Little House, Revisited

Single web of life

Little web in the big woods

When we’re six years old, or seven, or maybe eight, squinting over the big print in the Little House in the Big Woods book by Laura Ingalls Wilder–we’re enthralled with the characters of Laura and Mary growing up in the northern Wisconsin forest in the early 1870’s.

When we’re seven or eight or maybe nine years old we’re skimming through the smaller print of Little House on the Prairie marveling with the covered wagon headed west, Mr. Edwards saving Christmas, and the prairie wildfire almost devouring the wooden homestead.  We’re shivering as the Indians sing and beat their drums less than three miles away across the waving grass.  We’re watching Ma churn butter, or Pa play his fiddle.  Part of us is surely there, aren’t we?

Maybe we watch the series on TV produced in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, admiring Michael Landon as Pa and Melissa Gilbert as Laura.  It’s not quite the same as reading the books–nothing is ever quite the same as imagination sparked by the written word–but perhaps it satisfies in a different way as our visual senses undulate like the prairie grasses.

Waving fields of grasses

I devoured the Little House books like candy in the 1960’s. I couldn’t get enough of Laura and Mary and baby Carrie and Ma and Pa and that dreadful Nellie Oleson.  The ending of each book created more excitement for the next book.

When our Christopher was four years old I enticed him to the couch every day to listen to the entire series.  Mostly, I just wanted him to feel the same delight that the Little House series vitalized in me.  Perhaps I read them again to Kiah as she attended elementary school.

And many of you know that I have–in a tongue-in-cheek manner–referred to our house as a “Little House in the Big Woods”.  Never mind that we’re in Upper Michigan and not Wisconsin.  Never mind it’s not the 1800’s any more.  Never mind that covered wagons don’t pass by on their way out west.

Last week was my birthday.  My daughter-in-law gifted me with a gift certificate for Snowbound Books in Marquette.  I galloped the 78 miles there on my black mustang the next day.  (Maroon Malibu, more accurately.)

I planned to buy Paleo cookbooks, but none presented themselves.  Instead, I found three fascinating books, one of which–you are already guessing, aren’t you?–was called Caroline, Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller.


Caroline is Ma.  The steady, wise, loving, good Ma.  Sarah tells the Little House on the Prairie story from Ma’s perspective, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this courageous pioneer woman today as Barry and I split wood.

When you’re growing up reading these books, you’re getting the children’s story.  I never fully realized this before, because I imagined Laura as an adult penning the books with the help of her daughter, Rose.

Sarah Miller fleshes out the joys, the sorrows, the fears, the delights, the pains, the burdens and the beauties of a pioneer woman.  She illuminates what a woman–what one particular woman–might have thought, imagined and felt.

The Ma she paints holds so many of her thoughts within.  She doesn’t let her ideas gallop like wild horses.  She’s always thinking about how to best raise her children.  How to nurture her husband.  How to express herself in the most noble way.

This could have been Ma’s root cellar, except she wasn’t Finnish

As I read about this Ma’s perspective, I wanted to be a bit more like her.  To ponder more deeply about what would be best for the Whole before opening my mouth.  To pause, to let ideas digest, to express more consciously.

The author did not portray Ma as too goodly, though.  She drew a complex picture of a complex woman attempting to navigate a challenging world.  I loved watching this complexity hatch.  Unlike the simplicity in Laura and Mary’s stories, Ma’s stories contained depth with its multi-hued threads and connections and twists and needles.

As I perused this book it felt like my awareness grew brighter than the North Star above the prairie.  I didn’t even recognize until now that the Little House in the Prairie stories could hatch and shimmer and sing even larger than the time-worn classic. How a story like this could be fleshed out from more and more angles.

It made me wonder:  what other old stories am I keeping small and safe and comfortable within?  Without even knowing that I am looking from only a singular viewpoint?  What other stories could be revealed like a petaled buttercup shimmering with dew?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in July 2018 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Little House, Revisited

  1. Thanks for this, Kathy, I will definitely get this book! I LOVE various perspectives when done with respect to the original writing. I read a series (look forward to every new book) by Laura R. King about Sherlock Holmes, just a few years past the last tale by Conan Doyle, now with a young female partner. I enjoyed March by Geraldine Brooks…which was about the father from the Little Women series. Finn introduces the drunken father of Huckleberry, and illuminates his life. My favorite so far is Ahab’s Wife; or The Star Gazer, by Sena Jeter Naslund, which is a long, rollicking tale that offers a little back story on Moby Dick. In each case, these authors respect the original story and characters. That is important. I also loved all the Little House books, and my daughters and I read a chapter together each evening for many years.

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, I will be very interested to hear what you think of the book. Thank you also for all the different suggestions for reading. The one that catches my eye the most right now is March. I have enjoyed Geraldine Brooks in the past, so this feels intriguing. I have been enjoying the world of books this summer since not feeling quite so well. Thank you so much for sharing your insights.

  2. Sounds like a very good book! I hope I get a chance to read it someday. I think reading to my children when they were small was on of my favorite parts of motherhood.

    (One paleo cookbook I’m falling in love with is “Mediterranean Paleo Cooking” by Caitlin Weeks, Nabil Boumrar & Diane Sanfilippo.)

    • Kathy says:

      I am so happy to pass this book suggestion along, Barbara. You may be very interested in all the pioneer activities and compare them to how your ancestors may have lived. As for your cookbook suggestion–Thank you! I am looking it up now.

  3. Elisa says:

    OH those OLD ideas are pretty sneaky eh? Powerful!

  4. A Michigan Thing Llc says:

    We are enjoying reading your blogs :).

  5. I read this post yesterday and then ran out of “computer time” allowed for my little brain. So I’m back and just re-read. Isn’t it interesting, how perspectives can change? I heard an interview on NPR with the author of this book and I was fascinated. I think the women worked the hardest on the prairie, and had it much more difficult than the men. That’s just my opinion, and I”m sticking to it. We women of the 21st century are so soft, I’m not sure that we could do what the Caroline’s (Ma’s) did back then.

    • Kathy says:

      I’ll stick to your opinion, too! I’m a soft 21st century woman, although splitting and stacking firewood hones those forearms during the summertime. Lately I’ve been so much more cognizant of hazy awarenesses that are floating in stories or snippets…those awarenesses that want to be seen, recognized and pursued deeper. This book highlighted one. It’s usually not that the hidden awareness is huge and never-seen-before. It’s that the awareness is seen in a brand new sparkling pioneerish way. xoxoxo

  6. Barb says:

    I often think of perspective when I’m reading or writing (or thinking). Each of us based on our experiences has a different perspective. Sometimes I question where I’m coming from when I form certain opinions or judgements. I like the photos you chose for this post, Kathy. They guide my thinking about what you wrote. my granddaughter was enthralled by The Little House series when she was about 10. When she visited, she liked to read me several chapters before bed. Hope you’re feeling better. We’re in Denver celebrating a grandchild’s birthday.

    • Kathy says:

      You are very wise, Barb. I so often fall head-over-heels into the perspective of the main character that I never consider how another is perceiving it. Glad you liked the chosen photos. Am not necessarily feeling better, but keep experimenting with new medicines, healings, modalities and perspectives. I am sure you’ve had a wonderful weekend celebrating that precious growing-up child.

  7. Stacy says:

    Kathy, this is not the book I thought you meant – I was referring to another Little House series based on Caroline’s childhood. This one sounds like an interesting perspective even if a fictional account. You know how much I love Laura and how she inspired me to write. (And I, too, read the series to my daughter, who was inspired more by the fiercely independent Rose.) Still, after all these years, this family amazes me. ❤

    • Kathy says:

      It was interesting, Stacy. I guess it had to be–if an entire blog birthed out of it. I had to write all this down quickly before it was forgotten and the next book moved to the forefront. How interesting that your daughter felt more akin to Rose!

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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