Sunday, February 15, 2009


Great Depression Image 15, originally uploaded by Don Iannone.

A few years ago, my son Gabe gave me a book about the Great Depression by Robert Mcelvaine. I enjoy history, but there was something, well, depressing, about the photograph on the cover. Several times I put it on my bedside table, intending to read it, but inevitably it drifted to the bottom of the stack. Fiction felt more compelling, more relevant. Hah.

Then we started hearing the threats from the politicians, the talk show radio show dudes (both the reasonably sane and the completely off the rails.) If we didn't do this or that, we wouldn't just face something like that depressing photograph depicted. We'd find ourselves in midst of something far worse. Imaginations ran rampant--at least, mine did. I picked up the book with the grainy photograph on the cover and read, transfixed.

Last November, the Boston Globe ran a story about what Depression 2 might look like. In their vision of the economic apocalypse, unemployed familes would move into overcrowded houses where the unemployed multitude would spend their days huddled up behind the blue light of the TV screen eating cheap processed food. It sounded kind of like staying home from school sick in the sixties. I could almost picture the folding TV trays and taste the chicken noodle soup. It was both a comforting scenario, and well--depressing. (Couldn't they at least have envisioned us reading?) Surprisingly, lot of readers reacted with outrage: A respected newspaper openly speculating on how the economic crisis might play out? How tacky! Are they trying to ruin our day? Create panic maybe? Depress consumerism?

I, for one, think we should talk about it. In fact, there has never been a more important time to share our fears (generally they lose power when brought into the open air) to share our ideas...and especially to share our HOPE.

So here's my dos pesos:

I think President Obama is grappling seriously and thoughtfully with the problem, and I'm thankful to have such an intelligent, steady leader...but I also believe that this train left the station a long time ago. The best we can do now is to slow it down, hope the damage isn't as bad as it looks like it might be, and get as many people off the tracks as possible.

I believe the way we live our lives is going to change--maybe in small, temporary ways, but more likely, the transformation will test us in ways we've never been tried before.

I believe that almost nothing is all bad or all good and I don't say that glibly. I believe that sometimes, the deeper you have to dig to find the bliss, the stronger you grow. I believe that we'll stop being simply consumers, and start becoming citizens; that one day soon, we'll walk outside and see, really see the neighbors we've been ignoring all these years. I believe that we'll plant more vegetables and less grass. And yes, I believe that absent more expensive entertainment, people will READ more.

Don't get me wrong; I don't romanticize poverty. I've been poor myself, but I have no illusions: being poor in good times is a helluva lot different than it is in the not so good ones. The suffering that's already begun for many families and individuals is real and immense. My mother grew up in a large family in the Great Depression. Though her father always retained a job, they still lost their house, and were forced to cram into a tenement apartment, to help out unemployed relatives. My mother shared a small bedroom with three sisters; one brother slept on the couch in the winter and in a tent in the summer (with a bunch of other boys in a kind of Spanky and Our Gang atmosphere. ) Another brother was forced to sleep in a crib in his parents room till he was six because there was nowhere else to put him.

She remembers the deplorable condition of the charity hospital where her uncle was dying of diabetes in the pre-insulin days, and how her parents wept when they saw him there, surrounded by flies. But the next day her mother returned to the hospital and brought her brother-in-law back to the crowded apartment where she cared for him for the rest of his life.

She remembers how everything was used, stretched, saved to make their meals, but when a hobo came to the door to beg dinner, there was always enough to share.

However, the Depression didn't affect everyone in the same way; and it was those obvious class divisions, the shame associated with poverty, that seemed to leave the deepest scars. Some children who went to school with my mother had bicycles and new clothes and maids to clean their homes. She never forgot the humiliation of staying behind in the classroom with two other poor children because her parents didn't have a dime to give her for the field trip.

And here's the irony. My mother recalls the Depression as the "worst time ever;" but I have never heard anyone speak more fondly of their early years than my mother and her siblings. Their's wasn't just a happy childhood; it was a profoundly happy one.

Eventually, the uncle who was forced to sleep in a crib till he was six won a scholarship to Harvard and went on to become an important man in the world. At his retirement party, he spoke movingly about the foundation his life had been built on: the discipline to meet challenges head-on, humility, and the true source of that profoundly happy childhood: love.


bloglily said...

It's the suffering that's happening now and is only going to spread that concerns me the most -- the people who don't have safety nets, who are just hanging on -- those are the people I think about when I consider the dire economic news. Those are the people who are cold, hungry and desperate. The rest of us will be pinched and squeezed, in sometimes scary and unpleasant ways. But we will basically be fed and warm.

Your post does a great deal to remind all of us that no matter how badly off we are, there are plenty of people who're much worse off, which is why when we see people who need our help, there should always be something left to give.

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

Reading your post reminded me of a favorite film, PLACES IN THE HEART. So much has changed in our country and society since the 1930s; we can only hope that people will turn to each other with similar compassion and tenderness.

Patry Francis said...

lily: "No safety net"--those are such bone chilling words; it's probably a large part of what made the thirties so terrifying to those who endured it. And with the government so deeply in debt, I wonder how long the safety nets that are in place will continue...

Carolyn: I'll have to check out that movie. I, too, hope we will rise to whatever the times demands of us. Maybe things will change...Right now, it would be considered almost irresponsible to invite homeless strangers into your house to share dinner with your children.

Gary Boyd said...

I have missed your special insight these past few months...And, I find myself nodding my head as I read this post.

What do I think is coming? Let,s just say I was buying seeds this past weekend...A vegetable garden is about to become my second most important responsibility, right after watching my grandson while my daughter goes to school and work.

I've already lost my job, so that worry is past. I doubt I'll see another anytime soon, but we will get by. I just have a feeling it's time to break out the gardening tools and get ready to feed ourselves with our own hands more than we are used to...

If you really want depressing though...Check out a link I followed today from Paul Krugman's Blog, The Baseline Scenario.

Keep the stories coming...Peace

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
One of the possibilities is that we will overcome this ever growing disconnection to the earth, to each other. Growing our own food, sharing the surplus with others. Not being able to afford cable tv, and broadband will have us reading books, telling stories, writing letters, playing music to each other or reading poetry. So many of the rich connections we no longer share in our fast paced mony pursuing lives. Maybe that is not a bad thing. Kia kaha.

Kerstin said...

I was just discussing this subject with my husband. He is, to me, a bit of a phenomena in that he says that he has had the "depression mentality" ever since he was a little boy. Meaning that he never really feels secure. Which is why he has always been an incredibly hard worker, only ever relying on himself.

Like him, I also grew up in a low income family but I have always had this deep seated faith that, somehow, things will always work out. I spent the first twenty years of my life sharing a 1.5 bedroom apartment with my two siblings and my mother; it was normal to us and many others in my city. Material things, while I enjoy them, have never meant as much to me as family and friends, and experiencing life rather than accumulating wealth.

I wonder whether our different attitudes are partly rooted in the fact that, unlike my husband, I grew up in a welfare state?

On a different note, I don't know whether it is because of where I live but when we talk about the recession and possible next depression I do not see it. (Yet?) The malls are still busy. Lots of cars are still on the road. Restaurants are full. Personally, I don't know too many people who have lost their jobs although I know that this is happening every day. Sure, we are looking at ways to cut costs and increase productivity at work. But. On the surface of it not much has changed. (Yet.)

If this economic crisis means that we start reaching deep into resources we didn't even know we had (but we do) and if we remember, and re-learn, to be there for each other, than I am very hopeful that we can ride it out.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Patry! I, too, grew up poor in an immigrant family but we learned the work ethic, growing one's own vegetables, picking wild berries, thriftiness and not being wasteful. Those skills have stayed with me all my life and will be useful in belt-tightening times. Have to get a vegetable garden going again! Avoiding debt as much as possible, especially on credit cards is a major thing that many people did not practice and now are feeling the pain and may be the hardest hit. Bush said 'go shop' when there was a crisis!

Dale said...

Yes, Patry.

You know, my sense of it is that a lot of people are almost relieved at the crash. We've dimly known we were living beyond our means for a long time. It's like when somebody finally says "alcoholic" out loud.

Anonymous said...

Being retired and depending on a retirement income which is shrinking alarmingly fast, it is easy to note the signs of the economic downturn. Here, near a large city and in the suburbs, many are being laid off every week, businesses are closing every day and mall parking lots and stores are nearly empty already.
I am thankful for someone like you Patry, who has been through her own Hard Times and is not through them all yet, but who can remind us of the positive possibilities that can arise from this quagmire. Thanks for your spirit-raising pep talk! Many of us can use it.
Ancient Reader

Patry Francis said...

Gary: Gardening, and childminding and taking time to ponder the world...It sounds like a perfect balance. Thanks for posting the link. I've already bookmarked it.

Kia Ora, Robb: Beautifully stated. You are showing us the way.

Kerstin: Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. Like you, I live in an area where the suffering is not immediately in evidence--but it's here, and not far from the surface. However, sentiments like the one you express in your final paragraph give me hope.

marja-leena: A couple of years ago--or more--I wrote a post "updating" the virtues Ben Franklin considered most important. In the post, I dismissed "thrift" as outdated and less essential than the others. A reader from Switzerland told me off in no uncertain terms, and I immediately realized he was right. Time has only demonstrated exactly how wise
old Ben, and my friend from Switzerland truly were.

JP/deb said...

I agree with these thoughts ... nothing is all bad or all good ... and we need to find the opportunity for silver lining in the shifts that we are and will be going through. The opportunity for a paradigm shift away from a state of want & consumerism to a state of need & frugality, is a chance to shift priorities.

Thanks for these thoughtful words. Peace & love, JP/deb

Lisa said...

What an insightful vision into what may be coming. You have, as always, found a way to shine a light on the beauty in the darkness.

I suspect things will get a lot worse than most people have yet come to terms with, and as one of the comments noted, I almost think there is an element of relief at the idea of getting off of the merry-go-round of consumerism and materialism that we've been on for much too long.

As things get tougher for more and more people (and with the unemployment rate and associated loss of health care benefits accelerating at the rate they are, it's going to get a lot worse), the biggest change that needs to happen is just what you've written about.

We have to learn to become a "we" again.

Anonymous said...

Made me think of the palace in Dr the "commoners" moved in - and today's MacMansions. I believe Zhivago's wife said something like: well, it is more fair, everyone has the same now. Not to be cynical, but those that caused this have already cut and run leaving the rest of us to pick up pieces and try to keep our heads above water. That said, I believe that our pain and our wounds have the potential (if we do the work of reflection) to bring our greatest gifts. As a country we have an opportunity to rethink the story we have been telling ourselves, oh, say, since Ron was president, that greed is okay and we can have everything we want. We can't, not without climbing over the rest of the world. We are on a very small blue planet and we are all connected. It's time we started acting like it.

robin andrea said...

I'm so glad you wrote this, patry. I'm not sure we know what's coming or how it will look when it gets here, but something is on its way. I like your sense that we may become citizens and not just consumers, and yet it is our very consumption that drives the economic train.

The other day I opened google earth and typed in the address of the apartment I lived in from 1952 to 1960. The computer took me to my first backyard and a peek at the window of the bedroom I shared with my three siblings. Four kids in two twin beds. Eight years of a family of six in a two bedroom apartment. I've been there, I loved it, and I could do it again if I had to.

pohanginapete said...

Patry, it's great to see you back and writing.

When you say, "I believe that almost nothing is all bad or all good," I'm reminded of someone else who said "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world."
Maybe the upside of the readjustment (a more positive 'R' word) will be less thinking about the acquisition of material goods and wealth and a greater focus on other forms of riches — those with whom we share our world, in particular. More compassion, less self-absorption, perhaps? I hope for this.

debra said...

I think that this is an opportunity for amazing growth; for the ability to be in contact with the earth either by growing the food we eat of by buying locally.It is an opportunity to spend time with our families and our neighbors, to connect with local resources and to our inner strengths. The change will happen---is already happening.
We The People will make a difference.

We will expand our garden this year, and will plant for my elderly in-laws once again. Our chickens grace our table with glorious eggs.
This is an amazingly abundant planet. We can open our eyes and hearts to embrace it.

Dawn Anon said...

ah..... love this post. I wish my gramma was still alive. She had great depression stories that I didn't pay enough attention to. I'm sure she'd have some kind of fiery Irish/Dutch comment about this fine mess we've gotten ourselves into.

That woman was a humble, hard-working, strong woman who never once had a sense of entitlement, and woe-is-me. Never. Not even through her extended illness. She was also a pack-rat extraordinaire. Never know when something might come in handy. haha. Oh my... the piles of stuff. Family was number one. Always. Keeping people close was important.

all in all... i'm scared right now. And not from the political/media hype that we have to do something NOW!!!! or thousands will this.. or millions will that. I'm scared about the safety nets. The thing about nets is... once you are caught in a net, it's very hard to get out.

I've got my fingers crossed and I'm holding my breath.

PS. I'm so glad you are blogging again!! WWWOHHOOOOO, yippee skippee! :)

Patry Francis said...

Dale: A brilliant insight. I felt that, too. Now we must face the pain, the danger, and the introspection of recovery.

Ancient Reader: We went out to our local Borders tonight. The store was so empty, which struck fear into the heart of this writer. But the cafe was full. Three lively groups of various ages-- one knitting, one playing games and a third playing chess had gathered, as well as several students with laptops. In other words, community was thriving, but commerce? Not so much. In that small space, I could feel both the perils--and the hope--that lie ahead. Thanks for your insight.

debra: I think there will be all kinds of paradigm shifts, some of which will demand every ounce of our fortitude. I had a thought today...Maybe in the future our grandchildren will be telling us how they walked five miles to school uphill in the snow, rather than the reverse. We are living in unpredictable and interesting times.

lisa: Unemployment is scary enough, but losing health care is devastating. In December, I had a medical crisis that sent me to the emergency room. Though I've always expect a long wait in an emergency room, this was something I've never seen before. The vast majority of the people weren't there for an emergency. They were seeking run of the mill health care because they had no insurance and no primary care doctor. In the end, it's an untenable situation for the parent who ends up waiting for hours to have an infant with an ear infection seen, for those who have genuine emergencies, but get lost in the shuffle, and for the hospitals, which are hemorrhaging money.

...more later.

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh, so, so so well said!

I think our standard of living makes for a warped idea of poverty. Maybe we just have to get our priorities right?

You summed it up with your last word and I appreciate this post so much.

Sustenance Scout said...

Patry, love this post and discussion. What strikes me most is your point that your mom and her siblings were so profoundly happy despite their family's financial setbacks. My mom had a difficult childhood and married my dad at age 19; by her mid-20s she had five boys under age 10 and lived in a tiny house, yet she recalls those years fondly. (Then her girls came along, lol!) Seems outlook and attitude have a lot to do with survival in tough times, but so does community. (A hug and a shoulder to cry on helps, too.) Hopefully those with anything to share will step up to help those who don't in the tough times ahead. K.

Kenna Coltman said...

Beautifully written, as always, Patry. The economic news is so daunting, but to be honest, it's worse now, but it's been going on for some time. Last year, friends of ours were out of a home, and we took them in - for 8 months. They're slowly getting back on their feet, though the recent layoffs are frightening for everyone. I know too many people who have lost jobs, and are now struggling to make ends meet.

I hope and pray the recession bottoms out soon, and we start to see some improvements, somewhere.

Take care!

Patry Francis said...

tammy: I'm with you--so glad that our national story is no longer "greed is good"--though it seems that as always, the poorest people will pay disproportionately.

Robin: I was an only child, but my childhood bedroom was the size of a closet. In fact, I think it WAS a closet before we moved in. (I had to walk through my parents' room to access it.) But when I think back, I remember the safety I felt there, and the trees outside my window, and crowding into my little bed with a cousin or a friend for a sleepover. Clearly, happiness is NOT a mcmansion filled with stuff. Your writing and photographs are a constant reminder of that.

Pete: "More compassion, less self-absorption" That is a thought than CAN remake the world.

debra: I love your optimism--and the fresh eggs sound marvelous!

Dawn: You paint a very vivid portrait of your grandmother--clearly an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing her here. We may all be channeling our hardy forebears soon.

rdl said...

Great, great post!! I remember my mother telling of dessert being a piece of bread with butter and sugar. Bought my 1st packet of seeds for my garden yesterday. I already decided last year that it has to be bigger this year. also started a compost. guess i'm going back to our hippie roots.

steve on the slow train said...

A very compassionate and insightful piece, Patry. I work in a town that still holds onto prosperity, but my wife is still living in Elkhart, which has become the poster child for the recession. I'm upset that the people most responsible for the situation are still prospering. Walmart, which has driven American factories to China, is doing better than ever.

Bloglily, of course, is right. I have a good job, while the RV factory worker in Elkhart who's lost his job has few prospects. Kathleen, who just works part-time at the library, has had people tell her she's lucky to have a job. The library is full of unemployed men now, waiting to use the computers to report back to the unemployment office.

I agree that President Obama is doing his best--he even came to Elkhart earlier this month.

And there will be good from this near-depression. Perhaps, with the stimulus money for high-speed rail and mass transit, the cities will once again prosper, while the spread of exurbia will be halted. But from the vantagepoint of Elkhart, Indiana, things look pretty bleak.

Aimee said...

I live in Michigan, a State that has been hit hard and hit early. As a server, I have always been on the poor side, so the only thing really different for me is that the rest of the people around me are at my level too. I think there is a certain amount of fun and creativity that being poor brings. Rather than expensive trips or arcades my kids learn to skip rocks and fish. We play board games on Friday night rather than spending $50 on the movies and fast food. My Mom is moving in. My kids will have their grandmother with them if they cannot turn to Mom or Dad. I don't know, I think it's kind of beautiful that when poor you realize what is actually important and what isn't. FYI, to the author of that article not eating processed food is actually way cheaper than crap from a box or bag.

Anonymous said...

I have no safety net, but I am not worried as my saftey net is not money, but faith in spirit. Change is good and things need to change, and they are changing. People find ways to live and be happy, even those in the mist of war and starvation.Worry and fear do not help the situation.
Look for the good and you will find it.

Patry Francis said...

Heidi: I agree--it's time for many of us to reevaluate our priorities.

K: The warmth and caring in your family comes through so clearly and obviously nourishes everyone who knows you--even virtually. But you're right; families are small and frequently fractured now. We need to rely on--and extend ourselves to--our entire community.

Kenna: How fortunate your friends were to have people like you in their lives. Generosity like yours makes me believe we WiLL get through this.

r: Ted's going to expand the garden this year, too, and we're definitely getting blueberry bushes. I wish I bought them with you last year! P.S. Happy birthday to the boy! I can't believe he's 15.

...and once again, more later. Right now it's one a.m. and I'm going for a little "nap."

Lorna said...

I'm speaking from the hole in which I have plunged my head, and we ostriches are not, repeat not, worried.

larramiefg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
larramiefg said...

There's a PSA that's currently airing on TV which states: "Depression hurts everyone..." Of course this is referring to mental/emotional depression, however I do believe any depression is a state of mind and the BEST things in life -- love, hope, dreams and determination to rise to challenges -- are still free!

Patry Francis said...

steve: I've been thinking of you in Elkhart--and also of the slow train. I'm glad to hear that the stimulus includes increased funding for high speed rail travel. That is so essential to our future! And yes, Bloglily made an incredibly important point with her first comment: a lot of people are already hurting--and badly.

aimeepalooza: Sounds a lot like my life! And yeah, I didn't understand that statement about processed food at all.

Annie: Your comment reminds me of the movie Life is Beautiful, or one of my favorite books, Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Fraenkel. Whatever adversity we face, we always have the inner freedom to choose how we react.

Lorna: Some days that seems like a really good strategy!

Rebekah said...

This is post raises many levels of thought. Thank you. The last paragraph is great. I don't believe we should romanticize the Great Depression, but before we hit the direst of conditions that so many people faced then, we can adopt ever greater senses of responsibility, use whatever resources we have carefully and take nothing for granted. Living in a state of heightened awareness ofwhat I am doing to better the world and what I might be doing to contribute to the dismal legacy of our generation is the most responsible way I can personally respond every day. So glad to read you again!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Patry, for opening the door and inviting us in to talk about something we've all been (mostly) privately pondering.
My mother grew up during the Great Depression as well, moving frequently during the Dustbowl years, till they eventually landed out here during WWII. Much like your own mother's lifestories -- what she, my grandparents, aunts and uncles told us about that time period, sounded almost Dickensian and yet, happy. 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'
The stories heard from family and others, do give some hope - even during possibly the worst of times - it seemed people banded together more closely, then. Goods, food, meals were shared as much as possible. Doctors and vets found it in their hearts to see patients even if they were paid only in eggs or butter. Farms were bought at auction by neighbors pooling their own assets and sold back to the original owners for a mere dollar or two (that last one might be apocryphal, but I've heard it often enough from enough sources, that I can believe there might be at least some basis in fact). They saved everything they could - 'made do or did without,' reused and recycled - all before it was trendy to do so (and how much better for the environment would that still be?) Somehow, through it all, the stories all seemed to highlight that they still found a way to laugh through the tears, love life and each other... All this is by way of saying that I think you've summed the situation up beautifully - nothing is all bad or all good. The bull times had quite a bit that wasn't all good and, even if they hang around awhile, the bear times probably won't be all bad either (I may have those critters reversed - not being all that conversant with the stock market, I always have a hard time remembering which is which - and bulls always make think of - well, Bull.... ;)
p.s. I bought a blueberry bush to plant - so maybe I'll make a blueberry pie, yet! I'm also planting my sprouting garlic and potatoes - and spending a good deal of time lurking around the gardening and Riot for Austerity blogs. There's a lot still to learn, on living with less, or at least simpler - though it seems a lot of people have already started doing just that - even well before they literally need to do so...and that is seeming more and more like a good idea. I'll send you some of the links if you're interested in reading some of them.
p.s.s. ((Hugs)) to you!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're writing about this, whatever it is. We have to discuss what is clearly affecting us ... and on a global scale, at that.

So, whatever it is--depression, mega recession, just a few unstable years--it's new, scary and ground level. I know so many people who have been laid off, particularly in the media industry, and this has never happened to them before, nor did they think it ever would. Magazines have been folding en masse, and those that have are, most likely, not ever coming back.

We have to talk about this because we have to figure it out. We have to go on with life and find new ways to thrive. We have to re-prioritize and become essential. I'm inspired by your uncle's story and believe that in each of us, we have a deep strength that will surprise us when we most need it, and least expect it.

Ric said...

Sorry I'm late to the discussion.

They keep saying this recession is as bad as 1980 - I remember leaving Michigan to encamp in Houston, far from my beloved home - never getting used to warm tap water to brush your teeth, drive through beer stores, and grass that grows two inches by the time you get done mowing it once.

My Mother's tales of growing up on the farm in the 30's. Of city cousins being dropped off in the spring with no shoes and my Grandpa taking them into town to buy them boots. And how excited they were when the electric lines were stretched along the road. And they were not poor. Grandpa put two kids through college and bought a brand new 36 Chrysler.

Though I voted for change, I would be much happier - and the mood of the country would be much better - if someone in charge would say - "We're going to get through this, we're going to be fine."

Hope is contagious. Something my dear friend, Patry, reminds me whenever she appears on these pages. We all need to look up to the future even while we're still falling.

We will be fine. We have love, friends, family and tomorrow.

Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

A great post that has generated so many wonderful comments. I will have to come back here to digest them. Although my husband has been without work for over six months, I feel that this "depression" is a wake-up call to all who believe happiness is to be found in possessing things. Your story about your mom brings this home so clearly. It's like health (as you well know) . . . we take it for granted until we lose it.

There's a great little story I heard (about a man who was lamenting the changes in his fortune because he'd been so happy before. Those who knew him before were surprised because they'd never known him to be happy.

MB said...

Love is the key word, isn't it. It is for so many of the things you post about.

So nice to see you back here.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on nothing being all good or all bad. Sometimes the cure kills us, sometimes it makes us stronger. Being poor can equate to living more simplified. I want to see the Mom and Pop of the world come back because that was sustainable. Big corporations, big banks and monopolies isn't.

Patry Francis said...

Larramie: Like you, I'm both a realist and a dreamer. Depression, whether physical or economic is all too real, and requires direct direct address and treatment, but we can never underestimate the importance of "love, hope, and dreams" Thanks for that reminder!

Rebekah: The current crisis gives us plenty to worry about--for ourselves and especially for the most vulnerable among us. But it also presents us with a necessary opportunity to reevaluate how we're living and embrace the things you mention: responsibility, gratitude, and a heightened awareness.

Tinker: Thanks for sharing your family's strength and stories. Though most of us have been spoiled by our times, we still have our ancestors' fortitude within us. It's in our genes and in our hearts and in the stories that may turn out to be our greatest legacy and resource. I would love to learn more about the Austerity Blogs if you have a chance to send or post the links!

KG: I heard that even the venerable New Yorker (who published continuously throughout the Depression) may go from a weekly to a monthly...and yet, I believe the written word is needed more than ever and will find an outlet one way or another.

Anonymous said...

Patry, I love your words about us having "ancestors' fortitude within us" - I hope and pray that we all got a healthy dollop of their fortitude, resourcefulness - and compassion for others, as well. I hope we won't need as much of all that, as they did - but we might.
It seems there is a whole other 'green and frugal' blogworld out there, and lest this comment end up looking like spam, I'll just give a few blognames as a starting point (I'll e-mail you actual links) - I'll list a few here, in case other readers want to look into them. Here are some starting points (with the caveat, to take from them what seems like reasonable or applicable advice -- some viewpoints expressed may seem extremely austere on some of them, but there's also some valuable information to be gleaned from many of them, too). Try searching for "Hen and Harvest", "Casaubon's Book" (Sharon Astyk's blog, not Elliot's fictional one =), and "Riot4Austerity". Once you find any of those, try jumping off into some of the links on the sidebars, to find even more.
"Kitchen Gardener's International" has a forum that can be very helpful for troubleshooting garden questions and in finding out what others are growing in your area. Warning - if you're serious interested in gardening and becoming more self-sustaining, following all of the links down the assorted rabbit holes can become addictive - and you may end up doing LESS actual gardening! =)

Anonymous said...

I don't think I have ever commented on a post, so often (or so long) as I have this one...but there is one more link, that I want to pass on, to balance out all of the others, because I think it is also a vital key in this 'plan for the worst, hope for the best' scenario. It's this next post link's philosophy, that I think has kept our economy from sinking any deeper. I think many people have already intuited the wisdom in this, but I feel compelled to share it, anyway:

Patry Francis said...

Slowly catching up and here, not that you need my input. This is another case of the comments being better than the original post...

Ric: Words like yours--full of resilience and optimism tempered by realism--are never late. After Pres. Obama's speech this week, I'd have to say it sounds like he heard you!

Beryl: Your story reminds me of a comic video someone posted on Facebook called, Everything's amazing; no one's happy. Sometimes humor can express so much.

mb: If only we could truly absorb, live and express that one's the challenge of our lives. Good to see you here.

colleen: I'm with you. Right now mom and pop are getting hit hard, but things are changing. Sustainable matters.

tinker: Thanks again for the marvelous links. There's so much information and inspiration out there. I haven't read Christine Kane's take yet, but I always enjoy her blog.

Amber said...

Wonderful post. I agree. And I think our society-- maybe even our western world-- had developed a kind of mass personality disorder, that has long been in need a cure.

I have been a little thankful for my poor childhood. I know that one can do without A LOT, and still be okay. At the same time, I know that some of the kids these days don't have a CLUE what to do without TV, or their own room...I worked hard for my kids to have a different life than I had, but I also want them to learn to "cope" in the world, and learn that not everything comes easy.

These things going on now have given us a chance to choose something else.


i beati said...

I love the way you tacled this subject- my tak eis let's reach out to others during this time--sk

Anonymous said...

It's great to have you back, Patry. :)

I have to admit that all this doom and gloom talk about the economy has gotten me more than a little nervous. Then I think about the times my father got laid off in the early 70s. Somehow, he managed to take care of his family.

We'll get through this, although we'll get a pretty good attitude adjustment in the process.

paris parfait said...

What a wonderful story about your mom and her family! My grandparents grew up in the Depression and it had a lasting impact on their attitude about money and what they later perceived as wastefulness. I think it's a wonderful thing that people are finally waking up and paying attention to the world around them, rather than walking around oblivious about the real issues, but informed about the antics of celebrities. I think we all will be making some sacrifices - large or small - and that the communities will have to help and support each other more. These are the good things about community and about America and I hope we all appeal to our better angels, as Obama says. I agree with you that we are so lucky to have an intelligent leader who addresses problems head-on, rather than pretend they don't exist.

butuki said...

Thank you so much for talking about that time in this way... perhaps bringing more dignity and realism to the way things really were at that time than people often allow in history books.

And thank you, too, for your comment on my blog, asking if I'm all right. I'm surviving, and growing stronger day-by-day. It's been hard finding the courage to write in the blog again... wearing my heart on my sleeve was part of the reason for all that happened... but I've been reworking the whole blog setup, trying to find a way to easily incorporate my writing and drawing and photography, all in one place, yet still keep it simple.

Want to keep up with your blog. Great reading!

sexy said...