Wednesdays with Words – February 19, 2014

I finally finished The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill last week.  I have been reading it as slowly as possible to draw out the pleasure but I read the last few chapters in a rush because it was about my favorite season, autumn.  Here are some final quotes from this lovely book:

“In summer in this wood every tree looks much like every other, though of course if you are close up, you can distinguish them by the shape of the leaves, and in the open, where they stand in ones and twos, by the shape of the whole body of the tree. Now though, in decay, the trees have become distinct, separate again, they take back their individual character, for no two species are the same in shading and depth of colour. I stand still and see sulphur-yellow and bright, bright gold, copper and tawny owl’s feather brown, sienna and umber and every kind of nut, and the whole pattern breaks like a child’s kaleidoscope as a sudden wind blows over the wood, becomes mottled, darker, and then lighter, as the leaves show their backs.”

“When we reach the top of the slope and the stile again, we look back, and see that the ribs of the wood are showing through at the sides, like those of a starving man, and the grey bones poke upwards to the sky, topped by a last few bunches of dried leaves, like old, curly wigs, and even as we look, the wind rises and blows and tosses the trees about again and more leaves fall.”

“In the kitchen, autumn is my favourite season, too, because it is preserving time – jams and jellies, chutneys and pickles, fruit butters and cheeses, and the whole, glorious session rounded off with the making of the mincemeat, to be stored until Christmas.”

“This is one reason why preserve-making takes up whole days, with bouts of hard work, and minutes of stirring gently, scattered over long periods of waiting, during which I read a book that doesn’t mind being broken into every so often, or write a few letters, or go out to pick some ripe elderberries from the tree on the other side of our garden, for tomorrow. And friends drop in for cups of coffee and wasps are slaughtered and the telephone is answered, and I go outside, just to stand in the sunshine and look about. It is all very pleasant.” [This description caused me to look forward to next year’s jam and preserve making!]

“There are rows of glowing jars on the dresser shelves, like so many jewels, deep red, orange, burgundy, pale pink, pale green, purple-black. I label them, before carrying them upstairs to the store cupboard, which is in our bedroom, and there, when I have lined them up, I gaze in deep satisfaction. I feel as if we shall indeed be ‘preserved’ against the ravages of this coming winter, and go off to have a long, hot, soothing bath.” [There are few things more satisfying than row upon row of jars, filled with summer fruits and vegetables.]

“Composting is a good activity, but I have certainly not found it so straightforward or foolproof as all the books and magazine articles make out.”  [How true!]

“Summer Time ends next week. But I don’t mind. I have tired of summer, it is time things began again.” [Don’t we all feel this way by the time September comes?]

“The W.I. is a good institution. It is not only about jam- and cake-making, though it is about those things, and so it should be, for they are good activities, at a premium now more than ever before, in a fast-moving, mechanised, society: it is about tea-drinking and exchanging recipes, then, and garden plants and knitting patterns, too….It expresses, by its very existence and strength for so many years, a very great many of the important concerns of all kinds of women, and women make up more than half the population, after all. It has a voice, it carries weight, it cares about national and international issues, matters of life and death and health and sickness, of community care and survival, of the upbringing of the young and the welfare of the old.” [We don’t have the W.I. here in the United States but it would be nice to have such a community of women in each area, perhaps in our churches.]

“There is nothing like literary or mythical significance for provoking interest and affection for a particular wild creature. To have a house mouse or spider or even mole is tiresome, to have a party of roosting jackdaws in the chimney is worse, but to have our own hedgehog, by adoption, is very pleasing.”

“We are all here, my family, the animals, all safe, all well and happy and free in the sunshine, and up the lane and down the lane, the houses of friends and neighbours, and beyond our low stone wall, the ‘happy autumn fields’. The countryside is at its best, mellow, ripe, glorious. It is a time for rejoicing, it is easy to be glad here, to praise, to be thankful. We have had the best of years.”

What a wonderful ending, “We have had the best of years.”  I hope I can say that at the end of 2014.

5 thoughts on “Wednesdays with Words – February 19, 2014

  1. Very nice! I’ve never heard of this author before, but all the passages you quoted make her sound like a thankful and contented person…just the sort of person I would like to be.
    The Women’s Institute is still very strong here on P.E.I. (Canada), and it really is all she says it is. I think the average age is going up, though…younger women are more likely to be too busy with their careers these days.


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the quotes. Her other memoir, Howard’s End is on the Landing, is also a good read. It’s a book of essays about books, which is the perfect thing to dip into, one chapter at a time.

      That’s wonderful that you have the Women’s Institute where you are. Are you a member? What are some of the things you discuss? I was thinking that our local church is attempting to establish a woman’s ministry but how nice it would be to incorporate knitting patterns, jam-making, baking, tea drinking, and such in with the Bible studies.


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