I live in an intensely beautiful place. Here in the country, the passing of the seasons is far more marked than in the towns, or even in the semi-rural suburbia of our last home. Every day we see wildlife that many people will see only once or twice in their entire lifetimes. Yesterday, a pair of herons taking flight in the meadow by the river. The day before, a pair of hares loping across the lane. The day before that, a kestrel hunting in the margins of the field beside the copse. An enormous hornet flew down our chimney only last week. (I'll spare you the photos we took of it. Suffice it to say it was jolly big.) We caught it under a pint glass and set it free in the garden. Outside my study window, by the pond, the ducklings and goslings are growing apace. But why does all this make me so sad?
It's not that I am ungrateful for all the beauty around me. It's just that I am clinging onto it, afraid to lose the moment.
May is turning out to be my favourite month of the year these days. I used to think it was October, or September, but now I love the lush frenzy of everything coming into leaf and bloom. (Despite the hayfever!) But it is already June. Somehow, I blinked and missed all that beauty. My eyes just couldn't take it all in. One minute the daffs were coming out, now I find the lilacs and laburnum are almost over. Where did the spring go?
It is not that I don't love this season, but every year it becomes more demanding. It makes me feel desperate because it is all over so quickly. All this beauty is generated, and yet it so quickly dies. And more: I am becoming ever more aware that there are only a limited number of these marvellously fecund moments that I will ever see. My life is finite, just as is that of the tulip or the cornflower.
This probably seems rather over-dramatic to you. Perhaps it is. I can expect another forty years of life, if national averages and family health patterns are anything to go by. Why panic now?
Perhaps it is just that as we get older, we cling onto life ever more tenaciously. We want to get the most out of every juicy moment. We become more aware that life can so easily be taken away. My religion tells me to celebrate these life cycles, to rejoice in Mother Nature clearing her decks for the next generation. I'm not sure that's so easy when yours is the generation that is getting swept away.
The other day I watched a programme about Alzheimers sufferers. The superintendent of a very progressive care home commented that all patients were aware of was the present moment. Their memories have been wiped and they have no capacity to imagine