The View from Here: in nature’s cathedral

I shall try to remember the message of the trees.

bluebells“Yes, the estate remains open until dusk.  But I’m afraid the bluebells are almost over.”  The National Trust staff member looked genuinely crestfallen that we had perhaps made a futile journey.  I wondered too.  Had we left it too late?  Not in the time of day – I had deliberately chosen late afternoon just as the main house and gardens were closing – but in waiting so late into the spring?  The bluebells have been magnificent this year; we still had plenty at home.  But had I left it too late to see them in their true glory – massed amidst spring woodlands?

I had not.  It’s true that they were perhaps just past their best but that did not detract from their beauty.  To walk in these woods on a soft, sunshine-filled evening late in May was sublime.

bluebells 3
Lanhydrock bluebells

We were the only two people in the wood: we were the only two people in the world.  The further in we walked, the further apart we drifted.  Until each of us was alone – until it was just me.  Suffused with the delights of nature, turning instinctively towards the reverent solitude of a sacred space.

leaves

Light – bright and clear – streamed through the canopy.  Leaves shimmered and sighed, a mosaic of emerald supported by ancient pillars – venerable trunks stretching upwards and sending graceful branches to weave an intricate lattice high above the floor and just below the heavens.  The breeze sighed; the trees soughed softly in response and hosts of birds near and far sang a celestial symphony which rang pure and deep into the furthest corners.

bluebells 1

And on the woodland floor, everywhere there were bells, fading bluebells.  Drifts of hazy blue clustering around ancient trunks, broad, riven and gnarled.  Younger brethren, grey and smooth, and moss-covered logs – all were islands in a carpet of blue.  How many blues can a bluebell be?  In stretches of balmy shade they massed sedately in tinctures of deep heather and ecclesiastical purple.  They crowded into splashes of evening sunlight dressed in smoky lavender and dusky lilac and in spotlights of brightest, lightest sunshine they danced in accents of cobalt and indigo, azure and regal royal blue.

bluebells 2

An endless cerulean ocean, the pure notes of an avian chorus and the soaring green vaults of this, the most natural of cathedrals.  A paean to an English springtime.

bluebells art

 

A few days later, I came across this poem by Mary Oliver:

When I am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust, 

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, 

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world 

but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled 

with light, and to shine.”

 

I shall try to remember the message of the trees.

 

 

46 thoughts on “The View from Here: in nature’s cathedral”

  1. Here we have meadows full of scilla which produces a similar astonishing delight. A friend and I have a two person book club and we have been reading Mary Oliver’s compilation “Devotions” each week. Very calming poems encouraging each of us to just look around.

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    1. Yes, I can imagine meadows of scilla would be equally wonderful. Elizabeth, I am reading ‘Devotions’ at the moment which is where I found this poem. (Originally from her 2006 collection called ‘Thirst’.) I agree – her poems are deeply calming and we can learn a lot from her message.

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  2. It is one of life’s absolute joys to walk through carpets of bluebells – what a memorable experience you had. And that poem is perfect – Mary Oliver has such a wonderful way of capturing the beautiful essence of nature.

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    1. I think it’s a combination of their colour and the timing of their display which gives them such resonance for most of us over here. That sea of blue after the grey winter. A bluebell wood does seem to be a particularly British thing, although I’m sure they must grow in many places in the world.

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      1. They do. We (allegedly) had bluebells in France. But the special lambent beauty of an Englsih bluebell wood is unknown. Spanish bluebells don’t drift, don’t have the very special smoky blueness, so very hard to capture in photos (and haven’t you done well with yours?). And anyway, you know what I think of Spanish bluebells, Sandra.

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  3. Exquisite, Sandra. You have captured the essence, as always, of that most sublime of experiences- bluebells in an ancient English woodland. They have been early, prolific and somewhat fleeting this year, and I was lucky enough to catch them as you did , rather late, in Evenley Wood. We saw no one else in the wood that day. Sheer magic. xxx

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    1. Ah, Evenley Wood – I can imagine it would be very similar there, Pat. A beautiful spot and on the doorstep. I’m glad you got to enjoy some spring moments there. Food for the soul as much as a feast for the eyes 🙂 xx

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  4. Our local bluebell wood, Coed Cefn (‘Ridge Wood’) is a minor miracle in late spring, especially when — as for you — there are fewer visitors, and especially those who let their dogs blunder through the drifts, bludgeoning unnecessary paths and destroying what we’d come to see. I like it best when one gets the impression of a blue mist carpeting the ground in the middle distance.

    https://wp.me/s36La9-picnic

    Enjoyed your photos, Sandra, very atmospheric, and amazing to know that there are still a few bluebells lingering around this late in the year. A lovely text too — I’ve read very little by Mary Oliver and ought to remedy that.

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  5. Bluebells under the young green – it’s such a special time and why not enjoy it when they are fading too? There’s something lovely about catching the last glimpses – like a poem in itself. Incidentally, I bought some British bluebells this year and was put out to find they were not the native ones, where the bells hang on one side of the stem and curve so beautifully. For once I should have asked for ‘English’ though bluebells are everywhere in Britain as far as I know.

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    1. Yes, I’ve wondered about the ‘english’ epithet. Why not british bluebell? Then I think about welsh poppies and retire in confusion! With so much hybridisation now between the english and spanish bluebells, I do get a special pleasure from the true english bluebell. Deeper colour and as you say, that graceful curve.

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        1. Oh really? Not seen them in England? Now I come to think about I’m wondering myself. I was sure I had seen them but where and when eludes me. I hope you find the seeds. You might be introducing them here!

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          1. I have Welsh poppies in my garden in Oxfordshire- they seed about quite prolifically and sometimes the flowers are tinged with orange. I have no idea where they came from, other than seeds from a friend’s garden in the village!!xxx

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          2. Sounds good. I suppose I meant I hadn’t seen them in the wild. But there’s no reason why they shouldn’t thrive in Lloegr. I hope to help spread a yellow revolution one day.

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  6. Your photos and writing are beautiful Sandra. So hard to capture the light and shade and the depth of blue, but your photos do that as do your descriptions, which are deeply felt. I should think that old cathedrals were partly inspired by forests and woodlands and now they are sacred spaces that cross-pollinate in our imaginations as your post conveys so well. The poem too is reassuring. Thank you.

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    1. You’re very kind, Carol 🙂 My photos are almost the antithesis of your own. You have such patience; I point and shoot. But I’m often pleasantly surprised at what I capture.

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  7. Quite lovely. I’ve just looked up Mary Oliver, and discovered she wrote other beautiful pieces, too. Thanks for that pointer. Your photo’s are gorgeous.

    I don’t count bluebells as being over until the last ‘bells’ have fallen, and those certainly still had a lot of lovely colour. Wonderful.

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