We are so lucky to have this within easy walking distance, take a picnic to the river on a bank (national) holiday Monday. The first time I have ventured for so long and so far since the guidance relaxed on outdoor exercise here a couple of weeks ago. Mind you, though we took a modest enough five-mile (8k) walk, it had me aching. Clearly, my weekday lockdown exercise routine is not hitting the right spots.
On the radio the other day, the host played an old audio clip from the BBC archives of the writer, poet and gardener, Vita Sackville-West, recorded in 1968. In it, Sackville-West was explaining how the term ‘through leaves’, used to described the gratifying scrunch of walking though crisp autumn leaves, had become a sort of family shorthand. ‘Through leaves’ took on an adjective form to mean, I assume, those small moments of sensual pleasure, usually for free and sparked from an interaction with our surroundings, which give such satisfaction.
I have found the longer quote, and think it is worth copying out fully because whilst the ‘through leaves’ experiences can be very personal, there are at least some below that many of us will recognise. Sackville-West noted it was…
‘“through leaves” to run a stick along an iron railing or crunch thin ice; to suddenly remember a word or name you thought you’d forgotten; to write with the perfect pen; pulling curtains that run freely on their rods; sliding out a drawer which opened readily and silkily on ball bearings; cutting pages of a book with a sharp paper cutter; drawing a cork with a good corkscrew; drinking when you’re thirsty; feeling of sand between your toes at the beach; and reading in bed. Others include; sinking into bouncy seats at the movies; waking up to find it has snowed overnight; shopping in an outdoor market; putting on a freshly ironed shirt or suddenly catching sight of the sea.’
Some of these sensations were familiar from childhood and reignited in me when the children were small – but I am starting to forget them again. Moments like sploshing through puddles in wellington boots. Or blowing on a dandelion clock and watching the fairy seeds float away.
What better time, when there is an enforced limitation on more sophisticated activity, an enforced slowing down, than to value these small but intense pleasures?
So what else might be ‘through leaves’ on a late spring day?
I certainly registered the simple blessing of drinking something cool on a warm thirsty afternoon. And my daughter must have had such a moment in taking off stiff walking boots and socks to wiggle bare toes through grass. Also, wading in gaspingly cold stream water, perhaps. Or popping a thumbnail into the juicy stalk of a buttercup in order to make a buttercup chain. Pulling the long white plug of a strawberry out as you draw the roundly red fruit into your mouth. Lying on your back to watch wispy cirrus clouds on blue – is that the shape of a hawk or of a T-Rex? (We haven’t played that game in years).
What are your small, cherishable moments?
Vita Sackville-West from a recording included in ‘A Sense of the Past’ radio programme, broadcast 23 August 1968 as part of the Scenes that are the Brightest series.
Photos Miss H. Derwent