Friday, January 4, 2013

January with Jean Hersey

"January begins a new year, crisp and fresh and white."
The Shape of a Year by Jean Hersey

I have just finished reading the January entries in Jean Hersey's The Shape of a Year (1967). She devotes twenty to thirty pages of this book to each month of a year spent at her home in the countryside of Connecticut. Her place is not quite a farm, although she describes flower beds and vegetable gardens. There is a huge meadow outside her living room window that reflects the many changes of seasons during the year. And there are deer and all sorts of creatures living in the woods around the house.

Ms. Hersey published quite a few gardening books and wrote articles for Woman's Day magazine. She also was interested in travel and cooking and this book promises recipes.

She describes her single-story home, which she shares with husband Bob, and its own greenhouse filled with orchids. Now that was a surprise! This is not a separate building, but an 10-by-12 foot area that one sees immediately in walking through the front door. When she is in the kitchen cooking she can look at the flowers. In the dining room, she can smell "that good scent of warm earth and growing plants - and, of course, the deep fragrance of the orchids themselves."

This is how she spends the first month of the year: she declutters drawers and cabinets; she marvels at the Weather - sometimes  bringing snow softly whirling and sometimes bringing rain furiously hitting the windows; she and Bob read Katherine by Anya Seton in front of the fire; they go on a deer hunt - not with guns but with binoculars; and, she explains how she and Bob have each just lost twelve pounds in six weeks by simply Eating Less.

With her husband out of town, she winds up the month reading alone in bed On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers. She reflects that according to Rogers, the person living a fulfilled life is, among other traits, open and interested in new experiences, doesn't shut feelings out, is grounded in some kind of religion or philosophy, and is completely at home in the world of Nature.

She writes:

This last, of course, particularly intrigued me. 

How delightful to learn also that the balanced individual is often inaccurate, untidy, vague, and unconventional, and does things on the spur of the moment. This was quite comforting as I can be all of these at times, and thoroughly.

Well, Ms. Hersey and I may not have hot-house orchids and deer hunts in common, but I can certainly identify with that description.


  1. This sounds utterly delightful! I found one of my Gladys Taber books, and perhaps it's on the same lines?

    I must see if my library has these.

    1. Yes, she and Ms. Taber are cut from the same cloth. I think you will like it.