Across the land, spring is fervently gathering pace. We are considerably behind realms further south; nevertheless, in spite of biting blusters from the far north, there is activity aplenty in hedgerow, woodland, along the shore and high on the hills.
A few miles away from Red River Croft, between Kerrysdale and Sheildaig, on the narrow road to South Erradale, is a complex mixture of wood and scrub, combined with heather and bog moorland. The tallest trees are principally ancient oaks which stand tall and proud, gnarled and lichen-bearded. Many are set among groves of birch, hazel and alder which are tangled with bramble, heather, honeysuckle and ivy, yet because of their great age these grand oaks rise imperiously above the jumble below, their long outstretched branches like protective arms, mindfully ministering to the young, beckoning for them to take heed of their age-old tales, of wisdom and of warning. There go people, destroyers of forests! Branches and trunks are moss and lichen covered; for some, the bark is barely visible. This is indeed a “cool, temperate rainforest”.
Now the winter, royal purple finery of silver birches is steadily being replaced by livid lime brightness, larches are outfitted in bushy costumes as needled tresses sprout in vibrant jades and greens, and, at last, the solemn brown buds on oaks are opening and burnishing branch tips lightly and joyously with copper before their full leaved gorgeous emerald radiance is wholly realised.
On peaty moorland bog myrtle is flowering now. It is another gilded glory but one whose scent is entirely intoxicating. I adore this shrub. Here on acid soils it has dark russet and chocolate coloured stems, bronze buds which open out into delicate, orange flowers before the olive green leaves develop. Oh the gorgeous perfume when you crush buds and flowers between fingers: fragrant, resinous, unique, uplifting, healing and tantalising. It is a magical thing, revitalising the sense of smell, transporting and transformative. If only it could be bottled!
The scents of wild places, and familiar places, are often forgotten or overlooked, especially when we gaze about at our favourite places. But all around us, especially in the sap-rising rush of Spring, the living, breathing earth, the very vibrancy of plant and animal, insect and fungus, are interacting with us, stimulating, and tickling the nose. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply, think not about what your are listening to but pause to sniff the delicate airs passing by, filled with stories to tell, of moss and lichen, of flower burst and leaf growth.
But it is windy here, still. Cold too. Waves of grey rush at us from the north, first like mists and fogs, then dropping with iron-clad force, raindrops huge and unforgiving. There is a gritty saltiness in the rain. The icy wetness drives hard and hurls the scented gentleness away.
But it is May! And we long for the warmth and yellowness to return. It will. Soon.