April Blossoms

Monday May 1, 2017

When in April the sweet rains fall The drought of March gone through the root To generate therein and create the flower The tender shoots and buds and the young sun. And little birds make melody That sleep through all the night with open eye. Then people long to go on pilgrimage, And palmers long to seek strange strands, To far shrines well known in sundry lands. And especially from every shire’s end Of England they to Canterbury went. The holy blessed martyr there to seek Who helped them when they were sick. (Prologue of The Canterbury Tales)

April is frequently the month of pilgrimage for the Christian world to commemorate and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Known as “Holy Week” to some, here in the UK we call it the Easter holiday. In England most people may no longer go on Christian pilgrimages in April as they had done before, but history shows they did it too some time ago when the country was still a Catholic nation before the Reformation.

Above is the prologue of the most famous of all English poems, “The Canterbury Tales”. This poem is famous because it drew a picture what England was like during the reign of Richard II. The prologue describes the atmospheric conditions of England in April. The poem was about a medieval misadventure of pilgrims from Southwark to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury. It was written by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400), the father of English poetry during Medieval England. In the past, the nobles spoke French, the church and law used Latin. English was the language of “commoners”. Chaucer’s literature made English prominent and became the more commonly used language relative to French and Latin. It happened during the period immediately following the Black Death, a great calamity that devastated England, reducing its population by one third. Chaucer was able to illustrate his pilgrims with humour and optimism, not with a mood of gloom and despair. He was a Londoner, the son of a rich brewer. He was brought up to speak French and studied to write and speak Latin at the age of seven, yet he chose to reach out to common people. He succeeded and many benefited from it including us in the modern world. It is one reason you are reading this writing today in English instead of in French or Latin.

The portrayal he made about English weather more than 600 years ago still applies to the weather of today. If there is a major difference from the above prologue, it is about the pilgrimage that not many British go on at present. Whereas in comparison, the Filipinos who learned about pilgrimages 400 years ago from the Spaniards (who introduced us to Christianity), many still go to these today. It only proves that seasons never change over the centuries although manners or methods of expressing one’s faith is continuously ever changing. God created the seasons but man always has reasons to change God’s unchangeable intention to redeem man after “the fall”.

Speaking of April and weather. If you come to England, the most common topic of the day is the weather. Traditionally, Spring starts on the night of March 20 or 21. It marks the end of freezing, icy winds and very cold winters. Finally, the trees which appeared to be dead because most of them had no leaves at all during the freezing season, start to have buds. If you come from a tropical country like mine where trees and all kinds of plants are always green, fresh and alive, seeing trees without leaves in real life for the first time is quite depressing. I thought winter only meant that there was snow everywhere. It never ever crossed my mind that it is also about trees without leaves and icy whistling winds aside from cold I never experienced before. Only when I came here did I realize that winter is not just all about snow. What really matters after long Winters is that Spring is back. Most Filipinos are not brought up to travel a lot. Only the upper five percent among the population who are from the privileged elite, the “old rich”, politicians and celebrities were privileged to explore the world. Times are changing. Aside from Filipino expats working in different parts of the world average working class folks are now able to travel more. Though not everyone gets to experience the four seasons, here is my way of sharing that experience.

The sweet scent of Spring is in the air. As nature changes the colours from grey to green like a forest, yellow like daffodils, pink like English daisies, red like tulips, blue like English bluebells and other vibrant colours, our wardrobe changes along with the seasons too. The best way to enjoy a vivid picturesque spring is in the park. The City of London is ahead of time in terms of development, a place that continues to lead as a financial centre of the world. And yet London is exemplary in maintaining its parks and wildlife at the very heart of the city. In the park in April are early flower bloomers which captivate the eyes of people walking or jogging. When the sun kissed clustered trees have pink cherry blossoms, it creates a reflection of vibrant purple in its surroundings. An exuberant display of elegant art laid out by nature itself. Rains start pouring, tender shoots bud, and birds are flying. Britain preserves nature so well. Ravenscourt Park located in Hammersmith is the one I visit frequently in order to pray. It is 2 minutes away from where my sister used to live. It has ponds, puddles, willow trees, cherry blossoms, daffodils, and many more. The swans, geese and ducks playing in the pond is simply mesmerizing. They have no worries and cares in this life. Outside the park, multi-cultural and first class restaurants, fish-and-chips “take away” or dine in eateries abound. Japanese, Lebanese, Chinese, Indian restaurants, fancy it, and you will find it. If you asked me what “take away” is, that is the equivalent of our “take out” in the Philippines. The first time I ate in a simple restaurant in Notting Hill, the lady asked me, “dine in or take away?” I thought… “how can I eat it if you are taking it away?”

Birds are having a good time too. While I am sitting on the park bench praying, there are flocks of birds of different colours and sizes. They rest on top of the branches of large trees or in the bushes. There are red robins so tiny yet the sounds they create resonates in the air. I have constant company and friends while praying in the park, the green noisy birds. I think they are praying with me and watching over me. In my head, I ask them to send my prayers up to heaven. Though I know they don’t have to, God can hear me without them doing so. I am just giving them a task other than flying from one branch to another. When I go to another park called Wandsworth Common Park once a week, they are there too. I am so convinced I am special and they are watching over me. They are my company. One day while in Ravenscourt Park I asked an elderly English lady if she knew what kind of birds they are, pointing to these friends of mine. The lady said they are Parakeets. She said one man released only a pair of it, now there are thousands in Great Britain. Since I know what they are I investigate further. The lady is right. “The Telegraph” has several articles about them. The way the author wrote it seems prejudiced and was not happy about the existence of the birds I called my friends and messengers. He wrote, “… one thing has now been established about Britain’s booming ring necked parakeet population: they are pushing out the country’s other wildlife and threatening their numbers.” All the while I thought I was special with guardian green birds sent by God to look after me only to find out I was mistaken because the truth is, these Parakeets are everywhere. I call Green birds, parrots. It is a rare, slightly different and expensive species in my country, which is how I got the wrong impression.

English Spring is beautiful but the sun shines, the rain falls just as in other parts of the world. Different countries have their different flowers unique to these places which are suitable for growth in their climates. Remember, there is only one Creator who designed it all. We are all assigned to look after nature. Coming to England will open the eyes of any traveller, to reveal how modernization and nature blend together. Let us love the only earth we have, whatever we do to it, we will reap. Man’s reaction when there is a calamity is to ask why God allowed it, but before asking that question, we must first ask ourselves, why we permit it to happen. Thanks to many Geoffrey Chaucers who used their talents and gifts to show what it was like during their time, let the next generation appreciate us too for the habitation we prepared for them.

Photo source: http://www.telegraph. co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/10776252/ Noisy-parakeets-drive-away-nativebirds. html

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