Spring watch, signs of spring and winter’s lingering

March 1st, St David’s Day, was marked by cold, stiff winds aiming straight for us and by lofty, bright blueness with thin, white clouds speeding by, taking notice of neither bird nor beast. Sunshine accompanying this energetic rushing, on meeting skin, was warm, encouraging and energizing. White tops on waves sparkled and glinted, calling out to one another in their headlong rush to the shore, and as they landed, they whipped up fizzy delights, Italian cappuccino foam, Cornish clotted cream lather and bright, McFlurry-white froth. Dune and machair grasses nodded, undulating in time to the music of spring. What a day!

March 1st, St David's Day. Pale dune grasses, skylarks singing, cerulean blue sky and exhilarating waves

March 1st, St David’s Day: pale dune grasses, skylarks singing, cerulean blue sky and exhilarating waves

And then, above the whistling of wind, wave and grassland, came the joyous announcements of skylarks, rising and singing as though it was the last day of life on earth. Unrestrained and bursting with energy, the first skylarks of the year. What brave and doughty little birds to pitch their lungs, hearts, minds and voices against the roar of sea and wind! I wonder what excitement and thrill is felt by other creatures on hearing this choir, for I was overcome and laughed out loud, calling out, though my tune was broken up and scattered by the squally airs. I felt the oncoming of spring!

Across sodden croft fields though, in spite of the seaside exultation of larks and my own euphoria, grassland is still bleached and forms a squishy mat overlying and protecting the tiny denizens of the soil deeps. And now, peeping through, here and there, are bright green shards, as new growth begins to pierce last year’s vegetative mesh and tangle. Slowly, gradually, steadily, the pale carpet of winter is being absorbed by bacteria and fungi and assimilated, adding new nutrients to the soil. A sign of spring, this consumption and incorporation? A sign of spring, these brave, new, vivid swords!

Two days later and just as quickly as spring called out, winter plays a fickle trick. Biting wind and snow have returned to harry us all; green blades are pinioned, the matted carpet becomes protector and shield, holding up a coverlet of white crystals and glistening beads, and thus, in death, defends life’s precious stirrings below. Though strong and booming, winds do not silence busy, little garden birds in their bare and thorny hedges, no preserving blanket there; and with such little food available, how is such song-full energy renewed? Not from the sun, it is too diffuse, there is not yet enough cadmium-yellow radiance. Is it because their tiny minds recognise the nearby vernal signs? Perhaps the intermittent snatches of warmth and light penetrate through feathered costumes into blood vessels, and at the deepest cellular level, within the helical bonds, a chance glinting of sun’s energy switches on some unfathomable cipher; lungs inflate, throats open and out pour songs heralding the coming of spring.

Snow and wind chase signs of spring away

Snow and wind chase signs of spring away; pale light struggles to shine through the blizzard and all the while, little birds sing

Have we become so removed from the smell, scent and sensuousness of earth, of life and signs of Nature’s changes, encased as we are in electro-magnetic webs and artificial constructs, enamoured of our gadgets and dependent upon the armour plating of vehicular carapace and synthetic costume, sustained by our needy connectedness to each other, that we miss the subtle signs of spring deep, deep within our own selves? Step outside then, into the wilds, and turn those switches on! Spring is coming!

Daffodils do not shirk from their duty: bright and tall they stand proud of the snowy carpet

Daffodils do not shirk from their duty: bright and tall they stand proudly above the snowy carpet



About Annie O'G Worsley

I'm a mum of four, gran, writer, crofter & Professor of 'Environmental Change'. I now live on a small farm (known as a croft) by the sea in a place surrounded by the ‘Great Wilderness’ mountains of the Scottish NW Highlands. I was a full-time academic, a geographer, but I decided to go feral and follow my dream of living a smaller, simpler, wilder life. I have always loved wild places. As a child I was inspired by tales of Trader Horn (my great-great-great uncle Alfred Aloysius Smith) told to me by my mother. Trader Horn spent his life wandering, mostly in Africa. I too, love stravaiging (Gaelic for wandering) and spent time in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea as a young researcher, living with tribes there. Although I spent years researching and teaching university students about environments, processes and habitats, I am discovering much, much more exploring the wilds around me. In moving away from scientific writing, I have rediscovered my wilder self and have a much deeper, truer understanding of nature than I ever had before. My work is published by Elliott & Thompson in a series of anthologies called 'Seasons' and I am currently writing a book about this extraordinary place. I continue to write academic papers with my research colleagues but I am developing new skills including landscape photography and painting. And of course, I still love to wander.
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