It was Clare who took our love for Beatrix Potter to a whole new level. When she was not quite two, her favorite book became a simplified retelling of Peter Rabbit. She would have me read it over and over. One day she found a copy of The Tale of Benjamin Bunny and brought it to me to read. As she realized it was a continuation of the Peter Rabbit story, her emotions were a mix of joy at having discovered it and dismay that no one had previously told her of its existence.
Inspired by all of this, I added to my own reading the charming Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. These books are mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert, which have Beatrix Potter as their heroine. I also read Linda Lear's biography of Beatrix Potter entitled Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature. It was with the reading of this book that Beatrix Potter went from a favorite artist and writer to a woman I would want my daughters to emulate in many respects. Prior to writing her children's books, Beatrix Potter used her artistic skills to draw fungi. Her study of fungi led her to develop a theory of germination at odds with the experts of her day. She wrote a paper on the topic that at the time was rejected, but since has been proven correct. Also, while being a daughter of privilege, Beatrix Potter made her own money and used that money to buy farm land and keep the land as working farms.
Perhaps the thing I admire most about Beatrix Potter is how she dealt with sorrow. Meg and Clare have been begging to watch the movie Miss Potter. I have hesitated because, in the movie, Beatrix Potter's fiance dies and I was afraid it would simply be too sad for them. Yesterday, when they asked why the movie was sad, I explained that she loved a man and they were to be married, but he died of leukemia before they could be married. And then I added, "She was very sad, but do you know what she did? She chose to be happy. She moved to her farm. She worked very hard to make it a really good farm. And eventually she met another man that she also loved and they were married for many, many years." That is a life lesson I very much want my girls to learn. Life will bring you many things that can make you very sad, but you can always choose to be happy. Each day you can choose to do things that you love and things that make you proud. In Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, there is a story from Beatrix Potter's early life. She battled a long illness and felt herself going into her head a bit too much and succumbing to depression. Her solution was to memorize Shakespeare plays to keep her mind active and fight the depression. I love to see that kind of fight in a woman and I love that my daughters see her as a role model.
I let the girls watch Miss Potter yesterday. Clare fell asleep (still recovering from the time change). Meg followed the movie, but kept running out of the room to collect her art supplies. She found my wooden lap desk and began to set up a work table that resembled Beatrix Potter's work table in the movie. She reiterated that she would be an artist who made books and began discussing how we would publish her book Fairies of the Sweetness Flower. Yes, I feel quite good that Beatrix Potter is one of their role models.