Life & Soul

How the abundance of nature expresses the love of God

Even one azalea would be a marvel (Pexels)

I had a few hours free and from somewhere, I am not sure exactly where, came a compelling desire to see bluebells. I took myself to the Royal Botanical Society’s Wakehurst Place in the high Sussex Weald. Here are some 500 acres of woodland and gardens from an old estate. I think I picked the perfect time to go – there are avenues of azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom.

Something about the sheer profligacy of nature is expressive of the love of the Creator. One azalea or rhododendron flower would be a wonder. Banks and hillsides of them speak of the overflowing satisfaction of love and beauty which is lavished on us. It is the equivalent of the 12 baskets of leftovers at the feeding of the five thousand.

Our human frailty teaches us to fear that there won’t be enough, that nourishment or good things or love will run out whereas the opposite is the problem. Our capacity to trust its bounty, to recognise its seasons in our life and adjust our expectations to its scale: this is what sets limits on us when it comes to the love of God.

The paths descend from the formal gardens and the avenues of shrubs into rustling woods of beech and birch and fir. Here bluebells carpet the forest floor. Their subtle scent hangs in the air like some mysterious silent music from a billion tiny bells at my feet.

I sit there and say my rosary, rejoicing anew in the innate spiritual congruence of May as Mary’s month. This is the countryside which Belloc eulogises in his poem “The South Country”: ‘‘It’s there, walking in the high woods that I would wish to be. Where men watch the stars from silent folds and stiffly plough the field. By them, and by the God of the South Country, my poor soul shall be healed.’’

On the way home, I tuned into the BBC to hear an opinion piece by an academic who described witnessing a wonderful sunset in a perfect landscape. The friend she was with was enraptured by the scene; the author was furious with the friend for not realising that in “11 years” it would all be gone. How selfish to wonder at the planet when the sight of it should stir anger at the thought of the coming ‘‘apocalypse’’.

For all its talk of science, there is a growing strand of environmentalism very much like a religion. It is adding martyrs and prophets to its dogmas. The spectacle of world leaders and media outlets prostrating themselves at the feet of a 16-year-old Chosen One who plays truant to warn of the wrath to come, suggests that Reason has been dethroned.

I wondered what kind of welcome would be afforded a 16-year-old who showed a similar sense of doom with politicians and elders for being so out of step with nature that they selfishly use technology to suppress the very human fertility on which survival of the species depends.

Would they sympathise with the horror of spurning Mother Nature if she questioned a right to abort their own children if they are unwelcome? Would they agree that rejecting the gender nature has decreed in utero to balance the species, while simultaneously insisting that gender has nothing to do with nature but is a man-made construct, harmlessly manipulated with artificial hormones and invasive surgeries, is an offence against all that makes for safety and thriving of the species?

The collective response would be to ask who had filled her head with such nonsense and to assume that she was merely projecting some inner guilt learnt from her elders; that her fears were pathological.