Friday, March 28, 2008

Basic Electricity [CCR]

It is simply amazing how we have become so dependent on electricity. Beyond the fact that I make my living through the manipulation of energy, I have recently noticed that all our lives are totally dependent on the availability of electricity. If we examine our daily activities we can only wonder how our ancestors lived without it.

Yesterday we were making the trek from North Carolina back to our home in Tennessee when I noticed the battery light on the van. In days past we probably wouldn’t be too worried about that light until nightfall. But the modern engine has changed our world. Today we get our horsepower and our economy through the use of a computer based control system on the car. Simply said, if I continued to drive down the road I ran a high risk of waiting for a tow when the car’s control system shut down.

As I felt a small worry coming to me I reached for my cell phone. It had plenty of battery so I had some time to make a few phone calls while I continued down the highway. I called information and located a dealership in Asheville. After talking to their service department they had someone waiting for my arrival and they gave me directions. Again, electricity helped me out.

We have already discussed the oil lamps and evenings when the electricity failed during a storm. But our lives are much more dependent than simply waiting out a storm. Batteries have given us that insatiable thirst for energy even when the lights go out. I am not sure how we might function otherwise.

Luckily I watched my grandparents relive the days when electricity wasn’t so plentiful. Grandmother Daily actually made lye soap and Granddaddy showed me how to use all his hand tools, including his brace. My children wouldn’t even understand a brace had I not bought one the other day. I was amazed to find one. They watched me forego my drill and install curtains using a simple bit and brace.

Our story ended well yesterday. Yes, I took a wrong turn and a second call with my cell phone got me headed in the right direction again. Upon arrival the car dealership diagnosed my van and confirmed my thoughts. Fortunately they had an alternator in stock and the van was soon repaired. We returned to the highway with a small delay which meant driving after dark. But, I was comfortable in knowing the lights were being powered by a brand new alternator and we could find our way home.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Traditions [CCR]

Each year it seemed we always donned our best for Easter services. Everyone arrived at church on Easter morning in the sharpest clothes they could find in their closet. Some of us sported something new while others dug deep in the closets to find their best.

As a child Mom said I always wanted to wear a tie to church. I don’t understand why I don’t remember the deep desire, but I do remember the day my Dad gave me his mustard seed tie tack to wear. I thought I was something special. That tie tack is still in my box of accessories.

Before leaving the house I searched through the room for my Bible. I always had my favorite Bible that I carried to church. As a small child it was a small white Bible given to me by the Gideons. Later I remember carrying a red Bible given to me by my parents one Christmas and more recently the Bible given to me by the church for my high school graduation. I recently gave that Bible to my son who now carries it as I once did.

Family traditions such as these provide connections to home and those comfortable years no matter where you move. It may differ in how it is formed. For example, some of my friends had spring traditions that came with Passover. Others may include connections to simple family life.

Another tradition at my house was the family garden. We always knew that by the time we reached Granddaddy Smith’s birthday it was time to plant the garden. I am sure that tradition started long before my arrival, but it is stuck in my mind to this day. In that respect I am very busy rushing to complete my spring garden preparations and the past few weekends have included quite a bit of digging in the dirt planting trees and grape vines at our new house.

The week after Easter we will renew another family tradition when our new goats arrive. As a child we kept ponies, cows, goats, and various other farm animals. The cows graciously provided fresh milk and the ponies many hours of pleasure. I think Mom and Dad wanted us to enjoy the full experience of growing up in Alabama. Keeping the animals was work, but for every complaint we had then we have a pleasant memory now. We did have chickens for a short time, but I think it was a little much for Mom to chase the chickens out of the garden.

Hopefully we each have built such traditions into our lives. Many of our elders will gladly testify that such memories keep us company through the years. A college professor once taught me that one aspect of marriage was the combining of two historical perspectives of traditions. It is the combination of these traditions with your family that brings new excitement to the entire family as you build those traditions for future generations.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Time Shifting [CCR]

Yet again the time changed, at least according to us. I’m not sure the trees, rocks, streams, or anything else God placed on Earth really cares about the time. In my case I maybe things actually improved. Ever since I moved back home from the Eastern time zone I have been in bed by 8:30 PM and up at 4:30 AM. My wife, children, and even the folks at the office think I am crazy. Well, today I finally arrived at the office about the time everyone else arrived. I’m not sure it really matters.

Granddaddy Daily was a woodsman. He rose with the sun, worked throughout the day taking a break for lunch when it was possible, and then returned home in time for his home chores before sunset. He had a family to feed. The trees and the sun didn’t change their clocks. The only effect he saw was shorter days in the winter with colder weather. Those shorter days meant extra work in the summer to prepare for the winter just as God’s other creatures prepare for winter.

Things weren’t much different for those folks farming down in the valley by the river. The cotton didn’t really care about the time. It only knew the combination of warm weather and water allowed it to present a healthy crop. Clocks weren’t really necessary. When the sun peaked over the horizon it was time to head to the field and tend to the crops that would provide sustenance for life.

The change came when man decided to organize efforts. Maybe we could have planned to meet when the sun topped the first pines, but our industrial growth meant work would extend through the evening hours and tighter time coordination was necessary. Today we have fancy gadgetry that receives the “official” government time by which we all conform. I must assume it gives a good payback to coordinate ourselves as our output has increased. But do we really need to shift the clock to tell us to take advantage of daylight? It wasn’t necessary for our ancestors, but it seems so to us.

Now we decided to make more shifts that confuse all these computers and yet again I had to patch all that gadgetry that helps me earn a living. But my body doesn’t want a patch. Yet it needs a time shift along with every other person. I could complain that it adds to the stress that we already pile on. Folks pass on the highway with their toes in the carburetor praying they get to work on time. I reckon all that coordinated effort requires conformity, but nature tells me otherwise.

I never asked Granddaddy if he twisted the hands of the old cuckoo clock twice a year. Since we didn’t start shifting time until he was already half way through his life I am not sure if he thought it was necessary. At least I’ve been adjusting since childhood. Granddaddy had to start his shifting after he had already been synchronized to God’s natural cycle. Benjamin Franklin first proposed all this change long before our government decided it was a good idea. I wonder if God gets a little chuckle at our efforts to coordinate.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Vision [CCR]

My fancy cable television service became confused today and a short conversation with the company helped resolve the issue but brought me to a new level of reality. I simply wanted to check out their upgraded “on demand” service. Most of the regular television programs today do not really appeal to me and I find myself watching science or nature channels in hopes of keeping my mind sharp. Frankly, I should be working on the fence in the lower pasture or preparing our summer garden. The gentleman on the other end of the line agreed that we should cycle power on the unit and that is where the revelation began.

As a child I fancied myself on my capability to read signs from a distance. I would look for road signs at a distance and challenge myself to read the sign before anyone else in the family car. I guess I never really gave thought to the precious gift God gave me in vision. I simply used it to my advantage. I can remember my Grandparents having glasses and complaining when they couldn’t find them.

The day finally came when I first saw my parents wearing glasses. It was slightly amusing to me as I still didn’t have a true appreciation of my gift. Over the years they slowly transitioned from a simple pair of glasses to bifocals. Maybe we attribute the changes to age, but sometimes more than age has a factor. Thankfully our friends at the Lions’ Clubs across America have helped champion the cause and educate us all on the importance of eye care.

But soon my turn came to sit in the chair with all the fuddling gadgetry. The doctor placed drops in my eyes to make them dilate and I believe I could see in total darkness. They carried me through the pain of bright lights, pressure tests, and other various fiddling with both my eyes and my nerves. At the end of the tests he affirmed my stigmatism. I had subsisted thirty six years without glasses, but now my turn had come. I just couldn’t stand the thought of placing anything in my eyes so contact lenses were out of the question.

A few years passed and as I entered my fifth decade (that’s forties if you count from zero) the doctor declared a slight case of near sightedness. Now I am on my second pair of “blended” bifocals. Bifocals are simply a fancy word for saying you have to bend your head in every direction to find the right focus. I now have a true appreciation for those games I played as a child and I also appreciate all the work generations have put into developing eyewear. Now I am dependent on their contributions.

The cable television company technician on the telephone had asked me to cycle the power on the box. I couldn’t bend my head back far enough to make my bifocals work and I didn’t want to admit I only saw white lines below the buttons rather than letters. After a brief pause he told me to look in the middle so I pushed the button nearest the middle. The display only blinked and returned to the error. After two or three tries I decided I must have the wrong button or my converter must be really confused. I reached behind the unit and pulled the power. I could now lift the unit and see I was simply pressing some display format button and the power button was on the opposite end. I plugged the box back in and it reset itself. I never had the heart to tell the technician I was choosing random buttons, but the frustration in his voice led me to believe he knew.

All of our service clubs do wonderful work in providing benefits to our community. This incident gave me a new appreciation for our Lions. The next time you see the folks in the purple Lions’ Club outfits asking for support give them a lending hand. I truly believe you will learn to appreciate their contribution. As for my television, maybe I should have stuck to the single channel on black and white television with the antenna behind the house that carried me so faithfully through childhood.