Et in Arcadia ego

I spent the Easter weekend in Devon, a long-overdue visit to my parents, who live an hour apart, not far from where I grew up. Just as I remember childhood summers, the weather was hot, unseasonably so, more like June than April.

With my dad we poked around Totnes' legendary market, and everywhere the air smelt musky. Hmm. Good to see civic pride rubbing off on the young.

The Devon hills are as round and inviting as a dollop of clotted cream. They draw the eye, and encourage you to explore their secrets.

Treasures await those prepared to walk.

I don't know why I try and photograph bluebells. Photos don't ever come close to capturing their exquisite beauty, the shimmering layers of purple then green. They can't convey the smell or the accompanying birdsong or the feeling of being there, the relief of having made it through another winter. But every year I go ahead and do it anyway in the hope that it'll be different this time.

And even there in the woods, bursting with spring, a reminder of transience and of how quickly everything is forgotten. Et in Arcadia ego.

Before leaving for Oxford, I took a spontaneous detour to Dartmoor. Picked a place on the map, somewhere I'd never been before, parked the car and found a footpath. Was pixie-led up through a wood jammed with granite boulders, every one a forgotten shrine.

At the top of the hill I emerged again into bright, hazy sunshine. A hidden wooded valley on the other side, burnished with the cascade song of warblers. Buzzards circled and ravens crawed.

And sitting on a granite promontory I heard the true herald of spring, a cuckoo, my first of the year. How strange. His call descends a major third, the happiest of musical intervals - cuck-oo, cuck-oo - but it bugles in an annual rite of suberfuge and murder, a sacrificial act of the most primitive kind, the genetic urge to live no matter what the cost. Darkness at the very heart of light.


  1. Beautiful bluebells, I'll just need to imagine the rest of the sensory experience... the third bluebell photo is quite good, I think... visually anyway.

  2. Until such time as I get back to Britain and have the chance to see, hear and smell a bluebell wood, your photos are a lovely substitute. It does truly look magical. Autumn seems to have suddenly arrived here, full of belated bluster. There is nothing quite like the smell of the bush after rain, peppery and earthy and full of promise. It's been a smell that heralded magic for me ever since I was a small child. Funny, I just saw Helen Mirren in 'The Tempest' last night, my second favourite of Shakespeare's plays, after 'Midsummer Night's Dream'!

  3. So happy to have come across your blog here. And thinking the bluebells photos DO do them justice. Very lovely! Thanks so much for sharing :)



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