Sunday, 2 May 2010

Tick tock, time is short

I have 30 minutes to write this blog post. Thirty minutes. That's how long before the screaming starts again and they break down the locks and stampede here, to this silent office space.

Tiger snarling that Shark has shoved her favourite unicorn up a hawthorn tree and hung it there to be scoured by wind and rain, sure to have its horn stolen by evil fairy spirits who drink its magic powers. Shark will hurtle close behind full of accusing scowls and stabbing fingers. Squirrel, peace brokering, will be gone in hiding because when the house storm comes, it starts like this, with banging doors and claps of thunderous wrongs.

So I better make it quick.

Today we walked with a wildflower watch. It's led in the driving rain by the old lady I'll probably become, the sort of lady who never writes but corresponds, the type who military marches in her socks and trainers, swishing her umbrella, out of time, working for a lost good cause, shouting Heavens! and Really? What has become of us all!

On the briskly walked, soaked-through paths laced through the ancient woodland over by the Greensand Ridge, our leader pauses in her march, holds up her hand and smiles at us all, waiting for the silence to precede her declaration. She points kindly to Wood Sorrel.

Shh. Don't wake it. It's the sleeping beauty of the woodland. In the pouring rain, its little leaves fold up and tuck away; a tiny, beautiful, sterile flower tilts at the soil. The later head, without any show of petals at all, will next grow invisibly, and hold the seed. Spreading slowly, it needs you to be quiet, and leave it respectfully about its business. It knows its own story. Today it is gently beautiful and tomorrow it will disappear.

Next our guide stops us at Wood Anemone, its pinkwhite petals dripping and heavy bowed with rain. It is already a ghost flower, and returns each year, despite our noise and boots, to haunt the same season and the same place, unaware that the time has moved on and the world changed.

Then we journey on the deep wet paths to Yellow Archangel, beautiful, stinking, twisting this way and that, declaring it is different, writing accusing letters probably to the neighbours; then Dog's Mercury, common as muck but giving us all something to talk about with its rampant ways; then Goose Grass, Lily of the Valley, Violets, Cuckoo Flower, Jack by the Hedge.

We pause at Wood Vetch, its exotic coiling leaves stitched like lace along the stem, bound by invisible threads from beginning to end. We stare at showy marsh marigolds, shameless in these quiet woods like a bottle blond strolling through a Church door, then the emerging bugle, catching up, not quite there. We pause to tell the invading daffodils to shove off. Lords and Ladies over there we don't talk about because we all know what they're up to. We raise our eyebrows and nod, because that is a proper thing to do.

And I only have thirty minutes to write about all the plants of this ancient woodland, and I cannot do that.

All I can say is that I was grateful for every minute of this walk. When we stop at the Town Hall Clock I am suddenly happy and sad all at once; reminded that I hunted these diminutive flowers down as a child, called them that same clock name, wondered at their many flower faces, handed fistfuls of them deep into skirt pockets, scattered them around, and thought them endless.

Then I quite forgot about them, and have never thought of them since. I hope Shark, Squirrel and Tiger remember, in forty years ahead, when me and the guide are both gone on beyond. I hope then amongst all the rush and busy days, and accusations over unicorns and children and families, they have the time to pause, and look down, and find them too.


kellyi said...

I thought of you today. Husband is off talking geek to other geeks in Germany and I found myself and children at the local country park on a Wild Food Walk (us and one other poor woman!) and as we got ankle deep in mud, marvelling at a nettle, I thought "Ooh, I'm turning into Grit!"

Rachel M. said...

I thought of you today too!!

kellyi said...

Rachel, you weren't the other woman there were you?!

Grit said...

kelly, that sounds like the sort of life indeed. filled with misery and marvel in equal measure.

rachel, i knew my ears were burning. i cannot eat sushi. but i can locate afghanistan. don't take my say-so for the exact borders though. we don't want another diplomatic incident.