Let me tell you where we’re at.
Five days have passed since the vernal equinox, and during the night, our clocks were adjusted for British Summer Time. I always find this so quaintly human, the way we need to invent a system for measuring time, and then still tinker with it every so often to make it work for us. So with this in mind, does it feel like spring? Well…
More than any other time of year, this one defies both prediction and pinpointing. Yesterday was a day of serious sunshine, barely a breath of wind, temperatures peaking around 16C; nothing to get excited about in many parts of the world, but eventful for here. T-shirts were being worn. Yet three days ago we had a flurry of snow, albeit a non-lingering one. Four days ago it rained without respite. As our planet’s climate changes, one of the apparent consequences for us in these parts is the blurring of the lines between the seasons, or even the disappearance of “seasons” as we used to understand them. It feels like their transitions have become stop-start and messy, and that almost any weather event is possible at any time of the year. But in truth, most of the general old markers are still there when you start looking and listening.
Three months back, the dominant colours in the woods were greys and browns. Now, the floor is washed with a palette of greens, as early starters take advantage of the lack of leaf canopy overhead. Snowdrops have already been and almost gone, their flower heads withered, task complete. Now there are nettles emerging everywhere, still only inches high – difficult to imagine they’ll be five feet tall in a few months time, tumbling across paths, stinging exposed arms and ankles. The yellow stars of lesser celandine fill up many of the spaces where the sun reaches the ground. Comfrey is there too, even a few clumps of white violets – if you can handle such a contradiction. And threads of moss everywhere dead trunks and branches have landed.
The neighbourhood’s birds have clearly decided that a switch has been flicked. The frequency and volume of their calls has been cranked up recently. On any still morning before it gets properly light, the drumming of at least one woodpecker – often two – comes via the bedroom window. Glimpses of them are rare, but their beaks give them away. I always find the first annual instance of this – which can be as early as January – particularly enthralling. Some years, I even get to see them swooping down and making an unexpected foray into the garden.
I’m telling myself it’s only by chance that I’m starting to record these observations now. Spring happens to be my favourite time of year, but I could just as easily start during any season. Although I’ve always considered spring as a time for beginnings – not just for blogs! – I know that the progression of the seasons has no real beginning, no end. Spring is for rebirth, rather than birth. There is always something new happening in summer, autumn and even winter too. I’ve now had several opportunities to observe the various changes that take place in these woods within any twelve month cycle; the only constant is change itself. And there’s something reassuring in this – that the woods have been here for longer than I have, and know perfectly well what’s coming. They have no need for either calendar or clock to tell them what to do, what to expect.