"The voices of Nature do not speak so plainly to us as we grow older, but I think it is because, in our busy lives, we neglect her until we grow out of sympathy."
February 10, 1957
Today is the anniversary of the death of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
One of the reasons so many of us have a soft spot in our hearts for the Little House books is because Laura was so descriptive; she was a natural storyteller.
In retrospect, I think many are surprised by the amount of material in Laura’s books that was devoted to the natural world - Ma’s gardens, the landscapes Laura and her family experienced, and the reverence for life - plants, animals, and human - Laura and her loved ones so cherished all of it.
In 2017, the author Marta McDowell wrote a book called The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and in it, she highlights the frontier landscapes that inspired the Little House books.
Marta’s book sheds new light on Laura as a naturalist. In a blog post, Marta challenged us by writing:
I’d like to suggest a thought experiment.
Instead of categorizing Laura Ingalls Wilder as an American children’s author, think of her as a nature writer as well…
Long before she was a writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a gardener and farmer, growing food for the table and raising crops for sale.
Nature was her home, as well as little houses.
Wilder sowed a deep appreciation for the world outside one’s door through her life and work.
Her books still inspire budding naturalists to plant, preserve, and appreciate their own wilder gardens.
Marta and I had a lovely chat featured in Episode 585 of the Still Growing podcast if you’d like to check it out.
Marta and I even had a nice little lunch together as she passed through the Twin Cities.
Marta is one of my favorite modern garden authors, and I loved her idea of writing about Laura as a naturalist.
In researching Laura, I discovered many beautiful things she had written about the natural world outside her wonderful Little House books.
In the Missouri Ruralist, Laura wrote,
The voices of Nature do not speak so plainly to us as we grow older, but I think it is because, in our busy lives, we neglect her until we grow out of sympathy.
Our ears and eyes grow doll and Beauties are lost to us that we should still enjoy.
Life was not intended to be simply a round of work, no matter how interesting and important that work may be.
A moment's pause to watch the glory of a sunrise or a sunset is so satisfying, while a bird song will set the steps to music all day long.
In early February 1918, over a hundred years ago this month, Laura wrote:
Now is the time to make a garden!
Anyone can be a successful gardener at this time of year, and I know of no pleasanter occupation these cold, snowy days than to sit warm and snug by the fire making a garden with a pencil and a seed catalog.
What perfect vegetables do we raise in that way, and so many of them!
Our radishes are crisp and sweet, our lettuce tender, and our tomatoes smooth and beautifully colored.
Best of all, there is not a bug or worm in the whole garden, and the work is so easily done.
In [our] imagination, we see the plants in our spring garden, all in straight, thrifty rows, with the fruit of each plant and vine as numerous and beautiful as the pictures before us.
How near the real garden of next summer approaches the ideal garden of our winter fancies depends upon how practically we dream and how hard we work.