Birdsong and bulbs
Wow February, you’ve treated us here today in the UK. The early mist gave way to bright blue skies and the first warm sunshine of the year. The birds have been in full voice, blue tits popping in and out the next box, and I flung open the shed door to attempt to burn off some of the layer of winter mildew that has inevitably settled on every surface.
I put the lemon tree outside to sit in the sun and opened every single window as wide as it would go to let the fresh air clear out the cottage. Best of all, the sun has worked its way just high enough to shine on my favourite sitting spot. Spring is really coming along! I love to think of these days as full of birdsong and bulbs, as little green shoots begin to pop up and feathered friends begin to seek out nest locations. The magpies are beginning to tentatively return to their nest from last year – roosting on the branch just below, hopping in and straight out, playing around and around. I hope they’ll stay there again this year.
I know there will be frost to come, and the forecast shows rain for the days ahead. But this one day gives me a much-needed lift, a glimpse of longer, warmer and brighter days ahead. I’ve pottered around the garden a little this morning, cutting back last year’s teasel heads, scattering the remaining seeds on the cobbles for the birds.
The bright days lift my mood massively. I find myself dragged down by the endless grey of UK winter – at first a novelty, but after a few months it becomes a weight. I think everyone feels it, somehow – the explosion of joy that a sunny day brings in winter is quite fun to be a part of. People out and about walking, gathering, having a chat, exchanging pleasantries as they pass on the pavement or towpath. The buzz of distant DIY power tools echoing down the valley as soon as the sun comes out, even if it’s still in the low single figures. One or two bright days in the middle of the seemingly endless grey is such a treat here!
So today, I try and get as much washing done as possible to hang in the sunlight. I wipe windows and feel an urge to move the furniture around (my favourite thing to do) and generally come out of hibernation a little. Do you feel this in spring, too? We’re still part of this big, ever shifting wheel. We feel the seasons change, even now, even if we forget those parts of us long hidden.
With tea in hand, I head out to enjoy the last few rays of sunshine, and hope for more tomorrow.
Snowdrops and the return of Spring
Amidst the wild winds of Storm Malik this weekend, I glanced out of the window to see the first little snowdrops of the season dancing their heads in the gales. Small delicate white petals nodding this way and that as the wind whipped over the low stone wall beside them.
Amidst the storm, a reminder that soon the days will lengthen, the sun will warm us, the endless UK grey will give way to bluer skies and louder birdsong. I do not mind so much the days before winter solstice. The darkening and quieting of all, as we settle down to winter. It is the drawn out waiting of January, February and into March – that all pervading greyness, the damp cold, the washed out colours and brown twiggy borders. The trees that seem to take forever to bud, the waiting, waiting for those promised spring days that are always just around the corner. My mood settles with the grey. That something just out of reach.
I am impatient, as always. I want summer, with the heat and 11pm light and heady scents of honeysuckle in the dusk. I thrive with that rush of energy. My soul stretches out to fill those long, bright days. Here, still in winter, I feel small, drab, as if those days will never come. But they will, I know, and even now signs of change are popping up, however small.
The snowdrops are accompanied by the sun peeking back over the top of the valley in mid-January, shining into the windows to the back of the house, even just for a few minutes each day. I rush upstairs and throw the windows open, close my eyes and bask my face in the weak rays, the pale golden light.
Bulbs planted in Autumn begin to poke tentative leaves above ground – tulips, daffodils, crocuses – bringing the promise of colour and flower and those insects that love to feed on their pollen.
I miss the busy buzz of bees in the background, that soundtrack of spring and summer. Soon the tree bees will return (hopefully) to the attic, buzzing around the stone roof, whizzing around the garden, mating in piles of legs, wings and fuzz.
It is time, too, to begin to move myself. It is all too easy to sink into stasis when everything around you is deep in winter slumber. Although yes, stasis is needed. Winter of the soul. Balance in all, the ever-turning spiral. Now, along with the slowly awakening land, it is time for me to awaken, too. To fall back in love with the area I live in. To take those little sparks of energy, when they appear, and direct them into a life, into enjoyment, laying bases for things to come. Like the turn of the earth, to wax and wane with the seasons.
Now the snowdrops are here, spring will turn ever quicker, a reminder that even when all seems silent on the surface, inside little bulbs life is continuing to thrive. Even in the frozen dead of winter, deep down under the soil, plants and animals still feel the change of the days and ready themselves. I hope I can do the same.
With that, I re-fill my mug with tea and pull on an old jumper. I head outside, in search of more signs of spring.