Everything Old is New Again…

      1940’s Local Foods Poster

I was listening to an NPR report recently on the cyclical nature of these “credit crises” in the history of the US economy and was struck by something the expert being interviewed mentioned.   He spoke at great length  about the “short attention span” of the collective American public which is something I have watched over my lifetime with great interest.

I like to think that my childhood was unique but honestly there are a great number of folk out there who grew up in a very similar manner to me.   However,  I do think that I might be unique in the fact that I fairly young to have grown up churning my own butter and stoking the woodstove to bake the bread and stay warm.  My family is a bit of an anomaly.    My grandparents, my parents and myself really haven’t cycled through many of societies fads, especially where food is concerned.      Until I was fifteen and we moved off the farm,  I don’t think I had ever eaten much food that we didn’t raise  and prepare.    Even  though that changed a bit when my parents moved us to town, my family hung on to a great deal of that lifestyle.   We bake most of our own food from scratch,  we garden and we preserve
what we grow.   Any given August you will find all of our households bustling with the activities of harvest and preservation.  I have really never known anything different.   So it is with a little bit of bemusement that I watch the latest explosion of the back-to-the land movement because I really never left it.

I often forget when someone spends hours demonstrating how to make a loaf of bread that this really is a skill that has been lost somewhere along the way, not just something people don’t do because they don’t have time.    I giggle when we make homemade macaroni & cheese to take someplace and it is viewed as some sort of accomplishment because in my family that is pretty standard fare.

There is a point to all of this.  Herbalism is newer to me than the natural family living.   I  suppose I started the path about fifteen years ago although I have only been studying seriously about six years (around the same time I started blogging).   But as soon as I started reading,  I recognized it as kindred to the way I grew up and was familiar with a lot of the teachings although they hadn’t been presented to me as “medicine”.   The  connections were there and as I read through the history of herbalism,   I recognized how the little resurgences in the “natural living” movement always coincided with a new generation of herbalists.   I have also  seen throughout my parents’ lifetime and mine what a short attention span the American public has for lifestyle changes that require effort.  I can’t help but wonder what this generation of herbalists can do to keep this “resurgance” alive.

Some acquaintances of mine discovered permaculture within the last fewyears and they spread the gospel according to Toby Heminway from the rooftops.  Their intensity and passion  is inspiring although I think they tend to put the cart in front of the horse.   Society is not going to move from the Big Mac to “fruit tree guilds” as their main source of nutrition without some sort of transition stage.   So, while  I  think that the intensity is wonderful,   at the same time I have seen that  radical change tends to intimidate people into inaction.  How then do we slowly edge people towards positive, permanent change?   How do we keep the message of the websites of today from being lost in a internet archive in the same way the poster above was lost in a file cabinet?

I honestly am not sure of the answers but I thought I would throw the question out there as it is rumbling around in the back of my brain.  What have you been thinking about today?

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