My own patch of sky

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With a bound she leaped to the top of a hill and looked down into a dell carpeted with bluebells. She checked and paused, still poised on her toes with her arms stretched out. The bluebells ran down the sides of the dell in rivulets and gathered at the bottom into a pool of azure. The sun that smote through the trees overhead gathered up their scent, so that it brimmed the dell like wine in a cup, and when the wind blew the slender stalks near Henrietta leaned all one way, bending their blue heads.

Elizabeth Goudge, A City of Bells

With that one passage, encountered not many weeks before our pilgrimage to England two years ago, I promptly fell in love with the bluebell. Imagine my delight, then, to find in a bit of travel reading a few days later that we were slated to alight on British soil at the very heady blue peak of the famed woodland bloom. From almost the first moments after our arrival, as the refined pastoral scenes of Surrey began to flash past the windows of our newly-rented car, I began to perceive the azure pools and glimpses of inimitable blue beneath the trees and along the roadsides. By the time we reached Herefordshire a few days later, I had learned to anticipate them, detecting just which settings and scenes they most seemed to favor. From a rocky, seaside descent in Devon to the byways of the Golden Valley, they accompanied us on our ramblings, and became the sweetest symbol of an unforgettable Maytime in England.

Last fall, my husband planted me my own little pool of woodland blue. We chose the site with care, remembering all the loved the places we’d found the bluebell growing most happily. Philip planted the bulbs with the random care required for naturalization: scattering them lightly and then nestling them into the earth where they fell. Early in the spring he was obliged to build a little fence around them, low enough for us to cross but high enough to prevent the inquisitive nibbles of goats and sheep, or the indiscriminate padding of a huge Pyr paw. It meant the world to me, from the planting to the preserving, and I look forward to the spreading carpet of those swinging bells on their graceful stalks each spring.

The first bloom was a small celebration, and as I knelt upon the decaying leaves and moist earth and took the first long breath of my own bluebells, I was back in England, if only for a moment.

At the top of a hill, gazing down into a dell carpeted with bluebells…

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