What if, in the last days of our lives we discover that we have been experiencing only a tiny sliver of the canvas of life? We may have used rich browns, deep reds, and luscious greens, but on a corner of life so small as to be insignificant, mostly.
Well, I don’t really think this will happen, because we all know the important things in life, family, community, education, and an honest living, seasoned with art, nature, music, and for some, religion and sports. But really, why are we always so busy? What is the rush? What is really important? Why am I even thinking about this?
Partly it is because I am in my childhood home, visiting my aged but vibrant parents. Mostly it is because of the two books I just read, by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Letters of a Woman Homesteader and Letters on an elk hunt. They were recommended by my wonderful graduate student, Katie Geist. I read them on the free Kindle editions. One of the odd things this lets you do is see what other people underlined in the book. Those passages appeared with a jiggly line underneath. They were not the colorful nature pieces I loved. They were mostly the pieces about getting by with little, or how what is important in life is how hard you strive and whom you help, those sorts of tiresome self-motivational passages.
What struck me most about the books was how much time people had, even though they were often working long hours just to keep the farm going. This is in particular true about the elk hunt. I couldn’t say exactly how long it took, but it was certainly several weeks. When did you last do something really different for several weeks? Why did Elinore have time for this long elk hunt if I don’t have time for something similar? What keeps me and you so busy? Checking Facebook? Buying stuff? Keeping up with email?
The theme I’m intrigued with right now is that what might be out there not far from home, but right at home that involves a very different use of time. My elk hunt might be right there in the rich soil of northern Missouri. Where is yours?