George Washington Carver was an African-American botanist born into slavery somewhere around 1864 (the exact date of his birth is unknown). He went on to receive many honours for his work, which ultimately helped teach poor, farming families how to sustain themselves with alternative crops to cotton.
Here, he describes his thoughts about nature ~
“As a very small boy exploring the almost virgin woods of the old Carver place, I had the impression someone had just been there ahead of me. Things were so orderly, so clean, so harmoniously beautiful. A few years later in these same woods…I was practically overwhelmed with the sense of some great presence. Not only had someone been there, someone was there…”
I am no great botanist, but his words struck a deep resonance in my heart, for this is how I have always felt when walking in the woods; it is while surrounded by that very presence, experienced in all of nature’s grand design, that I feel most at peace.
It also never ceases to amaze me how the greatest of blessings so often appear when we least expect them, yet at such times, we are left marvelling at their perfect timing ~
At first, bedazzled by these gorgeous Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Blue Tits feeding right outside my window on a campsite in the beautiful Devon countryside earlier this week, I was unaware that an unexpected visitor would soon arrive ~
One plant, not particularly pretty in its leggy profusion but common enough in the British countryside, evoked warm memories of my childhood ~
This odd-looking plant, all the better once dried up and brown and finished with its summer glory, made for wonderful provision as I ran my hands along its stems, causing hundreds of tiny, brown seeds to slide off like tiny peppercorns into my palm.
I carefully placed the seeds in one of Dad’s old pipe tobacco tins which I kept in our den, a hollowed out hedge by the side of the lane.
And there, in the secret, safe cool, alone with nothing but summer’s breeze whispering of its plans before autumn arrived, I made soup in acorn shells, tiny bowls for fairies.
Back from my walk, a cheeky squirrel, up to mischief, was enjoying the bird food as much as the birds themselves.
Not the Squirrel Nutkin of my childhood woodlands, he of Beatrix Potter’s world with the glossy, red coat and fluffy tips to its ears, but he and his kin will surely make room for his cousins who, rumour has it, are making a come back to our shores.
It looks as if this little fellow already has a fine, yellow hat in
readiness for the celebrations of their arrival ~
But later on, after Squirrel left and I continued to marvel at the feathery antics of my bird friends, I happened to glance down at the grass below. And there, in such perfect presence and closeness was a visitor of such profound happenstance, that for a moment I could only marvel in stunned silence.
Once upon a time, such a creature was a more common sight, albeit curled up tight for protection upon hearing children’s footsteps approaching.
When those same children stopped still, and hushed for a moment or two, and blessed with the gift of childlike wonderment that we hope never to lose, they watched in perfect quiet as it unfurled its little self and wobbled away into woodland deep.
There she was, quietly waiting for her moment ~ Can you see one tiny ear and hands and feet, curled up beneath her prickly fur coat? ~
Hedgehog sightings are worryingly too rare these days. This was my first sighting since my childhood walks in the woods, since reading stories of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and her woodland friends, lost as I was in magical imagination.
On this day filled with nature-blessed encounters, one more surprise of a more human kind awaited. Walking back from the river, I had turned back to run my hand one more time along the stem of my childhood plant. Just to feel those seeds glide off into my palm once again.
And then, as I stopped and bent down to adjust my shoelace, there at my feet and glinting in the late afternoon sun on top of the shimmering, damp grass, lay a pound coin.
Some days nothing goes right. On others, blessings abound. George Washington Carver was right: In those woods, by the river, on a sweet, summer’s day in Devon, “Not only had someone been there, someone was there…”
Have a beautiful weekend.