Some days, I sit and think back to what seems like another life when I was a little girl growing up in England. As a child, we learned so much about plants and nature and I grew to love this magical world: the little things like feeding the ducks (the difference between a drake and a mallard), how a female blackbird is brown or how harebells are “fatter” than bluebells, how narcissi look similar to daffodils. The startling blue of the speedwell flowers at primary school and the gorgeous purple of the freesia in our garden wall. If you sting yourself with a nettle (and there were many), make sure you rub it with a dock leaf. Picking blackberries for a pie and avoiding the brambles. The fact that “cuckoo spit” doesn’t actually come from cuckoos. All the different colored ladybirds and watching them magically take flight with wings you never suspected they possessed. The sadness of a weeping Willow and playing Conkers with the fruits of the horse chestnut tree (could there be anything more British?), other trees with their catkins, sticky burrs and the “helicopters” of the sycamore tree. The toxic beauty of a foxglove, one of my favorite flowers. The time I unsuccessfully tried to make perfume out of flower petals with our neighbor Simon. The legend of the fairy ring or the four-leafed clover. Shining a buttercup on somebody’s chin to see if they liked butter. Making daisy chains with my grandma and wearing them as crowns, walking with my grandfather who made me the most amazing reed rings, learning to whistle through grass blades, drawing a map of our garden and giving each area names such as “sun patch hill”. Going hiking every weekend through Derbyshire and the Peak District, as well as the gorgeous moors scattered with heather. Jumping from stone to stone and playing “I’m the king of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal”. The leftover mill stones strewn across the countryside from a bygone era, the rocks you could climb on with “basins” hewn out of them by the rough weather – my dad dubbed these the “Giant Rock Basins”. The forts we made at school out of freshly mown grass. My fear of worms and slugs. Always worrying about coming across an adder or grass snake, but we never did because I guess they are very, very shy. If I thought long and hard enough, I reckon I could come up with many more memories. This time seems half a world away and yet it is within grasp in my memory. And what a blessing to grow up in the midst of such beauty!
By Sarah Downing
My name is Sarah. I was born and grew up in England and currently live in Düsseldorf, Germany, with my fiancé Corey and my cuddly cat Biscuit. I work as a translator and writer for my own company Aardwolf Text Services (www.aardwolf.de) and I love vintage clothes and music, as well as singing karaoke.View all of Sarah Downing's posts.