Well, it took winter long enough to arrive, and let loose when she did. My local library cancelled their “Pride and Prejudice” book talk two consecutive Wednesday nights due to icy roads. Then, somehow, this past Wednesday night, I missed the discussion.

“P&P,” as Jane Austen fans say, first enchanted me in 1967 when Miss Liennemann, my senior year English teacher, included the classic in our syllabus.

I’m eternally grateful for the assignment that influenced my reading and writing life more so than “Kon-Tiki” and “Great Expectations.” I enjoyed Thor Heyerdahl’s adventure on his raft with a team of sailors – and Dickens’ boy, Pip, coming of age in nineteenth-century London. Yet, they don’t call my name as does Jane Austen.

Perhaps it’s due to an investment I made years ago. A fellow reader and writer led me to a collection of antique copies of Austen’s work. I spent every discretionary dollar in my possession to purchase the treasure. Miss Austen’s seven stories in ten volumes rest under a glass dome until she calls my name.
You’d think wintertime ideal for holding one of Austen’s brittle, faded, green bindings. I did, too. Instead, I’ve been beating bushes.

Literally. That’s what happens when I fail to protect my ornamental junipers and boxwoods from heavy snowfall. The most efficient and merciful relief for shrubs and trees in snow distress is to grip the handle of a sturdy broom. Then trudge through snowdrifts and beat sagging branches laden with snow.

This exercise began with the junipers, two darlings planted beside each other nineteen years ago in my upper, backyard garden. The tall, thin shrub barely reached my knees back then. Now, I cannot touch its top. The other juniper I’ve trimmed into the shape of an umbrella. The two stand as inseparable attractions, no matter the season.

I whacked the broom on the bent branches of the tall juniper, clumps of snow falling on me and the ground as the branches sprang up. Easy-peasy.
The canopy of snow on the other juniper also gladly fell under the beautiful, blue sky. Invigorated, I spied our barrier of evergreens on the west side of the house, branches in the most humbling posture I’ve seen in our thirty-three years on this homestead.

“Take that!” I said and beat the branches with the broom. The boughs sprang up happily.

I bashed all the evergreens within my reach and walked uphill and indoors for a cup of green Earl Grey tea, and chocolate shortbread. Although beating bushes is great fun and exercise, I noticed the bent branches of the tall juniper did not recover upright. I’d have to tie the shrub together before the next snowfall, or risk damaged limbs.

Dear Reader, yesterday, I saw snow in the forecast and at last secured the branches of the skinny shrub. Which means I slept well last night and didn’t have to rescue my darling this morning.

Hmmm… is that “Emma” calling from under Jane Austen’s glass dome? It’s been too long.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.