Each year I welcome the long drifts of daffodils below our town cricket field, and I’m sad when they fade, all too soon, as they have now here in Oxfordshire. You can’t pin down the Spring, like a moth in a display cabinet. And yet, in the transience of Spring I sense eternity, elusive as the scent of the flowers of the season: elusive, but if those scents could be captured, caught and pinned down like the moth, eternity would be dead.
This has been perfect Palm Sunday weather, in England now. Easter next. This time of year tells of eternity. Life everlasting. A gentle breeze brings promise with it, and here in my garden the wind flowers bloom everywhere. I welcome these from their first appearance, tiny and shrinking in the January cold. They are blue. I call them wind flowers. They are a variety of an anemone, like the white wood anemones I remember from my childhood. Blue and gold go together, like the dial of a church clock.
The daffodils fade. I fade. I trust in the eternity which beckons, like the elusive scent of the flowers.
A quiet evening. Still not a cloud in the sky. Still the scent of the now-fading orange blossom. Another midsummer passing inexorably towards autumn. Still here. Still hoping that eternity is here. The stump of the crab apple tree is burgeoning with new growth. In a few years it will produce its dark red flowers and fruit again. I doubt that I will be still here, in this garden, by this tree to see it. May all that is good in life, here and in eternity, still be HERE.
Again, our town’s by-pass with its view of distant hills. At this time of year I love to wander out and take in the view. At one time I found that passing cars with young men in them would sometimes hurl abuse at me as they passed. I was on my own looking out at the Chilterns and enjoying the prospect. This seemed to be some sort of challenge to them.
Then I got even older and on one occasion fell over. A passing motorist stopped and helped me up and got me back on to safer ground holding up the traffic for me. It happened again and I was rescued again. Tonight I was resting with my stick, at peace, looking out across the fields, by a wall, as a driver pulled up and asked: ‘You all right?’
Yes, very much so, because of this human response. Thank you.
Maybe time to go home, I thought
Meanwhile the buddleia is coming into bloom – too soon after the Springtime’s lilac, so similar to look at.
The year moves on.
Our town’s by-pass again: a clear evening, the hills in crisp view. Acres of oil seed rape are waiting to be harvested. Wimbledon is over again. The darker side of me thinks I might as well start writing my Christmas cards. Every Lent I love the time of the Cheltenham Festival, in March, with Spring and Summer to come, and the days to get lighter and longer. As I stood by the roadside tonight a lone estate car drove by, pulling a trailer piled with bales of straw. I think it must have been oil seed straw. Very soon the tractors will be harvesting our fields here. The year is moving on. Marking time. My hope is in ‘the still point of the turning world’.
Two images prevail in my mind tonight. One is a postcard which is on my windowsill. It is of the Lady Chapel of the 12th Century Church of St Bartholomew the Great, in Smithfield in the City of London. I bought it there 55 years ago, when I was getting to know Mrs Llew. I was a junior journalist on a trade journal, a long way, professionally, from the roaring presses of the national newspapers of Fleet Street, which were only a stone’s throw away. That church and its Lady Chapel were for me, at my stage in life, a place where the veil between the present and eternity is thin. I found guidance there. In old age tonight I find myself turning again to that battered, black and white postcard and my memory of the place. I remember my lunchtime visits there. And I find not only a comfort but a sense of certainty that, in Dame Julian’s words, ‘All shall be well’.
The other image is from my garden. It is overgrown, very much so. The red valerian and the cornflowers are turning to seed. The mint in the herb patch is lost in undergrowth of lemon balm. The roses are dropping. Everything needs a trim. Through my window, where the picture of the Lady Chapel is placed, I see a very tall foxglove. It is as tall as I am, about six feet. There are a few flowers at the top of the stalk but below it all the earlier flowers are turning to seed. It will fall over if I don’t cut it down soon. I’ll keep it as long as I can and it has roots. There will be many more flowers from that plant in future years. I hope that is true of me and Mrs Llew.
In the garden there is a sweet smell from the rain.
I edit myself into silence. Perhaps I am not alone in old age in doing that. I’ve known so many approaching the end of their lives who keep their thoughts to themselves. They appear to be serene. I think that they are, like me, not serene. They are dealing, with dignity, with the stage they have reached. I wandered out tonight to look out at the fields and the hills a few miles away, under wide skies, with their scattering of clouds, blue-grey and white in the evening light. Heavy rain has left a scent of grass and herbs and sweet verdure. Cornflower and foxglove and raspberry bushes are full of bees. I don’t, or can’t walk, very far. I’ve nothing to say – or have I? I love the perpetual return of Spring and Summer, even the winter frosts and the spicy bite of the mists which hide the hills. The seasons return, for ever. I trust they symbolise something which is eternal and does not exist only in time. Mrs Llew and I have been reading her diaries over her lifetime. What a busy life we had and how many seasons we lived through. I hope and trust that all the seasons of our lives will chime with a meaning and a blessed meaning which we cannot discern at this moment.
We have a young elder tree. It won’t flower this year but I hope we are both here to see it next June.
I said I edit myself out of existence. I shall post this, even so, and hope that it will speak for others at my stage of life. I do trust that that all shall be well and our troubles resolved in the light of Eternity.
The May blossom is fading: another year. There are many years to recall by now. Mrs Llew and I have been reading her diaries. She has kept diaries all her life. As we read, I remember other May times: other years when, returning from my work as a journalist, I walked home, late in the evening, while the elder trees in bloom scented the dusk.
That was 30 years ago. Here, today, in the market town where we live, the elder in some old hedges which have survived many changes over the years, is beginning to come into flower again.
High summer is approaching. Another high summer. The diaries record daily life over more than 50 years: endlessly busy, always dealing with the present moment, hopes, makings – and failings. Sadness too.
Again a year has passed. There is meaning to our lives, I’m sure, but it’s not an aggregate: a profit and loss account but is in every moment, every present moment. Whatever that leads to is not in an accounts sheet. There is another dimension to every moment of our lives, a point of intersection of the timeless with time, as T.S. Eliot said.
Maybe it could be seen, symbolically as a Cross: in which I hope we are all healed.