In a letter to her sister Cassandra in 1808, Jane Austen wrote: ‘Little matters they are, to be sure, but highly important.’
Jane Austen’s writing, both her novels and the letters that she wrote throughout her life, are not miniatures, but they focus on the little details of domesticity and through them manage to create something much more universal.
2020 has been a year like no other and our lives have become much smaller than we could have imagined. In this competition, we asked you to be inspired by your own ‘little matters’ and focus on your natural surroundings and the minute and domestic details that make up your everyday life.
In December I submitted an entry in the adult’s letter writing category of the Jane Austen’s House 2020 Writing Competition. The instructions, which I have pasted above, were to write no more than 500 words about small domestic things which have taken on importance this year as our worlds have shrunk to the insides of our houses, as many of us work from home. Although the letter could be written to anybody, I decided to write as if to Jane Austen herself. Unfortunately, my entry did not win, the winning entry can be read here, but I think my own letter is good enough to share here. And I did have fun reflecting on how much there is to write about without ever leaving home!
While settling into my new work from home routine, my world has shrunk and the pace of life has slowed, however staying home is not without its excitements – some of which I could live without.
I spend my work time in a room with only one window which looks upon the woodshed. Earlier this spring a family of squirrels made themselves at home among the stacks. The chatter of the mother and her three babies kept me company as I worked in an otherwise silent house. I must say the sounds of nature are a nice change from an office full of voices and the constant whirring of mechanical systems. Gazing out the window in moments distracted from my work I observed for the first time the progression of flowers which bloom through the season and their habits. Did you know that dandelions open to the sun and close in the evening?
My daily ambulatory has been reduced to several back and forths to the kitchen to refill my mug of tea with hot water and a short evening excursion before dinner if the weather obliges. We’ve had almost nothing but rain for the last several months, which hardly inspired a daily outing.
In my free time, I’ve managed to stay busy with indoor projects. I’ve taken to rearranging all my books from time to time because no organization system quite satisfies me. And now, having spent entirely too much time staring at the same four walls, I’ve taken on redecorating rooms. The furnishings never much mattered before now, but I’d rather work in a space which pleases the eye so in this effort I’ve ordered a few pillows and embellishments to finish each room’s cohesiveness.
While this all sounds perhaps quite dull, I much prefer a quiet day to the more exciting ones. One evening as I got ready for bed I heard a scratching in the ceiling and shortly after climbing into bed, guess what! A bat appeared in the bedroom! Imagine my fright! I have never been so scared! It swooped just above me and I screamed and pulled the covers over my head. Luckily I was able to collect myself and realize something would have to be done. I made my way to the garage to search for a net or other tool and miraculously the bat followed. Then I simply opened the garage door, and he flew back into the night. I prefer my wildlife encounters to remain outside, thank you very much. That was quite enough excitement for a while.
Oh Jane, speaking of excitement, you’ll be so surprised! I got a puppy! He’s cute as a button and has turned my world upside down! But I’ll tell you all about him in my next letter!
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Has your world shrunk too? In what way? What would you tell Jane about your every day life during 2020? Tell me in the comments below!