Things of the earth are of particular immediacy at this time of year. There is of course the intensive tracking of the progress of the spring grass, for the horses. It is slow to come, and even this far into April, hay is still required. There is my own private springwatch. This morning, my heart lifted to see the first of the cherry blossom out. The sticky buds of the horse chestnuts have just exploded into stinging green leaves. The pied wagtails have arrived, and are flirting shamelessly, no better than they ought to be. As we groom the horses to get rid of the last of the winter coats, and great clumps of bay and chestnut hair fall to the ground, I think the birds’ nests will be very soft and colourful this year. Horse hair is one of their favourite ingredients, and by the time I go back for evening stables, it will all have been collected.
It is the earthy things which also provide consolation. We have suffered a sad loss in the family, and hearts are sore. When mortality strikes, I find myself staring very hard at leaves and moss and lichen, as if the trees and the green grass and the old granite stone which is so much a feature of this part of the world can anchor me and keep me safe. The blue hills console too, with their ancient perspective. I look up at them and think they were here for millions of years before puny humans arrived, and they shall stand for millions more as the generations pass away. It may sound a little doomy, but I find it reassuring.
A friend had to go to stay in a city for the last couple of weeks. I was once a very urban creature, and loved the hard pavements of Soho with a burning passion. Now, I need the things of the earth. My friend said, as we were walking past the hills and along the beech avenue: ‘You know, there were no trees. I missed the trees.’ She paused, and we contemplated the arboreal magnificence. ‘We are so lucky,’ she said. ‘Some people have no trees.’ Of course there are trees in the cities. I remember always being astonished by how verdant London was, with huge old plane trees pushing up through the asphalt. But it’s not quite the same.
I think the idea of Earth Day is to remind humans to cherish the planet, and understand its daily marvels. That surely must be a good thing. My own private resolution is never to take the growing things for granted. I am in very real danger of getting a bit Hello sky, hello clouds, and the old hippy in me is coming out and singing her song. But nature is a miracle, and I shall never be blasé about that.