Clover is a wild flower I can recognize. My list of flowers is not extensive, though. Along with clover there would be buttercups, daisies, cowslips, bluebells, primroses and daisies; anything else is a guess, or a complete mystery. I still laugh at the story of the man who knew only one sort of tree – it was called “tree”. I think I could identify oak and horse chestnut, silver birch, and perhaps guess at maple and beech, but their companions would fall into the category of “tree.” Looking across the road, on a bright May evening, at trees growing at the corner of a paddock, I have no idea what they might be.
It is not that our primary school here in the village did not try to educate us about the world all around us. Miss Everitt took the primary school junior class for Nature every week. One afternoon a week we would file into the infant classroom and the infants would come to our classroom. Nature was about trying to teach us not only the sorts of trees and flowers, but also their components – sepals and stamens and all that sort of stuff. Miss Everitt would encourage us to bring flowers and twigs to school and to sketch them in our Nature books .
There would have been more than thirty Nature lessons a year and I was in the junior class for more than three years, which means there must have been more than a hundred of those lessons. How was it possible to have spent so much time in class without developing even a slight awareness of the countryside around?
I wasn’t the most brilliant of pupils, but I could learn most things passably well. I wasn’t any lazier than the next person when it came to studying at school, so what happened that an entire component of education seemed to disappear? If I had been asked what was the tree that grew in the hedge beside the school field, there would have been a sense of panic and bewilderment.
Perhaps I just wasn’t interested in everyday familiar things. Perhaps I just didn’t have a sense of beauty, a sense of those things that made everything else around seem different. Not learning those lessons left me with a lack of a vocabulary to describe the abundance on this fine evening; it left me with few words to name things.
Taking out the recycling boxes for tomorrow morning’s collection, a solitary swallow was sat on the telephone wire, singing for all it was worth. Perhaps it recognized the beauty all around .