My birthstone is purple amethyst and I wear it as a charm around my neck. Like me, my eldest son was born in February — a winter baby swathed in wool — wrapped in a blanket that I painstakingly knitted in anticipation of his arrival. I am grateful each year, in a dreary month, for the bright day of his birth. Sometimes on one or other of our birthdays, it snows. Fat flakes fall (a blanket of blessings) and my children press their noses to the window glass. There was no snow this year, but there were snowdrops — there are always snowdrops. Where I live, they are sometimes known as ‘fair maids of February.’
Once, on a day with the breath of spring on the breeze, I came across a lady in the local market carrying a large basket of delicate, white ivy-wrapped bunches with a label that read ‘Snowdrops from my Snowdrop Farm.’ I can scarcely imagine a more romantic notion than a snowdrop farm — I have thought of it every February since. Last week, driving home over Dartmoor in the dusk after a research day, I passed a small yellow sign with an arrow reading ‘snowdrops’. Daylight was fading, fog was falling and I needed to be off the moor before dark, but I cannot resist a snowdrop — I spun the car around and took the turn.
The lane led down into a valley, hedges on either side draped with tendrils of green beard lichen. Around the corner I came across a pretty little stone and render chapel— St Raphael’s. A second yellow ‘snowdrops’ sign pointed through the open gate, where a path wound around to the chapel door. Behind the path sloped banks of snowdrops, their heads bobbing in the last of the light — the whole chapel garden a gleaming carpet of white. Inside, silence hung heavy — the chapel was dark — but in the corner shone trays of snowdrops in pots, with an honesty box. I bought a plant and took it home for my kitchen table. Stuck into the soil, a handwritten label reads St Raphael’s, with a small red heart.
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