Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 11/10/2011 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - Dinner with Friends

Martha's Big Adventure — Dinner with Friends

By Martha Randolph Carr

There are a lot of good things to say about the advances of travel by plane, train or car around America. Getting from one place to another has become more reliable, faster and cheaper. We move like ants in a giant anthill from Chicago to Disney World or Buffalo to San Antonio. It's no big deal.

We can be there to support someone going through a loss or an illness or be present at a wedding or retirement party.

Sure, there are stories of planes sitting on tarmacs for entire days with no working toilet, food or water and the cost of fuel has driven up the price of every mode of transportation. However, compared to the perils that faced earlier generations to just arrive at their destination alive or in one piece, we have it a lot better.

But everything has a consequence that's generally unforeseen when we first start tinkering with something. Sometimes we can live with the consequences because the changes far outweigh the previous conditions.

Occasionally we really manage to make a mess of things, usually when we're messing with an ecosystem like the introduction of foxes to the Aleutian Island to help increase the fur trade. The foxes started feasting on the seabirds that were easy prey, reducing their numbers. Over time the people noticed that the grasslands were suffering. It turns out that the volcanic soils needed the nutrient-rich bird droppings in order to support the grass.

A more apparent problem for anyone who drives through the south is the ground cover, kudzu that was planted by farmers starting in 1935 to battle soil erosion. After the Dust Bowl soil erosion seemed like the bigger of the two problems but now kudzu is swallowing entire acres at a fast clip, covering abandoned barns, trees and everything else in its path. The cost of combating the plant is estimated to be in the billions.

History has shown that whenever we mess with the ecosystem we get our hand slapped by Mother Nature. The ability to overcome air, land and water has a small sting as well.

For the first time in the history of man's existence we became able to easily get up and move without having to consider quite so much what the impact would be on everyone but our immediate family. Elderly parents, older siblings, even cousins or grandparents were still important but we could tell ourselves that they were a quick plane ride away.

Families started to scatter and put down their own roots hundreds of miles away. Too far to just drive over without a bit of planning or an overnight stay.

There was an era when most family trees were rooted in one spot and the branches only spread out as far as neighboring counties, at most. The time it took to travel combined with the expense and the peril kept most people nearby and created a lifestyle that served them in ways we're just starting to understand.

One of the most popular studies that looked into the importance of lifestyle to not only our quality but our length of life as well was by Dan Buettner, author of the Blue Zones, He wanted to know why some people were living longer and doing it so much better than the rest of us. Out of his work with National Geographic came nine principles to live by and one of them was keep your family close.

There's no one like a relative to put your nerves on edge or make you mumble to yourself out on the porch while you take a break from the Thanksgiving table. But, surprisingly, there's also nothing like family to give us a general sense of safety, connectedness and well-being.

These days, the changes that were wrought by modern travel have now been thrown asunder by the Great Recession and not many of us have the extra funds to get on a plane or spend a lot at the gas tanks. Social media like Skype is bridging a little of that gap but the wonderful moments that take place in between the big events require someone to be present.

I'm one of those who traveled far afield to the Mid-West from the East Coast and my only family is my son, Louie who lives right down the street from me. However, Louie's 24 and doesn't need his mother hanging out at his parties. It's been up to me to go out and meet people, say hello to neighbors and keep inviting people into my home in order to create a sort of family.

Last night everyone in my building planned a potluck at my place and sat around my table laughing and getting to know each other better. The guys even washed and dried afterwards. They may not be blood-related to me but when we let go of how things ought to look, we can often find exactly what we need and this new style of family was only a staircase away. More adventures to follow. Tweet me @MarthaRandolph and tell me about what your family looks like. Email Martha at

© 2011 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

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