Baskets: Unacknowledged Accomplishments

I learned the mantra — Art is a product of the culture — from Prof. Clemens Sommer in my Art History course at UNC-Chapel Hill. It has always resonated for me. From my perspective as an economist, it has taken on a special meaning that I would like to share with you. Art is like any other product. To be created it must go through a process of production. That process requires some of the limited time, energy, skills, tools, equipment, materials and other resources that are available locally at the time. The primary use for those inputs is to provide the goods and services the population needs to take care of itself just to survive. Art comes along afterward.

For any individual to be able create art there has to be a Surplus. Surplus is the time, energy, resources and funds (TERF) you have left over after taking care of yourself and fulfilling any obligations and commitments that were taken on. Not only does the concept apply to individuals, the concept applies to a society as a whole as well.Some of the surplus TERF can be used to produce art. Notably, when the art is sold that increases income and adds to the surplus.Typically art is not part of current consumption. Consequently producing any art requires a surplus.

It is from that perspective that I would like to re-examine Prof. Sommer’s mantra with you in the context of what happened on the small, mountainous tropical 19 1/2 sq.mi. island in the Caribbean known as St. John. St. John, along with its larger sister islands, St. Thomas and St. Croix, were originally part the Danish West Indies. Today they are part of the US Virgin Islands. In earlier years, because of the nature of transportation and communication, St. John was quite isolated, especially when boats were under sail and there were no phones and no internet.

Evidence of art on St. John reaches back into prehistoric times. Art is etched in stone in Reef Bay as petroglyphs. They tell us of the existence and a little bit about a culture that existed at the time. Not only did these ancient artists have the creative imagination, skills and tools to create artwork, the culture also had to have the sufficient surplus time, energy, and resources to make this art possible. A St. John artist, David Ferguson, many, many, many years later copied the images of these petroglyphs and put them on a T-shirt, which I have gladly worn for many years. During the historic period, centuries later, St. John had a very important art form — St. John baskets. They were around long before paper and plastic bags. Baskets are typically thought of as functional items however, some baskets have reached level of high end art.

Continue reading “Baskets: Unacknowledged Accomplishments”

The Adjustments: The Last Chapter

After revisiting the previous blog post entitled Lesson from Lauren I realized there was an important additional lesson to learn. I’m 92 and never expected to be here. I’ve outlived everyone in my family, including my son, Paul. One thing is guaranteed. Sometime in the future I will die. That is true for each of us. I have no idea when that will be.

I do know that I am in the last chapter of the book entitled “My Life”. There is no way of knowing how long the chapter will be. Given my age is likely to be relatively short, 10 years at most. During that time I want to take responsibility for and take care of myself. When I Copy of Copy of Copy of Untitled-4need assistance to fill the gaps that come along with aging, I want to be able to compensate those who provide that assistance. For more about the effects of those changes check out my prior blog post entitled Giving Up Driving.

The balance of my surplus will be devoted to hanging out and interacting with those who want to spend time with me and writing about the ideas I want to share with others, including my blog posts. I accomplish that by talking to my computer and editing on a large screen.

The COVID-19 pandemic as made many things more difficult. As a part of the more vulnerable segment of the population, I have decided to self-isolate. That along with my decreased flexibility in going where I want to go, how much rest I need, etc. requires more of my limited TERF. These days people have to come to see me or we have to Zoom or talk on the phone. We can’t just get together, go to a restaurant and hang out over a meal. I still go to the Farmers Market — with a mask on. That is all part of my current reality.

Each of us must choose the path that we are comfortable with, paying attention to the uncertainty that the new and novel Corona-virus brings along with it. That path determines the outcomes that we will face. Remember, that you always give up whatever else an alternative path using the equivalent amount of TERF would have provided. Whoops, there I go is an economist again.

I woke up one morning last week in a really comfortable place. At my age and stage I’ve pursued my objectives, developed fine relationships and look forward to what the future will bring. That includes hanging out with those who want to spend time with me and coming up with new ideas that I’d like to share with others — including blog posts like this one. But I sure do miss the HUGS.

 

Copy of Copy of Untitled-5

Lesson from Lauren

orange leaf on branch
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

Here I am at 92 still learning important lessons. Let me tell you a story. As things have changed, like not being able to drive and the deterioration of my vision due to an inflamed retina and Age-Related Macular Degeneration, I realized that I needed additional assistance to to do some of the things I used to be able to do on my own. I got in touch with an organization that hires out companion care for seniors. They provided me with a delightful assistant. Her name is Lauren.

I arranged for Lauren to come by every Monday from 2 to 4 PM. Typically, Lauren and I would jump into her vehicle do some chores, including the week’s shopping. Lauren, just 26, quickly learned the things I like. Moreover, she is a delight to work with and to be with. One time we picked up a nice piece of salmon. We got back to the house and began preparing dinner. I was pan broiling the salmon and the LP gas ran out! Luckily, my next-door neighbor, Deborah, said that we could use her electric stove. Lauren and I carried the pots over and finished the preparations. We sat down to dinner together and cleaned up afterward. What a delight.

When we were ordered by our governor to stay-at-home because of COVID-19, Lauren went to Trader Joe’s and picked up everything I needed for the week. I was set. However, a few weeks later Lauren did not show up at our normal time. I found out from her supervisor, Ann, that Lauren had a fever and would not be available for a couple of weeks. Ann provided a backup. Continue reading “Lesson from Lauren”

Unbelievable Opportunities

IMG_0801Let me begin by telling you a story about Bill Daigle. Bill was raised on a farm in Minnesota. He was born in 1954, one of 14 siblings. Bill got his training in mechanical drawing. Initially that is how he made his living. He shifted jobs to become a salesman for a nonprofit life insurance company, working his way up the line into management. The company moved Bill from Minnesota to Arkansas and eventually to North Carolina, where he “retired” in 1989. Bill built himself a home with a studio where he lives with his second wife, Paula.

Every day, at 65, Bill does just what he always wanted to do, namely, work in wood. Bill calls himself “The Chairman”. Have a look at some pictures of Bill’s work.

On Saturdays you will find my friend, Bill at the Carrboro Farmers Market, where he displays and sells his work and watches the young children playing on a footstool or with a wooden plane or truck, sometimes under a parent‘s watchful eye. That’s where we met.

Bill is doing what he loves doing and uses his unique skills and expertise to produce products others like. If he elects to sell the work, he gets some bucks on the side. That’s not too bad. He can use the extra money to help take care of himself and his family, and to do the additional things they like doing.

Can you imagine yourself as a “retiree” and being in Bill’s position? That is, spending your days doing what you love doing and selling the work — the products and/or the services — to others who are willing to pay your asking price. As an aside, they are willing to give up that amount of money just to get your work.

Continue reading “Unbelievable Opportunities”

A New Way to Keep Track

If you are a regular reader of my blog, than you already know about my fondness for the island of St. John, where I lived for 18 years. You will also know about the relationships I developed on St. John with the native West Indians and my collection of baskets. If you don’t know this about me, then I’d welcome you to check out some of my previous blog posts, which will get you up to date.

When I arrived on St. John in 1987, I was looking for evidence of what the island was like before I got there. One of the things that was very helpful were the pictures taken by the internationally famous photographer, Fritz Henle. Fritz lived on St. Croix and visited St. John in the 1940s and 60s. He gave me copies of 67 of his photos to help understand what the life, lifestyle, livelihood and the people on St. John were like at the time.

In order to get a comprehensive understanding of what the Fritz Henle photo collection had to offer, I got some help from a media specialist and photographer named Grace Camblos. With her help, we put together a spreadsheet. It provided a way to identify the components of the collection along with images and information about them. A copy of the spreadsheet is attached. It was very helpful in making decisions of how to handle the collection, which is still in my possession and contains vital components of my basket collection.

I found the spreadsheet so useful that it occurred to me that it might also be useful for others. A spreadsheet that contains images and additional information can be helpful to fulfill many objectives. Here are some additional ways that I think that an artist or craftsperson would find this approach helpful:

Continue reading “A New Way to Keep Track”

The Adjustments: Significant Changes

aloneLet me tell you about two recent experiences that have brought about significant changes in my life. They are, in fact, caused by important changes in the lives of two friends over which they had no control. The only thing I could do was to change my behavior and adapt to the new circumstances.

I met Wanda at a local craft show shortly after returning to Carrboro from the USVI’s. Typically Wanda and I would get together once a week. We’d hang out and have lunch together. Either I’d drive up to Hillsborough or she would come down to Carrboro. After I decided to stop driving, Wanda made the weekly trip to Carrboro and after lunch she would take me to Trader Joe’s to pick up the things I needed.

One day about a month ago, while she was driving in Hillsborough she passed out at the wheel and had an accident. Luckily no one was hurt. It is not clear what caused the problem. Wanda’s driver’s license was suspended for at least six months.

With me no longer driving that really changed things. Not only were we not able to get together on a weekly basis, I could no longer take advantage of the support she has provided. That has resulted in an important change in our socialization pattern and has required me to seek help elsewhere. Moreover, I could not drive to Hillsborough to give her a hand.

I have another friend, Sarah, whom I met at the Farmers Market. Sarah is a really fine, creative craftsperson. She is her family’s principal wage earner with a full-time job on the staff of Blue Cross-Blue Shield. She has three adult children, two of whom are married. They all live in the Portland, OR area. Two have medical issues. Last year when her son developed a life-threatening condition, Sarah went out to take care of him.

When he improved she came back to the area, only to learn that her ex-husband, who lived here on the property with her, developed medical issues as well. Amazingly, she has been able to perform her job and take care of all the problems as well. What she has had to put on the back burner was her passion — her art.

Before all this happened Sarah I hung out together at the Farmers Market every Saturday. We developed a really nice relationship. Not only do we have a common interest in art and craft, we have a special way of communicating with one another. From time to time we had lunch together. When Sarah invited me to her studio I’d jump into the MINI and off I’d go.

Understandably, Sarah has been overwhelmed by what has happened and I’ve barely seen her since. A couple of times we’ve been able to hang out briefly when we were both shopping at the Market.

With both Wanda and Sarah, the things that have happened in their lives have limited our time together. They were things that none of us had any control over. Our time together was and is very important to me. It is up to me to find ways to fill the gap that opens up when the help or services they provided are no longer available.

The new, current circumstances, over which I have no control, limit my independence, freedom and flexibility. They also make it more difficult for me to take care of myself. To accommodate to the new reality I am more reliant on others and have to make arrangements for their assistance. Some of my limited disposable time, energy, resources and funds (TERF) have to be used up to accommodate to the new conditions and to compensate those who provide assistance.

The thing that bothers me the most about these situations is that I can’t do what I really want to — namely, to jump into the MINI, hang out with my friends, and give them a hand. Not driving not only makes it harder for me to get the support and services I need, but makes it harder to me to support the people I care about. All I can do is adjust to the new circumstances as best I can. Which, trust me, is more difficult as we age.

Welcome to 2020

When I was growing up in the 1930s and 40s, 20/20 meant that you had perfect vision. We’ve just reached 2020 and I just turned 92 years young. Obviously, 2020 now has a different meaning. Trust me, I never expected to make it to this age! Moreover, my vision is not perfect! In order to help it along I havebernie and Grace five pairs of glasses and a large monitor in order to read the large print on the computer screen. Just as a reminder, we did not have computers, the Internet, smartphones or GPS at the time.

Over my 92 years I’ve gotten considerable experience. In spite of that, there are a very few things I can assure you of. I do know that sometime in the future I will die; that is a certainty. My extended experience does give me a somewhat different perspective on things, and that is what I enjoy sharing with you all in my blog. My sincere hope is that my posts will improve your understanding of the things that are important to you.

Welcome to 2020, the opening of a new decade. One filled with chaos and hostility. Let’s hope that at the beginning of the next one, 10 years from now, we have arrived at a very different position, like the one advocated by Wendell Wilkie when he ran for President sixty years ago. Namely, that we are all part of “One World”. Let’s make it a world filled with Peace and Love. I’m not sure whether I’ll be around to see it, but I’m committed to working towards building a world community based on reciprocal love and respect. Let’s work together to see if we can make it happen.

The Adjustments: Giving Up Driving

miniFrom the time my son, Paul, was a teenager his passion was cars. Eventually he set up a business repairing foreign cars. When I got back up to the States after being in the USVI’s, he suggested and arranged for me to get a 2006 British racing green MINI Cooper S. Boy, was he right on. The MINI fit my minimalist lifestyle perfectly. It is small, compact and comfortable and has the extra power and space when needed. All that at 33 miles per gallon on the road. How about that! The MINI was right there when I needed it. I jumped into the car and took off. The MINI supported my independence and flexibility. And, it is great to look at to boot.

However, I have a condition called Aging Macular Degeneration (AMD), and a little over a year ago I had a cataract operation on my right eye. I developed an inflamed retina. The inflamed retina did not respond to the initial treatment. At the doctor’s recommendation we followed through with the next step — an injection of the medication directly into the eyeball. Two days later a haze developed over my right eye. There was no clear explanation and eventually the haze went away and a mild version of the inflamed retina came back. Continue reading “The Adjustments: Giving Up Driving”

The Adjustments: An Opportunity

Change, especially unexpected change, brings along with it the question of “Where do I go from here?” Often along with it comes a sense of hesitation, anxiety and, perhaps, even fear. Adjusting to the new situation can certainly take up a considerable amount of one’s limited disposable time, energy, resources and funds (TERF). That is even more likely when it is a type of change one hasn’t experienced previously.

As I’ve gotten older, I experienced all kinds of changes. Some are difficult, like not being able to drive—which I will write about in an upcoming blog post; diminishing vision, and feeling more isolated. Some of the changeschange present new and unexpected opportunities. In this series of blog posts called “The Adjustments” I’ll tell you about some of the changes I am currently going through and how I am navigating them. I will also share with you some of the major changes I’ve experienced throughout my life and how the decisions I made during those times affected the course of my life. I want to begin by telling you a story where I experienced a major change that led to new, unexpected opportunities.

In December of 1986, a month after my mother died, I went to St. John, USVI to sort things out. My middle son, Paul was there with me. After a very productive couple of weeks, it was time to head back to the states. We were standing in the bow of the boat heading back from Cruz Bay to Red Hook on our way to catch the flight from St. Thomas back up to the States. I turned to Paul and the words out of his mouth were “Yes, I know Dad.” I was about to tell him that I had decided to move to St. John. Six months later I did just that. I lived there for 18 years with no intention of ever leaving. Continue reading “The Adjustments: An Opportunity”

The Adjustments

earthTrust me, aging brings change along with it. Some of the changes are predictable, others not. In the hope of helping us learn better ways to deal with change, I would like to share with you the experiences I’m going through and how I am adapting to the changes they bring about.

To do that I am starting a new series of blog posts entitled “The Adjustments”. It is designed to address the issues that I am facing associated with aging and how I am adapting to them — sometimes successfully and sometimes less so.

For each of us one thing is certain. At some time in the future we will die. When I was growing up in the 1930s Social Security –a.k.a., Old Age Benefits (OAB) –- was just introduced. They came into play at 65. The expectation was that you might make it to that age, or perhaps longer. My dad died at 68. The bottom line is that the amount of time we have left here on Mother Earth is uncertain. I certainly can attest to that at 91, going on 92. For each of us that opens up the question “What do we want to do during the rest of our lives?” There’s another way is to ask that question. In light of the uncertainty, how do we want to use our limited remaining time, energy, resources and funds (TERF).

I’ve addressed the question and here’s what I’ve come up with. Let me begin by telling you a little about myself.  I call myself a nominally retired economist. I have lived alone here in Carrboro in a two-bedroom ground-floor apartment for the last 15 years. One of the bedrooms serves as my office-study-studio-playspace. I am pretty much able to do all the things necessary to take care of myself on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis with some occasional help. (You can see more about me in the blog post entitled “Me–Then ’til Now“). My primary objective is to do just that — that is, to take responsibility for and take care of myself and when I require assistance, to compensate those who provide it. Most of my remaining disposable time, energy, resources and funds (TERF) are used in finding ways in which, based on my background, experience, and expertise, I can help others. The books, essays, video and blog posts on this blog are a part of my contribution. My plan is to continue on that path. Hopefully that will be part of my legacy. Continue reading “The Adjustments”