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The return of green

May 5, 2015

I have always thought that T. S. Eliot was mistaken: April is not the cruellest month. I’ve always seen it as exciting, a happy month, although that may have a lot to do with the fact that my birthday falls in the middle.

So yes, there is birthday cake

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and also Easter;

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spring flowers

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and cherry blossom.

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Best of all, all things considered, is the return of green to our world.

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After such a snowy March, spring was very slow to get going: the daffodils flowered more than a week later than last year. More snow and hail came in mid-April, but was followed by several days of extraordinarily warm sunshine. (70 degrees F/ 21 Celsius: summer temperatures for Scotland!) We watched leaves uncurl overnight and grass grow almost before our eyes. By the end of the month, Spring had caught up with itself and we were at pretty much exactly the same stage as last year. A day or two of hail and snow on the hills last week didn’t do much to dampen our spirits. ‘Well, it is April,’ we reminded each other. In April, anything goes as far as weather is concerned.

I wonder if perhaps May is in fact the cruellest month. (I’m talking of course only of the weather, and only of the weather in my corner of the world: a parochial take on Eliot’s phrase.)

In May, we expect summer to get started. We expect greenness, flowers and sunshine. What I forget every year is that May – like April only without the well-it’s-still-early-in-the-year excuse – is often also cold. Not freezing; I mean it rarely snows below the hilltops this month, but we still get frosts to nip those tender young shoots in the garden. And I’ve just learned that last Sunday’s cold, wet and windy weather meant that a full half of the lambs born that day on our hill farm did not survive. That is cruel.

At home, meanwhile, we have shelter (unlike the poor lambs) but my husband turns down/ off the central heating, and we often don’t get around to lighting a wood stove in the long light evenings, forgetting that they turn chilly after nightfall. So I sit and shiver in my spring-weight jumper, thinking how much more cosy one feels in autumn and winter.

But there. Who could feel nostalgic for any other season when you step outside every morning into a world of fresh green and birdsong?

In the last few days of April, the beech leaves began to unfold like tiny soft fans from their pink husks

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and the larches pushed out sprays of brilliant emerald.

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As the first bluebells, violets and forget-me-nots dust the woodland floor with shades of blue, in the pastures the new grass is so green, so extremely, hyperbolically green that it seems it needs a new name: after the drabness of late winter, mere green does not describe this intensity of colour.

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And of course, it is the wet days which make this green possible; and when the clouds clear and the sun breaks through there is proper luxurious warmth in it at last, and I remember again how delicious, how kind, is this merry green month of May.

You might enjoy Blessed Beltane.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2015 7:41 pm

    Belated Happy Birthday! Your environment looks lush and bright. It’s incredible how much everything changes when the seasons turn, from the quality of the light to the plants to our moods. I was so very glad when proper Spring arrived here. Yesterday the temperatures got up into the 80s and my kids are going to school in shorts and t-shirts and yet just a few weeks ago I was freezing to my marrow in snow.

    • May 5, 2015 10:02 pm

      Thanks, Laura! Sounds like your spring has arrived so fast it must give you headspin! I bet it’s nice to experience some proper hot sunshine, though – at least for a while.

      • May 5, 2015 10:04 pm

        It is indeed, especially after a long, hard winter. The sunshine and heat make up for having to shovel all that snow.

  2. May 5, 2015 7:58 pm

    Belated birthday greetings to you, I hope you enjoyed yourself.

    Such a sad story about the lambs, you must have been heartbroken.

    Gorgeous images, again. I love May when the leaves start to unfurl on the trees but today is very windy, wet and chilly.

    • May 5, 2015 10:05 pm

      Thank you, I had a lovely day.
      The poor wee lambs…I’m not the farmer in charge of them, so only heard today. We have had another cool wet day too, and even the hardier calves looked hunched and miserable. Roll on sunshine!

  3. May 5, 2015 8:20 pm

    Our spring always seems so late – especially compared to people in say, Georgia (the state, don’t know about the country, but maybe there, too) and Scotland. It wasn’t until Sunday that the cherry blossoms started to blossom and the grass suddenly became green. Now I see the willow branches are also turning green and the leaf buds are starting to pop. For me, April is cruel as it is still dull and brown even though the weather may have turned warm enough to not need a coat.
    But, hope you had a happy birthday!

    • May 5, 2015 10:26 pm

      Thanks, VioletSky. Well, yes, I guess your spring *would* come a little later than Georgia’s…! In April I watch the trees for the first green the way a dog watches for its master returning. Those last few weeks of brown are the hardest, I think. I’m glad they have ended for you at last.

      • May 6, 2015 1:56 am

        That must have seemed an odd location to use as an example – but I watch the Masters golf partly to see the lovely flowers and that was held a month ago. Am still drooling.

        [DB writes] Ah, now I understand! Yes, I always think that the Masters looks more like it’s played in a particularly perfect Botanical Gardens than a golf course. 🙂

  4. hmunro permalink
    May 5, 2015 9:16 pm

    I’m so sorry about the lambs. It’s a struggle to understand sometimes why nature is so heartless and downright *wasteful,* isn’t it? But I hope that the rest of your May will indeed be merry, and full of the promise of beautiful and warm summer ahead. In the meantime, happy belated birthday! Hope the cake was as delicious as it looks. (And chocolate, no less! Mmm. 😉

    • May 5, 2015 10:34 pm

      We just rent out the grazing rights on the land to a local farmer, so I am not directly involved in the lambing. It must be gutting to be the farmer or shepherd who finds the pathetic little wet bodies. A friend of mine keeps a few sheep at the back of her house and lost two lambs out of five this year: she says that you never get used to it. On the other hand, there are lots of woolly lambs around which were born several weeks ago and which are springing around adorably now, growing fat and strong – a joy to see.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes. As cake-maker in chief, I get to choose my favourite recipe (chocolate fudge) so it’s usually pretty scrumptious! 🙂

  5. May 5, 2015 11:00 pm

    You are right – there is something about spring’s bright green. We’ve had an unusually cold and wet spring also. But when it’s not raining, we get out to enjoy the lingering chill as we know summer’s hot blast isn’t far away. So sad about the lambs, farming and raising livestock is difficult sometimes. Nature overs all with color trying to cheer us up perhaps?

  6. May 6, 2015 7:16 am

    The green is quite luminous on these wet days. Almost makes up for the wet and cold.
    Sorry about the lambs. Farming is still such a game of chance at the micro level, and on the large scale we take it for granted that we will have an unbroken supply of food, but global food security is a growing issue.

    • May 6, 2015 3:24 pm

      Even though I am not directly involved in farming myself, as owners of pasture and upland hill farms we cannot but feel our stake in the farmers’ work. Not merely at a financial level, but also at an emotional one. I have great respect for our livestock farming community, who work as hard as anyone I know for uncertain returns.

  7. May 6, 2015 7:25 am

    A belated happy birthday! What a pretty cake, as well, and it looks delicious. I often think the same about T S Eliot but then I remind myself that he probably had a screw loose. How cruel though that half of the lambs didn’t survive – that is a blow for the farmers. I have wondered the same about the birds, because I’m sure some of them already have nests. That blissful week at the end of April was too good, too soon! Your photos are beautiful – I love all the different shades of green as the leaves start to come out. The larches particularly – so vivid.

    • May 6, 2015 3:30 pm

      Thank you, Jo. I decorated the cake with crystallised rose and violet petals: since I’m the only girl in the family, I have to make the most of chances to be girlie!

      I wonder about Eliot, and about how much the Great War influenced his attitude and that of his generation. I’ve read The Waste Land but not ‘studied’ it, although I wish I had – it’s such a rich text, dense with allusion.

      Wasn’t that hot April week extraordinary! I hope we get a bit more of that: it will be good for all the babies being born this spring, as well as making the leaves flourish. I didn’t alter the colour of any of these photos, though looking at them now I guess that some people will assume I enhanced it. The larches are screamingly green, aren’t they?! 😀

  8. May 9, 2015 8:48 pm

    A belated happy birthday to you! The green of spring is wonderful, the new leaves look so fresh, the grass lusher and new life everywhere 🙂

    • May 13, 2015 3:57 pm

      Thank you. Yes, I feel that the spring green is balm for the soul, better than any medicine.

  9. May 11, 2015 4:40 pm

    Happy birthday! Mine was April 17 – wonderful time of year for our special days!
    Here in the D.C. area of the U.S., May is cruel, but more because the lovely spring days occasionally give in to an early summer heat blast which fries all our spring flowers and reminds us what’s just around the corner.
    My friend raises goats nearby, and she gathers in the tiny ones born on frigid nights and bottle feeds them in her kitchen. This year she had three “pets,” either abandoned by their mums or near-frozen. They are adorable and have now joined the others in the fields.
    Be well – enjoy the green!
    Melanie

    • May 13, 2015 4:00 pm

      Thank you, and to you! I think we spring babies are very fortunate – although my husband points out that, since I was born in the southern hemisphere (Australia), I was technically an autumn baby. Maybe that explains why I love autumn. 😉

      The little baby goats must have been adorable. I’m glad your friend got them out of the kitchen before they grew any bigger, though. Can you imagine the devastation a goat in the kitchen could cause! 😀 They are better off in the fresh green fields.

  10. boyd permalink
    May 13, 2015 9:58 pm

    we are just beginning to go through the process you describe. this is my favourite season. i especially like it when they are slow and gradual arriving which seems to be the case this year. the Larch (generally called Tamarack here) have not quite burst yet. they were my mothers favourite because of their lacy outline. i like the fall gold colour which is the last to come then too.

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