This year the 200th since Jane Austen’s death, it is rewarding to turn to Jane’s letters from Chawton that are so are full of the seasons and the garden. Although Jane wasn’t responsible for the garden, she enjoyed the fruits of others’ labour. She tells Cassandra, “our young poeny at the foot of the fir tree has just blown and looks very handsome”. Favourite flowers, the syringas, that I have in my garden, “are coming out”. Fruit trees in the orchard were indispensable to the economy of the household but also to the pleasure, “an apricot has been detected on one of the trees”. Jane Austen’s delight shines through as we read, “Yesterday I had the agreeable surprise of finding several scarlet strawberries quite ripe”.
The new year as begun with so many possibilities. Here in the southern hemisphere we have finished our last school year, have had Christmas and are in the middle of our summer holiday. So the new year heralds so many new beginnings. The new year heralds the new fruits of the season and when I see the apricot tree, burdened with fruit and ready for the picking (before the birds begin their feasting), I feel such a sense of hope and gratitude for the coming year.
The simple pleasures of the garden are not to be underestimated.