My mother used to refer to me as her mayflower when I was little - a girl born as the first signs of summer were revealing themselves. Aside from the 'Mayflower' being a historical ship sailed by pilgrims; the encyclopaedia definition is "A name given to several plants that bloom in May" (usually refers to an array of anemones and hepaticas). However, I’m sure that bluebells could be introduced into the mix too.
In the time when I was small enough to be still growing my own roots and shoots, I used to listen enthralled as my dad told me tales of the tree rooted at the top of the lane behind our house. This trunk, with branches held in the perfect port-de-bras, stood on the edge of the bluebell wood pictured above. On nights when I hovered at my parents’ bedroom door and whispered "I can't sleep!", my father soothed me back into dreams through spinning stories about how the tree was a cosy house - complete with a warm pool and a hollowed out room where the rest of my family were waiting for me. What struck me about this marrying of the real and the imaginary was the safety and comfort associated with this 'magical' tree that watched over the surrounding valley as we snored.
The same sense of security is now found in visiting the bluebell wood that the tree is a sentry to. For a few hasty weeks, the skinny boughs are offset with a knitted blue blanket – patch-worked with squares of light in the late evening sun. Whatever worries, fears or anxieties are carried, walking across the field, these are cast aside on reaching the wood. The quiet and beauty echoes the sense of reverence on entering a cathedral – recognition that it is a place bigger and more complex than any individual. But, like picking one of the bell-shaped flowers, it is easy to take a snatch of this serenity with you after leaving for home.
This particular visit, although stunning as ever, was not quite as peaceful as in previous times. I had fallen down the stairs an hour previously – jarring my coccyx (and my nerves), while also twisting my ankle. However, as my mum helped me back into the house, I cried not because I was in pain, but because I assumed my camera had been smashed in the tumble. Some nervous shaking, a big hug and two ibuprofen later, it was back outside for a second attempt. It was only later that my mum noticed that my new shoes (from a market stall) were offset by a not so attractive swollen ankle....
And the camera? Alongside the (more important) full-frame sensor, the body is built like an armadillo. Well, an armadillo with a now quite battered shell.
Kate Bush once sang that ‘Mother Stands for Comfort’. In the aftermath of this tripping over, when I was trying to convince my mum that I was “absolutely fine”, there was something immensely reassuring about feeling her stroke my hair. It was the same sensation I experienced when I was in hospital, being lulled into sleep by my mum’s low voice reading ‘A Rose for Winter’ aloud, her hand gripping mine tightly. I think a large part of comfort is to know that one has someone else to rely on – a person who will protect you at your most vulnerable.
This photo of my mum was taken by me the night before my birthday. It is the second year I have positioned my mum among the bluebells, and it is fascinating looking at the differences between the first set of shots – and this one.
On to the clothes – a portion of the post that I often seem to neglect now. On this occasion though, the outfit is a perfectly appropriate illustration of my ramblings. I often talk of enjoying the way my deceased or older family members live on in their clothes, and this is no exception. I may never have been able to hug my paternal-great grandma, but here her arms are wrapped around me, covering my own in her dusky pink silk bed-jacket. And although I still can hug my maternal 93 year old great-grandma, whose silk blouse (and blue leather belt) I am wearing here, she sometimes doesn’t know who I am anymore. While I stood, with my mum taking photos of me, I realised that I was wearing my very own family tree.
The blue skirt was from a charity shop (I never tire of swishing side to side in it), and as mentioned above, the shoes were from a flea market – they remind me of the dancing shoes in ‘Singing in the Rain’). The little brass cartoon brooch on the bed jacket belonged to, and was given to me by my paternal grandma.