endings and beginnings

About ten days ago I was running to catch a bus to get to a meeting when I passed a huge may tree in full bloom. I hadn’t time to do more than pause and then rush on, but I thought it’d be a good idea for the last blog post of this month: how we have two bank holidays in May, and yet neither of them are May Day; how the English say Ne’er cast a clout till May be out – whether that be the month of May or the blossom – while the Spanish with their far balmier climate say hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo – don’t take off your coat till the 40th of May; how taking may blossom into the house is supposed to bring bad luck…

Of course, I then forgot to go back and take the picture.

This morning I went across the park and there are plenty of trees and other plants in bloom, but I didn’t find any hawthorn.

The park was frothing at the hedges with cow parsley:

cow parsley
The elder was just coming in to bloom:

Elder flowers.

I think this must be whitebeam:

Probably whitebeam  flowers.

But it wasn’t all about pretty white flowers. I suspect this is a harlequin maple, whose translucent red seeds looked like butterflies clustered up under the leaves for protection on a grey day:

red helicopter seeds; variegated leaves

This must be another kind of maple, I think, with green helicopter seeds (which I’ve just learned are actually called samaras). The young leaves were startlingly red, but they clearly turn green quickly once they start to grow.

sycamore style seeds and young red leaves

Not only was it a grey day, but it was blowing a gale, so most of the photos are a bit inadequate: each time I focused on something to take a picture, the wind snatched it away. Perhaps that was particularly noticeable as I was taking pictures of flowers, leaves and shoots where things were growing, at the ends of branches.

That set me thinking: perhaps in real life end points aren’t really anything to do with ending; perhaps the end is where things happen.

In maths, the bottom line is the answer to the question. In jokes, the punchline ties things together. In novels, there tends to be a point where the story is wrapped up: the murderer has been revealed, the mystery solved, the hero and heroine are happily married, the villain is dead, in prison or has escaped. Later, the detective may happen upon a new mystery or get caught up in a new murder case and set a new book in motion, the happy couple will have children whose story can be told, the villain returns with more dastardly deeds. But essentially, the end of a book brings with it some sense of completion.

When we’re writing fiction, we tend to aim for a clear beginning, middle and ending: that’s one of the things that makes a story. But in real life it’s not like that. In The end of the affair, Graham Greene’s narrator starts by saying:

A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.

And I think, perhaps, that the concept of an ending in real life is just as unreal. Each moment is only the starting point of something new.

Of course you could consider birth the start of a person’s story, and death the end. But our lives overlap with a multitude of other lives, so our own beginnings and ends are really only incidental personal details.

Anyway, today’s photos have made me think that the end points are actually the places where things are happening, whether they were promising flowers, like this bramble:

blackberry buds

or just more prickles and greenery:

blackberry shoots

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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