How Our Past Informs Our Future
The Willamette Valley
I grew up on a farm in the Willamette Valley off of the 99-W highway that runs south from Portland to Corvallis. It was the best childhood I could possibly have had. I was surrounded by fields of wheat and oak trees that nestled between the gently rolling hills. My parents loved horses and at one time we had twenty-one horses on our property. My sister and I knew all of their names and histories as they were racehorses and had lived a life before coming to our farm or they were colts that would soon train to be racehorses.
We lived in a house on the historic register. It was a typical two-story farmhouse with a porch in the front facing a circular gravel driveway. When we first moved there our house was heated by a wood stove, later we had electrical heat, but it was a drafty house, to say the least. We had a back porch off the kitchen, not to be confused with the front porch and it had a ringer washer. In the summer my mother would hang clothes on a clothesline, but this too was replaced eventually by a modern washing machine and electric dryer.
We had two barns and two other houses on the property for workers to live in. We had apple and cherry orchards and fields of wheat and alfalfa and a pond. Next door lived two bachelors. They had a beautiful two-story white house and a peach orchard. They did not have electricity or a phone. The rest of the house was surrounded by fields as far as the eye could see.
My mother had a garden in the summer with watermelons, strawberries, tomatoes, corn, and zucchini. She would spend the summer canning and preserving the fruits and vegetables from our land and I would help her. In the fall we had hazelnuts and walnuts that would be put in burlap bags and stored for the winter. My mother liked to cook and bake, making countless cookies, pies, cakes, and even candy.
This was in the 1970s. My parents retired to the farm after living in Europe for several years, but my father had been influenced by the farm of his family in Illinois, although he lived with his family in the city and my mother was from Eastern Canada and she too grew up in a city, so the farm was a fantasy and long-held dream for both of them. My mother looked at the farm as more of a hobby rather than a lifestyle, so she wore silk capri pants and beaded slippers around the house and my sister and I wore dresses with giant butterflies in bright colors and our white go-go boots to school. My mother played the Beatles and drove around in a red 1966 Mustang Fastback. My parents certainly brought city life to the rural community in which they landed, but I was encouraged as a child to value nature and its bounty which I have done my entire life.
As I said it was the best childhood I could have asked for, and the best part was the animals. We had a dog named Sport named after the nickname of the main character in the Great Gatsby novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I was six I was given a Lilac Siamese cat for Christmas. I woke up that morning to this kitten, and I named her Lilac. We also had dozens of barn cats. We had these animals, plus horses, cows, and sheep. We especially liked the gentle and slow-moving sheep. We named one after our babysitter Shirley and would ride her around the backyard.
Now, I am back in the city. Cities also have their charms, especially San Francisco. I can walk down Mission Street and see something new every day in the architecture. The people though are what is most fascinating. Initially, I was enthralled with the homeless population, but now they are just a part of the richly textured landscape of city life.
I am learning new things from the people I am meeting who are from all over the world. It is true that you don’t know what you don’t know. I am learning things that I didn’t even know existed. Everyone that I am spending time with now is from a foreign country and being curious makes it an education just speaking with them about their life. Needless to say, I am finding living in San Francisco fascinating, and it’s the best thing I could have ever done as we are all shaped by our experiences, and living here has allowed me to grow in unexpected ways.
There is a timelessness to farms and watching the seasons change, the earth goes silent in winter and blooms again in spring, and the city in its own way is no different. It adapts and changes, as do people.
You can’t connect the dots moving forward, but can only see them looking back.Steve Jobs
I am now looking back at my life and connecting the dots. I think the love of nature was ingrained in me in my early childhood and has influenced me in my work. It has made me a champion of the environmental protection movement to preserve what is most precious to us for the future. This inspires my sportswear brand every day and “be the change you want to see in the world,” is my mantra.
Love and blessings to all.
3 thoughts on “Influences of Early Childhood”
This is so beautifully written, Sydney. One can feel the love you have for nature and animals. It comes from the heart.
Thank you so much. It is from my heart entirely. I really appreciate your comment! You made me day!
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It’s always a pleasure! You made mind with this beautiful post.
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