The Bluebells of Barton Common

One of the gifts of having fibromyalgia is having time for a leisurely stroll in the middle of the day.

This month is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month and many people are walking to raise awareness. For me walking was my first goal. Before having fibromyalgia, I’d always walked for exercise and pleasure and I’m so pleased to be able to do it again now – even if I go at a much slower pace.

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A slower pace is perfect. It gives you the opportunity to ponder, enjoy and reflect on the things around you, which right now are bluebells.

This idea of taking life at a slower pace and being rewarded through the observation of beauty reminded me of something I had once read by John Ruskin, which criticised the speed of travelling by rail. It suggested that the human brain could not absorb everything it saw at any speed above a walk. I haven’t been able to find the right quote but these two,  found in an article on the Opposition to Victorian Railways, are gems:

It does a man, if he be truly a man, no harm to go slow: for his glory is not all going, but in being.

John Ruskin

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Wherever you can rest, there decorate, where rest is forgiven, so is beauty.

John Ruskin

Bluebells always enchant me. I have a vague recollection of them being associated with bad fairy magic from some folklore or other assimilated in childhood.

Behind The Cat and Fiddle pub at Hinton Admiral, where I grew-up, there was a wood with the most sumptuous carpet of bluebells.

“Don’t step on the carpet or the fairies will carry you away!” Sang a warning voice in my ear. Whether this was because I was allowed the privilege to ride my pony with the estate manager’s daughter through the woods, on the understanding that we should avoid the bluebells, or stories told by a mischievous grandfather, I cannot say. Anyway, I never went near the bluebells and I would often avert my eyes, so as not to be tempted.

 

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The Bluebell Fairy from The Complete Book of Flower-Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker

After that I rarely saw such a swathe of bluebells, until I began driving through Beaulieu in The New Forest going to and from work. Once again I was mesmerised by the magical carpets, this time dangerously drawing my eyes from the road. Snap out of it – don’t fall for the fairy tricks.

Little by little, year on year, bluebells have begun to line the road that leads from our village, Milford-on-Sea, to Barton-on-Sea, where I often walk my motivators, Holly and Ozzie.

A couple of years ago, when I first began to walk for more than 10 minutes at a time, I took our daughter with me in search of a patch of bluebells. So rare was the sight that we made the dogs sit and pose for their photos. This year we have been spoiled for choice. Not only are there bluebells through the woods, but lining the footpaths along the open common. Magical.

Each day as I wander (not lonely) among the bluebells I reflect on another passion: English Literature. Surely there has to be a poem about bluebells? Romanticism is a specialism of mine, so if there had been anything obvious such as, an ode to bluebells by John Keats, I would know. Daffodils rightly evoke the immortal lines ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud,’ but what of bluebells?

 The Romantic poets of the 19th Century, such as Keats and Tennyson, believed that the bluebell symbolised solitude and regret.

https://grasmerevillage.wordpress.com/tag/romantic-poets/

An appropriate symbol for those of us with fibromyalgia then, who often experience ‘solitude’ and ‘regret’ – and purpley-blue too. Yet I have found that such feelings can be temporarily forgotten when out walking. At this point I must say a big hello to all the other walkers I meet in the middle of the day at Barton Common, Hampshire. Many of who, also suffer from fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses.

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Me and Ozzie (oops rear view only)

I take the bluebells home with me – only in my mind and my heart – and indulge myself in a little research. The old faithfuls had nothing for me, except for a line from the wonderful John Clare’s ‘May’ from The Shepherd’s Calendar.

from The Shepherd’s Calendar, ‘May’ by John Clare

The blue-bells too, that thickly bloom

Where man was never known to come;

Lines 89 – 90

The rest of the poem can be found at johnclare.info

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A huge thank you to our daughter, Emma Mapes, for taking all of the wonderful photos

Admittedly, I had limited myself to only an hour’s search, so imagine my delight when I discovered a beautiful poem by Ann Bronte, the youngest of the famous literary sisters, which perfectly captures my feelings.

Before I share the opening stanza with you, my internet research also revealed the National Trust’s web page on Bluebells Near You so, if you need a little motivation to take a walk in this month of Fibromyalgia Awareness, this may be a good place to start. If not this year, then how about next?

What a wonderful goal to have for May next year – to be able to walk in a bluebell wood.

 

From The Bluebell by Ann Bronte

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower

That waves in summer air:

Its blossoms have the mightiest power

To soothe my spirit’s care

The rest of the poem can be found at online-literature.com

 

Thank you fibromyalgia for giving me the time to appreciate the gifts of nature and literature.

Positively living with fibromyalgia

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