For a large number of people in the west, Easter and the story of the resurrection is the most important date in the religious calendar, a time to give thanks, to reflect and to remember. It is spring once more and we all have vivid memories of the first lockdown one year ago. Human beings were quieter, we all seemed to listen and observe more and I have read we caused less vibration of the earth. For many, however, irrelevant of nationality, it heralded a year of anguish and hardship.
At Highclere, the pandemic and lockdown has now absorbed two years of Easters. A year on, irrespective of our beliefs, the need to reflect on death and our belief in the resurrection is more important than ever as we try to help friends and family cope with the fallout from this terrible pandemic. At least, this year, the Easter narrative offers hope and a new start at a time when, through human endeavour, we now have some cause for optimism.
The desire for eternity is hardly new. It has been sought through ancient generations, from the cave paintings celebrating nature thousands of years ago, to the pyramids, cathedrals and tiny chapels of the more modern world. Others have sought some kind of on-going recognition through writing books or plays or music, or through politics and leadership.
The concept of resurrection or the coming back to life after death is also echoed in nature at this time of year, visible in the green shoots of spring and in the increased volume and tempo in nature all around us. From the sharp, green, vibrant shoots unfurling from tree, grass and shrub, to hosts of golden daffodils, spring is transforming the wintery grey trunks and silent landscape into the “blossomed pear-tree in the hedge, … Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge”. Vivid shards of colour peek out everywhere counterbalanced by the first clouds of blossom.
Suddenly, the mornings have become a much noisier world, full of tiny competing songbirds but what is rather joyous is that, thanks to the still mostly bare branches, you can see the birds balanced high on the branches, “the chaffinch sing on the orchard bough”. In fact, spring time can generally become quite competitive at Highclere: John the Castle Manager is already listening out intently to make sure he is the one to hear the first cuckoo.
I am sure the hens are more rumbunctious now as well and are out and about pecking at the grass or my shoes but by far and away the noisiest part of the farm is the lambing shed, full of the incessant calling of lambs and ewes who no sooner have found each other than they are lost again.
Lambs are such inherently joyful creatures. Playful and full of innocence, it is impossible to feel sad as you watch them racing around the fields, finding endless obstacles to leap over before rushing back to their mothers. They embody the very essence of spring and the wonder of new life, the belief that things can and will get better for all of us.
“It is not more surprising to be born twice than once, everything in nature is resurrection.” Voltaire
Happy Easter from all of us at Highclere.