COUNTRYDIARY

Trust blue­bells to stir re­flec­tions on the lim­its of man’s cre­ativ­ity

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Country - W.F. Deedes

What a won­der­ful dis­play the blue­bells in the wood at the back of my house have given us again this year. In the wood’s clear­ings they have pro­duced car­pets of blue, speck­led white by the anemones which seem to have an affin­ity with blue­bells. No mat­ter what weather spring brings, the blue­bells never fail. Their small plants poke through the fallen leaves in Fe­bru­ary and early March. By the end of March, vis­tas of blue trans­form the wood.

Alas, the show does not last long. The bluebell has a short life. Like so many of the joys na­ture brings to our eye, like but­ter­flies in the au­tumn sun­light, the glimpse granted is poignantly short. Blue­bells and their brief beauty stir many thoughts within me. So few of us — re­ally, just those who live near woods — are granted a sight of them, which is a pity.

Blue­bells are wild flow­ers, not suit­able for ur­ban parks. To see them in their glory, it is nec­es­sary to live close to the set­ting that gives blue­bells their dis­tinc­tion — thou­sands of them oc­cu­py­ing half an acre of wood­land, as if by ac­ci­dent. That is what stirs the emo­tions.

Singly, they are not much to look at. To find a soli­tary wild gen­tian in its match­less blue just be­low the snow­line in a Swiss spring, or to come across a sin­gle edel­weiss on an Aus­trian hill­side is mem­o­rable. A lonely bluebell makes no state­ment at all. Tulips, daf­fodils and prim­roses are spring flow­ers that will il­lu­mi­nate a room. But the op­po­site is true of blue­bells. Pull a hand­ful and plant them in a vase. They look pro­foundly un­happy, soon wilt and die.

Greedy peo­ple who dig up bluebell plants, aiming to trans­fer a lit­tle of their elu­sive beauty from the wood to their own patch, are al­most in­vari­ably dis­ap­pointed by what they get. Beauty taken out of its set­ting so of­ten loses what makes it beau­ti­ful.

The sight of blue­bells each year in the wood helps to stir deeper re­flec­tions. They are a re­minder of man’s lim­i­ta­tions. He can paint them or pho­to­graph them af­ter a fash­ion, but he can­not cre­ate them or their set­ting. It is a help if man can keep the wood tidy, and that the foresters do ex­pertly. But it is his only con­tri­bu­tion.

Like other spring flow­ers that ap­pear at this time of year, blue­bells come with the earth’s awak­en­ing. They come when at least some are think­ing about the restora­tion of life af­ter a pe­riod of dark­ness. There are fewer to­day, they tell us, who be­lieve in the Easter story.

But I think there are as many as ever, es­pe­cially among the young, moved at this time of year to no­tice what goes on about them, to ponder whose hand made it pos­si­ble, not just this year but ev­ery year that goes by.

Man needs oc­ca­sional re­minders of his lim­i­ta­tions. No day passes in th­ese times but he boasts a fresh con­quest. Yes­ter­day it was the cre­ation of a hu­man heart. To­mor­row it will be some won­drous drug to take us all past the age of 100. All credit to him, but he needs gen­tle re­minders that there is still so much be­yond his grasp.

Man can de­stroy beauty. He can, as he is be­ing sharply re­minded, dam­age be­yond re­pair the en­vi­ron­ment we in­herit by his care­less ways. But he can­not cre­ate it. I think we all ben­e­fit when blue­bells clus­tered round great oaks in the wood tell him so.

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