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Noticing

February 25, 2014

Another day of dull light, heavy cloud, drizzle. We feel cheated of a proper winter, disorientated. The chain seems to have come off the wheels of the year: we are going nowhere, stuck in endless weeks of mild temperatures, wind and rain, with the odd day of snow or sunshine being the exception that proves the rule.

 

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Out with the dog today, shrouded under hat and scarf, feeling rather left over after a rare late night out followed by an early morning (our son woke us up an hour early for school by mistake), I strode through the trees barely noticing my surroundings. As always, however, the woods began to work their magic on the senses. Scent first: wet earth, dead bracken’s sharpness, clean conifer smell. Then sounds: jackdaws squabbling in the treetops, a pair of mallards quacking over the lochan in flight, a chaffinch warming up his spring song. Listening to the chaffinch, I became aware of how the birdsong in the woods has been gradually increasing over the past few weeks.  New notes are added to the repertoire every day: a sure sign that spring is coming.

On the path by the swollen burn I noticed the sharp imprint of a roe deer’s hoof in the mud, like two large almonds side by side. The deer had dug into the ground, moving fast. The prints I’d seen on my last walk were lighter, steady, a deer pottering along by itself. Today something had perhaps startled it as it made its way along the edge of the wood. Many animals and birds share this environment, and not all are friendly to each other. A sparrowhawk took a bluetit from our bird feeder last week.

The dog ran on ahead of me, searching for pheasants. Entering the beech wood, I noticed that some of the wild daffodils are close to flowering. The first of them usually bloom around St. David’s Day (1st March) or a little later, depending on the winter weather. It is such a boost to the spirits to see their sunny faces blazing under the bare trees. Meanwhile the snowdrops have spilled their whiteness down the banks like so much milk: a reminder that, in the old pagan calendar, February brings in the season of Imbolc, ‘ewe’s milk’, the beginning of the lambing season. So the wheels of the year are turning after all.

And raising my eyes to the woods across the river, I notice that the bare twigs of the mossy oak trees are thickening at the tips, and that the trees on this dull day, with their  soft, subtle colours, are beautiful.

 

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We enjoyed an early spring in 2012, a contrast to the late start of the year before at the end of a long, cold winter.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. boyd hussey, (Douglas Ontario Canada) permalink
    February 25, 2014 6:45 pm

    there are signs here that Spring may return but most of them have brought their heavy coats in case. longer days more Sun. i am reminded of the anticipation that comes with this time of year and the relief. i wonder how many more Springs there will be for this world. Certainly not many more as we have known them. the familiarity with the patterns of our world was an important part of it all. there will not only be discomfort but dislocation i fear. we don’t even get as many winter birds as we used to and the list of summer residents grows shorter

    • February 25, 2014 10:47 pm

      Sometimes in darker moods I agree with your pessimism, I must admit. But other times I think that optimism is the only antidote to despair: optimism and the determination to do what we can, and cherish what we have.

      • boyd hussey, (Douglas Ontario Canada) permalink
        February 26, 2014 7:48 pm

        quite right you are although i didn’t mean it to be pessimistic but it is isn’t it. I had just seen a video of a British scientist who believes it is already too late and that by 2100 our numbers will be reduced by 80%. i hope he is wrong but it does give you pause.

  2. February 25, 2014 7:37 pm

    You’re a lot closer to spring than we are here in the midwest USA. They’re predicting more snow for us later this week! I wish I could see some daffodils budding out! There were some poking up, but I told them to stay put for a while yet. It’s miserably cold here!

    • February 25, 2014 10:50 pm

      So I gather: you have my sympathies! We could use a little of your snow as a change, but I would certainly struggle with the cold and snow that the midwest has had over the past few months. Brrr!

  3. February 25, 2014 8:25 pm

    Lovely post — I feel like I’m there! 🙂 Thought you might be interested in my short film Death Is No Bad Friend about Robert Louis Stevenson in San Francisco: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/death-is-no-bad-friend/x/1089930 Best regards, G. E.

    • February 26, 2014 6:51 pm

      Thanks! I’ll certainly be having a look at your film about RLS. Sounds intriguing.

  4. February 25, 2014 9:34 pm

    I love that phrase ‘the chain seems to have come off the wheel of the year’ – yes, it certainly feels that way. But I feel myself sighing and re-connecting with the earth just by reading your words about walking into the woods. You’ve made a beautiful post from what sometimes feels like a lacklustre world at the moment!

    • February 25, 2014 10:54 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad if it helped a bit. It’s all true, but I think that in writing it down I am trying to cheer myself up as much as anyone else!

  5. February 25, 2014 11:30 pm

    Another smack of cold starting up after days of lingering fog with slashes of late sun. The birds are moving though and singing

  6. February 26, 2014 1:54 pm

    You capture the feel of this very odd winter perfectly in this lovely post. Today is brighter so far, but I know it won’t last. We’re being forecast colder weather later in the week, with a yellow warning for snow on Thursday morning! But I’m an optimist at heart and hold fast to the knowledge that spring WILL come.

    • February 26, 2014 6:52 pm

      It feels very springlike here today, so much so that more snow is hard to imagine. Still, it wouldn’t be unusual to have snow even into April, so it may yet come along with daffodils and cherry blossom!

  7. February 26, 2014 3:44 pm

    Lovely descriptions – you remind me that all types of weather are beautiful, not just sunshine. I am glad to hear the daffodils are nearly in flower. Like you, I’ve noticed more birdsong recently – in the evening as well as the morning. Hazel catkins are everywhere. I would be glad of some clean, sharp frosts and bright days to lift the senses still more!

    • February 26, 2014 6:54 pm

      Oh, me too. Still, we have to make the most of what we have, even the dull weather – in the ‘if you can’t beat ’em’ way of thinking. The catkins caught my attention only this morning – lovely to see.

  8. Nib's End permalink
    February 26, 2014 5:11 pm

    “the snowdrops have spilled their whiteness down the banks like so much milk…”
    Now there’s a cup of something heady I would like to quaff.

  9. hmunro permalink
    February 28, 2014 6:00 pm

    I often find myself astonished by and quite speechless at the beauty of your posts, DB. This is one of those times. Thank you for a sublime escape from the ravages of a Minnesota winter. xx

  10. Karin Van den Bergh permalink
    March 6, 2014 2:16 am

    Lovely post. So poetic! I wish I could see signs over here in New England. All the white magic has turned into big piles of filthy ice packs. So much looking forward to some warmer days..

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