Hard Times

It’s a song and a sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Hard times, come again no more.
Stephen Foster

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted– I apologize. I meant to continue with reports on the Greek trip, and I do intend to get back to that, but I am most motivated to write here when there’s something I need to say. As I watch the stock market tumble and my savings diminish, the chorus of the Stephen Foster song keeps echoing in my head, I always thought that was a Depression song, but it goes back to the 19th century. Hard times come in every era, and eventually good times return. The trick is to make it from one era to the other.

Those of us who were raised by parents who grew up during the Depression already have a clue about how to survive. For those of you whose parents grew up during the 50’s and 60’s, here are a few thoughts on the subject.

Of course, today, Global Warming and the Energy crisis complicate the issue. Or do they?

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that the remedies may be complementary. Whether we are trying to save money or the environment, we need to make the most efficient use of resources that we can, and support our local communities. Buying locally not only cuts down on the carbon load, it keeps the money circulating here. Given a choice, buy from companies that have not outsourced all their jobs.

But an even more basic strategy is to cut down on consumption across the board.
Instead of replacing appliances and other useful items, retain, recycle, re-use, repair. We can use our communication resources, such as LJ and chat lists, to find people who do need the things we can no longer use. People who know how to fix things are about to become very popular. Let us know who you are. We can decrease our dependence on the cash economy by trading skills.

The same energy- and resource-saving moves we were already making for the sake of the environment will also lower living costs. Getting more of our protein from vegetables and learning creative uses for leftovers will lower the grocery bills. Rather than driving somewhere to go hiking, I want to do more shopping by walking to the local grocery, which will support local business, save gas, and give me some needed exercise. Trade clothes instead of buying new. Repair and remodel – would anyone be interested in a class on mending?

I am currently being inspired in this quest by the discovery of a new goddess, or rather a new path of a Power I already knew about, Oshun Ibu Kolé. This is the path of Oshun whose peacock plumage was burned into that of a vulture when she flew up to beg Olodumare to lift the drought with which he had punished everyone for thinking they could do without him. She appears as an old woman by a muddy river, also associated with sewers and toilets. She is the one whose white dress yellowed because she washed it so many times. Her name, depending on the translation, means “Spirit of the River who Transforms”, or “the one who takes out and brings back the trash and dust”. In other words, she’s the perfect deity to invoke for recycling.

The other day she and I had an interesting exchange. I was going to get a new piece of cloth to wear when I danced for her, but somehow, I couldn’t quite make up my mind to buy it. It occurred to me that I ought to ask her what she wanted. The information I got was that I should recycle some other garment, like the fringed scarf I inherited from my nephew David, who just passed away, and add a little decoration. When we had finished that part of the discussion, she told me to go down and empty the garbage.

What I didn’t know was that the refrigerator repairman had arrived to try to fix the freezer so we wouldn’t have to buy a new one, and my son had taken out all the packages of food that had been freezing and thawing for variable amounts of time. Including quite a lot of meat. So when I got downstairs I was presented with a bucket full of such packages. These days, the Berkeley recycling system allows us to put food scraps in with the yard trimmings. Thus, the immediate sequel to my conversation with Ibu Kolé was to hand over several pounds of spoiled meat for composting. I cannot imagine a better offering for the Oshun the Vulture! Sometimes the gods make themselves very clear.

Vulture beak, vulture beak,
Doing what you must,
Takin’ out the trash, recycling our sorrows,
Beauty from the dust.

Burning wing, burning wing,
Fly and bring the rain.
Old witch woman, by the muddy water,
Give us hope again.