Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vacation Photos

Last summer I blogged at some length about the vacation we took to England and Wales, but posted no pictures. Well, I'm slow, but I do deliver (after all, there were sixteen rolls of film to go through!), and I've now got photo galleries posted on for the first 3 legs of our trip: London and Greenwich, Kent and East Sussex, and Devonshire (mainly Dartmoor). Feel free to go and browse. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them. Keep checking back - I still have Wales and the Chester-York trip to do!


  1. Whenever I see pictures--or go to places with this much picturesque history--I always have the following thoughts:

    We're such a young country, here in the newer hemisphere. My god, the houses we live in, the properties we occupy, have only been in existence for perhaps three or four generations (if you count by twenties), whereas in Europe, people have been living and digging and burying and squabbling over and on and in that ground for literally thousands of years. What might our "American" civilization look like in three hundred years? Will there be any photogenic stone monuments to tour and view in awe and photograph then? Almost certainly not. We live indeed in a "New World" and we're still "pioneers" in much the same sense as our ancestors were, who "westered" and migrated across this continent with the hopes and dreams of the dispossessed and footloose.

    My other thought is always that we're at this very moment in time on the threshold of some cataclysmic convulsion on our modest little planet. Everything--progress, population, knowledge, scientific advance--is speeding up to a crescendo. We're literally heading "off the charts" in so many ways. We look backwards fondly--in some senses--to a world that made some kind of "sense"--though of course with all its inherent evils of suffering, inequality, and adamant hopelessness. My ancestors were, on the one hand farmers in the Yorkshire countryside, or on the side, proper shopkeepers in Norway. The world has turned upsidedown in two hundred years, placing me at the vertex of some kind of synthesis of history. My wife's ancestors arrived on these shores only a hundred years ago, from Russia, with only the rags on their backs and what tender they could hide in their shoes. How far have we come, and to what?

    Is Europe, with its castles and "baby rivers" and history and continuity, a reminder of past glories, or a warning to us new world tourists?

  2. You don't know enough people who live in New England. I went to graduate school with a woman whose family still lives on the property they occupied when they arrived in the middle of the I think seventeenth century. It's not impossible in New England to see 400 year old houses, still occupied. For that matter, take a look at Santa Fe, founded by the Spanish in 1607, as a capital, and occupied continually since.

    That said, you're quite right about the mental youth of our country, though; and we still haven't really come to terms that there is no more frontier. In the back of the American mind there's still a little voice saying, "If things don't work out, I can always pull up stakes and leave," and so we do. Monuments aren't really our thing; I think it's significant that Mt. Rushmore was not done by an American.

    You're also perfectly right that we're dancing on the edge of the volcano. But Curtis, we've been dancing on the edge of a volcano my entire life - the contents of the magma have changed, that's all. I still remember the "duck and cover" drills in grammar school, and remember knowing, even then, that crawling under my desk was not going to help much if there was ever a real nuclear attack. And before the cold war there were two genuine, shooting wars...

    Yes, the people who lived in those stone houses in Wales, and Devonshire, and Yorkshire, lived in a different world. And yes, it made "sense." But the history of that world has been a hobby of mine, and it wasn't (as you admit) a safe world at all. The average life expectancy was under 60 (maybe under 50, I'm not sure); you had 8 children so that 2 might possibly survive infancy; and it was socially extremely rigid. Your Yorkshire farmer ancestors could never have hoped to be anything else (at least, until the Industrial Revolution got going, and here we are back to climate change); and unless they were freeholders, they were at constant risk of the landlord deciding to enclose his estates and kick them out.

    Yes, with climate change, we may have finally done something that the human race's astounding ingenuity can't fix. We'll have to see. But we thought that about the bomb, too; and so far we've survived that, although given Putin's latest move, it may be too soon to relax. But we got ourselves into this, and we'll have to get ourselves out - and if we don't, the earth will continue as it has done, and new life forms will evolve that adapt to the new climate. They always have. They always will.

  3. Anonymous6:37 PM

    Remember disease. The Black Plague may have killed thousands, millions, but it also engineered social change from which many plague survivors and their descendants benefited. At the risk of being banal:

    Out of desolation comes beauty
    Rising from crumbled concrete
    Like smoke from extinguished fires