I was cleaning out an unused cupboard the other day and there, along with a slide projector, a box full of change ($219.50), and a bunch of outdated reference books, were those amazing, life-changing catalogs.I still remember when I paged through the first Catalog -- suddenly everything seemed possible. I could order a yurt. . . or a book on building a log cabin. Soil test kits, coffee grinders, a guide to film making, common sense childbirth arts and crafts, a ship captain's medical guide (useful when one is days or weeks from medical assistance,) Snugli baby carriers, underwater prospecting techniques, Cuisinaire rods, the I Ching . . .
Access to Tools, the Catalog's subtitle promised. And though I had a college degree, I quickly realized how very much more there was to learn. English lit was all very well but the Catalog laid out a tempting smorgasbord of potentialities -- art, craft, homesteading, design, engineering, practical philosophy. Our horizons expanded
Obviously, we were drawn to the back-to- the-land niche ( though there was a brief flirtation with the idea of living on a boat. . .) Many of the books on our shelves today were ordered on the Catalog's recommendation.
Now, of course, the Internet offers almost unlimited access to tools and learning. But I can't bring myself to part with these iconic bits of our past. And who knows -- they may yet inspire me toward something else.