The more frenetic and hectic life gets, the more I want to slow down, focus on things that are real and tangible, and live in a more mindful, seasonal way. In many ways, that’s just not possible – but in many ways, it is, with a little attention. At any time of year – but never more so than in January – I am devouring books about living seasonally and embracing the changes and delights that each month of the year brings. Here are three.
The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden, is a gorgeous tour de force through the seasons. Holden, the titular Edwardian lady, is an artist and naturalist who records the flora and fauna she observes on her regular tramps through her Warwickshire home all year long (and on one delightful holiday in Scotland and the north of England). The book is organized in a month-by-month format, so you can follow along with Holden as her favorite fields and hedgerows burst into bloom and then out of it again. Holden’s artwork is the highlight of the book (although I skipped hastily past the butterfly and moth illustrations, which will not surprise anyone), but her delightful “nature notes” are such fun to read. I found myself wishing I could go back in time and join her on one of her expeditions.
One Woman’s Year, by Stella Martin Currey, will be irresistable to anyone who – like me – loves a good housewifely diary. Persephone Books, which recently republished it, describes it as “a mixture of commonplace, diary, short story, recipes – and woodcuts.” YES, I love all of these things. As with The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, One Woman’s Year is organized into a monthly format. Each month begins with an essay (or short story – I suspect it’s a mix of fact and fiction) about something on the housewife’s mind, whether that’s choosing books for your children or redecorating your house on a shoestring budget. The story/essay is followed by features including a recipe of the month (very 1950s recipes, too), the most- and least-liked jobs of the month, and a recommended outing for the children – everything from visiting the Tower of London to exploring the local telephone exchange. Some of the descriptions – for instance, of Currey, her indulgent husband, and their two sons attempting to plant a new lawn in March – are absolutely hilarious. And the whole thing, taken together, is a lovely and winding meander through a year.
The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020, by Lia Leendertz, is the third of Leendertz’s monthly almanacs. The first one was published in 2018; I’ve bought them each year, and they just keep getting better. (Do check out the past years’ guides, as well. While some things – like tide tables and dates for holidays and equinoxes and such – change from year to year, the garden task lists, monthly recipes, songs and legends are all evergreen.) Each year’s almanac is a little different from the others’ the 2020 guide has a strong focus on the moon and also includes a new section on “what’s going on in the hedgerow” that was a delight to read for each month. I read the 2019 guide month-by-month all year long, but blew through the 2020 guide in one gulp; either method works, and I’m sure I will be coming back to the 2020 almanac to test out the monthly recipes and gardening tips all year long. I love slow, seasonal, nature-focused books and the Almanac series is a gorgeous addition.
Do you like reading about the changes of seasons?