Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nature Notes

One of my very favorite books is The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden.

Holden was a British artist and teacher born in 1871, and in 1920, at the age of 49, she drowned in the Thames River while collecting plants along the riverbank. Her legacy is this wonderful collection of paintings and nature notes that have been published in two volumes--this one and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

I haven’t picked up this book in a while but with spring just around the corner-or so I hope!-I can hardly wait to look out my kitchen window and see leaf buds on trees and birds gathering nesting material in my backyard. So I opened Holden’s Nature Notes to find out what she said about February in England, more than a hundred years ago.

The pages are filled with her water color paintings of plants and animals, her notes and observations, and poems by her favorite poets. It’s really charming.

The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady is organized by month.

February includes this poem by William Wordsworth, and I’m sure she included it because his writing reflects the way she saw and appreciated nature simply by observing it.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art
Close up these barren leaves,
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
Her notes also include daily observations. Here are a few of them.

February 9th: Noticed the young nettle leaves coming up.
February 15th: Found a queen Wasp crawling up the back of a chair.
February 20th: Snow lying thickly on the ground.
If Edith Holden were alive today, I’ll bet she’d be Twittering!

I’ve often been tempted to buy another copy of this book, take it apart, and have some of the illustrations framed. Until I do, I'm content with admiring them in the pages of the book.

Tomorrow on The Writer Side of Life I’ll be blogging about a woman in the Middle Ages whose writing focused on nature themes. I hope you’ll stop by.

Until next time,


Gillian Layne said...

How utterly beautiful. Another trip to the book store! :)

Lee McKenzie said...

Enjoy, Gillian! Another great thing about this book is that it also makes a wonderful gift. Actually, that's how I got mine.

Anonymous said...

I've never read these, but they look delightful!

I have been watching sparrows flutter around with bits of dried grass in their beaks, so I know they're doing home renovations to get ready for the first brood of the year. And my neighbour's snowdrops are out in a big white swath!

Me and Edith Holden – kindred spirits.


Lee McKenzie said...

Rachel said:
Me and Edith Holden - kindred spirits.

Make that three of us :)

penney said...

Thanks Lee that was beautiful I'm going to look for that book.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing us to this lovely book, Lee. Makes me think of Annie Dillard's work, or the non-fiction of Sharon Butala, who writes of my native Saskatchewan.

Lee McKenzie said...

I hope you enjoy the book, Penney. Thanks for dropping by!

Lee McKenzie said...

Roxanne, I am a HUGE fan of Sharon Butala's work, especially The Perfection of the Morning. Few writers can bring a landscape to life the way she does.

Anonymous said...

what a great introduction to spring. I really love her watercolours and her observations--the details are so personal, and yet still apply to today. I was also fascinated to see how often they had snow in England, and how nonchalantly she would sally forth on her lengthy walks.
Your idea of framing the pictures is excellent: maybe you could find a copy at Smart Books.

Lee McKenzie said...

Great suggestion, Marion. I'll keep my eyes open for a good used copy.

I love the portrait of Edith Holden. She looks lively and robust, don't you think? A true lover of nature.

Estella said...

A lady after my own heart!

Lee McKenzie said...

Mine, too, Estella!

Anonymous said...

Lee, thanks for telling us about the gorgeous book. Is it still available? I'd love to buy a copy. My daffodils are coming to life. Robins are defining their territories. They were
quarellingn in my garden this afternoon, driving away intruders. Wonderful crocuses are in bloom in the Government House gardens. I stop every day to admire them. Spring is actually on its way! Yeh!

Lee McKenzie said...

Anita, it's available through Amazon. Enjoy your birdwatching!