Grandpa's Door Uncovered
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johnleeke
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Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2924
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:02 pm    Post subject: Grandpa's Door Uncovered Reply with quote

In my work of saving old buildings I see a dramatic growth of interest in saving the cultural values from our past.

On my last trip to Nebraska I was driving on the gravel county roads between Omaha and Lincoln, I think it was near the small town of Avoca. It was one of those hot, dry dusty August afternoons. I spotted a woman by a farm house working on something across a couple of sawhorses, so on impulse I turned down her lane. I visited with her while she was stripping paint off of a door, working under the shade of a great oak tree. Her great grandfather had planted that tree and built the house, but it's ownership had drifted out of the family. Now she and her husband had bought it. She was taking many layers of paint off the door so she could see the same wood her grandfather had seen. She laid her hand on the wood and asked me to do the same. She said, " I can feel him, it's just like I'm touching his hand." Since I'm a woodworker, I found my own connection with him. Stroking my hand across the wood surface I could feel the subtle curves of hand-planing marks left on the door by her great grandfather. I showed her how to feel this too, telling her I could almost see him planing the wood boards of this door over a century ago. She looked me in the eyes and almost cried, then took me over to the shed where his old wooden hand planes were still lined up under the work bench. We brought one out to the door, sure enough, the plane matched the shape of the marks on the door. Then we took a break and got a drink at the hand pump by the back kitchen door. The water was cool and sweet.

She had never heard of restoring old houses, or historic preservation, and did not know that she might find help right over in Lincoln at the Nebraska Historical Society. She was just uncovering traces of her grandfather's life and times because that made her feel good.

I see this as a deep-seated "thirst" for what has been lost, something that we truly need. Now we are finding the fresh well water to quench this thirst, by reclaiming and saving these old buildings.

How and why, during the 20th century, did we as a culture forget about these important connections with our past?

I wonder if this is part of a post-Modern movement to reclaim what has be taken from us by the corporateers of the 20th century consumerism. You know what I mean: the corporate manufacturers of paint that advertise the new color of paint this year is beige, so you should paint your house beige, just so that corporation can get your money.

Are you saving something old? Why is that important to you?

_________________
John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
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