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A Spring in Time

Posted Mar 30 2014 12:00am

It takes a chest infection and a week of sitting around indoors to appreciate fully how quickly the spring is moving. Even before I got sick, the world around here was golden, with primroses dotting the banks and vast drifts of daffodils and celandines everywhere I looked. The marsh marigold beside our back door was bursting with thick buds, the first violets were appearing and the first few white flowers of stitchwort were starting to emerge in the rapidly-greening hedgerows.

Just one week later and the marsh marigold is now a mass of glorious flowers. Stitchwort numbers have doubled, the violets have trebled, there are already wild strawberry flowers appearing. Scurvy grass is suddenly flowering where last week there were just glossy green leaves: the wild garlic leaves are well and truly up and the dog’s mercury now has its sprays of flowers—those humble little things too tiny for the naked eye to register as such but flowers, nonetheless.

Ten days ago there were no chiffchaffs; on today’s walk I encountered eight of them, singing lustily from eight different trees spread evenly across my three-mile route. I fancied, in my anthropomorphic way, that they might be singing about how glad they are to be back: glad to have left the south before it hots up too much: glad to have made the journey safely back from the macchia to these English woods of oak and ash, beech and sycamore. There are other warblers again too now, singing from the about-to-leaf-out branches of the goat willows. And the robins, who never venture far but spend their winters quietly alongside us, are well into their glorious annual songfest now.

Soon there will be bluebells—their leaves are now well up. And today I searched for a hint of the wild orchids. No leaves yet except in that certain place in a nearby bank where I knew one would have already emerged. Why that plant is so far ahead of the others I’ll never know but it always is. And when I parted the ferns and peered down into the tangle of undergrowth there it was, sure enough, its exotic-looking spotted leaves already in position, patiently awaiting the flower spike that always comes.

In the worldview of many indigenous people, such as Native Americans and Australian aborigines, time is perceived not as a linear progression but as cyclical, with patterns that appear, disappear, reappear. Living with that worldview also involves living with a sense of responsibility for maintaining balance and harmony. It comes with a feeling of deep embeddedness, a knowing that we humans, as one species among millions, are part of the very fabric of the Earth. As part of the Earth, we can never be separated from it. Thus it behoves us to take care of whatever other parts of it we come into contact with, whether directly or indirectly. For if we harm the Earth in any way at all, we are harming ourselves. 

Being outside, walking these green lanes in the fullness of spring, I find myself remembering other springs, just like this one. As I walk, springs past present and future merge together seamlessly and just for a few precious moments I know what it is to live in cyclical time. These celandines, as they fade and reappear, shining golden again in the sun, year after year, are eternal celandines. They are the celandines of my English Dreamtime. There is only one timeless spring, a pattern that appears, disappears, reappears in endless celebration of the life force. There is just one chiffchaff, a bird who was and is and always will be, singing those two joyful notes again and again from the top of the tallest tree.


(Chiffchaff photo by Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons)

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