Friday, 14 March 2014

See beyond the clouds

The monthly column in York Press on Monday, March 10th 2014.

My husband was in a lift in an office building.  As the doors opened, a woman said, quite randomly, “ Aren’t birds wonderful? It doesn’t matter what happens to them, they always begin a new day singing.”  I’m not suggesting that human beings can get up each day with their hearts bursting with joy, despite awful events that may have befallen them the day before, but nature can make us think. There is much that provides each of us with the lessons of life and shows us what to do with our resources – if we want to learn from them. 
At the moment, the gardens, hedgerows, fields and parks and beginning to burst into bud and flower. Whatever the winter provides, too dry in 2012, too much snow last year and too much rain this winter, vegetation springs to life again. It adapts. One of the reasons for the stoical, adaptable British character has been attributed to the weather. I recall my geography teacher telling us that, “Britain doesn’t have a climate, it has weather.”  Most weeks we have to manage thwarted expectations and just get on with it. Taking a niece to a theme park, we got onto a ride in the pouring rain. The attendant said, “do you mind if I ask, why do you come here on a day like this?” He had a point, but my reply was, “ because my niece is visiting, this is what we planned, so we’re just getting on with it.” Nature doesn’t blame and make excuses.
Outside can be our classroom.  Snowdrops are one of the most fragile flowers in the plant world. It is so easy to crush the stem, even with careful handling, yet they come through the earth when it’s at its hardest and coldest – they thrive in those conditions. A fresh dumping of snow can arrive, disrupting people’s lives, yet the snowdrop still survives.
A rose bed in winter can look a sorry sight, full of bare twigs. Cut them back, surround them in manure and a few months later, they produce colourful, sweet smelling, beautiful flowers. 
The sun is always in the sky during daylight; it’s just that sometimes cloud hides it. Taking off from an airport in the pouring rain and going up through the clouds never fails to lift my spirits. Rainbows too.
This is an adaptation of a traditional story, which is a favourite teaching tale.  A man was sitting in a park, on his lunch break. He noticed a chrysalis on a shrub. He watched, fascinated and enthralled as he saw a butterfly begin to emerge.  After a time, the butterfly stopped moving. The man thought the butterfly was stuck and decided to help.  With the utmost care and very gently, he fully opened the chrysalis. The butterfly fell to the ground crumpled and dying.The man had failed to understand that nature had made the butterfly have to struggle to give it life and freedom.


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