Austen, in her Austen Six, reveals that in times of turbulence nature can give solace. So too Attenborough, 93 years old and a life dedicated to celebrating the natural wonders has stated:
“In times of crisis, the natural world is a source of both joy and solace.”
Appreciating the seasons is one of the joys of life that has been with humans since time immemorial.
Today the weather has distinctly changed, the rain has arrived and it appears the previous day’s sun has gone to warm another clime. Autumn has a bitter-sweetness: the intermittent sun reminds us of what we are losing and the rain gives us a sense of what is to come.
I am obviously not on the front line working in the coalface of this disease, nor cleaning so others do not suffer the contagion. Neither am I fighting for a business desperately trying to stay open nor do I live in a nation where social distancing is well nigh impossible for most of its people. I realise I have the luxury of slowing down and appreciating the small moments.
And it is the small moments celebrated in Jane Austen’s novels that I return to when the big moments get frightening. One of Austen’s least favourite characters, Nauseatingly-Nice Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, feels sad that she had missed the coming of spring in Mansfield. She had been by the sea in Portsmouth. She had taken the pleasures of spring previously for granted. “She had not known before, how much the beginnings and progress of vegetation had delighted her. What animation of both body and mind, she had derived from watching the advance of that season which cannot, in spite of its capriciousness, be unlovely, and seeing its increasing beauties, from the earliest flowers, in the warmest divisions of her aunt’s garden, to the opening of leaves of her uncles plantations and the glory of his woods.” In all of the Austen Six, characters show the solace gained from nature; the calm brought from slowing down and observing the change of seasons.
When we are deprived of some of the benefits of the modern world, when life as we know it changes so radically, it is in the small moments that the solace comes.
No doubt the season of Corona will end. Before then it will have a beginning, middle and end. At times we won’t quite know whether we are at the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end. But like nature, it will march on and before we know it another time will arrive. But it is the moments in between, where we feel like we are living now, which can bring that comfort and relief. The daily exercise, the walk in a park can bring the solace.
And when all else fails there is always wine, as Austen writes: “I find many Douceurs in being a sort of chaperone for I am put on the sofa near the fire & can drink as much wine as I like.”