Saturday, March 21, 2009

Just because

Read an article last week about how all those boxes of saved letters and newspaper clipping in all those closets and attics everywhere help contribute to the historical knowledge of our collective past.

I expect things will be different moving forward. Historians will spend less time searching for artifacts, and more time wading through reams and reams of online documents, emails, blogs, websites, social media, etc, etc to determine what is historically significant, and what is not.

I grew up during the Cold War.

USA vs USSR. SALT and the threat of satellite controlled missiles killing us all. I remember thinking that I might just have a few years left to live before World War 3 broke out. I remember calculating how old I would be and feeling better that they probably wouldn't ask me to join the army at such a young age.

Last night, I spent time wading through the fifteenth edition of the Oxford Atlas of the World. Printed paper. Huge book. Glossy satellite images and old-fashioned maps. Kinda like the one I would look at while lying on shag green carpet in the sun when I was a kid.

Couldn't find the USSR, of course. But found Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Moldova, as well as a few countries that I didn't know existed. Places in the world that were part of the British Commonwealth that are now independent. Places in the world that were independent that are now part of the USA Commonwealth. Places like Comoros (volcanoes), Eritrea (ethnic groups of Tigrinya, Tigre, Kunama, and Afar), Nauru (phosphate mining, but resources are running out). I really like this one: Palau. With a population of 21,000 and only 459 sq km, this petite place in the Pacific became independent in 1994 after the USA refused to accede to a 1979 referendum that declared the island nation a nuclear-free zone.

Yugoslavia is gone too. Replaced with new countries and new flags and new statistics and information on currency and religions and politics.

I remember walking along a slow-moving stream in a suburban forested area next to my friends housing complex. We were carrying hockey sticks and wearing rubber boots. The skunk cabbage was out in full force, yellow blooms and that malodorous "skunky" smell. Logs were rotting and leaves composting. The sun poked through here and there, creating pockets of sunshine along the forest floor.

We called it "Killing the Russians." Walking along, whacking away with our sticks and boots. Talking about boys and Kraft cheese slices and barrettes and homework. Talking about friends getting left out of the group.

"Kill the Russians," we'd yell charging to the next batch of rank plants along the water. Whack. Whack. Whack.

Looking up to see if the satellites were watching us. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. Talking about that.

Leaving the forest floor a carpet of green broken leaves and smashed yellow petals.

Kids don't know what they are doing sometimes. But there you go. My snippet. My tiny view into a larger piece of history. My input to the myriad of stories that contributes to our collective past.

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