What did I say? No matter how cold it may be – spring is here. The bumble-bee that slept over winter behind the wooden dresser in my dining room is up, and already checking the evergreen, winter flowering shrubs. She seems to know her way around the house and garden, and even spent last week’s two coldest nights back in my kitchen. On seeing me in the morning feeding the birds, she makes a beeline (sorry!) for me and buzzes around, as if saying “Hello, beautiful!”, her words not mine. In fact, it is she who is gorgeous, resplendent in velvety black coat and bright stripes. The young leaves of many shrubs and trees unfurl almost in front of my eyes, forcing their way out of the sticky, hard outer sheathing. Transparent, crystal-red young roses’ shoots sway in the light breeze, like triumphant beacons of the oncoming season. Living close to nature means more than just watching my garden grow – it is a way of life. One aspect of it is to bring the outside inside. Each window could, and should, frame a part of the garden and create a view. In summer, it would be filled with the colour of flowering borders, and in winter with evergreen shrubs and climbers. On my walks and travels I keep my eyes focused on finding interesting stones and pebbles. I have now a collection of stones, fossils and minerals, all shapes, textures and sizes. Some came from the top of a mountain, some from the bottom of a riverbed, others were found among the bluebells in a woodland. Others were given to me by friends who visited places like Pacific Islands or Arizona desert. However, I still have to acquire rocks from Mars, the analysis of which could give us more insight into the beginning of life on Earth. In the meantime, I have to be satisfied with a lump of pyrite – the “fools’ gold”. The history of pyrite is fascinating as any of the others, and one little anecdote revolves around the saying: “the streets of London are paved with gold”. It wasn’t gold though, but specks of pyrite that could be seen on a fine sunny day, shining in the pavements like bits of the most precious metal. My collection of stones and rocks is not only interesting to look at, but nice to touch, since the textures are as diverse as their places of origin. Then, of course, there is quite a bit of history and science attached to each geological type of stone or mineral. The different mineral composition of rocks is the very reason for the enormous variety and beauty of our planet’s landscapes. Those who collect natural things and also explore and learn about the origins of those objects, are enriching their lives beyond measure. They acquire in the process something more valuable and powerful than all the gems in the world. The only possession that no-one can ever take away from us, and the only power and riches worth striving for, is the power of knowledge.
And the smile? If you get up five minutes earlier, and before leaving for work, step into your garden and look. Really look closely at things. Can you see that half-open rose head? Look closer still because among the dazzlingly scented petals, you may see a sleeping ladybird. I dare you not to smile. And that smile, dear folks, as Brer Rabbit used to say, is the very first tiny step to having a good day.