Monday, 29 February 2016

Leap Day

I know it's been a topsy-turvy winter/spring, but I was still taken aback the other day to see a patch of Cow Parsley in full flower - in February! The spring flowers have been all over the place, with many lulled into early blooming by an unseasonably mild December. Little in the way of real winter followed (down here in Surrey suburbia) until recent weeks, when we finally had a good run of single-figure daytime temperatures and overnight frosts - and Met men say there's more to come (so perhaps it's about to come to an end). This late taste of winter has certainly slowed down the premature onrush of spring - but it hasn't stopped the Cow Parsley.
Tomorrow it will be March and, by a simple metric, the first day of spring - first day, that is, of the three spring months. But the borderland between winter and spring is nothing if not porous, with the two seasons intermingling and coexisting in various ways. Sometimes spring surges into winter, other years the traces of a hard winter linger into spring. Edward Thomas describes such a lingering with his charactersitically acute eye for detail - an eye well adapted to the sharp revealing light of early spring...

But these things also are Spring’s—
On banks by the roadside the grass
Long-dead that is greyer now
Than all the Winter it was;

The shell of a little snail bleached
In the grass; chip of flint, and mite
Of chalk; and the small birds’ dung
In splashes of purest white:

All the white things a man mistakes
For earliest violets
Who seeks through Winter’s ruins
Something to pay Winter’s debts,

While the North blows, and starling flocks
By chattering on and on
Keep their spirits up in the mist,
And Spring’s here, Winter’s not gone.  

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