Monday, March 12, 2018

the world of brambly hedge

Unless you're someone who grew up in the 1980s or 1990s in England, you've likely never heard of the Brambly Hedge. It's a place. Well, it's actually any place in the rural landscape, but if you want to get specific, it's embedded in the English countryside, where daintily clad mice families live and prosper right before our noses -- in the hollows of trees and tree trunks in the forests and fields, river valleys and meadow lands.

The idea to write about such a place came to (writer/illustrator) Jill Barklem just as my older daughter was born and since we spent some time in England as she was turning three, I came across these books -- at first just four: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, all part of the Brambly Hedge series and fell deeply in love with the imagery they gave us. Lucky for me, both my girls grew to love them just as hard. We spent many many hours tracing the details of the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Toadflax, the indomitable Wilfred, Mr. and Mrs. Apple and their happily married Daisy (or Lady Woodmouse if you prefer) and don't forget about Mrs. Crustybread the cook, whose birthday cake for Wilfred has always been my idea of the most beautiful celebratory cake ever! (Poppy Eyebright will always supply the cheeses  for any celebration from his well-stocked dairy.)

The stories are subtle and sweet. There isn't great drama. It's all in the beautiful detail of daily life. And as I spend my days now at the farmette, I think I a little bit inhabit this painting -- of life where even a mouse can lead the most simple yet splendid life of family and feasts.

And so it was with enormous joy that I took out a thick tome of tales from the Brambly Hedge today for Snowdrop. Her mom had beat me to it -- she'd been reading her these stories all weekend. They are long, detailed, with many words that Snowdrop cannot possibly understand (but enough that she can indeed lose herself in the magic of that world). And now I can see that Snowdrop is as in love with Brambly Hedge as any of us were or continue to be. And that just makes my day.

But of course, the day starts elsewhere -- in the barn...

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... and in the farmhouse, over breakfast in the sun room.

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I have silly details of life to attend to all morning -- you do not want to hear them. Who could possibly want to give airtime to my exasperation with my primary insurer who claims I owe $1600 for a doctor's visit? Nah... (I told them to write me an apology letter when they sorted out their paper mess, but I doubt they will.)

And then it's time to pick up Snowdrop.

Look, grandma, my new pink sunglasses!

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Outside her school: the purple flowers match my boots!

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And now we are at the farmhouse and I hand her this treasured volume of dreamy wistful stories.

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I hand over the afternoon to Brambly Hedge. I have to! Snowdrop's own story is a compilation of events and celebrations and names --  of her babies and imagined people and Brambly mice -- they all make their way in.

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She wants a picnic feast just like in the book and of course, ours isn't in the meadow and we have to make do with her play cakes and tea cups, and still, it feels extraordinary: as if Wilfred the devilish boy mouse will run out and blow his whistle and make us all run for cover!

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Evening. Since Daylight Savings Time started this weekend, light is with us even after Snowdrop leaves. I suggest to Ed that we take a brief walk. Maybe I just want to be among the tall grasses now, as the mice retreat to their pantries and examine what might be had for the supper this evening.

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We hear the call of geeese and sandhills and countless other birds doing their final circle in the sky before settling for the night. Bring out the crusty loaves, the blackberry jam, the elderflower tea and biscuits with cream. It's time to breathe in the country air, eat up a feast of foods and... exhale.