Friday, 10 January 2014

On simplicity and days gone by (part two)

Homeschooling hearkens back to "the good old days."  This week our family visited the National Museum of Play in Rochester.  My favourite room is "The Parlour," a life size version of a Victorian dollhouse.  There is an old iron wood stove, a wooden table to set, a pantry with beautiful tin canisters, a fireplace and a piano, old washing tubs and linens and ironing boards.  And bookshelves of books everywhere.  Juliette was ready for a nap, and the huge storm the previous night meant that the museum was almost deserted.  I settled into a large comfortable lounge chair and let Juliette fall asleep in my arms.  I picked up "Little House in the Big Woods" from the shelf and read for nearly three hours.

The setting and the book paired so beautifully hand in hand.  Here is a family, here is their home deep in the woods, here is isolation, here is work, here is play that mimics work, here are a few toys, here is a lot of love.  The hours passed in sibling play, or stories by the fire, or fiddled music and dancing, or dutifully fulfilling chores.

A close-knit family.  

Our trip also took us to some historic sites from our church history, pioneer homes rebuilt and refurnished.  White walls and wooden chairs, with herbs hanging in front of the fireplace.  One bedroom for the boys and one for the girls.  Eleven people moving in a small space, with many outdoor chores calling them from their four wooden walls.  The cold chill of winter pulling them back to one another, reading a bible, singing songs, sharing stories.

A close-knit family.

I look around at these settings of days gone by and fall in love with the beauty of its simplicity.  I start to mentally purge my own home.  "I don't need two where one will do" echoes in my mind like the rhythm of a train racing down its tracks.

Our lives today would rarely be categorized as simple.  And yet, I think we are the ones who complicate it.  We fill our calendar with events and our homes with stuff and our minds with gossip and worry and fear and anger and the constant drone of media.

Laura Ingalls Wilder describes most of her days as Pa going off to hunt or trap in the morning, Laura and her sister helping Ma get the house in order.  Then there might be cleaning or baking or sewing.  The children played with their one doll, or a cob of corn wrapped in a blanket for girls too young for such a toy.  Summer days meant romping through the woods.  Dinner is prepared and Pa returns.  More chores, then dinner, then stories and music and dancing.  Then the girls are tucked into bed for the day.

As Henry David Thoreau reminded us, our needs are basic and simple: food, shelter, clothing, fuel.  Speaking for myself and my own family, there need not be any stress or worry or fear in regards to the supply of these necessities.  We have more than enough.  More than an abundance.

(to be continued)

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