Monday 18 April 2022

Into the blue again - Lu Hersey

 I was brought up thinking you had to visit bluebell woods in spring - because it was something we always did. And even back then, when going for walks with boring adults who walked much too fast, never seemed to notice things and weren't interested in anything you had to say anyway, I loved the colour and the smell of a bluebell wood. 

Our family walks were mostly centred around where we lived at the time and what was in season, so we started the year with snowdrops, moved onto primroses, daffodils, bluebells, foxgloves and orchids - ending the year with blackberry picking, mushroom hunts and autumn leaves.  

Sounds idyllic? It really wasn't. Yes, we were lucky enough to have a car to get closer to the countryside, but our vehicles were always ancient and unreliable, so a lot of time was spent walking along roads in the freezing cold (or blazing heat) looking for the nearest AA telephone box. (For those of you born since 1984, these were bright yellow telephone boxes placed at varying intervals along main roads, and if you were an AA member, you had a key to open them so you could call for help.)

The arguments or seething undercurrents of tension between my parents made any country walk quite nerve wracking. It was on family walks that I learnt the magical art of becoming invisible. It avoided a lot of trouble. I've since found it very handy when wanting to avoid the psycho on the bus or walking home after dark. If you want to know how to do it, it's simply a matter of walking fast and thinking yourself invisible. (A warning though - it's not infallible, which is how I know about the psycho on the bus.)

Time passed by, and years later I found myself taking my own family to bluebell woods each spring. No longer practising being invisible because now I was in charge (which basically just meant providing everyone with the right crisps and sandwiches to avoid any potential conflict) It was more fun because the children had each other, or brought along friends, so they always had someone to talk to. They probably didn't notice the bluebells much at the time, yet somehow they've grown up with bluebell obsessions of their own. 

Maybe this is because there is something intrinsically magical about bluebells, bringing with them a sense of the earth as a living entity, breathing blue into the spring woods. If you feel anxious or in need of inspiration, try spending time on your own in a bluebell wood, sitting down away from other people, absorbing the experience. The combination of the colour and the unique scent really lifts the spirits - or maybe it's down to some chemical bluebells release. Either way, I reckon anyone (even Richard Dawkins) can experience a touch of magic, simply sitting in a bluebell wood, allowing themselves a little bluebell immersion time.

These days, bluebells have become more precious to me than ever before - something to do with the years passing by. They've just started appearing now at Easter, a time which always brings to mind my mother's favourite poem, (from A Shropshire Lad by AE Houseman) - it's actually about cherry blossom, but the sentiment behind it could just as easily apply to bluebells:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Sadly my mother died long before reaching her threescore years and ten, but the closer I get to it, the greater the need to go out and soak up the beauty every spring. So if you haven't taken the opportunity yet this year, try and get to the woods over the next few weeks. Enjoy some bluebell magic. It works wonders.

Lu Hersey


Laura Jones said...

I love this, Lu. I too learned to be invisible in my childhood, witness to much I'd rather forget! Nature was my refuge, and I do clearly recall the transforming sensation of a bluebell wood. Mum adored them. She died recently and I suspect, this year, my bluebell walks will be a bittersweet experience. They're always a bit late around here (Leics/Lincs) but soon they'll be everywhere. Thank you for this Lu xx

Anne Booth said...

I love that - and I also resonate with being invisible!

LuWrites said...

Thanks Laura and Anne - very kind of you. And interesting we all learnt the skill to be invisible! X

Mystica said...

I've never seen bluebells other than in pictures but I think children somehow absorb stuff without having being told to do so (either by repetition from adults or by hearing it spoken of).

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for the reminder to go out and fine some. The blooms are a bit later up here.

They do look beautiful in photos but if you can catch the right moment on a warm sunny day, the perfume within a bluebell wood is wonderful.