Thursday, 2 June 2016

The Epic Ballad of Springtime

It begins with the whispering of a wind which speaks of warmth and Winter's ending. The soft sprinkling of dew on grass that isn't frozen to tiny ice castles. It begins with a sun whose rays are nourishing, slanting through trees whose leaves are buds of green, waiting to burst forward. 

It begins with blossom on a cherry tree, the lining of a street with radiant blooms and the slow hum of pollinating insects; the unhurried waltz of a bumblebee whose legs are stained with pollen. Listen. The insects sing of a Spring awakening as the slim, delicate form of an Orange-Tip Butterfly settles on a newly budded wild mustard plant somewhere by your toes. 

'I want to do to you what Spring does to cherry trees': you read the creased words by Neruda and look up from the book as a blossom falls beside you, its petals a tiny perfection of pink, winking the sun towards you with all the hope of new beginnings. Feel. 

It spreads from the cherry trees to the woodland, where trees which not long ago shed their glowing gowns of autumn auburn before the cold kiss of Winter, clothe themselves again now in the blushing bright green of the beginning of Spring. It spreads to their carpet, now a glowing blanket of bluebells, an inescapable perfume of secret, hidden, precious things, which gives way later to the rampant ramsons, wild garlic, a waving swathe of white flowers against the browns and greens of the woodland floor, dotted with jewels of primroses. Hidden wood anemones and celandines bow their heads before their companions, shy smiles by the wayside. The dark caterpillars of a Red Admiral butterfly make their important ascent up and down leaves of the newly leafed stinging nettles, the labyrinth of holes behind them often the only indication they are there. Watch. 

It spreads from the abandoned nests and sleepy dreys of last year to the wild, frantic activity of mating time. The river livens from its frozen slumber to a babbling, giggling Spring flush of water, rich with oxygen and wild movement within which the cuckoo flower starts to grow and the reeds rise lush and tall. The cuckoo spit arrives, the frogspawn, the hustle and bustle of a river that is not just a home but a hive of activity. The old bank, having survived the unpredictability of winter, is home now to nests; the bright flash of a kingfisher streaks from river to home, river to home, determined to do the best for its brood. Wait. 

The garden becomes a riot, home to more drama than a Shakespearian tragedy, as everyone attempts to do the best for their family. Slugs entwine indiscreetly in trees, their slime trails followed eagerly by hedgehogs just woken from hibernation and determined upon as much prey as can be found. On the bird table, families do battle for the best spots, first pickings on new food. The starling families arrive suddenly in hordes, the blue tit parents chirp anxiously from the nest and, above my window, the house sparrow male calls quietly to his female in her nest under the eaves, and receives the chirps of seven hatchlings in reply. The sparrowhawk mother watches on from her nest as her mate makes a kill, the young of one family essential to the survival of her own. A fox family play amongst the dandelions of an urban garden after the family have all tucked themselves away in bed, their yips and playful fighting likening them to puppies as the parents watch on. Stay awake. Become enthralled. 

In the corn fields, as the crops grow tall under the luxurious sun, the soaring song of skylarks fills the air as you walk slowly down the dirt track worn by many feet of Sunday walkers. Among the stems, a rustle reveals a field mouse, crouched, small nose twitching. An earthworm dries out slowly on the path. At twilight, the crepuscular barn owl swoops silently with wings that make no sound, waiting for the prey that will sustain its brood: hidden in the oak tree, downy chicks hatched days apart to increase the chances of at least one surviving. Back in the wood, the shy badgers emerge from their den with cubs following at heel, enjoying the last warmth of the sun in twilight as they sit and scratch amongst the bluebells. Be patient.

The bubble of activity spreads not only around our waters but in them too. In the ocean, the longer days and increase in sunbeams penetrating the swirling surface give rise to plankton blooms as they photosynthesise more effectively, beginning the food web of so many ocean species. The migration begins; as the days lengthen the terns arrive, partnered with the smartly dressed guillemots, the puffins with their caricature summer beaks, the dashing razorbills. Rocks that have stood untouched all Winter become havens for hundreds of families, cleaving out a life on the bare rock, as the pink tufts of thrift begin to bloom. Experience.

It is the beginning again of a cycle that never ends, that surrounds us and encompasses us just as it always has and always will. 

Listen for the whisper of Spring; the dramatic unfolding of life which is all around. 


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