Thursday, September 3, 2009

Little house

I think the worst part about moving is not knowing where my stuff is. I know it's here but where? It's like searching for the needle in the haystack. I rely very heavily on my photographic memory so when stuff all goes into identical boxes (especially if that box was packed by someone other than me), it's very frustrating. My brain is addled, my memory in pieces.

The second worst part is when half my stuff is at the old place. Last week, when half my stuff was at the old place, I found myself reaching for something that wasn't there. The toothbrush charger or the filter basket for the coffee maker, for example.

The first night I slept at the new house was pretty frustrating and knowing there would be no coffee in the morning didn't help. It got worse when I went to settle into bed with my book and realized I didn't bring any lamps to the new house. And since I hate reading with the overhead light on (I'll usually choose to just go to sleep without reading if that's my only option) I found the box marked "candles" and read like this instead:

bedroom during

I turned to shut the door and when I turned back and saw this, I felt all my frustration melt away. I felt like Laura Ingalls in her little house in the big woods. Candles, quilts, crickets...simplicity itself.

Last night I found my copy of Little House in the Big Woods and started reading. When my mom read this book to me when I was little, I never questioned any of it. It sounded like a grand old time to grow up in the big woods of Wisconsin. But now, at 28, I realize just how hard it was to survive that lifestyle, especially in a state that was covered in snow for half the year.

So far in just the first few chapters we learn that Pa hunts and fishes and chops wood all day so they have the hope of surviving the winter. He smokes meat in a smoker he made from a hollow log. The girls cook and eat a pig tail, they play games with a pig bladder filled with air, they trace designs in the frost on the window using Ma's thimble. They rejoice on butchering day and gather food from the garden and prepare it for storage over the long winter. They make headcheese and sausage and lard and bread. Ma churns butter and presses it into her wooden butter mold, the one with a design of a strawberry and leaves.

"In winter the cream was not yellow as it was in summer, and butter churned from it was white and not so pretty. Ma liked everything on her table to be pretty, so in the wintertime she colored the butter."

Just when I think that all there is to this life is surviving, Ma surprises me with her pretty butter mold and her butter colored with carrot juice...because, you know, it's prettier that way.

What is it about this life that I find so appealing? The little log cabin in the woods, the wolves howling outside, the wind and snow whipping around the corners of the cabin and into any chinks they can find, the little family curled up under handmade quilts, the children wrapping their arms around corncob dolls. Oh, the hard work, the hunger, the survival, the hunting, the gathering, the family, the warmth, the simplicity...the thought of it makes my heart ache with a longing I can't really describe.

Since I'm not a hunter nor a gatherer nor a survivalist nor a hard labourer, I think, for now, I'll fulfill my Little House fantasies by making butter (using Allison's fantastic tutorial). And then I'd like to use the fresh butter and buttermilk to make banana bread. And then I'd spread the butter on the warm banana bread and eat it while reading my book on a quilt (that I made) under a tree in my backyard. That sounds nice, right?

Do you have any fond Little House memories? Do you think about Ma's thimble every time you see a frosted window? Do you remember Laura's pockets bursting when you collect pretty rocks at the beach? Did you identify more with Laura or Mary? What design would you want in your butter mold?