Virgin of the Seasons

Now that the Cotswold landscape has turned the same bleached wheat and pale green of the stone houses, I assumed the flora and fauna surprises of the spring and early summer had passed. The oil of rapeseed that smeared the landscape violent yellow in May has long since faded and is being plucked from the ground. Giant swiss rolls of hay sit patiently in a field alongside a displaced flock of seagulls.

But amongst the grand dame’s decline into fall there are still small pleasures. On jogs this weekend along the back lanes I stopped to admire a Venetian glass ornament masquerading as a kind of thistle: a sparkly crystal ball crowned by a smaller fuschia bulb. Another splash of hot pink came in cones of spikes and flowers at the end of tall stalked shrubs. I do not know their names, but I’ve already asked for a book of flowers and birds for Christmas, the latter because the birds have finally discovered the feeder husband has filled with monkey nuts in the back garden.

Since I only come to the Cotswolds on weekends, the changes in the landscape from week to week appear more pronounced to me, like a grandparent who only gets to see her grandchild infrequently and therefore notices subtle differences a parent might not. Or closer to home, like a mother who only sees her transatlantic daughter once or twice a year and therefore immediately notices and comments upon any weight gain in the interval passed (said mother having already cleared the facelift milestone, a weight watchers devotee, and driver of a red Lexus convertible – once a Californian, always a Californian).

These changes are most pronounced in spring. After snow drops, daffodils, and tulips (rather pedestrian Hyde Park fare I now say with haughty hindsight), the fun kicks in. The mature elegance of horse chestnuts is upstaged by the cottony bluster of May blossom lining the roads. Fields polka dotted with poppy reds cheered me up just as I was mourning the receding tidal wave of oil of rapeseed yellow. Then in June the green that defines green all around.

Here in the Cotswolds are the seasons not populated in my previous lives in swamp or desert, South Florida and L.A. landscapes differentiated only by palm tree variety (coconut, royal, date) and humidity levels. And not just seasons, but an entire landscape from my childhood storybook-fuelled imagination. Eeyore’s thistles were absent amongst hibiscus and limes, but here line the country lanes. Bulbous, furry bumble bees inform my long past dance recital to “Flight of the Bumble Bee” – apparently what I knew as a bee is reviled as a wasp in England. Wind blows in the willows along the River Leach, and last week I found Hansel and Gretel in the scallop-edged stone houses of the Lake District. Even the train station from where I leave London for the Cotswolds on a Friday evening is the namesake of a storied bear.

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