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