When I was a kid, there was a wheat field a few miles west of town that belonged to John S. McAlester and Co. When my grandpa took us for a Sunday drive in his Studebaker Starliner, we cruised for almost half an hour passing those amber waves of grain. Grandpa would put his hand out the window, hold his palm against the wind like a stop sign, and say, “Twenty families used to farm here. There go the Wilsons… and the Knowles… the Wainwrights… the Graves… my old friend, James Casey, raised three generations right here… That’s what used to be.”
Now when Chip and I drive by the same stretch of land, I say, “See all these houses? This used to be one big wheat field. Belonged to McAlester Co. They sold it off, acre by acre, and you could almost see, like a slow time-lapse, rows of wheat turn into rows of houses. That’s what used to be.”
I wonder what Chip will say, 30 years from now, when he drives along this same road? What else will have changed by then?
Wouldn’t it be great if you had to take a class when you moved into a new community? Learn about the land, the culture, the people who came before you. Understand that you are part of a bigger picture. Sure, human society is an abstract painting. But abstract paintings can be as intentional as a Vemeer. You don’t just throw more paint on the canvas. You consider the colors and shapes and patterns that already exist, then add your own to the ongoing Portrait of Us.
Understanding the stories that preceded our own might just make us live a little differently, to consciously shape the stories we will leave behind. And if nothing else, it’d be a lot of fun.
Hmm. I wonder if I could get that on the town ballot. Think I’ll head to City Hall and find out.