Thursday, August 21, 2008

on beatrix potter

i have always loved beatrix potter's books. her illustrations are so full of detail and life. there is just something about her characters that make them believable...even though rabbits are wearing little blue coats and clogs. maybe it is because the characters follow the natural tendencies of the creatures or maybe because they are so very much like myself, letting curiosity take me under the garden gate despite the sober warnings of being put into a pie. whatever the reason, her characters have long ago won my heart.

i recently watched the movie Miss Potter, about the life of beatrix potter, and was completely charmed. the movie filled in many details of her life that i had been unaware of. i have become fascinated with her life, her interest in nature and conservation, and her art. the movie has prompted me to read more about this author and illustrator. her life was so much more than the children's stories she published. she was quite an independent woman, living a life she carved out for herself in defiance of her parents' limitations and the social norms of the day. she found a place she loved in the world on her hilltop farm and put her heart into it. she farmed, she raised sheep, she was an active conservationist, and a naturalist, as well as an accomplished artist.

the fact that beatrix potter never attended formal school is another interesting fact to me. and as i prepare to begin school again with B this fall, some interesting quotes in linda lear's book, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature stand out to me:

"Between early childhood and coming of age, the nursery evolved from nanny's domain to schoolroom, art studio and botanical laboratory. Along the way it became home to a virtual museum collection of live pets and dead specimens, anthropological samples and microscopic studies of plants and insects. Potter's childhood and girlhood was certainly solitary if measured by friendships and social interaction with her peers, but in terms of exposure to the world of art, literature, science, fantasy, travel and natural history, it was a rich and enviable one."

"'Thank goodness, my education was neglected,' Beatrix wrote to an American friend in 1929. 'I was never sent to would have rubbed off some of the originality (if I had not died of shyness or been killed with over pressure).'"

i hope that my children will look back on their early education with satisfaction that the nursery became an art studio and a laboratory. my goal has been to give them a rich experience filled with "art, literature, science, fantasy, travel and natural history" and in addition, a solid foundation of spiritual truth.

i like to think we could have been friends, beatrix and i, sharing stories of sheep escaping from the pasture and critters in the garden.

everyday gift: child-sized books of rabbits and mice

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