I hate to use the phrase “simpler times” because having to make your own soap out of a pig’s carcass and ashes doesn’t sound simpler to me at all. But after reading Laura Ingall’s darling recounts of what her life was like as a little girl growing up in late 1800’s makes me yearn for something, well, I don’t know…simpler.
I’ve been reading “Little House in the Big Woods” to my children at bedtime all week. I was worried they might find life in the deep Wisconsin woods way-back-when less than eventful. I mean, how could corn husk dolls and watching Pa make bullets on the hearth possibly compare with the exciting lives of the wizards and demigods they usually read about?
It compares pretty well, actually. My children seem to bask in the cozy, warm feeling Laura describes when her Pa rests his rifle on the hook and his chin on his fiddle. Storms rage, bears lurk and pumas stalk mere feet away from their merry little cabin, but Laura feels absolutely safe. The logs are thick and their fire burns bright and the fiddle sounds so cheerful, all is well.
I’ve decided what makes the time seem simpler, even though Laura describes in detail how Ma and Pa have kill, smoke and cure their own meats for winter (i.e., not simpler) is this: every danger posed to that little family is clear and present and Ma and Pa know exactly how to combat it.
For example, Pa never leaves the house without his gun and always keeps it cleaned and loaded hanging over the front door of the cabin. When his girls see just how long it takes to reload, he tells them that is why he is very careful to kill with his first shot. You certainly don’t want to make a bear mad and then need a full 30 seconds to reload.
I can’t help but ask, do I, as a Ma, keep a symbolic rifle loaded and ready at the door? At the TV? At the computer? Do I try to kill the evil that stalks my children with the very first shot, knowing there may not be time to reload?
The focus of the Ingall’s entire year is preparing for the winter. Growing food, hunting for food, and putting up food for when the snow falls is what 9 months out of the year are for as far as they’re concerned.
Am I helping to prepare my family for our winters ahead? Everything from finance know-how to education to spiritual commitment to health and nutrition–am I helping to prepare for our winters to come? Everyday just like the Ingall’s?
And I would envy the Ingall’s Sabbath if it wasn’t a sin to do so. All work is put away and I mean all work. The meals are served cold and the mending box is left closed. For them the Sabbath truly is simpler in every sense of the word and I think it’s wonderful.
Because of their solitude, there are no nosy neighbors, no bullies or bad influences disguised as friends to complicate things. There is no one to compare themselves to, no one to judge. Not one of the girls ever throws a tantrum or threatens to run away because there is nowhere to run to that isn’t peppered with cougar tracks.
The dangers in their deeps woods are real and recognizable and therefore prepared for. There is little life in the big woods throws at them that a well greased rifle or a hot potato in their pocket can’t fix.
And that is what makes my kids sigh and nestle down into their downy duvets at night as they listen to these stories–this idea of a larger than life Pa as their protector and a calm and sure Ma as their nurturer. Bear tracks and snow can swirl all around them, but there in the cabin there is plenty of time to play with rag dolls and time enough to make snow candy from the molasses.
Which they only lick, never bite, so it lasts as long as possible. We’ll be sad when the series is over.
But rest assured, we’ll be making snow candy this winter for sure.