The verge of the bypass has been mown and the hedges of the side roads trimmed. The grass mower was set too high to sever a dwarf thistle, slightly bigger than a side plate, and as flat. This wayside plant has the symmetry of a snowflake and also its intricacy, each barbed leaf creating concentric links, like a green spider’s web. There are other plants nearby along the edge of the neighbouring brick wall which have escaped the blade. I potter on, watching out for dogs’ leavings and taking a swipe with my stick at the occasional beer can and cigarette packet.
About 150 acres of cabbages grow on the other side of the bypass. For the past two years these two great fields have produced wheat and barley. I think this year’s crop is cabbages. They might be some other kind of brassica. They’ve survived a snowy winter. There must be a truly massive market ready for them, unless they are to be ploughed in.
At every step I’m looking for comfort – of spirit. The motley shades of this season’s green, glistening in the sun, do help. Other people may listen to music. All music is too poignant for me. I want to flee from its deeper – and higher – dimension of peace and certainty. Ironically that is what I need, above all.
The thatched cottages of our villages have seen generations come and depart. My generation is due for its turn soon. The scent of mown fields, the dairy herds, summer dawns and autumn dark have formed part of their lives. These dwellings, opening on to the street, their steep staircases smelling of polish, flowers and age, recall the eternal moments which touched the lives, the births, marriages, bereavements and deaths of those who have come and gone.
The thistle and the snowdrop have a perfection of design They have a central point from which all spreads. Perhaps my life and the lives of those I love are like tiny fragments of the pattern of life.
But I hope and pray we are part of the whole and link to the still and eternal point at the centre – and that we will know it, when our time comes.