Posted in Personal life, Writing

In the Eye of the Beholder

Who lives for 30 years within walking distance of Badminton Horse Trials without ever going to see them? Me, actually. Until now, neither the horses nor the shopping have tempted me, because horses and crowds, and indeed crowds of horses, leave me cold.

Then this year, singing in the choir at Great Badminton Church on the Sunday of my 31st Horse Trials weekend, I begin to see horses in a new light when the visiting preacher channels his inner Gerard Manley Hopkins and St Francis.

Now there’s great starting point for a fantasy dinner party guest list.

St Francis of Assissi (public domain image)

Gerard Manley Hopkins (public domain image)







He talks about seeing God in nature and, in particular, in the energy and vitality of the horse. When he puts it like that, whether or not the horse’s maker is God, I can’t help but appreciate the end product. Strolling back to my car, I’m admiring not the power of the stable hands’ electric bikes which had earlier caught my eye, but the perfect engineering of the horses in nearby fields.

Horse by Leonardo da Vinci via Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain
Leonardo da Vinci was also fascinated by horses and sketched them repeatedly (image here from Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain)

This sense of wonder soon spreads to other things, notably a carrier bag of organic vegetables given to me by my niece after inadvertently duplicating her family’s veg box order. Emptying the bag onto the kitchen table, I discover a high-fibre art gallery: a knobbly hand of ginger in a neat cotton string vest; the perfectly furled leaves of a white cabbage; the proud, straight seams on stalks of celery; and much more.

My father first drew my attention to the extraordinary patterns known as Fibonacci numbers that occur naturally in certain flowers, fruit and vegetables. Googling Fibonacci – or as close as I can get to the right spelling – I’m reminded that this mathematical term describes a sequence in which each number is the sum of the two previous numbers.

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …

When petals or seedheads develop in this pattern, they look stunning. Perhaps the most familiar example is the array of seeds at the centre of a sunflower, but the most exquisite is the Romanesco broccoli, its florets tiny miracles.

Photo by Ivar Leidus via Wikimedia Commons

Although there’s no Romanesco broccoli in my gift bag, the contents are all beautiful in their own way. I consider signing up with the veg box supplier to relive this wonder every week. Then I reflect that in supermarkets I favour misshapen veg branded “wonky”, as if it were a virtue rather than failure to comply with their buyers’ stringent quality criteria. It’s like comparing a pedigree cat with a moggy. Which to choose?

As if on cue, Bertie, one of my three rescue cats, strolls by, chirruping a friendly greeting. With random black patches scattered over his long white fur, he’s more Jackson Pollock than Fibonacci, but I pick him up for a cuddle, telling him he’s beautiful too. I like to think Gerard Manley Hopkins and St Francis would have done the same. Besides, Bertie’s a lot easier to lift than a horse.

photo of kitten asleep on weighted blanket

This post was originally written for the June edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.