Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Country Diary

Source for this image here.

I thought today I would share with you another book from my own personal library!  This one is yet another vintage volume - though I believe it has been reprinted again fairly recently.  It is easily available on and - once again, for less than the cost of a glossy magazine.  The copy that I own is the original publication from 1977 - way back when I was far too young to be able to appreciate it!  

But appreciate it now, I certainly do.  It is a charming, beautiful facsimile of the original journal written and illustrated by Edith Holden in 1906, when she was a young, married woman with a fascination for nature.  Turn to any page in the 1977 publication of her journal and you will be able to experience an exact reproduction of the beautiful writings, paintings, drawings, poetry and Scripture references that she has used to create a wonderful piece of living history, right down to the texture of the pages, and the carefully amended handwritten notes that accompany the illustrations.  What is truely incredible is that at the time of her creating this journal, it was never intended to become a publicly available piece of work!  Unlike the "journalers" of today - Bloggers like Papa Bear and myself, she didn't expect anyone else to ever see her journal.  It was merely a personal record of all that she encountered on her almost daily walks in the countryside around her home in Solihull (a town in the Midlands, close to Birmingham, what is nowadays one of England's largest cities.  Back in Edwardian times I imagine it would have been much smaller than it is now, and extremely rural).    

Just looking at the illustrations in this journal gives me so much pleasure!   The animals, flowers and plants that she has reproduced are beautifully observed, and demonstrate a great attention to detail - even more impressive when you think that she must have had to paint and draw from the live model, for it's very unlikely that she would have been able to take photographs at that time - the art of photography being much clumsier in those days of its infancy, than it is today.  I also feel that the journal demonstrates the way in which our society has changed so much from those much slower-paced days.  For one thing, the vast majority of married women today wouldn't have the time - nor probably the inclination - to go out on nature rambles each day, let alone to make hand painted illustrations of what they encountered.  And what would that be?  Many of us these days live in busy urban environments where we are very unlikely to be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery that is illustrated in Edith Holden's journal.  Tragially, it simply no longer exists.

Thinking of this today made me feel very priveliged, as I walked yet again through the park with Papa Bear on his way to work.  This morning we saw just as many beautiful birds - including the song thrush we have seen before - and, believe it or not, a fieldmouse!  We were enchanted to see the dainty little creature scamper boldy right across the path in front of us - almost running over our feet!  It made us smile so much!  I wish I had the talent to be able to show you in a painting, just like Edith Holden, just what it looked like - but I'm afraid I can't!  However I do realise that I am extremely fortunate just to be able to sit and write about it now - and to have had the time to enjoy not only my walk, but the time in my day to remember it, and record it here on the blog.  I thank God for this.

But for another thing, Edith Holden was working on her journal at a time when education in England was very different to how it is today.  Nowadays I am not sure that any attention is given to skills like penmanship or the use of proper grammar.  In Edith Holden's journal you can see not only her artistic talent demonstrated, but also her sound ability to write beautifully - not just in terms of her use of English, but the actual writing, too, which is a joy to see.  My own writing, while tidy, is not anything like as lovely to look at as the writing in this journal, but it makes me realise just how little time I spend actually writing with a pen, compared with my ancestors of generations gone by!  How the computer has changed the way we work and think!  Although I enjoy writing here on the blog, the creative talent required is far less than that of Edith Holden, in writing her journal.  It may offer far less in terms of gadjetry and technical features than a blog, but it reveals a talent and refinement that I feel no blog, certainly, that I ever author, could ever hope to match.  Furthermore, her knowledge of nature is extremely impressive - most young people today (she was only in her twenties when she created her journal) would only be able to boast a very inferior knowledge in comparison, despite the far easier and wider access that we have today to information on just about everything and anything imaginable.  It saddens me to think that despite all the advances that modern technology is supposed to have brought us, somehow, as a society, we are somehow stunted in comparison to our ancestors from previous generations.

However, that's not to say that I can't enjoy comparing what I do today, with the skills and creativity of the women journallers of generations before!  Edith Holden's journal is a great source of pleasure for me - it details a stunning array of nature which charts the turning of the seasons in a way which is both timeless and inspiring, and which reminds me that although a great many things in our lives have changed since she wrote of the world around her, that which is God's creation, is as it was still, for us to marvel at and cherish.  May her message for us today be that God's greatness is evidenced not in the creations of mankind, wonderful though some of these may be, but in the simplicity of the natural world around us, that He gave to us at the beginning of time.

"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created". (Revelation 4:11)