I was in the eaves of my house the other day. I don't go in there very often, but I keep old furniture in there, and had some items I wanted to tuck away. I should've looked first, but I went in head first and got a faceful of spider webs. Ick, ack, yuck!
I swept it out and stored the furniture, plus discovered about 100 years of Grandpa's National Geographics. I thought back to lazy days on his porch, listening to old folks talk about the usual things while I looked at African women's breasts, Indian women's nose rings, Eskimo's harpoons, South American pyramids, and Russian mummies.
My sister thought the nose ring was very cool and wanted one. Dad said something decisively prohibitive. I said it wasn't very practical since it had a golden chain looped to an earring. Picture climbing a tree with a chain hanging out of your face! What if you got in a fight and your opponent had a ring? I vividly imagined a bleeding nose and decided this kind of jewelry was foolishness. Sis understood suffering for beauty. I rejected the concept. If the number of people with nose rings these days mean anything, more people think like Sis these days. She was clearly a trend setter.
I know I'm not alone in having my world expanded by National Geographic. I looked into the eyes of people far away and felt their humanity even though I lived in a lily white area and the only black person I'd met was Santa Claus. I saw women archeologists, deep sea divers, anthropologists, and animal watchers and knew I could grow up to be whatever I wanted to be.
A friend of mine rejected a job offer with National Geographic. As a photographer, how could he possibly walk away from such an opportunity?! "I didn't want to lay on my belly in a swamp for weeks just to get the perfect photo of an alligator staring me in the eyes." Well, I suppose that makes sense. But still, I'm glad somebody is willing to do it. My world was larger and more inclusive because of their sacrifices.
I talked with someone about selling Grandpa's magazines once. I was told everyone saved their National Geographics, so there really isn't much value to them. Financial value that is, because I still value being able to look at them. They're beautiful and they make me 10 years old again on Grandpa's front porch with the delicious aroma of Grandma cooking lunch wafting in. I'd be willing to sell the really early magazines before photos though.
There's also something beautiful in the fact that many people saved their collections. I'm glad so many appreciated expanding their worlds through the work of scientists, writers, and photographers. It was worth a faceful of spider webs in my eaves to remind me of their efforts.
There's been much talk of bigotry and chauvinism this week. Maybe more people need to dust off their pile of National Geographics and look into the eyes of people who might look different, but are humans with feelings, hopes, and dreams?