Tag Archives: flowers
“And altogether, I may say that the earth looks the brighter to me in proportion to my own deprivations. The laburnum trees and rose trees are plucked up by the roots—but the sunshine is in their places, and the root of the sunshine is above the storms.What we call Life is a condition of the soul, and the soul must improve in happiness and wisdom, except by its own fault. These tears in our eyes, these faintings of the flesh, will not hinder such improvement.”*
Love me–and I will give into your hands
The rare, enamelled jewels of my lands,
Flowers red and blue,
Tender with air and dew.
From far green armouries of pools and meres
I’ll reach for you my lucent sheaves of spears–
The singing falls,
Where the lone ousel calls.
When, like a passing light upon the sea,
Your wood-bird soul shall clap her wings and flee,
She shall but nest
More closely in my breast.
Jewells: ragged robin and speedwell.
Is it a pagan superstition to talk about the spirit of the earth, or to imagine that spirit speaking? We are made of atoms and hormones and genes and bones – remember that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.
So get to know and love ‘Mother’ Earth: not just the dust and flowers but the wisdom that has been there since the beginning, sustaining it. The Spirit of the Earth can be identified with Wisdom, sitting at the Creator’s side as he set about his work. Laudato Si!
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing, from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out: The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters:When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.
Canterbury Bells are a flower in the Campanula family, happy to grow on the chalk, or in this case, on top of an old wall built with soft lime mortar. They are traditionally associated with pilgrimage to Canterbury, growing as they do along the lines of the different Pilgrims’ Way routes making for the shrine of Saint Thomas, including the railway cuttings that were driven through the chalk in the 19th Century.
I should have taken a picture while we were walking our L’Arche pilgrimage but then I should have taken a great many that I didn’t! This silhouette against a grey sky cannot really give us the purple-blue of the flowers, but we can see that the leaves are brown, no doubt due to drought. 2½ metres above the ground is not the most promising habitat when the weather turns dry, but the plants are concentrating their efforts into flowering and seeding themselves.
As we pass by we hear, not Bell Harry or Great Dunstan or the other cathedral bells, but the background roar of the main road. Not a problem for Chaucer’s pilgrims! Nor were they wandering through Kent with earphones blotting out the sounds of the birds, the bells. ‘And I shal clinken yow so mery a belle’, says Chaucer’s Shipman, praising his tale before he tells it.
Mrs Turnstone first heard a cuckoo this year as June was drawing to a close; we heard a nightingale in the woods on one Pilgrim’s Way – in the daytime, but still as lovely. And the blackbirds of Canterbury or London, or even that city of cities, Venice, would be inaudible wearing headphones.
If, as the catechism says, God made us to know him, love him and serve him in this world, we should take each phrase seriously. Out of body experiences are all very well, but Saint Francis, who received them. was also the author of the Canticle of Creation, in which everything created is called to ‘lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluiah!’ We can only know, love and serve God in this world.
Not a view of London any of us will have seen, though the crowded streets are still there. Saint Paul’s too, miraculously remains, but it has been overshadowed by the temples of Mammon. This picture and text are from ‘London Impressions’ by Alice Meynell, illustrated by William Hyde, pub; Archibald Constable, 1898, available on Project Gutenberg.
Now and then a firefly strays from the vineyard into the streets of an Italian city, and goes quenched in the light of the shops. The stray and waif from ‘the very country’ that comes to London is a silver-white seed with silken spokes or sails. There is no depth of the deep town that this visitant does not penetrate in August—going in, going far, going through, by virtue of its indescribable gentleness.
The firefly has only a wall to cross, but the shining seed comes a long way, a careless alien but a mighty traveller. Indestructibly fragile, the most delicate of all the visible signs of the breeze, it goes to town, makes light of the capital, sets at nought the thoroughfares and the omnibuses, especially flouts the Park, one may suppose, where it does not grow. It hovers and leaps at about the height of first-floor windows, by many a mile of dull drawing-rooms, a country creature quite unconverted to London and undismayed. This flâneur makes as little of our London as his ancestor made of Chaucer’s.
Sometimes it takes a flight on a stronger wind, and its whiteness shows dark with slight shadow against bright clouds, as the whiter snow-flake also looks dark from its shadow side. Then it comes down in a tumult of flight upon the city. It is a very strong little seed-pod, set with arms, legs, or sails—so ingeniously set that though all grow from the top of the pod their points together make a globe; on these it turns a ‘cart-wheel’ like a human boy—like many boys, in fact, it must overtake on its way through the less respectable of the suburbs—only better. Every limb, itself so fine, is feathered with little plumes that are as thin as autumn spider-webs. Nothing steps so delicately as that seed, or upon such extreme tiptoe. But it does not walk far; the air bears the charges of the wild journey.
Thistle-seeds—if thistle-seeds they be—make few and brief halts, then roll their wheel on the stones for a while, and then the wheel is a-wing again. You encounter them in the country, setting out for town on a south wind, and in London there is not a street they do not recklessly stray along. For they use our arbitrary streets; it does not seem that they make a bee-line over the top of the houses, and cross London thus. They use the streets which they treat so lightly. They conform, for the time, to human courses, and stroll down Bond Street and turn up Piccadilly, and go to the Bank on a long west wind—their strolling being done at a certain height, in moderate mid-air.
They generally travel wildly alone, but now and then you shall see two of them, as you see butterflies go in couples, flitting at leisure at Charing Cross. The extreme ends of their tender plumes have touched and have lightly caught each other. But singly they go by all day, with long rises and long descents as the breeze may sigh, or more quickly on a high level way of theirs. Nothing wilder comes to town—not even the scent of hay on morning winds at market-time in June; for the hay is for cab-horses, and it is at home in the clattering mews, and has a London habit of its own.
White meteor, lost star, bright as a cloud, the seed has many images of its radiant flight. But there is only one thing really like it—the point of light caught by a diamond, with the regular surrounding rays.
Alice Meynell and her husband Wilfrid were the first to publish Francis Thompson’s poetry, and did much to rescue him from his addiction to opium, welcoming him to share their family life. They would surely have said ‘Laudato Si!’ with Pope Francis, as this observation demonstrates. And the seed could have come from a goatsbeard head, like this one from near Elmstead in Kent. Goatsbeard is a very large dandelion.
This picture reminds me of the Song of Songs Chapter 2:
Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices. Behold my beloved speaketh to me:
Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come: the voice of the turtle is heard in our land: The fig tree hath put forth her green figs: the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come: My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.
A contrast to the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:
there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him.
Mary Magdalene was there on Good Friday, she knew how true that verse was. Now on Sunday she is in the garden, and through the lattice, with the spring leaves growing over it, she sees – the Gardener?
Eyes blurred with tears, heart in utter confusion, that is her first thought.
Jesus himself is not yet used to this body renewed, is not ready to meet her. Presumably he throws his cloak over himself before walking round to meet her. ‘Noli me tangere’, do not touch me, is completely understandable from a human point of view at this moment. But we know he later invited the disciples to touch him.
Of gold, her shell-pale robe and crocus-crown.
Once her green veils enmeshed me, following down
The dewy hills of heaven: with young surprise
The daisies eyed me, and the pointed leaves
Came swiftly in green fire to meet the sun:
The elves from every hollow, one by one,
Laughed shrilly. But the wind of evening grieves
In the changing wood. Like people sad and old,
The white-lashed daisies sleep, and on my sight
Looms my new sombre comrade, ancient night.
His fingers, and on his wild forehead gleams
My morning wreath of withered and frozen dreams.
I had not realised how long it had been since I promised more from Mary Webb, until I began re-reading her official biography, ‘Mary Webb: her life and work’ by Thomas Moult, Jonathan Cape, 1935. These lines from pp23; 25-26 set me looking at her poetry again. What treat can I find for tomorrow?
One of her brothers remembers how in girlhood she would go out early in the morning and sit in the grass ad watch the wild flowers open. She would watch them at evening, too, seeing them close. he remembers also how she ‘lay for hours and hours, just gazing at the wheat field, as the wind ran across it.’
[Mary Webb] eventually praised it all so proudly and gratefully in her prose and verse.
‘Long, long ago I thought on all these things,
Long, long ago I loved them.’
Lord, give us eyes to see your world, and the grace to love and nurture it. Amen.
The picture shows barley rather than wheat, but the monochrome brings out the dancing, like tango partners en masse!
What does the word ‘mermaid’ suggest to you? Andersen and Disney sweet young girl, giving herself to the man she loves? Or else the seal-women of Scotland, or the sirens of Greek legend, luring unloved men to their deaths?
The Mermaid rose is s beautiful as any of those, but has more in common with the sirens. Get too close to her and you won’t escape easily from her sharp, backward-facing thorns. But she’s lovely enough, if handled with leather gloves. She’ll grow 4m plus high and those buds will open to creamy yellow single flowers. The deep red berberis leaves set her off well.
It’s not altogether necessary to go on pilgrimage to appreciate the ‘flowers of the field’. (Matthew 6.26) I think that when Jesus encouraged us to consider them, he wanted us first of all to look about us, to look around our feet, on in Mermaid’s case, at or below eye-level; we have to protect our neighbours from her by careful use of secateurs.
But think of all those patient souls who have bred the varieties we love; their considerations went much further, looking at the future and how this or that rose might perform. Or the men and women working to refine the healing power of plants from around the world for the good of all.
Consider the flowers.
“It is well sometimes to half understand a poem in the same manner that we half understand the world. One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.”