I often wonder what life was like 200 years ago. Not the amazing things, mind you, but the daily grind for someone like me.
For example, take a simple cup of morning coffee. I turn off the electric bedside alarm, head to the kitchen, turn on the tap, fill the coffee pot with water and coffee grounds, and hit the on switch.
My erstwhile ancestor, however, had to get up by her internal clock?probably way before the rooster?get the fire going, grind the coffee beans (if there were any) in a hand mill, and fill the pot with water she?d either had to pump or fetch. And then she had to start breakfast. Sheesh.
I?ve gotten pretty familiar with some of the ways from the good old days. I know how and when to plant most vegetables, and when to harvest them. Home canning is a family affair, including everything from pickles and salsa to pie filling and jam. I can raise, process, and prepare my own poultry. Cooking and baking from scratch is actually rather fun.
But stop to think how convenient most of those are today, as opposed to yesteryear. If I run out of jars or lids, or anything really, I can hop into the truck and run to the local store. I don?t have to hitch up a buggy or saddle a horse (providing said horse can be caught).
Within moments, I?m back in the kitchen. Flour is a lovely thing that comes already ground and packaged, and it?s easy to get more.
How many luxuries can you count in your day, excluding the easy ones, like electricity and running water? Most of us wake up on reasonably comfortable, quiet mattresses and pillows covered with ready made sheets. Many of us wear store bought clothing. Those of us who make their own have vastly more materials to choose from than our ancestors did, and it comes from the store.
Some of us like to drop by a coffee shop or restaurant on our way to work in our vehicles that transport us with little more than the turning of a key. We sit on purchased furniture, and walk in purchased shoes that fit us reasonably well.
And what would our ancestors have thought about our communication? I?m old enough?yes, I admit it?to remember rotary telephones. Those were pretty nifty in themselves, especially the party lines. Then the cords went away, and one day people could use their huge bricks of mobile phones in their cars.
I?m convinced that the stories I tell to my grandkids will pretty much consist of what we did before the Internet. They?ll probably look at me with the same look of disbelief that I wear when I hear ?uphill in the snow both ways.?
I wonder most what our predecessors thought about the weather. They didn?t have meteorologists warning them of megastorms weeks in advance. They had to go by the ache in Cousin John?s left knee, the patterns of caterpillar leg hair, or failing that, by walking outside and looking at the clouds.
Their idea of a tornado warning was, ?Hey Ma! There?s a tornado!? When they walked out the door in winter and couldn?t see the barn for the snow, it was a blizzard.
I freely admit that I?m a radar junkie. I?ve been fascinated all my life by those swirling rainbow patterns on the screen. I used to be fixated on trying to locate my exact position and which way the colors were traveling, only to be frustrated by well-meaning TV personnel crossing in front of the screen to point out a gnat sneezing in Idaho.
Enter the smart phone. Now I can repeat radar to my heart?s content, zoom in on my precise location?kindly pointed out for me with a big red pin?and out again to try to judge the storm?s path. I know I?m not alone. The rest of you know who you are.
But no matter how pretty the rainbow swirlies might be, if I stay fixated on the radar image and don?t actually look at the clouds, I?ll miss out.
I?ll miss the majesty of the clouds towering higher and higher. I?ll miss that special quality of light that you can only get in Kansas when the sun is shining on new spring green growth with a massive black thunderhead behind it.
And I?ll probably miss the rainbow after the storm has passed. Getting so caught up in how much we can have or how fast we can go, we forget to stop and appreciate things for the luxuries that they are.
Lord willing and the creek don?t rise, that coffee sure is going to taste good tomorrow!