Nostalgia and the bath water

13 Mar

Berkshire Barn

I was out doing yard work this afternoon when I heard the rumble and whistle of a train going through.  There’s just something about trains.  Maybe it’s the way the sound echos back long after it’s passed or maybe it’s because it was so instrumental in history.

It was the backbone of the Industrial Revolution, the difference between Union victory in the American Civil War and it carried the goods and people who resulted in the completion of the American western expansion and made us a nation from sea to shining sea.
A side bar here… I’m well aware and incredibly appalled by the cruelty and arrogance in our world and nations history.  But I can’t change the past and can only apologize for what I myself and my generation has wrought.  I try in my own humble way to make a real difference in our world in ways that are not just talk.  I’m a dyed in the wool liberal and come by it honestly from my upbringing and the immense reading I’ve done into the World’s injustices.   Besides that’s not what this post is about.

A train rumbling through.

Anyway back to the sound of the train this afternoon.  It started me thinking, (and yeah I know some of you are thinking, uh oh, chancy proposition here) how the sound of the train brings me back… to Grandma’s house trying to fall asleep at night, to the fascination and building of train models by my dad and to well nostalgia.
I’ve begun to think more about the past in recent months and I’m not sure if it’s me and my crazy brain or a function of getting older but I seem to be more nostalgic these days.  Nostalgia is described in some resources as a yearning for the past or for the “good old days”.
We’ve all heard about how things were better way back when… from our parents, grandparents and in some cases our great-grandparents.  I suspect this is a cliché that reaches all the way back to the stone age.  The thing is I GET both sides of the discussion.
One the one hand I’m intrigued by all the advances in transportation, medicine, information and technology.  But I also remember reading my Grandmother’s nursing notes from 1917  when I was in nursing school in 1977 (I found her notes in the attic).  That’s only 93 years ago.  There were no cures for TB, pneumonia or the Flu and germ theory was not widely accepted yet.  Even loving history as I do, I have no wish to retreat back to the days of horse and buggy, before antibiotics and computers.
But don’t let us forget what our forbearers still have to teach us.  Gardening, animal husbandry, canning, food preservation and general self sufficiency are almost lost arts here in America.  Slowly but surely more and more of us are beginning to find our way back to our ancestors wealth of wisdom.

There’s a reason certain expressions stand the test of time and are still relevant today.   Stand ready to face and embrace the future but don’t forget the lessons of the past.  In other words “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”!
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