It Happens Every Year…

It happens every year, that day when you wake up and something has changed. Something is subtly different in the air around your face and the ground beneath your body. Lying in bed, you breathe in deeply and an unforeseen smile spreads across your face.

Somehow you just know that today is the day. The worst of winter is over. Overnight, the Earth has spun itself just that little bit further round and spring is on its way!

That day arrived here on Sunday. Not that it was different in any huge way from the day before or the day after, but something deep inside my cells felt the unique excitement, the swell of sap in tree-trunks, the stirring of bulbs beneath the soil, the hubbub of inter-communication peculiar to this time each year.

With my first mug of coffee in my hand I stood outside, watching the last wisps of mist curling around the tree tops, listening to the birds.

A nearby dunnock was singing to its mate; a simple, sweet refrain that I had not heard as yet this year. In the distant oaks, two jays were chatting to each other, making their odd, almost chicken-like clucks and wheezes. Down in the valley a cock pheasant coughed and shook his feathers, a warning to other males and an invitation to any lady pheasants. “This is my patch! Stay away!” “Here I am! Come and find me!” And a magpie flew right overhead, with a twig in its beak.

They knew it too. Spring is at hand.

Not that we won’t have more frosts (we might even have more snow) but the undercurrent has shifted, we’ve crossed the threshold. Life is stirring that much more vibrantly in plant, insect, animal and bird and if the frosts do come again, their visits will not last. As though to prove that point, this blue-tit puffed himself up to show that he wasn’t feeling all that warm yet!

I couldn’t wait to be off over the fields. It was a still day, light sun; the sort of day when sounds travel miles. You can hear a rook calling a mile away. On days like this I like to take my time (not that I ever charge around when I’m out and about). There is so much happening, so many things going on. I walk, stop, look, listen – and cover far fewer miles than I might. I love to touch and feel things too and often come back with my pockets stuffed with goodies, although I never pick anything living without permission.

Crossing the first field, I turned to look across at the beech woods that frame the valley. Yes! As I’d hoped, there was a tinge of pink there, the merest hint of buds breaking through before the green leaves unfold.

Lambs greeted me in the second field, dusky-footed and dark-eared. Initially their mothers ushered them away, but curiosity soon got the better of them and they returned to stand around me with that comical air unique to sheep.

I chatted to them for a while before wading through the stream and heading up the far side of the valley. Halfway up the hill is an old, crooked oak, with ferns growing in its creviced bark and a hole where nuthatches may nest in the coming months.

I let my fingers run over the craggy bark, spotting a number of creepy-crawlies who had been drawn out by the same impulse that had led me here.

Then it was on up the wide-stretching final pasture, until I reached the skirts of the woodland. Here I paused, turning back to drink in the scents and sounds.

The mist had given way to sunshine by now and valley was filled with birdsong: robins, blackbirds, chaffinches, an occasional thrush; the songs of the birds that stay here. Soon they will be joined by warblers and other migratory friends, but for now the air rings to the tune of relief and hope. Those who have made it through the colds of winter are happy to be alive and are bursting to tell the world about it.

For a while I sat in the sun with a smile on my face, my heart lifted by the same sensation. Then it was off into the tulgy wood, wondering what new adventures would befall me…

But that’s another story!

Best wishes, Essi.

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