In the East End of London it appeared to me that there were standard yet somewhat obscure answers to some things. On one occasion I was waiting in a reception area to see someone, and I asked the lady at the desk when the person would be able to see me. “When he’s ready”, she said.
The photograph this week is taken on a roadside in Clarens. About a year ago I had returned from a very hot walk around the back of Clarens in the vicinity of the dam. Coming back through town I came upon this wilful migration of flowers that had expanded beyond the garden fence, out into the public domain of the pavement. I set my daypack down and got busy photographing.
This morning, on opening my front door, I noticed for the first time a bank of green wispy-leafed stems taking over the flowerbed. For a moment I wasn’t sure, then it struck me. Of course, it’s December. Cosmos!
They’re a long way off flowering. The stems must first grow tall and thicken, and the secondary shoots must multiply and fill out, giving the stand a denseness and height. Then early in the new year the buds will appear, sparsely at first, opening one by one, until they all seem to fling themselves open in a great orchestrated burst of colour and radiance.
But I question my knowledge of this. How would I be sure when it is that the first buds will open? I recall in London the tradition of looking for the first daffodils in March. When the first flowers appear, the first day of spring is declared. While some claim that the daffodils have it accurately timed to almost the same day each year, my own experience of London daffodils was that the arrival of spring fluctuated considerably from year to year.
Nature always has us confounded. Human inventions concerning time and seasons have a rigid clock and calendar around which we make our plans and have our expectations. Yet all our attempts to control the things that surround our lives have little impact on the events of nature. The first rains have their own timing. We might see the signs of weather building, the wind, the heat and dust; then it dissipates again for weeks. Somewhere in the biorhythms of nature the answers to these mysteries lie, well concealed from intellect, inconsistent in our understanding of their timing.
One thing is for sure, though. The banks of cosmos will break into flower. But only when they’re ready.
Our own lives, too, if we go a little deeper than the mechanical activities of our day, have a rhythm of their own. But we seek to control every aspect of our passage through life. We plan, diarise, budget, set dates, programme, establish goals, have agendas, work out steps and procedures, do check lists. We need certainty, both about what to expect, and when to expect it.
Yet we yearn for the unprogrammed. We look for it in books, in films, in fantasy. Underneath our surface runs a current as independent as the rhythms in nature are of our Swiss-made clocks. How often we decide to do something, but are emotionally hell-bent on doing something else completely contrary. Is this not our connectivity to our source, to our Mother Earth, to a greater spirit, in some similar way that the flowers are connected, and respond? How completely insipid and uninspiring life would be if it were to unfold in a manner entirely conceived in our human intellect.
Sometimes it seems as if, no matter how hard you try to do something, or to bring about something, or even to prevent something, your efforts are in vain. The wilting young shoot of the first spring growth waits in anguish for the rain, but the rain doesn’t come. Not till it is ready. There are times that I too wait in anguish for something I most want. And I too must leave it to the rhythms, like the young shoot, and know that what’s to be will come. But only when it’s ready.
The picture insert features in the 2014 calendar produced by and sold in aid of Cluny Animal Trust. Calendars can be purchased at Clarens Gallery, Clementines Restaurant and the Old Stone Bottle Store, in Clarens. Alternatively they can be ordered from Katherine on 0827886287, Jan on 0782462553, Helen on 0582230918 or by email to email@example.com .
Article and photograph by Mary Walker
Clarens News: December 2013