* Winter *

Image from Amazon.com

Image from Amazon.com

I love the holidays, but this year seems especially busy and stressful. I haven’t done the one thing I was most looking forward to doing–turning on only the Christmas tree lights, turning off the TV, and sitting alone in the dim, quiet living room.

I’m reading a collection of the Christmas chapters from the Little House on the Prairie books, and the simplicity and coziness of Laura’s holidays is so charming. I cannot imagine the hard work that pioneer families like Laura’s endured, but something about the long winter months sounds so nice…provided, of course, that it’s a year when the Ingalls family had a warm, sturdy home and plenty of stored food. I love the descriptions of the work the family does when hunkered down for the winter. Ma would cook, bake, sew, and knit. Pa would repair leather harnesses, do small wood projects, and practice his fiddle. The girls would study and sew, and the entire family would sing, read, and write letters. Night fell quickly, so everyone went to bed early and slept and snuggled away the long hours until sunrise. It all sounds lovely, especially if you ignore confounding details like cold baths and terrifying diseases.

Simply put, I like the way the Ingalls family fitted their lives and activities to the natural realities and rhythms of the winter season. I love all the comforts and conveniences of modern life, but our electric lights and programmable heaters and “horseless carriages” mean that most of us just keep cranking on and on during the winter, grinding at the same endless pace and always doing the same work we always do. There isn’t any change in my responsibilities or my rhythms based on the colder weather, even though all the other living beings around me–animals and plants–show clear signs of rest and slowness. My house cats get fluffier and sleepier. My tiny frog lays mellow and motionless in his tank. The trees in the front yard let themselves go for a while, not bothering to keep their leaves or sprout new branches. And there I am in the middle of it all, scraping ice off my car and wondering why time seems to pass so quickly.

I didn’t create a holiday bucket list, but I’m making one right now: I want to spend a day snuggled down in the living room with the Christmas tree glowing and my fat cats snoring. I want a good book, a hot drink, a soft blanket, and enveloping silence.  And I hope that my book is made of paper (i.e., not on a screen) and that it’s raining hard outside.  🙂

Mary and Laura Ingalls making candy from snow and syrup.  Illustration by Garth Williams.

Mary and Laura Ingalls making candy from snow and syrup. Illustration by Garth Williams.

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