It would have been a special day, yesterday, (as days wandering the Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum and Gardens always are for me), if it had only been for the explosion of springtime colour through the wintering brown earth. The bursting gold of the daffodils and narcissi, the yellow clouds of blossom on the Hammamelis, the pink airbrushing of the early cherry blossom. The appearance of different plants, alone, always gives me an infusion of joy, an immediate reconnection, though primarily my visual sense (though also though olfactory scents) with the totality of the natural world, of which I am just a tiny part.
All this would have been enough...but I also had the pleasure of sitting in the warmth of the garden Pavilion restaurant, able to tuck into delicious Thai lentil cakes and green curry, drinking Elderflower presse and savouring what the gardens had to offer (swathes of wild daffodils spreading down the hill, the Winter garden full of colour and already beckoning me) before we made our foray out into the wild.
These two pleasures would have been enough...but I also had the most wonderful encounter with another species. We had walked down to the Great Pond, past the Gunneras still wearing their winter hats and for all the world looking completely dead (before they make their own grand entrance out into the world again in a month or two). We were walking up to Jermyn's House, past the Himalayan gardens and Ghurka Memorial, climbing up though the valley of burgeoning camellias, azaleas, and early rhododendrons. gazing upwards at the new blooms.
Distracted enough, that I almost stepped on a little Robin, bobbing about around my feet. I sidestepped, warned Alec to ‘take care!’ and fully expected the little bird (it was a vividly red-breasted cock Robin) to flutter off into the undergrowth, where a hen Blackbird was also bobbing about, fossicking in the bark chippings for insects, happily unafraid of us, but keeping her distance.
But the Robin did not keep his distance. He reduced it, hop by hop, bob by bob. He quite clearly fixed his gaze upon me, looked up at me, cocked his head from side to side, hopped closer and closer - and sang to me. He did not just sing. He sang to me. He connected his gaze with my eye, and addressed me as clearly as I have ever been addressed - by dog, by cat, by human.
He attempted to communicate with me - I did not understand what his message was - but a message he was quite clearly, and quite fearlessly, sending. It was not accompanied by any aggressive gestures; he came closer and closer, (about 30 cms away at my shoulder, when I sat on a bench) still fixing his eye constantly with mine. He warbled softly and most beautifully, directly to me, and I was immensely moved.
I suspected that he had possibly been hand fed, though when I asked one of the staff exiting the building if that was the case, he said, no, nobody there had been doing that to his knowledge, and so wasn't I lucky to be having that encounter anyway? I found it almost impossible to respond to him, because I was, quite simply, choked and overcome. Words are inadequate to describe the emotion I felt, I just know that there are many of you reading this that will know just exactly what touched my heart. One day, we will understand Them.
All these things would have added up to a most delightful day - but even then, there were more special things in store. There is always an exhibition of some artistic nature in the Pavilion; yesterday, three artists were setting up their wildlife paintings in preparation for today's opening of the exhibition entitled 'Inspired by Nature'. I felt particularly deeply engaged with the art of one of the exhibitors, Daphne Ellman, who works mostly in acrylics and had produced a captivating series of paintings depicting various animals and plants present during each month of the year in the UK.
These monthly 'portraits' have been turned into a calendar, which was a lot more affordable than the originals, but still fell into my 'well, I *could' afford it, but *should' I?’ category. While I pondered, Alec stepped in, generously purchasing the calendar as my Mother's Day gift for today from him. The calendar is set for 2013, but before then, it will most certainly be dissected and framed (though where in the world I am going to find the wall space, I really don’t know!)
All these things would be more bounty that anyone could expect on one day - but the final treat was presented when I asked the artist if she did any teaching at all? One of my 'goals for the year' has been to get back to some creative activity, which I have always needed, and for a long time now have not really pursued. She answered affirmatively, and said she had a two day workshop coming up in April. I have a 30th Wedding Anniversary coming up in May, and once more, before I could do any pondering at all, Alec leapt into the breach and paired the two together!
Now I have the happy anticipation of the upcoming weekend, as well as the actual pleasure of taking part. How’s that for a long-lasting gift – and don't you think my cup more than ran over yesterday??
Share a sip from my cup by listening to that Robin's song, welcoming Springtime, as well as myself!