There is something in the air today that feels like England. I caught its fragrance this morning the moment I opened the windows. A greenness that you could smell, inhale, be nourished by. A great leaping joy in growing things and in the songs of the birds. And when I took my little constitutional after breakfast, I could almost imagine that I was there–if I stopped and closed my eyes my sweet white-throated sparrow might just be an English robin and the grass beneath my feet the satiny verdure of a hill pasture in Cornwall. Even the aroma of the barn as I passed it, the ‘rich, ovine scent’, to paraphrase Mr. Herriot, was full of happy associations. The sky was overcast with a pale curtain of light-filled clouds, a strange sort of relief from the almost unbearably lovely April days of blossom and sunshine we’ve been enjoying, and I was glad to need the little sweater that I had grabbed on my way out the door.
Then it began to rain, the sweetest, silvery-est shower, and it felt more like England than ever. The moisture seemed to coax the heart out of every mingled fragrance abroad–cut grass and violet banks and crabapple blossoms and green leaves–decanting it all as it were into an intoxicating libation of Spring. I passed the goats and sheep on the way back to the house, running as joyfully towards their shelter as I was for my own, and I laughed out loud.
There’s not one spot on all the face of this earth that I would rather inhabit at this moment than the one that I am on.
I’ve traded the coquetry of May and the poignancy of September for the charms of the Blessed Plot and hardly glanced back over my shoulder. I’ve left my roses blooming to wander in a daze through the gardens of the Cotswolds and I’ve gladly exchanged summer’s last giddy fling to feel the breath of autumn on my face in Oxford.
But I just don’t think that I could trade the magic of April for any other splendors that this world affords. Even the world that is England and is as dear to me as native turf. Browning taunts me, as he does each year, with his plaint, Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there! But I feel sure that if I missed all this sweetness and light, these heaven-fresh mornings and sun-shot twilights and this greening of the bit of earth that is my own, I’d be just as homesick for it as Browning himself was for his ‘blossomed pear tree’ and ‘wise thrush’ .
There is a sweet alchemy at work in my world. Trees watched anxiously have burst into flower and leaf while we glanced away. Old friends have shown their first blossomed faces in my flower garden and grape vines that looked devoid of life a week ago are covered with tiny flags of foliage. We’ve been hard at work every Saturday–in the wind and the sun, with farmers’ tans to prove it–clearing away the debris of a long winter and preparing for the glad season to come. The beehives have been painted afresh. The barn foundation has been jacked up and replaced. The beds have been cleared in my vegetable garden and are waiting to welcome the seeds of summer towards the middle of next week.
And there’s been a mirrored image of it all in own heart, it seems. A renewing of the mind. A needful pruning. A tending and nourishing of faith. It is no exaggeration to say that this was the most meaningful and probing Lenten season that I have ever known–and how the sadness of winter’s last hold seemed to underscore it all!
But the beauty of April has heralded the beauty of the Resurrection in a way that I will never forget. Easter morning seemed lent from Heaven itself, so fresh and lovely and full of joy. The church service was a glorious pageantry of trumpets and incense and a Cross so wreathed in flowers as it made my eyes well to look at it. The lingering resonance of an angelic descant and the great, glad, joyous pealing of bells as we stepped out into the sunshine.
And there we were met with the music of the birds, just as joyful; the garlanding of flowers upon the dogwood trees; the sweet incense of Life in God’s awakened world.
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift.