stations to commence firing. As they released the implements, they looked in horror at empty water bucket, whose missing lid had caused all the water to splash out, and at the sponge, whose fleece tip had fallen off somewhere en route. The cannon drill requires that a wet, and then a dry sponge on a long rod be run down the cannon barrel between each round fired. All the cannoneers made the sacrifice and contributed water from their canteens to the water bucket. They pondered the missing sponge for a second or two, and then the gun sergeant made a personal sacrifice to come up with a serviceable substitute. I expect they were the only team out there that day using a blue-toed sock tied onto the pole with hay baling twine to sponge the tube.

Melinda, my eldest daughter enjoys horse endurance riding. She had been looking forward to riding in the Tevis 100 miles in 24 hours race for a long time, and had finally arrived. She and part of her team were setting up camp at Robie Park in Truckee on the eve of the race. A good night’s sleep was important, as she was preparing to be up the next day for 24 hours riding through some really rugged and dangerous trails. She pulled her little tent out to set it up. But… there were no tent stakes in the bag. And what resembles tent stakes to an uncanny degree? Screwdrivers! She extracted her brand-new set of Craftsman screwdrivers from the tool box and drove them through the tent rings into the ground!

I grew up in the beekeeping business. We all worked in it, from extracting honey to moving the boxes of empty and full combs on the hives out in the beeyards. We usually drove many miles to the different beeyards, often in remote locations. It was important that we had all the equipment we needed when we drove out. One very important item that couldn’t be done without was the veil. Each person needed one. It was basically a wire screen box that your head fit into, with fabric mesh at the top to fit onto your hat, and mesh at the bottom that tied around your neck, over your collar. This one day, a whole crew of us, my mom, my sisters, my brother and I went out to work in the beeyard putting empty combs on the beehives. When we finally arrived and sorted out the equipment, we saw in dismay that we were short one veil. It was unthinkable that one person should draw the lucky straw and sit in the cab or kick back in the shade while the rest toiled away, so we looked around us for a substitute.

I don’t know if they still make “Cool Cushions,” but at the time, we had them in every vehicle. They were two paddle-shaped plastic mesh sleeves hinged together in the middle with fabric. Inside the sleeves were coils of wire that kept your hot, sweaty bottom off the hot sweaty vinyl truck seat in the summer time. We took the Cool Cushion apart, pulled out the steel coils and tied one festively striped mesh sleeve around the head of one unlucky kid.

For years I would snicker every time I thought of how that had looked, like a giant walking fly swatter, or a person who got their head stuck in a big oven mitt. I would try to remember if we had used the less important back section or the hot, sweaty bottom section. But for some reason, I never had a real clear image of the actual ludicrous sight. Recently I had a good laugh with my sister, reminiscing over that episode and mentioned that I couldn’t remember who had actually worn the Cool Cushion. And then I found out why my memory of the sight was vague; it had been me.