Who remembers the long-running T.V. series “A Little House on the Prairie”? It was actually based on a series of nine children’s books by Laura Ingalls Wilder which documented her childhood living out in the newly settled wilds of America in the 1870’s and 1880’s. I am currently just nearing the end of the sixth book, “The Long Winter”. In it, Laura and her family have recently settled out on the prairie in North Dakota in a tiny community which is less than a year old.
Before they can properly establish themselves there, they have to endure a very severe winter which lasts from October until may of the following year, during which time they are constantly assailed by ferocious blizzards and bitter temperatures of –40 degrees and lower. They come perilously close to both freezing and starving to death. Unlike their old way of life back in the forests of the east, the new settlers, (enticed by government grants and promises) cannot now survive without outside intervention. Basic supplies such as coal, kerosine and basic foods stuffs have to be brought in regularly by railroad to make existence in the open wilderness possible.
Until the growth of the industrial revolution and the colonising of far-flung and totally disparate parts of the globe, communities were largely self-sufficient and independent. Life was often hard and infinitely precarious but the trials and tribulations of the small, regular day to day activities helped to keep one sharply focused on survival. Today a high percentage of people in the west have everything supplied to them.
If we are to thrive and grow, physically and spiritually, we definitely need to move away from a life that is totally devoted to little more than basic survival. We must have the time and space to make decisions from choice, not just necessity, to reflect, meditate, develop.
Conversely whilst needing the leisure to learn and grow, we mustn’t loose the focus and connection which working and living in tandem with the basics of life automatically gives us. In 2012 we are incredibly lucky! We can still connect with the bedrock of our existence yet have the safety-net of modern convenience to allow us our physical, emotional and spiritual freedom. Like the mystical “travellers between the worlds” we can all walk with one foot on each level of existence: the primitive world of basic survival and the advanced, refined society which can provide – and guarantee – a good degree of space, freedom and security. From here we can much more easily learn and grow on many diverse levels.
As I stand looking up the rain sodden field towards the Hafod, looking for all the world like a very little house on the Welsh prairie, I am engulfed with excitement! Here in this untamed corner of north west Wales, we are all being automatically given the unique opportunity to sample this duality of experience and achievement. Whoever comes here, no matter how long or short their stay, cannot avoid it. Would you be brave enough to accept the challenge? ….. and what would you make of it if you did?