The Quickening


As a small stream gathers force and runs to the sea, so life will out.

And there is a moment when the current becomes so strong that, bar atrocity, that life has gathered enough force to propel itself to the ocean of being.

Women tell us of the Quickening. It is that moment when the first flutter of new life makes itself felt: a kick, or a gesture from something which has until now been too small to be of note, a tiny tiddler in the shallows.

James Russell Lowell recognised it in the work of the bees as they pollinate: “Books are the bees,” he wrote,  “which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.”

The quickening happens in each of our lives: a rush of blood in the veins. And as I look out of the windows I see one of the fastest quickenings we have seen in England, for many a year. The warmth came, for a few days, and the leaves received their orders. And suddenly where all was uncharacteristically barren, the green leaves are sprouting. The sap has never been stronger. Maybe it knows it is late.

We are all dazzled by the sunlight, and by the warmth. For the first time this year we have taken off our coats and sat out on lawns.

Make no mistake. England, for all its castles and cathedrals and cobbled streets, is dour and dark and damp for very much of the time.

But when the sun shines – I mean, really shines – there are few more beautiful places on this earth, than England in its Quickening.

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Written in response to Side View’s weekend theme, Sunshine, which you can find here.


39 thoughts on “The Quickening

  1. In my experience, the longer, darker, and more dismal the winter, the more delirious the spring. Isn’t it wonderful that our perseverance is rewarded like this?

  2. Once your English Spring reaches that “critical mass” . . . it overflows its bounds with beauteous bounty.

    Gorgeous pics, Kate! Just perfect to highlight your words.

  3. You tolerate so much grey and lack of obvious sunshine, no wonder you celebrate it. I love that we have so much, but I guess I don’t celebrate it quite as you do. I just get mizzy when there is not enoug of it (I feel deprived)

      1. Too true! Over here in the hills drizzle is called Welsh Mist (mizzle, I suppose).

        However, at the moment we have a few days respite and everything is bursting out the way June does in the Rogers & Hammerstein song. In particular there is a sudden profusion of dandelions. I’m waiting for the inevitable profusion of clocks.

        (PS One thought leads to another. Supposedly ‘dandelion’ comes from the French dents de lion, a reference to the zigzag shape of the leaves. At least, that’s what I tell my grandsons, so it has to be true.)

  4. Having become worn down by the incessant dour and dark and damp-ness we headed to Spain for some much needed sun. Since our arrival it has rained almost constantly, so imagine my delight as I read this blog whilst listening to the rain rattling on the roof… Nice blog though and hopefully the good weather will last beyond our return!

      1. Weather has managed some highlights. After a soaking yesterday lunchtime the sun came out in the evening and was glorious. It is back this morning and will hopefully stay with us. Home tomorrow, so expect rain.

  5. Hi Kate,

    Lovely post, as always.

    What resonated with me is the line you quoted from James Russell,: “Books are the bees,” he wrote, ”which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.”

    This is a great perspective which each one of us would do well to hold. Books lead to learning and we thus hold two choices. We either learn and grow. Or we stop learning to shrivel and stop growing. But as we grow older, not in age , but the rigidity of our mindset and beliefs, how many of us retain the willingness to learn?


    1. Hi Shakti: yes, I loved that Russell quote too. We must forever remain openning, for I do not believe The Quickening is just for young people. I believe it is for all of us, when we least expect it.

  6. What is this ‘taking off coats”?
    In the wetland isle west and north of you, I have moved from a wool coat to a heavy cotton mac and lighter scarf. “Taking off” apparently happens the odd July, or one late May afternoon.

  7. Living in a hothouse like I do, i can never relate to the excitement over the arrival of spring and long hours of sunshine! But your photos do a great job of conveying that glorious quickening 🙂

  8. The ‘shine’ does bring it on to those of us ‘shtuck’ in gloom as your picture prove. There is no doubt, sunshine is one of those holistic medicines that we all proclaim to it’s power of healing a soggy or light starved spirit. Even in winter, with day time highs of -30C, on a sun bathed frozen like, it is far from a stretch to make believe one is on a tropical beach, till the sun goes low then the gloves go on.

    Not just man, animals as well urn the rays, Elvira follows the white patches from window to window this time of the year.

    I just recently returned from Cuba; this time I noticed a higher number of your fellow countrymen book’n for the sun. White skin to cooked lobster was their affliction after a day or so.

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