Quarantine has turned all of my hobbies up to 11—in particular: gardening, indulging in silly romance stories, and pretending I don’t live in this garbage country during this garbage time. Through a small twist of fate, I have found the perfect intersection of all of these interests: Budding Romance, a f/f short by Lara Kinsey set in 19th century France.
Picture it: the French Riviera, 1899. Dorothea is an English governess turned prospective headmistress, and she has found a remote chateau that is, potentially, the perfect place for her new school. It needs a little bit of fixing up, and maybe it’s kind of small—but with the right garden, her students won’t even notice. Enter: Nicollette, a smooth, charming French master gardener with strong hands and a wicked smile. Their chemistry is undeniable, but is this just a bit of fun in the sun, or is it something more??
Peppered in among the descriptions of billowing linen and the extended metaphors about flowers and planting, there are a lot of really loving descriptions of food—reading Budding Romance is, all in all, a deeply ~sensual~ experience.
Ground yourself in your senses and in the small good things that you can actually appreciate in the present.
Over the past few months, we’ve talked a bit about escapism and activism—about the importance of both, and about the ways in which they can sometimes intersect. We’ve talked about the struggle between productivity and trying to take care of yourself in these unprecedented times.
When we think about escapism as self care, usually we’re talking about escaping into your imagination—retreating into a fantasy world as a reprieve from the horrors of the real world. But maybe there’s an angle to escapism that we have yet to fully explore: escaping into your own body—grounding yourself in your senses and in the small good things that you can actually appreciate in the present.
This book has reawakened an awareness in me for those sensual experiences.
After reading Budding Romance, I have never so much wanted to eat freshly-caught sardines on top of buttered bread; to feel the muscles in my back bunching and stretching as I dig terraces out of a hillside; to smell the salt in a sea breeze that pulls strands of hair loose from my sensible chignon. And my heart does ache with the fact that I live too far inland for fresh fish, in an apartment with only a small balcony garden, and with hair too short to put up.
BUT, this book has reawakened an awareness in me for those sensual experiences—I can’t catch fresh sardines, but I can make bread, and I can put too much butter on it, and I can savor it. I can’t dig out a hillside, but I can carry a heavy bag of potting soil up the stairs to my apartment, and I can breathe in that loamy soil and I can feel the grit of it under my fingernails, and then I can delight in the feeling of getting them clean again—the bristles of the nail brush, the warmth of the water, the fresh soap, the soft towel, the slick lotion. And god knows that my hair will have grown long enough to put up way before it’s safe to go to the beach again.
My point, however, is that Kinsey’s thoughtful descriptions are inspiring! She grounds the reader in the beauty and the feeling of this place—this place that is not just a backdrop for a fun romance, but that is also an environment that these characters actively shape! They are reveling in the sensuality of the home they’ve carved out for themselves! And you can too!
Reading Budding Romance provided some reprieve from the numb acceptance of a quarantined existence—it gave me a burst of conscious energy for appreciating what I do have, namely: a safe and comfortable home, full of small but real pleasures.
And that brings us back to the balance between reading for self-care and reading for self-growth.
But, of course, while an acknowledgement of that safety and that comfort naturally does come with an appreciation for it, it also comes with an understanding that these are precious things that are not available to everyone. And that brings us back to the balance between escapism and activism—or, at least, to the balance between reading for self-care and reading for self-growth. I really do encourage you to check out Budding Romance, and indeed the rest of Lara Kinsey’s work; but I likewise encourage you to join our political education reading group.
Those of us with the resources necessary to have a safe and comfortable home also have the opportunity to use some of this time in isolation to become a little more aware—more aware both of our selves/bodies/feelings, as well as more aware of others.