Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Sampler

Tomorrow lives! Photo courtesy Flickr

In the day of gender-specific low-tech education, every girl learned embroidery. By age seven, a diligent child could design and execute a meticulous, thread-counted sampler of cross-stitched prose and illustration-textile pixels. Doing that kind of work strengthens concentration. Rose Wilder Lane’s Woman’s Day Book of American Needlework is an encyclopedic collection of traditional skills and design strategies. Ms. Lane’s mother wrote the influential Little House on the Prairie series.

Last week-end’s network discussion of epidemic management and recently discovered shortcomings in handling the smallpox virus remind me of pre-penicillin ways of coping with micro-organisms at home and in a medical setting. Infection control was in the hands of women whose early training was in meticulous needle skills. Very hot water and very hot irons kept bacteria at bay. Viruses had not yet been identified. The health and domestic communities knew that one false move was all it would take to open a vulnerable person to contagion. The health and domestic communities were also aware that good nutrition, exercise, and clean air maintained resistance to infection. Cultivating health is as gentle, straightforward, and demanding as cultivating edible plants. It’s also a tricky challenge in the face of the demands placed on attention by an interconnected world.

Medical preparedness is yet another factor to juggle in the face of dozens of demands on domestic resources. Setting up an easy spot for home nursing is the fundamental kind of readiness that simplifies maintenance, eliminates disquieting uncertainties, smooths the flow of daily life, and simplifies entertaining overnight visitors.


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