“The Wilder Life” and a Connection to the Great Beyond

Growing up, I fell in love with Little House in the Prairie. It might have been because we lived in Minnesota during the years that the Little House TV show was on the air. I read every book, I had the yellow bonnet with tiny red flowers. I watched the show. I was a “bonnet head.”

My love was rekindled when I started TiVoing Little House again this last year. Sean hadn’t seen the show. It was fun introducing someone to the characters. It was amusing to tell him about what had been in the books, and that Albert was just an addition for television. It was also really cool to see the nuances of Ma and Pa in a new light, now that I have a baby of my own.

My sister knows that I love Little House and she gave me the book “The Wilder Life” by Wendy McClure. Wendy is also a bonnet head, and as an adult she has gone in search of “Laura World.” Much like myself, growing up she felt like she knew Laura, was her friend, experienced life through Laura’s eyes. Part of McClure’s book is her journey in search of pieces of Laura’s life, visiting places she lived and taking in the sites that Laura may have seen.

One of the first stops for McClure is in Pepin, Wisconsin, known in the books as The Big Woods. She stops at a log cabin that has been re-created near Laura’s birth place. It feels like little more like a high way rest-stop, lacking the feeling that it was the Ingalls’ home. While Wendy was looking for Laura, she found little to tie her to the past in the uninspired space. That is, until she pauses to look out across Lake Pepin, where Laura had gathered pebbles as a little girl. This lake is also in the beginning of Little House on the Prairie. The Ingalls family crosses the frozen-over Lake Pepin at the end of the winter in their covered wagon as they are leaving the Big Woods.

“As solid as the lake looked, there was also something sort of miragelike about it, with the overlay of gray weather between us and the opposite shore. I felt, very distinctly, that if we went across we would follow them. I mean ‘them’ as them, and it seemed to me, too, that the same other side they’d reached in their covered wagon would be there instead of Lake City, the present, whatever. It seemed perfectly matter-of-fact that it would be this way; that just as the winter turns water into roads, it makes the world revert like this. 
‘I hadn’t expected it to be like this,’ I told Chris. Meaning I hadn’t thought I would find something like an opening into Laura World, that I would come this close.”

I was really struck in reading this passage. McClure is out on a mission, a pilgrimage, looking for a place, a feeling, an understanding of something she holds so dear to her heart. She’s longing to understand more about the past, about a real person, and to really feel something that Laura felt and saw.

I feel like this longing, this searching, this feeling of connection is something that each of us is searching for. We are all looking for those fleeting moments were we feel deeply connected to something larger than ourselves, something timeless, and something that transcends the here and now. I have felt that looking at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, another time surrounded by friends on my 18th birthday as we looked over the San Francisco skyline and could hear Paul McCartney playing in the distance. I have felt it praying, singing with others, and tonight when Zoom and I were laughing.

It seems like these moments are like the white pickets in a larger fence surrounding a gorgeous garden. We can see the fence, and it is beautiful, and through the pickets, we can see hints of the breath-taking garden beyond. These fleeting moments of life are glimpses to heaven, to our larger connectedness, to God. They are reminders of our longing to be connected, to live beyond this world and this body. They are lovely and simultaneously remind us that there is something beyond this existence. And what lies beyond is the ultimate connection, when we will be one with our interconnectedness, with a larger love, with an understanding beyond our full comprehension in this life time.