It has been pointed out that I live in 1947.
I didn’t realize this until it was mentioned to me, but it is absolutely true. I’ve lived in 1947 for more than a dozen years, actually.
- 1947 was a year in which only 102,000 American homes had a TV and fully two thirds of those were in NYC alone.
- It was the year the International Monetary Fund began to operate, but that didn’t affect daily life too much.
- It was the year of the Roswell UFO incident.
- And the year India and Pakistan became independent from the British Crown.
- 1947 was the year of Tor Heirdal’s famous Kon Tiki expedition. I’ve had a love of that adventure since I first read his book in high school.
- It was the year that the Everglades National Park was created.
- It was the year Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh. Long live the Queen.
- It was the year that the Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect and the previously British Citizens living in Canada became, for the first time, Canadians.
- 1947 was the year Jackie Robinson took the field in Yankee Stadium and changed the face of baseball forever.
- It was the year of the Polaroid camera and “instant memories.”
- It was the year that both the transistor and the frisbee were invented. Both changed the world forever.
- 1947 was the year humanity broke the sound barrier in our unrelenting pursuit of going faster.
- Alan Turing pioneered artificial intelligence and the hologram got it’s start in Hungary.
- It was the year Anne Frank’s Diary was published and the year Miracle on 34th Street became a part of Christmas, forever.
- It’s the year that Hilary Clinton, David Bowie, Elton John and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and my mother were born.
- Harry Truman was president.
It would be 27 years before I drew my first breath.
It was a year of economic recovery, of optimism, of growing prosperity, of scientific advance and global change. The ages of Empires and radio were coming to an end. Civil rights were gaining ground. Adventures were being pursued. The war had ended. Peace seemed possible. The world had hope.
I live in 1947.
In my head, and in my daily practice.
I was reminded of this today as I stood, filming the local children participating in their square dance lesson at a neighbour’s house. Teilhard and Carone had moved all of the furniture out of their hardwood floored living room and the musicians sat, crammed behind the piano. The lovely Dhyani, days from her 18th birthday, braid to her waist, student by day, historical costume designer by night, played the potatoes to begin each dance.
“Four potatoes please, Dhyani!” Her father would command as the fiddler dove into a reel, the guitarist emerged from beneath his waterfall of curls to join the tempest, and the one-girl-harmonica band closed her eyes and found the key. The master of ceremonies stomped his foot and clapped the beat, calling as the children danced:
“Alemand left…. now right… promenade… take your partner home, take that gal right on home…”
Big kids swung little kids. Boys danced with boys, girls with girls, boys with girls, parents with children, toddlers bounced where they could through the squares. “Just like a real lumberjack camp dance!” crowed Teilhard, thumbing his red suspender and grinning at his houseful of young people.
Where else would you find 17 year old boys dancing gleefully with a best friend, both of them sporting pony tails and flannel shirts? Where else could a nine year old boy show up in a nineteenth century waistcoat and be declared “cool” by his peers? Where else could a mama with a nose ring and bandana tied through her wild hair dance with babies on each hip and no partner as if it was the usual way to complete a square?
Where else would one find children born of three countries and two continents, spanning the gamut of ages from barely walking to one foot out the door, holding hands in a circle, and dancing into the twilight?
Where else do you find dozens of people within a few miles without any television in the main room of their house? Or teenagers without cell phones, or those who have them, choosing a square dance over texting? Are there still other places where children can truly free range and no one in the community, no one, thinks another thing of it? Places where no child has been harmed by another member of the community within the memory of anyone present? Are there yet places that breaking news includes the thickness of the ice in various bays, the status of the growth of the lambs we’ve all ordered from the DeBruins, or whose infant is playing baby Jesus in the Christmas pageant this year?
I live in 1947.
A year when adventures were celebrated. Creative pursuits lauded. Outside the box thinking was changing the world, and anything seemed possible. A year when it felt like maybe, just maybe, there could be equality in life and recreation for all people. A year when we became aware that their might really be aliens and they captured our imaginations. I feel that way about the aliens I live among on any given day. Fascinated. Disbelieving on some level. Content with my simpler sphere. Like Heirdal I’m a relentless explorer, I have a deep desire to unravel why the world is the way it is, one adventure at a time.
Apparently the price of crude dropped below $30 a barrel today and the Dow dropped a precipitous 530 points, closing down 391 points at the end of the day. Apparently this is a crisis, something worthy of attention. It is not news on Wolfe Island.
Here, we’re more interested in what time Fargos closed and whether Glenn is playing at the WIPP this weekend. Here, children square danced this afternoon instead of doing other things. Mothers joined them. Fathers called. There was laughter, joy and strength in community. The real concerns were who would bring snacks next week, and whether certain children had remembered to return their library books. Dancing turned to sledding, turned to sleepovers. We went home to various houses, with some kids that were ours, and others that just felt like ours, to things other than watch the news of the market crash on televisions.
I have a 15 year old baking a new type of cookie from a cookbook he received for Christmas. I have a 13 year old carrying wood and pacing the floor in anticipation of the arrival of his Australian friends. My 17 year old is sleeping under another roof, one that is held up by the lamb trade, a herd of dairy cattle and a windmill.
I live in 1947, and it’s a beautiful place.
A place we’ve quite intentionally chosen, amidst the whirlwind that is 2016. Not as an indictment of connectivity, au contraire, that’s what makes our choices possible. A choice, not to the exclusion of all that’s wonderful about the modern era, but, out of an increasing value for the intangibles in life.
The relationships, community, an intimacy with the analog, a focus on the world as it really exists, right in front of my eyes. The bald eagle that swoops through the yard. The buck who’s been hanging about beneath our apple trees. The status of the development of the ice in our bay. The wonder of the fleeting winter days of childhood. The value of music that isn’t canned, and the rhythm of life pounded out on a hardwood floor.
I was tangibly aware of all that is right with the world in that one swirling moment on the fringe of a children’s square dance.
There is, yet, hope in the world.
There are adults who believe in handing love, community and culture over into the capable hands of he next generation; and they are capable. To a man, woman, and small child, those kids are capable. They love the world no less than we do. They can see the future from their high place on our shoulders in a way that we cannot. They can be trusted. They can be trusted to play the music, to dance the steps, and to hold hands as they go bravely into the sunrise.
There is hope yet. May it be so in your world too.