/credit: ND State Historical Society photo collection/
Pioneer life has this romantic allure of adventure and discovery in a simpler time without the complexities of email, Facebook, or Iphones. The pioneers that came west had ambition, fortitude, and hope for a life better than the one they knew. There is a Ukranian Catholic cemetary just north of our place and some of the graves have images of these pioneer men and women, their faces hardened by the struggles of a life of hard work and loss, with successes measured in a home built and bushels harvested. These images bring a realism to my understanding of the families and persons that came before.
Jacob and I have found interest in the pioneer era, where you harvested and hunted your food, made your own soap, and didn’t cook from a box. How 21st century and first world of me to look at soap making as this fascinating new hobby while a hundred years ago the homemaker likely burgrengingly mixed lye and wood ashes to make a soap suitable to wash the field dirt and grime from her family. No convenient Tide Pods for those ladies!
In our 21st century the word “busy” has become synonymous with success. “How have you been?” “BUSY!”. A productive day is no longer defined by simply living and surviving, harvesting and hunting. Backyard chickens, Farm to Table restaurants, and glamping are common topics which seem to highlight our need to connect to a simpler time gone by. There seems this draw to homesteading, to reconnecting with the land and nature, to quiet this busy 21st century world our brain processes.
I read Jacob the book “Going West” as it told the story of a family heading west in search of more, of a homestead of their own. How that resonates even today…. to make our own way, develop our own “homestead” of success and acknowledgement. The journey unfolds and tells of the mother leaving behind cherished possessions with just the necessities and a single sentimental piece. There was a loneliness in the story. How interesting that even decades later we still struggle with the universal theme of loneliness. Yet today we are connected by Facebook, Skype, Facetime, etc. and no longer by handshakes, quiet presence, and story-telling gathered round.
/credit: State Historical Society, Columbia/
The story continues and the lonliness is healed by the new life of a spring garden and emerging crops and the visits of new neighbors. The family creates a community. Community and connection heals the lonely. As I started 2017, the word that arouse in me was “connection”. I want connection, to create community with my family, friends, neighbors, and clients. I hear stories of colleagues struggling to balance it all with family, careers, keeping a home as do I and hear the cry of “I am all alone!” in this struggle. They seek connection as do I and find it in a community online with those that are in this journey.
Maybe the allure of the pioneer time is for that life of connection to the Earth, the animals and plants, to the community and family around us. They didn’t necessarily know what was on the other side of the world yet those pioneers probably knew who lived down the road. For Jacob and I the allure is likely in that connection. To have found and be connected to your family, tribe, your village, your community.
Dirt roads lead me home because those dirt roads lead me to my village, my tribe. I am striving for connection, to improve and strengthen my relationships to my children, husband, family, and friends. How blessed to have found these persons for my life. Do I have the answers of how to do that without conflict or pain…no. But I am trying, learning, becoming resourced. I do know we can’t go it alone…we need our village, our tribe, our community. Just as the pioneers arrived on the empty prairies in search of happiness and finding it in community and family, maybe we too need to turn to family, friends, and community.
“If we know where we came from, we may better know where to go. If we know who we came from, we may better understand who we are”.
-Lessons from the Prairie