My precious sister, Jenny, came smiling so broadly and bearing a present wrapped so beautifully that I knew something very, very special was at hand. It was not my birthday, nor any kind of special occasion. She announced it was one of those “just because” gifts she sometimes gives. (She’s the world’s best gift giver anyway, a real truffle hound when it comes to searching out the very most wonderful things she can delight in sharing.)
It was a book called A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch. Have I ever feasted my eyes on a more soul-satisfying book? If so, I can’t remember when. It is a travel journal, written in Ms. Branch’s own clear and charming hand-printing and chocked full of photographs, her beautiful and often whimsical art embellishments, delightful quotes, recipes, lists, directions, humor and the joyous outpourings of a deeply grateful heart.
One of her biggest thank-yous was expressed in this paragraph on page 205:
“I have to say, I’m so impressed with the generations of self-sufficient, hard-working, independent-minded, peace-loving, stone-house building, brick-laying, flower-planting, rock-wall-piling, river-walk making, lamb-raising, farm-managing, foot-path allowing, tiny-arched-bridge-constructing, cathedral-climbing, bell-ringing, hedge-planting, preservation-honoring, history-loving, gravestone-carving, tradition-keeping, luv-lee English people, land-stewards who decorated this beautiful country go gorgeously. I’m glad I’m related to them! I hope they know how truly heavenly it is. If you are an English person reading this. . . THANK YOU a thousand times for not tearing it all down to build something new & for keeping the gardens alive & blooming long after the artists who made them are gone. I can’t imagine how, when such things as indoor plumbing & electricity came into being, you managed to hold on to the character of these villages & towns while modernizing. But thank you. You didn’t tear down all these luscious hedgerows to widen the roads for cars, & believe it or not, with all my complaining, I’m so glad. It’s perfect just the way it is.”
Somehow, in one paragraph she manages to sum up all the things I, too, so dearly love about England and the English people: this cherishing and sharing of lovely small details worth preserving, as well as their ability to deeply enjoy such satisfying traditions as afternoon tea and ancient pubs.
This book, by sharing and calling attention to these things, is one of the most joyful objects I have ever held in my hands! I am grateful beyond the telling and giving thanks.
Wherever you are, and what ever you are doing, may I wish you a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!