Taxonomy as Prayer

The names of wild flowers are a poetry all of their own. “Wood anemone, ramsons, bird cherry , bluebell….” Just the mention of bluebells conjures up images of a bright blue, sun dappled carpet on a green wood’s floor, all fresh and new. If I concentrate on the inner vision I can almost hear the sound of a woodpecker hammering and feel the sun’s warmth on my skin fade as I walk into dappled shade. And there’s a sense in the vision of a spiritual presence too – the “sound of the Lord God walking in the Garden”.

As I recite more names, the images become more detailed ……… “early purple orchid, wood spurge, hairy St John’s wort, woodruff, herb Paris, twayblade, yellow archangel…..” soon I can (almost) hear birdsong!

Nowhere in Genesis does the story-teller recount that God brought the flowers of the field before Man/Adam “to see what he would call them”! But we are told about the naming of animals in Genesis 2. 18 and following! Considering/wondering and uttering names – be they common or scientific – can be poetry and prayer !

My inner vision is a collage of memories, some from childhood some more recent. If I let the slide show run for any length of time I know I’ll catch the glimpse of deer slipping silently between the trees – there and then gone! That comes from recent memories and time spent in Foxley, Ashwellthorpe and Wayland Woods.

Trips to the woods in early summer are pilgrimage for me. Though bluebells might be Hyacinthoides non-scripta, or H. hispanica, or the hybrid H. x massartiana the exact variety doesn’t bother me ! Even though losing our native species would be a shame! I go to re-acquaint myself with the reality behind my memories and to connect with the Poet behind Poetry - the Creator behind the Creation!

Experience tells me that if I wait quietly and attentively both deer and God will come close. Well not come close actually! They are already there! Mostly we are too noisy and self-obsessed to notice!

Ashwellthorpe, Wayland and Foxley Woods are managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Details of the benefits of membership and access to these and their other reserves can be obtained from their offices at:-

Bewick House, 22 Thorpe Road, Norwich NR1 1RY

Telephone 01603 625540

or on-line at

Photo© Bluebells in Wayland Wood. Photographer David North. Used with permission of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Otherwise © Richard Woodham 2008


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