that sweet monotony

“A Childhood Idyll” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it, -if it were not the earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers as we sat lisping to ourselves on the grass; the same hips and haws on the autumn’s hedgerows; the same redbreasts that we used to call “God’s birds,” because they did no harm to the precious crops. What novelty is worth that sweet monotony where everything is known, and loved because it is known?
~ George Eliot
(The Mill on the Floss)

It’s been five years since I last shared a William-Adolphe Bouguereau painting, which surprised me because I used to post them fairly often. His pictures of children are so sweet and this one seemed to go along very well with George Eliot’s words.

I spent my childhood experiencing that sweet monotony, endless days playing in the oh-so-familiar woods surrounding the house my parents built. I can still close my eyes and picture the snow-covered hemlocks, the magical swamp and vernal pools, the baby garter snakes sunning themselves on my father’s stone walls in summer, the gray shed, the lovely chestnut tree, and the tiny bluets blooming behind the hens-and-chicks in my mother’s rock garden. My own childhood idyll.

21 thoughts on “that sweet monotony”

  1. What a nice memory, Barbara — thank you for sharing it with us. I’m not as sure as you that these girls are “sweet,” though. There’s a look in the eyes, particularly of the one on the right, that proclaims mischief in the works, ha!

    1. Well, childhood and mischief-making go hand in hand, and some of us never outgrow it. 🙂 The painting makes me wonder what impish next plan those two girls might be hatching up.

    1. I just found out about a book called “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather” by Linda Åkeson McGurk. It’s all about the advantages of letting children play outside in nature year-round. Imagine needing a book to encourage parents to do that! I’m so grateful now we were raised that way. The author is a Scandinavian mother living here who couldn’t understand why American parents in her neighborhood kept their kids inside all the time.

  2. This is why you are so grounded and love nature so much now Barbara – the appreciation of nature was instilled in you as a child. I like the photograph and accompany words by George Eliot. I have never read that book. What a crummy junior high and high school education I had!

    1. That’s true, and now I’m trying to broaden my horizons and appreciate a natural world a lot different than the one I grew up in. Most of the classics I’ve read on my own after I got out of school. I tend to enjoy them more than a lot of modern fiction.

      1. I would like to do that as well Barbara. Even in my college years, I had so many books I had to read, but often the same ones and we had to write book reports, analyze characters, etc. which took any joy of reading it away – in my opinion anyway.

        1. My father always said something similar if I tried to get him to read a book I liked. He kept saying he hated reading because he was required to do so much of it in college.

          1. I know, right? To this day, while I enjoy reading, I can’t even bring myself to write reviews about books I’ve read.

          2. Me neither Barbara. I joined Goodreads earlier this year and posted my books read, but never do a review, nor do I read other reader’s reviews because they give too many details, even if they put “spoiler alert”. I’ve fallen behind in my goal of 15 books – too many things going on and when I’m done here at WP for the night, I usually head to bed.

          3. There are only so many hours in a day — we have to choose the best or most satisfying way to spend our “free” time. Sometimes it’s a very difficult choice! Sweet dreams, my friend. A good night’s sleep is very important!

          4. Yes, it is Barbara. I have to stay up later than usual tonight as it’s Devil’s Night. I don’t want to be in bed and hear noises, not that I’d open up the door, but I’d look out the peephole or turn the backyard floodlight on. I only use it for that as it lights up everything.

          5. You might have mentioned Devil’s Night before but I couldn’t remember so I looked it up — wow! The things you have to put up with and worry about where you live! I hope that night passed without incident for you. We had a good time celebrating Halloween a night early with the grandchildren. A raw and rainy cold front was coming in for Halloween night itself so they moved up the trick-or-treating one night.

          6. Yes, in years past, especially in the City of Detroit, about 13 miles from me, they set houses and cars on fire. They started having volunteers help the police patrol the City of Detroit and crime/fires were reduced. They now call it “Angel’s Night” and people still volunteer but not as many as before and there are very few issues. There was another freeway shooting last night, not in Detroit, but the northern suburbs. It is all too much, especially the driving which seems to get worse every day – we had the hands-free law go into effect on Fourth of July weekend for phones – that was to deter texting mostly, but a woman using her phone crashed into another vehicle just yesterday. She, of course, was not injured, the innocent driver is in critical condition. Driving is not fun – everyone is distracted or in a hurry.

            I’m glad you could move it up a day – our Halloween night was the same with a rainy/snow mix and we got 2/10s of an inch of snow during prime time.

  3. These paintings are beautiful and so realistic, Barbara. It is interesting what we remember from our childhood that circulate daily in our thoughts and influence our daily life. There are also memories that we try to find, and just can’t. And of course, there are some memories that we are grateful that we can longer remember. Finally there are memories we wish to let go.

    The night that you posted this, the next morning, I had a childhood girl who lived next door visit me in my sleeping dreams which is rare. I have not seen her in 40 years. When I woke I thought about what she came to tell me. Then I saw your post and the painting of the two girls took me back to her once again! Your post touched me!

    1. So true about different kinds of memories, TD. I still remember how struck I was when I saw the movie “The Way We Were” and heard Barbra Streisand singing the title song with the poignant lyrics: “…what’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget…” It’s such a beautiful, bittersweet song.

      Thanks for letting me know how much this post touched you, my friend. Sometimes people from my past appear in my dreams, too, as if to remind me that they were once so much a part of my life. After waking up I spend the following day reminiscing…

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