Friday, August 29, 2008
One Room Living
There is a photograph by the famous photographer Lewis Hine that I have been thinking about all week. For those of you not familiar with his work, Hine worked during the early 1900s capturing images of tenement life in NYC, of child labor, and later on of mining life, life of the steel workers in the 1930s, and life in rural TN. His work is amazing. He also captured the building of the Empire State Building. He photographed these men on break from their work in the early 1930s.
So. This photo on my mind. It is of an immigrant family living in the New York City Tenements in the early 1900s--likely between 1906-08, which is when Hine was working and photographing there. It's a powerful image; there are seven people in the family, and they are living in one small room. They are smiling in the photograph, or at least the children are. The "facilities" were outside in an alley, as was a communal sink. Obviously this latter info was not in the photo--I just remember reading about it. The photo on its own is both devastating and uplifting, if that's possible. Upon looking at it you think about how much people can withstand, and how much we take for granted in our modern, comfortable, middle class lives.
This week I have lived in one room with my husband, three kids and two big dogs. I will live this way for awhile, it seems! At first I was just overwrought. How can I do this? But last night as I listened to my children's heavy breathing as they slept, smelled my old dog's stinky farts she busily emitted from beneath our bed, and looked over at the glowing computer screen that was doing duty as a night light, I was at peace. It's okay. It could be so much worse. I am NOT LIVING IN THAT PHOTOGRAPH, but like the family in that photograph, I can make the best of this. Hell, if they can, I certainly can! At least I don't have to shit in an public alley or wash my body and my dishes in a sink used by thirty other tenement families!
This one by Hine is of tenement boys taking time off their street jobs to play a pick-up game of ball with materials found on the street. This one, too, makes me think. My kids are in heaven right now--the irony! They love living in one room, they love our construction site lawn, they love finding inappropriate things to play with and using them in their games. I know it's cliche and trite to say, but kids don't need that much to make them happy. Food in their bellies, love from parents or caretakers, education, other kids with whom to make up games. (And actually, the boys in the photo probably didn't always have food in their bellies, and definitely didn't have education, which though available, was not usually possible as they were needed by their families to work.) They didn't have their own rooms with their own toys and 8 million after school lessons and the perfect, manicured lawn with a soccer goal and a basketball hoop. Know what I mean?
In short, it will be fine.
In tri world:
I've done some GREAT swimming workouts this week. Thanks, Jen! They are tough, and fun, and keep me focused. I'm loving swimming more than I ever have.
Too bad triathlon is really all about the bike and the run!!! ha ha.