Cabbages and Kings


Sometimes, the most lovely things happen at the most unexpected times.

But it pays to recognise them.

When loveliness seems distant, it doesn’t do to be sniffy about it when it appears.

I woke yesterday with a shadow and no amount of medication could remedy it: a migraine was settling.

And the afternoon was to be hectic. Big Al’s family were coming over for a walk round the forest. Ordinarily a complete pleasure, it seemed there would be not even a second to slow, and switch off the lights, and lie down somewhere dark.

Phil was not coming. “But I want you to take a picture of something for me,” he said.

“I was walking round the ramparts of the fort this morning with Macaulay and I came upon these two beautiful flowers, right there at this time of year, in full bloom. Can you take your camera up and see if you could take a picture?”

I slung my camera bag over my shoulder; we wellied up, six of us, and headed out with a couple of dogs straining at the leash.

It soon became apparent that inspection of the rampart flowers was an impossibility. For Big Al takes one look at those steep ramparts and instantly feels he must investigate, On a walk not so long ago, everyone suddenly looked round for Al, to find he had followed Felix onto the lower  tier, way down towards the forest floor and an unsettlingly long way from us.

So these days we travel up one of the main entrances and across the flat table top, which was once a thriving iron age settlement, but now stands open to the sky like something out of a Tolkien novel. The path traverses the centre of a tabletop shaped like an oak leaf, and ends with a gateway which takes Al away from those siren ramparts and into the forest proper.

There was no rain: it was clear, and even sunny. The puddles reflected the sky all the way along the path. Maddie and the eldest princess were deep in conference, and the second princess walked with us while Al gambolled about investigating, well, everything. His special thing today was how sticks and trees associated with puddles: he threw a few in, took a few out, and examined huge immoveable logs which had been hauled for whatever reason by whoever it may have been into forest puddles.

It was a lovely afternoon and we returned home happy, but without intelligence of those extraordinary flowers.

Today once again, the air was clear, and I tramped the forest. As dusk drew in, I took him onto the ramparts, towering high above the forest. Two deer thought seriously about avoiding me but could not quite muster the urgency. We stood and looked at each other for a while. I find them therapeutic.

And then I saw them. The flower. And I recognised them immediately.

They were cabbages. Ornamental cabbages, granted, but humble cabbages all the same, gazing with blousy purple-and-green coquettishness towards a dwindling December light.

Some bird must have dropped seeds the year before, there on the ramparts. And they grew to be perfect little Sybil Fawltys up there amongst the heather and gorse. All frills, little style, they spread colour which in the depths of our darkest days are little short of miraculous.

Sod taste: these are the right thing at the right time. You can keep your amaryllis and winter lilies: give me the humble cabbage. These two sat there, a happy accident, and I will wager they charm every passer-by.

“Those flowers, Phil?” I said to him when I let the dog back into the house. “They were cabbages!”

We grinned.

Cabbages they may be but to us, they would always be beautiful, exotic flowers.


25 thoughts on “Cabbages and Kings

    1. It’s our ‘farthest from the sun’ light, BB. We are at full tilt away, and it’s a strange time. Have you ever seen Sleepy Hollow? The light there feels like home in Winter.

  1. So sorry about the migraine, very difficult to function with one. The pics are just lovely as always and doesn’t nature just continue to surprise us….the lowly cabbage providing such simple beauty in the gray of December.

    1. Thanks, Lou. Some migraines are easier than others, and this one’s a humdinger. But I do find at times like this you cut out all the peripheral noise of the material world and see and hear the most striking stuff.

  2. I love ornamental cabbages. They bring such cheer in the dreariness that seems to linger this time of year. One man’s cabbage is another man’s flower, or something like that. I do hope you are on the other side of that migraine, Kate. I know they can linger. Here’s to soft light and more walks in the forest for you.

  3. You are so good at capturing images . . . even when held prisoner by a migraine. Horrid things . . . the headaches, not the cabbages.

    The cabbage shot is a delight. Hope the migraine is now a dim and distant memory.

  4. Dear Kate, I sighed in pleasure at the end of your posting today. It’s so true that we unaware come upon beauty in the most surprising places. Beauty and holiness and the grace of both. And the dew sparkling the cabbage is surely a moment of pure grace. Peace.

    1. That’s just how I felt about it. I heard someone today on our talk channel, an Anglican woman priest, who said that when she was small she had thought that if she didn’t pray hard every morning her life would go disastrously wrong. Of course, life and experience have changed her outlook entirely. Now, she says, every time she looks at something beautiful there is an innate thanks to God for creating such an incredible world. And I know exactly what she means. Just to look is a prayer .

  5. I don’t think I’d have spotted a cabbage, Kate… by the way, what’s the green ‘thing’ in the third photo? Is it a log? I think it’s a log, but it has two eyes in the centre… and another face down the right-hand side. I’m always seeing faces in lately…

  6. I admire your fortitude to embark on a hike with a head full of pain. I don’t get migraines often, but when I do I’m a wuss that needs a dark room and complete silence. The woods look tranquil and as usual, you captured many lovely shots including those colorful cabbages and Mac in his bliss on the hunt. Guess Clive Bond stayed home where he belonged — perched on bicycle handlebars and dreaming about competing in the Tour de France.

  7. i’m always so sorry to hear about your migraines. They can knock you flat! Jay actually went to the emergency room once with one…after it was all over it was almost funny. He’d never had one before, nor had I, so we didn’t understand the symptoms. He thought there was something very, very seriously wrong! A CT scan later…we were informed he had a migraine. The doctor wasn’t amused at our lack of information/and inability to accurately describe the symptoms, I think. We were young! Ha!

    Ornamental cabbages are displayed in some of the most elegant gardens, and they fascinate me. I wonder if the birds dropped some seed in your forest! Glad you didn’t lose Al! 🙂

  8. Indeed, they are lovely. Glad you got your photo as well as a great nature walk.
    I am still kick myself for missing two photos: one a doe and her fawn scampering off a path in the woods where we were walking; and the other a spider’s web that looked just grand the way the sun lit up the web.
    Hope you’re feeling much better, Kate.

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