Vernacularity 101

Editor’s Note: Dave Deming, a formidable creature of the Piedmont, crafted this inspiring post. Dave is a singular craftsman (he and I carve spoons together), scholar, multimodalist, and friend.  Imbibe his words slowly. 


I’ve been perusing this site for a while and wondering about the vernacular path. How do we get ourselves to a place where we automatically do for ourselves, rather than buy stuff from a store?

It’s daunting–if you want to sweeten your coffee or tea, do you need to learn the craft of beekeeping? Or get sugar cane to grow far north of the tropics? (Global Warming solves your sweetening woes!)

You could get there through study; there are books a million on the subject or online. But first, I think you need to feel the emotional strength and power of the do-it-yourself. And one of the easiest ways is when it’s thrust upon you.

Eleven years ago we had an ice storm come through our neighborhood. Power out immediately, exploding pines, roads blocked, silence on the highway. The half-dozen families of Mary Street gathered in the house with the largest living room. We pooled our pasta and cooked it at our house: everyone else had electric ranges. Ours is gas.

After carting the wild medley of macaroni, shells, linguine, and spaghetti across the street, we dug in and were merry. We told stories in the candlelight, gathered together. Our daughters sang, a trio of high-school harmony–a lark for them but a first hearing for the neighbors. Delightful.

It was the sort of thing that everybody did before tv’s and radios took over entertainment. We entertained ourselves.

That’s the way in. Think back to a time when you had no electricity and what you did to see, hear, eat, amuse yourself. A shortcut to the vernacular is simply to enjoy the absence of electricity. Ask any backpacker or mountaineer or shepherd. They’ll tell you the power of story and song.

Pin It