“As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then. It is not the things you have that make you happy. It is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good.”
-Laura Ingalls Wilder
My oldest daughter and I have started reading the Little House books. She lies next to me, barely breathing – making sure not to miss one word. I read a few chapters aloud. She likes hearing about the sisters and how the family seems to all take care of each other. Little C actually sat still for a few minutes tonight as I read the part when the family thinks a wolf is about to attack their camp and Pa gets his gun ready to keep everyone safe, but it ends up being their faithful dog, “Jack” who they thought they lost when they crossed a deep creek earlier that day. Oh, the adventure and mystery of a life so unknown to the generation raised on iPhones, Wii’s and Wi-Fi!
Re-visiting this amazing piece of literature from my childhood calms my spirit. I have always known the Little House books were great but when I last read them, I guess I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the deep and poetic language. Wilder describes the landscape in beautiful detail…but not too much detail, just enough to set a child’s imagination free. This is a gentle push over the edge and before they know it, they are listening and falling in love with words and stories.
I’ve come across a few sentences in which I had to stop and just let the words soak into my girls hearts. In the story, the journey has begun and as the first day is coming to a close, the reader is given this nugget, “That prairie looked as if no human eye had ever seen it before. Only the tall wild grass covered the endless empty land and a great empty sky arched over it. Far away the sun’s edge touched the rim of the earth. The sun was enormous and it was throbbing and pulsing with light. All around the sky’s edge ran a pale pink glow, and above the pink was yellow, and above that blue. Above the blue the sky was no color at all. Purple shadows were gathering over the land, and the wind was mourning.” The wind was mourning. Wow. There just aren’t any words for literature like that. Simple yet amazingly beautiful.
At another point in the story, the girls think their dog has drowned and they question their mom asking if Jack can go to heaven. She doesn’t know what to say, then Pa says, “Yes, Laura, he can. God that doesn’t forget the sparrows won’t leave a good dog like Jack out in the cold.” Theology in a nutshell? Perhaps not but it comes close. Such a beautiful paraphrase of scripture. (Can you tell that I’m kinda in love with this book right now???)
There is one line, in particular that grabbed my attention more than any of them tonight. Pa is getting the fire ready so dinner can be made and he is careful not to set the country side on fire by being careless. He says, “Best be on the safe side, it saves trouble in the end.” This sentence could sum up so much of life couldn’t it? It feels like a proverb. Be on the safe side – you’ll be better off in the long run.