Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Back in the Day...

This weekend we went to visit Fort Edmonton Park. It is essentially a living museum on a quarter section of land in Edmonton's river valley, where four periods of local history have been brought into the present.

There is an entire 1846 trading post Fort, complete with beaver pelt press, Factor's house and living quarters for 125 men, women and children. Up from the Fort is "1885 Street," a recreation of an Edmonton main street, including blacksmith shop, school, drugstore, candy store, livery, and residential houses. "1905 Street" depicts the electrification of the city and its trolley cars, and "1920 Street" shows a burgeoning post-war metropolitan Edmonton.

There are interpreters dressed in period costumes who provide information about their "era" and who stay in character the whole time. We were served scones baked in a wood stove in one era, and were gently scolded in another when we were unintentionally "over familiar." We rode a steam train to the 1846 Fort, and an electric trolley out of the 1920s. There is even a full service hotel on the property, called the Hotel Selkirk, where people can stay overnight and enjoy the atmosphere of the times.

I was struck by the simplicity of the setting, even in the "metropolitan" era. Granted, I was probably more attuned to that this year than in previous years, but I don't think I'm the only one who is looking for more simplicity in life. I have a feeling that's part of why Fort Edmonton is such a popular attraction. It's easy to romanticize the "good old days" and wish to be living back then. I have spent many hours as a child (and quite a few as an adult), thinking how neat it would be to be living like Laura Ingalls did.

But things just aren't like that anymore, and probably they weren't all that simple back then either. But we do seem to have a collective longing to go back to a simpler time, or maybe it's just me.

Finding simplicity in our own lives isn't easy, or simple. Figuring out what to do, and what to stop doing, is hard. And it usually comes with consequences for us and for other people. You have to say no to things you used to say yes to. And then there's the risk of being seen as lazy, either by others, or by oneself. I'm not sure what to do about that. All I know is that when I see our guinea pigs contentedly chewing their hay, or the flowers outside with their faces toward the sun, they surely know more than I do about simplicity.


chile said...

Your thoughts on simplicity and the struggle to achieve it really hit the mark. It seems the more I attempt to simplify my life, the more complicated it gets. How can that be?!

Theresa said...

Thanks Chile. It's very perplexing to me how the quest for simplification gets so very complicated. Simple and easy are two very different things I guess!

BP said...

Heather and I spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how it could work, how we could go off grid and live the simple life. I guess the hardest thing is taking the plunge. Those in the past who lived the way we yearn for today probably didn't have it all figured out either. I'm sure a great amount of trial and error was involved. I think that is the biggest problem we have today. Too many of us want to have it all thought out, know it will be successful and safe before making big changes. At least that seems to be my big hangup. It's still fun to daydream of living off the land, even if it only results in a container garden.

Theresa said...

Going off the grid completely excites but frightens me. I have no clue how to grow enough food for even the two of us. At this point I'm still working on internal simplicity even, just trying not to worry about what other people think and to get rid of some of my ingrained notions of what is necessary in my life, and what I'm just doing out of habit and/or convention. It is a daily struggle, but new perspectives and insights do come from time to time, which keeps me going!