Here and There

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Music as survival.

I've been re-reading all the "Little House" books.  In the last few pages of "On the Banks of Plum Creek" I was reading out loud to Lily, and Laura is describing how warm, how pleasant she feels in the evening with her family in her home.  The last line of that book is her Pa saying, "Look, Caroline, look how Laura's eyes are shining."  and I couldn't even read it out loud I got so choked up.

What was there?  I didn't even know.  Something about how hard it was for the Ingalls family, how hard-working and optimistic they all were.  How it would have been shameful to lose hope, how Laura seemed to see the value and cherish the moments of peace and joy.

It seems every time I re-read these stories I find a new part--last time it was The Long Winter, I could not get over how close that whole town came to dying of hunger and cold.  How Laura and Pa worked so hard for survival.  This time, it was Pa's fiddle.  I came across a story called "Grandpa's Fiddle" by Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter.  In it, Laura tells Rose just how important the fiddle was:  "It's the first thing I remember, Pa's playing us to sleep when we were little, in the Big Woods of Wisconsin.  And by the campfires, all through that awful mud, across Kansas and Missouri, all the way down to Indian Territory and back, and all the way out here, across the whole of Minnesota and beyond the Big Sioux river clear to Silver Lake.  He played the fiddle by the campfire at night.  We never could--I see it now, though I didn't then--we never could have gotten through it all without Pa's fiddle."

It's true that in the stories, Pa often picked up the fiddle and played when it was probably the opposite of what he felt like doing.  He encouraged and comforted his family with his music.

It was their worship, it was their entertainment, it was their escape.  The fiddle, the music and the singing.  It was some sort of survival technique that humans have that animals don't.

Then, I came across the song, In the Evening by the Moonlight, a version sung by Nina Simone.  There is something in the singing and the fiddle.    There is something about the pleasure of it, linked to "getting through it all".

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