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.