Monday, September 14, 2009
The past is not a foreign country
David Lowenthal wrote a book called The Past is a Foreign Country in 1985. It's a wonderful book describing history,memory and reliquary amongst others, and the desire to relive or collect the past. The pianist and I and one of our daughters and two of our granddaughters made apple cider yesterday from some of the Gravenstein windfalls. We made 30 quarts of juice heated to 200 degrees to pasteurize. Our press is a 30 year old, hand crank, but sturdy, and our routine is long established. The design of the press is probably hundreds of years older. The mash is great compost. We have a country kitchen, and we press on the grass just outside the kitchen door. This link from the past is lived by us today in a real sense. The software we call a brain, somewhere, has a face book page that is part of my father's farm and my grandfather's orchard. It is indelible and structural. My granddaughters, as sure as the sun rises tomorrow, will one day press their own apples in their own orchard. Yesterday as well we went after church to an old folks home. Some are blind or have short term memory problems but they respond to the singing of the old chestnuts that we sang in church yesteryear. They have intact long term memory. So do I. The pianist organizes this hymn sing and an old chestnut would be, "Jesus loves me", but now modified for the oldsters. It's a hit. It goes, "Jesus loves me this I know, though my hair is white as snow",... and so on. They also love "In the Garden". I love the song too, primarily since the funerals of both my mother and my dad had this song at their request! This linkage to the past, away from the day to day doings, is evocative for me of the connection with my grandparents and my parents. I do not long for the two holer, or the town pump, or the kerosene lamp, nor do I wish to see one. But I don't believe the past is entirely a foreign country.