The backstory: At the start of 2016, I pulled out my very favorite Miss Read book, Village Centenary. The novel is structured in months and each chapter explores a month in the year of a village school that is celebrating its 100th anniversary. This year, my own school is celebrating its 250th anniversary and as we think of our past and look toward our future, I thought that Miss Read would once-again make a lovely companion for me. Each month of 2016, I plan to read Miss Read’s reflection on the month.
Miss Read is a pseudonym for Dora Jessie Saint, an English author who wrote between 1955 and 1996. Her novels were tales of every day life in small English towns. Village Centenary is set in Fair Acre, an imaginary Cotswold community. As is the case in nearly all of the Fair Acre novels, the novel is written in the first person and it is through our narrator, school teacher Miss Read, that the story unfolds.
February with Miss Read
In the January chapter, Miss Read and her longtime friend Miss Clare have tea and remember that come February 1 there will be enough light after tea for a walk in the fading light of day. The imaginary village of Fair Acre is in the Cotswolds and thus several degrees north of central New Jersey in latitude. Moreover, we don’t have a 4 pm tea time tradition. But that observation governs my thoughts as February approaches and come the 1st of the month, I take myself for an outdoor walk to observe the slowly lengthening days.
One of the things I’ve learned from Miss Read novels is to stop and appreciate the joys of the natural world. I’ve always liked the outdoors but reading Miss Read novels brought me a much greater self-awareness of the power of the natural world when it comes to shaping my own moods. I read my first Miss Read book in 2006, when my life was abruptly altered and I became a single mama. In that first summer, when virtually every moment of my life was touched by the pain of that break-up, Miss Read’s stories brought me a much-needed respite from unhappiness. The characters were companions whose advice and worldview lingered well after I closed the books.
So it is due to Miss Read that I pause and admire the Winter light in February, now aware that from the start of the month to its end, more than an hour of sunlight will be added to our days. Even as the cold lingers, that light slowly marches us that much closer to the glories of Spring.