Yesterday afternoon I spent hours (upon hours) folding laundry. This is not usually how I like to spend my Sunday afternoons, but really, the task was not such a burden. First, as always, I try to focus on serving my family; filling their drawers with soft, clean sweet-smelling clothes just plain makes me feel good (and I know it does them).
But this time it was something more that kept my fingers flying. You see, as I worked, I watched - in its entirety - the two-disc special edition of Pride & Prejudice (BBC version). That certainly made the time fly and the workload light! And if you are familiar with this movie (and therefore its length), you know just how much laundry I'm talking about here!
I don't usually have quite so much laundry to fold, but between the holiday week and being sick just before, that aspect of my housekeeping (already in a rather delicate balance) got pushed to the backburner. Finally the situation could be ignored no longer.
But what started as a post about laundry (I'm in housekeeping mode these days), morphed into a sort of Jane Austen free-association. I'm sure many readers here are drawn to these beloved stories, as I am. I think this particular version is my favorite. Full disclosure - I've only read three, perhaps four Austen novels to date. I think I read Mansfield Park in high school, but I'm not sure. And I can't seem to move on - I keep re-reading the ones I love!
Besides the excellent plot and the delicious scenery, I realized the whole Austen experience is just a feast for my senses - it deeply inspires me. I found myself jotting down notes left and right as I folded (my journal goes everywhere I go, even to the laundry pile, lol). As I watched scene after captivating scene, my mind wandered to the following Austen-inspired places ...
~ Crabtree & Evelyn ~ Is this lovely purveyor of fine English soaps and toiletries familiar to you? I have been a fan for years. It was a small local shop that first brought these delights to my attention. To my mind it looked just like a Victorian apothecary would - with its deep, wooden shelves, drawers and nooks and crannies filled with every kind of possibe treat for the vanity and bath. And all their goods were wrapped in the most elegant, old-fashioned packaging. My grandmother and I used to stock up on our favorite products once or twice a year. She liked Nantucket Briar, if I'm remembering correctly; I eschewed heavier scents for light fragrances such as avocado, apple and cucumber. I remember I kept several bars of soap lined up on my bedroom windowsill, the one with a view of the backyard. I had forgotten all about C&E until just recently when my mum and I "rediscovered' it. The shop looks completely different (white and modern now), and there are hardly any themes I recognize, but I did find that Nantucket Briar (I tucked a bar in my bureau drawer). I also quite happily found my old favorite avocado online. This will be my fresh summer scent - like an English garden, I'm sure.
~ Complexions ~ Oh my, do those ladies have the most beautiful skin! It makes me long for a fortnight's stay in the countryside, dining on farm fresh food and breathing in clean country air. Skin played a part in the story as well - Elizabeth Bennet's complexion was quite tanned from all her time spent walking in nature, a "coarse" trait remarked upon (with trademark nastiness) by the Bingley sisters. Well, to my mind (and Mr. Darcy's) her golden skin just radiated English beauty. It completely inspired me to take better care of my complexion this spring. I used to love tending to my skin - back in the day when I had a vanity to sit at and time to look in the mirror, lol! I use very simple products but I tend to be spotty with the upkeep. Some nights it's just a warm washcloth and a smidgen of lotion. At 38 (eek, did I just say that?) I need to pay better attention to my skin. It might never look like Elizabeth Bennet's, but a girl can try, can't she? ;)
~ Letter writing ~ I simply love how the Austen characters were always writing letters to one another - upon every ordinary or dramatic occasion. And oh, those crisp ivory papers, the ink and the sealing wax. (Of course they had to write letters - there was no other form of communication!) I think there is something very lovely, though, on the slowness of life at that time (I know, I know -the disease, the social injustice, the life expectancy - but for now I'm concentrating on the niceties of the time.) I was thinking about letter writing, and how it's something very few of us do anymore. But what can compare to the excitement of receiving a hand-lettered missive in the mail? A card or a note, whatever the occasion, is a cherished gift, perhaps in this day more than ever. In fact, I just gussied up my "correspondence basket" a bit, adding some new items, most fond among them a pretty new address book. Keeping everything I need in that basket, from postage to pens to seasonal stickers makes it much more likely I'll sit down and pen a few lines. I also love the idea of a desk, just for writing. I don't have one per se, but I've been aiming to keep my corner of the learning room clean and inviting. I will post more on that endeavor quite soon!
~ Nature walks - I think one of the reasons I love this movie the most (and I do love the acting, believe me) is the setting. The countryside is so amazing - all the lanes and the hedgerows and gardens. Does England really still look like that? I cannot imagine a more beautiful place. I love how the characters are always going for "a turn about the garden," and of course most of the country folk walked wherever they went. Who could blame them with such beautiful surroundings? I wonder if they saw it that way - no, they probably would have preferred the carriage, lol! Except for Elizabeth, and that's one of the reasons her character is so appealing. I especially love the autumn scene near the end, when Darcy and Elizabeth are walking through the farmland and ... ooh, I dont want to give it away in case any of you have yet to see it! But if and when you do, drink in those golden autumn shades, the fields and the road, the hanging bowers of russet leaves, and of course, Elizabeth's bonnet and dress. I wonder where she shops? :)
Well, I'm running long on text, and low on steam, so I will just briefly mention the other Victorian ideas that leapt to mind as I watched:
- Formal Meals ~ Sit-down, all-together, good hot food, beautiful settings!
- Kate Greenaway ~ A bit after Jane Austen's time, but the images are similar to me.
- Nice Manners ~ Impeccable, a lost art!
- Victoria magazine ~ The whole movie is one big Victoria spread! I'm off to dig mine out!
- Beatrix Potter ~ Children's stories, to be sure, but we Austen fans can feed on the beautiful imagery and lovely language - even the dramatic entanglements!
- Linens and lace, cotton bedding, fine washables ~ their laundry was probably (no definitely) far more tedious than mine, but I tell you, it looked so much prettier! I just may have to hang a spring clothesline!
Then of course there's the handwork, fine art and beautiful music. Add that to the nature walks and letter writing (or might I say, copywork?) and I think I have found a nice connection with a Charlotte Mason education! :)
Well, thanks for sharing this brainstorming session with me. Tell me, do you enjoy Jane Austen, too? And if so, which of her tales is your favorite? Which heroine do you admire most? I myself find it hard to choose!
Have a pleasant evening, everyone! I'm off to fold just a tad more laundry. Now where's my Emma DVD? ;)