Thursday, July 26, 2007

Days of Auld Lang Syne

I recently began reading the book Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Donald Zochert. Actually, I read this biography when I was a boy and thought it would be interesting to reread it now that I have a bit more life experience under my belt. It is ever fascinating to examine how our perspectives change as we grow older and the same sentence/paragraph effects us in myriad ways depending on our age or even perhaps our mood.

This book opens with a selection from Little House in the Big Woods. I remember reading these lines 30 years ago and coming upon them again made me realize the influence they have had on my philosophy of life.

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, "What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?"

"They are the days of a long time ago, Laura," Pa said. "Go to sleep, now."

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle playing softly and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, "This is now."

She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

For me this underscores the notion of cherishing the small moments in our lives. I can visualize Laura in her bed taking in her surroundings, listening to the comforting melodies issuing forth from Pa's fiddle, the warmth of her bed and the love of her family bringing warmth and safety.

There have been many times in my life where I have purposefully held on to moments such as this. As they unfold I consciously take inventory of each aspect.
I remember lying in the snow at twilight on a frigid March evening several years ago. The world around me was in turmoil due to the escalating terror threat color changes from the Department of Homeland Security and I went out with my oldest niece for a sleigh ride. We discovered a small ramp at the bottom of a hill and if one of us positioned ourselves carefully, the other could careen down the hill and jump over the prone body of the other. Oddly fun, potentially dangerous and utterly amusing. As I sprawled out on the cold surface waiting for her giggles to approach I took a moment. I saw the fading sun and the slow steady changes of light that comes with daylight's fading. I felt the frigid air change and warm as I breathed in through my nose and out from my mouth. I heard her heavy trudge up the hill as she pulled the sled behind her. I gazed upwards. Safe for the moment from the worries of terrorism and death.

I thought "This is now". And now could never be a long time ago.

Whatever was to happen, whatever was to come, I had this moment. Of course, time does pass. But I like to think that cherishing these glimpses of immortality or perfection give great purpose to our daily routines. As the song Seasons of Love from the Broadway musical Rent questions "how do you measure a year in the life? How about love?"
By now I have amassed quite a few such moments that sustain me when I feel overwhelmed. Most of them involve the time I spend with children, the true teachers. I am grateful.

I highly recommend the Little House book series. Give it a read!


Reya Mellicker said...

Can't wait to hear all about your vacation. I see you had a beer or two, but ... what else?? Glad you're back.

Junk Thief said...

Maybe that's why I've also read the book "The Power of Now" several times. I'd like to go back to the Little House books since I read them as a child before the TV series which blurs my memories of the books themselves. The series never had the power of the images I held from the books.

la bellina mammina said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

The simplest things in life are always the best, aren't they?

Salty Miss Jill said...

Thanks for posting this! I re-read several of the Little House books last year and remembered why I loved them as a wee one. :)

Also, even though the TV series doesn't do justice to the books, it's still one of my favorite shows. I can watch 30 seconds of any episode and tell you the entire plot!

Brendan said...

"This is now." What a beautiful simple statement of bliss. Thanks for the reminder regarding Ingalls, Gary. My daughter will probably enjoy reading those.

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

I must admit that I have never been a big LH on the P fan - not the books, not the TV show. Actually, it kind of scares me. Am I crazy? Hey -- I'd be happy to send you some pictures of myself via e-mail. I don't usually post them on my blog. I like to remain a bit mysterious. ;-) Life needs a bit of spice. No?

Paul said...

It seems to me one thing that marks a book as great is precisely what you've described, Gary. You can revisit it and get more out of it each time you revisit. Some authors I've revisited three or four times over a period of years -- each time finding them more meaningful than before.

lettuce said...

this is a lovely post Gary - this is now - i know just what you mean and its a great way to express it.

i just loved these books as a child. Like you I remember the fiddle-playing. And a description of her mums party dress (or poss. an aunt?) with little buttons all the way down like blackberries.
I never really watched the TV show but kind of resented it for how it changed things, and sentimentalized...

btw., another english childrens author who might not have made it over there? David McKee, do you know him?
oh - and how about The Whale's Song, Dyan Sheldon & Gary Blythe?

i could go on....

Gary said...

Reya, I shall post some pics soon. I am still living in a non-digital camera age and have to drop off my film to be developed. Remember those days? I think soon though I will push myself forward in this area and purchase a new camera. Joy got one the day before we left for Mexico that truly impressed me. I will be putting up some of her shots. BTW - the Corona shots were taken with my cell phone, which I use all the time for taking pictures. It rocks!

JT I have not read "The Power of Now" but will check it out. About the LH on the P series...I remember when it was going to air and being excited to see it and although I do think they did a good job with it there will always be something 'more' to reading the stories. I like the visualization and personal connections as well as letting it unfold at my pace. Read and stop, read and stop.

La Bellina the simple pleasures are the best. A few viewings of The Waltons brings that home.

Good for you Salty! Did you read the whole series? Color me impressed.

Welcome back Brendan (my fellow Campbellite). Love your blog!

JDZS - spice is good, no? I sent you my email address. Looking forward to some pics.

Paul, this rereading is new to me. I have only reread two books because there are so many books to read that I could not imagine rereading one I have finished. But, I do often revisit. I am big on underlining and highlighting sentences that 'speak' to me and always know where to find an appropriate quote. Thanks for stopping by the blog. Did you notice we share a template?

Lettuce, after I read your comment I went on and checked out The Whale's Song. It looks fantastic. I added it to my wishlist (it is available used for only 21 cents). This is just the kind of book that revs up my imagination. Thanks. And I am familiar with the Elmer books by David McKee. Who does not love an elephant?

Paul said...

Hi Gary! I noticed that about sharing a template. It must be true "great minds think alike". :) You've got a wonderful site here!

MONA said...

Awww I have read them too! I got them asa christmas present from my friend in Durham North Carolina!

I still have them with me! & my son re3ad them too1 :) :) :)


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