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To see a World in a Grain of Sand

Updated: May 24, 2022

To see a World in a Grain of Sand,

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,

And Eternity in an hour.

Winter is often a time when we are confined: we shrink from the cold and retreat indoors, watching the world of nature through our windows. As a long winter slips into a late spring, my usual venturing forth has been curtailed. For many weeks the scope of my world has been limited by a recurrent back problem and, while I won’t say I haven’t cursed and been badly lowered by the wretched thing, it has brought about a new perspective.

The physical nature of printmaking has been replaced (temporarily, I hope) by drawing in my sketchbooks. I have to shift and move and stretch periodically and so I have been drawing in short bursts, making single studies of spring’s emerging flowers. At first it was an activity that meant I was still making art, but it became a pleasure in itself. I found myself enjoying looking intently at the small specimens in front of me, with no other purpose than to look, observe and record. I have not thought about where it might lead, but have used it as a way to continue putting one step in front of the other.

And it has made me look afresh. I have gazed at the claw-like sepals of the aconite, the unlikely chequerboard of the fritillary and at the “crimson bed of joy” inside a Pasque flower. Blake came to mind, and I realised that looking closely, and within, I was seeing another world.

The poet John Clare was a poet who scrambled low on the ground to peer at the wonders at his feet. In his poem, “Clock a Clay” we are viewing the world from inside a cowslip:

“In the cowslips peep I lye

In rain and dew still warm and dry”.

I realised that I have been trying to do the same thing: by observing closely these tiny, previously overlooked treasures, I have discovered a place of peace and solace that has taken me away from my own concerns and fears, and I have found “Heaven in a Wild Flower”. In the coming weeks, as I hopefully keep improving, I shall hold onto this discovery and see where it leads me next.

You can see some of these drawings on my “Sketchbook” pages on my website or on my Instagram feed.

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