25 July 2012

Heroes, Episode II

Laura Ingalls Wilder

One of the first (real) books I remember reading was Little House in the Big Woods.  We had all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, in slightly crumbly, butter-cream colored paperbacks, pages yellowed with age like so many good books - except Little House in the Big Woods, it was of the more modern, shiny-covered variety.

Within the first few pages, Laura was tucked deep in my heart.  She was curious and fierce and a dreamer.  Her stories were wild and unbelievable whilst being plain and earthy.  Most of all, they were vivid and real, and to me she was vivid and real, and so was her family.
Laura (right) with Mary (center) and Carrie

I don't know the extent to which the details of the books line up with the details of Laura's life, but the fact remains that she wouldn't have been able to write them if she hadn't actually lived that kind of life, lived in one of the last pioneer generations.  It was truly a hard life, fraught with failure and illness and uncertainty, but it's what built our country - pushing west to find more room, more land, and hopefully prosperity.  And even though the Little House books are written for children, they don't skip over many of the hard facts.

(For the record, I've seen a few episodes of the TV show.  They didn't really stick with me.)

Laura herself not only lived as a pioneer, but lived well on into the twentieth century, becoming a journalist and writer and even working for the Farm Loan Association.  She went from the world of horse-drawn wagons to one of commercial air travel.  She saw two world wars.

I would love to have dinner with Laura.  I can't, but I can always go back to those crumbly books - which I have refused to let go of and still sit in my old room in my parents' house (now a guest room) - and live a little bit of her life, vicariously, and know the thoughts she chose to share with the world.

Ma, Pa, and the Ingalls girls - I think Laura is directly behind Pa

Images from hoover.archives.gov and www.discoveringlaura.com.  Some information may have been borrowed from Wikipedia...

24 July 2012

Heroes, Episode I

I'm very wary of idolizing people.  We're all broken and flawed.  But through that brokenness, something inspiring can glimmer - like a hint of a secret human destiny - suggesting that we can not only aspire to something beyond our assumed lot in life, but achieve it too.
There are a few of these people - my heroes and heroines - that have helped me believe in that aspiration.
Since today is Amelia Earhart's birthday, and yesterday Sally Ride passed away, I think today will be about the two of them.

I love them both because they both broke into a difficult field previously reserved for men.  They had to be both capable and really smart.  Also, they (along with other pilots and astronauts) pushed the boundaries of what we previously believed humans were capable of.

I've never held the delusion that I could be an astronaut.  I'm not smart enough and, well, like a lot of academics, I'm kind of soft.  So I hold an almost child-like awe for the men and women smart and strong enough to go into space...that's SPACE, folks.  It's like real-life science fiction.

But I do know that I can - and hopefully someday will - become a pilot.  Being a passenger on a commercial jet is pretty tedious (though I do love watching the takeoff and landing) but sitting in the cockpit of a little Cessna or Piper is exhilarating, controlling the means by which humans have actually conquered the sky.  Amelia Earhart was not only a pioneer for women, she was a pioneer for air travel.  She was daring to the end.

So those are my two heroines for today.  Two women concerned with more than societal norms.  Smart, brave women, not perfect, but possessing the guts and determination I'd like to have.  I'd like to be that kind of pathfinder, a bit reckless and willing to at least attempt to do exemplary and audacious things.

18 July 2012

Boats

Here's a boat.


It's in Nyhavn, Copenhagen.

Here's another boat:

It's the Sea Stallion from Glendalough , berthed in Roskilde, though at the moment I believe it's sailing around Denmark.

And here's a few more:


We rowed and sailed the one in the foreground.  Like the Sea Stallion, it's a Viking reconstruction.

I like boats.  Sailboats, particularly.  Using ingenuity and creativity to maneuver the vast uncontrollables of wind and sea to your own advantage.  Not that I've ever been sailing on the open sea, or even sailing for more than a few hours, and never by myself.  I think I would like to, though the thought is somewhat terrifying; after all, wind and sea ARE uncontrollable, and no amount of wood or rigging will bring them under your power.  But I do like the idea.  I think that's why I like planes, as well; both are reminders of both the far-reaching capabilities of humans and our ultimate helplessness at the end of the day.  Perspective.  

I also like the quietness of sailing.

16 July 2012

Be careful of caring

I'll only be here another couple of months.

So I frantically want to capture the smiles and laughs of everyone who is dear to me here now and bottle them for safe transatlantic travel.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” - C.S. Lewis

Curse my vulnerable heart.  Should've put it in a box instead of taking it around the world.