Friday, June 29, 2007

A Rare Reprise.

Amid last minute packing for a three week trip to Croatia, I made a little time to scan the blogs for a final survey of the world I'm leaving. I thought it would remind me of how much I enjoy getting away from the U.S. political scene, but surprisingly I found this article, which made me more hopeful than anything else.

Combined with the video Left-Over posted below, I can actually start to envision the generation of my own 17 and 18 year old sons finally deciding to take back their future from the current mob of rich white males who have repeatedly tried to use the threat of terrorism to take it from them.

It won't be easy, as the levers of power are still turned against them, but time carries a power of its own (and how much time will it take to outlast the Dick Cheneys of the world anyway!)

All of which leads me back to a piece I wrote a little over a year ago, during my last trip to the small island in Croatia that will be my home for the next three weeks. I think it is very much related to the task ahead for the generation of my boys.

In that spirit, I'd like to re-post it here:

Building a Wall For the Future
(Originally posted 5/18/2006)

With an unexpected opportunity to blog off the clock while staying at a friend's house in Rijeka, Croatia, I've suddenly realized that the two main sources of inspiration for most of my posts here at Left-Over – a frequent rekindling of anger over the course that George Bush and his cronies have taken my country, and the consistently hilarious stupidity of the many lies offered by his defenders – just don't exist for me here!

I'm sure I could muster more anger and/or derisive laughter about the state of affairs in Croatian politics if I understood them better, and I don't want to be overly idealistic, but what I see here – at least in the small town life of the residents of Losinj – is a simple appreciation for hard work, and for the sometimes hidden, long-term benefits that go completely unvalued in American life.

For lack of time, and the building aggravation of using a keyboard that has letters scrambled like a game of musical keys, I will limit this post to a description of one example.

Every day of the last week, I have walked along a cobblestone path that leads to the house where I am staying at least three or four times. For the first few days, I kept noticing a man who was engaged in the task of building a stone wall. Working alone, he would mix a small batch of mortar, and carefully select each stone, probably weighing about 75-125 lbs each, to fit in the wall like a puzzle. Each time I passed, the span of wall about 20 feet long looked nearly identical to the last time, but after a couple of days it seemed about a foot higher.

After watching him for about 5 days, I finally asked the man how long he had been working on the wall. In broken English (fortunately, I've found that nearly everyone speaks at least "a leetle," which soundly beats my Croatian), he explained that he had been working on the wall for three weeks, "but only for about 4 hours per day." In 95 degree heat and no shade, I initially thought this to be a foolish endeavor, particularly since the island is loaded with trees, and one could build a wooden fence of similar length in about a half a day.

But then I tried to consider the long-term benefits of the rock wall. First of all, the island is also full of rocks, and they are essentially free – with a minimal need for processing. Further, moving the rocks into a wall frees up valuable soil for growing food. Wood, on the other hand, would have to be shipped to the island by boat or milled from the existing trees on the island, robbing it of its natural beauty. And the rock wall will be there for hundreds of years with little, if any, need to maintain it.

The rock wall just means that this guy has to invest a month in the hot sun stacking rocks – for benefits that will not be immediate, and are intended to be shared by future generations. But the rock wall will preserve, and even improve, the natural environment in which it is built.

Think about that for a minute: Investing for future generations in a way that preserves and improves the natural environment!

And the funny thing is, from what I've also seen while I've been here, this guy building the rock wall probably still had a state-of-the-art cell phone, a satellite dish on his house, and a new car with five or six cup holders!


  1. Well, I did not get this up before I left, so I'm posting it from Rijeka, where I have access to a friend's computer and web account.

    I do have a scheme to post a few more things from Losinj - using my Treo, a portable keyboard, a jump drive for my memory card, and a computer at a local hotel.

    We'll see how that goes!

  2. giraffe6:29 PM

    Have a brilliant time in your get away place, and come home refreshed. I shall look for your wisdom from beside the wall.