By Nuala O Sullivan Connor
District Director: Brendan O’Sullivan / Editor: Cormac Foley
“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” (Thoreau)
Sunday morning 7 a.m. I decided to attend early morning “nature service” at the nearby Heritage Park, confident in the knowledge that I would be the sole worshipper.
Walking out the front door of my humble cottage I was greeted by the distinctive scent of the flowering currant.
Strolling along the road accompanied only by birdsong, I was enthralled by the beauty, aroma and diversity of the flora by the roadside.
Emerging from an ivy carpet were – bluebells, lesser celandine, dandelion, daisy, cuckoo flower, herb robert, bugle, buttercup, herb bennet, dog violet, plantain with its “soldier like” erect flowers that afforded me and my siblings many entertaining hours in childhood, playing “soldier head chopping.” Accompanying them were ferns, lesser hogweed, cow parsley and foxglove almost ready to show off their attractive fairy fingers. All of these and many more species just at ground level.
Briars guided the eye up to the next strata. I noticed that the hazel which was heavily laden with catkins the previous week had dropped most of them underfoot. The holly had grown some new fresh leaves, soft to touch. The blackthorn was white with blossom doing so before the appearance of its leaves. The whitethorn displayed its leaves and emerging blossoms. Such beautiful blossoms that will produce bitter fruits, sloes and haws in autumn but the birds won’t refuse them. Fluffy white seed heads sit poised to fly with the first breeze that will come by the sally bush.
Overhead the trees newly dressed in their “Spring Gowns” stand out “in their rich array”.
The oak stands magnificent against the skyline and not far from it is an ash tree, not yet fully robed. This observation reminded me of what my now deceased neighbour, Chrissie, used to say – “The oak before the ash, you get a splash, the ash before the oak, you get a soak.” If that is so, then a very nice dry summer awaits us!
The elm tree thankfully has made a comeback, after being wiped out several years back by Dutch Elm disease. The beech is eye catching with its fully grown pale green leaves. The Sycamore is also growing along the road but the most prolific of all is the birch.
The stone ditches look splendid wearing coats of green moss with pennywort buttons topped with a collar of blush pink London pride.
When I arrived at my place of “worship” the choir was in full glorious voice. I was not surprised as they practise daily. The altar was adorned with “forty shades of green” along with bursts of yellow gorse and broom.
As I walked up the “aisle”, Hare was coming towards me. I stopped abruptly, as did he, each surveying the other. Cocking his ears, he turned his head sideways and twitched his nose. But the soft breeze was in my favour, gently wafting past my face. Hare remained on high alert as cuckoo chimed to my left and the baritone voice of the pheasant to my right. I was barely breathing. Hare pounced a few paces towards me but his heightened sense commanded him to amble off into the safety and shelter of the undergrowth. I had most certainly experienced a few “Sacred Moments”— a very generous reward for my attendance.
If it wasn’t for the abundant flora I would not have had that graced experience.
Flora provides shelter, food and camouflage for all animals. It provides food for us humans also but we don’t always harvest enough of it. I have enjoyed many servings of nettle, wild garlic and dandelion leaf soup in recent weeks. There will be pots of jams and jellies from an abundance of berries in the autumn. Our ancestors lived mainly off the flora and its fruits and depended on it for medicinal purposes also. The essential oils so popular today are derived mostly from plants.
Poets and writers through the centuries have derived inspiration from the flora of the countryside .The Nature Poets portrayed their observations and sentiments in verse depicting scenes paying homage to the plant life. “When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils.”
I have been blessed this springtime 2020 to be isolating in the bosom of the Irish countryside, embraced by the beauty of the natural flora of Bonane. Time has afforded me the privilege “to stand and stare” and enjoy what I love.
“And I think to myself what a wonderful world.”