Thursday, May 17, 2012

The improbability of spring


I step into my garden, and wait for spring to begin. The morning air holds a chill, like a memory of winter. One morning in early May there was a thin sift of snow on the top of the fells, an icing-sugar reminder that the truly warm days of spring are not with us yet. The swallows arrived as expected in early April, their thin screech splitting the air with a sound heard so long ago it is almost forgotten. Now they sit on the wires, fat and well-fed, their long journey only a memory; an ache in their wings, a scent of orange blossom still in the air. They have a grace which I lack after travel; I imagine they do not feel the same sense of disconnection, their souls are not strung out along railway tracks and airline flight paths the way that ours can be at a journey's end. I tire of travel, and the arrival of the swallows is a reminder of its deprivations and burdens, the inevitable toll that must be followed by a period of rest, a time to feel the necessary sense of arrival.
But for now, I am home, noticing the shift in the hedgerows, the blousy harbingers of cowslip and marsh marigold, the buttery sheen of early spring's flowers. I recalled that, when I wrote the first post for this blog a year ago, the boughs of the hawthorn were heavy with blossom like whipped cream; this year, they remain only green, the very first of the flowers still curled into the tiny pin-head buds that are neither green nor yellow, but carry the promise of both.
Spring's activities continue whatever the vagaries of he weather: the cricket season has started, and we spend evenings shivering at the boundary rope watching matches end in the gathering dusk, picking out the white figures against the darkening green, hearing the thock of bat against ball as alien as the sound of the swallow.
I wonder if the seasons have always been awry like this; whether there were always such huge shifts from one year to the next, such incandescent warm spells in March followed by snow in May. Perhaps our memories smooth over the differences, in the way that our eyes smooth over the crags and scars of the distant hills, picturing them as a pure curve of land, failing to perceive the bumps and wrinkles, the imperfections that distance heals.
On the path at my feet is a filigree leaf, a remnant of last autumn; a memory of another winter weathered and endured, a reminder of the fragility of our seasons. In the morning skies above, a single swift stitches the spring air, a shriek of joy splitting the dawn.

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