material culture


there is this great book, 'material world: a global family portrait' written by peter menzel and charles mann.  i bought it as part of our montessori homeschooling program many years ago-- but it is one of the few books from that era that i have kept.  in it there are family portraits from all over the world.  each portrait is of a family in front of their dwelling with ALL of their material possessions out there with them.  some families have multiple generations or more than one nuclear family in their household, some families have LOTS of stuff, most families, no matter where in the world they live, have televisions.  along with each portrait is a several page description of that family and their lives-- some families have designated cooks, some families work long seventeen hour days at factories, most families send their children to school.

i was reminded of this book a few nights ago when my daughters and i watched 'the cave of the yellow dog' about a girl and her family in mongolia.  the family live in a yurt with the most beautiful belongings-- and they have herds of sheep and cattle, and eventually, a dog.  at the end of the film, as it is the end of the summer, the family pack up to move to another location for the winter.  they pack all their belongings, then they dismantle their house, piece by piece-- and pack it as well.  all of it (including the motorcycle that they use for quick trips (48 hours) to town to sell sheep skins or to buy a newspaper and supplies-- but which gets put in a cart for their fall journey) fits into six ox-drawn carts.  small carts, most of them, big enough for a child to sleep in on top of all the blankets-- the parents ride horses to herd the flock, and the oxen are lead by foot.

this made me wonder how many carts it would take to carry all of my family's belongings, especially if we could dismantle our house and take it as well.  not as many as some in north america would use, but definitely a lot more than 6 carts....

-mary-moore.

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