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Sipping from Spring

Wind-lapped light flickers along the lake, breeze-ripples moving steadily westwards, an illusion of flow, as if the Broad were a broad river travelling on way beyond what I could see. The silken surface captured pools of light, a sheen, hidden depths.

Quietness, spring, planet life, plant-life, peace. That is not silence, but slowness. Growth.

Water laps at the mini-staithes where, in other times, anglers hunker down to torment hapless fish. Robins sing their merry tunes. The hooded crows alight, surprisingly dainty, to forage in the long grass. I wonder what that bird is that imitates Morse code…beep, beep, beeppetty beep...but recognise the rusty-swing of the blue-tit, and the reed-hidden craik of moorhen. The grebe are dancing on a sun-glitter stage.

As I walk along the shore, it would be easy to think that all is well with the world.

Things delight me: the shadows that trees throw on the grass, and their architecture sharp against the clear sky; white hawthorn, yellow daffodils and blue drifts of forget-me-nots and not-yet-knowns – flowers I cannot name…blue carpets of soothing ignorance; the way fallen trunks crumple and bend and fold, but do not break; that someone has chalked a rainbow on a tree-trunk and scrawled the message that it will be ok; and elsewhere a child’s injunction reminding us to SMILE has been posted in a window.

I love that people are keeping their distance, but that they are out in the air – throwing balls for dogs, sending youngsters careening off on ill-mastered bicycles, laughing.

I love the man who has taken his coffee pot and his books and found a picnic table to write at.

And the two girls with their wine glasses and their picnic and what sounded like a farewell – for now.

Mostly I’m grateful for sunshine and the open air. Walking steadies my whirring brain. When I can’t have vast expansive vistas of wide skies and towering mountains, I will settle for looking more closely at buds on branches, dew-drops clinging to leaves, the bright eye of a squirrel who has no idea that the world has changed.

Then I come home. I eat lunch. I read a little of the newspaper, because a little is all I can deal with. And I go out into my own patch of ground.

I go out to weed the flower bed, but immediately hit upon a dilemma. How do you weed, when you don’t know what a weed actually is? Definitions vary. My Dad used to say a weed is simply a plant growing in the wrong place: roses would be weeds on the allotment, as would cabbages in the flower garden. But that was before he tossed the old bulbs on the compost heap and started bringing spring flowers home for Mam because they’d decided to bloom again rather than rot down.

You might argue that in the flower bed, a weed is something growing of its own accord, something that you didn’t plant. Not helpful if someone else did the planting and only gave you half the story as to what went in, and none of the instruction on how to manage it. Maybe he knew that ‘managing’ my plants was never going to be my way of it. Also not helpful if things are growing that you didn’t plant but specifically want. I put forget-me-nots on his casket; I’m not about to up-root them from his garden. And other things that might turn out to be beautiful if I give them half a chance.

A little while ago I wrote something about “naming and claiming” – how we seek to name things as the first step to controlling them. I see another side to that. Sometimes, maybe, we need to name things in order to set them free. In my old garden, a weed became feverfew and was thereby more welcome. If I knew what these flowers were, these weeds, these wildflowers, these incomers, I could embrace them more easily. I have a lot to learn.

But time in which to learn it, if I only knew where to start.

I’ll figure that out too.

Today, I’m glad to have walked, and glad to have had an hour or so, with my fingers in the warm earth, the sun on bare arms, the scent of greenery stinging my fingers. I’ll put up with painful tingle that lasts long after grasping the nettles (note to self: remember gloves!). I’m pleased by the first sounds of bees and the sight of my first ladybird of the year.

This won’t be the Spring that I was expecting, not the one I’d planned for – but nature neither knows nor cares, it will be Spring regardless, and I will sip from her sweetness and be restored.

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