Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Spring in Time

It takes a chest infection and a week of sitting around indoors to appreciate fully how quickly the spring is moving. Even before I got sick, the world around here was golden, with primroses dotting the banks and vast drifts of daffodils and celandines everywhere I looked. The marsh marigold beside our back door was bursting with thick buds, the first violets were appearing and the first few white flowers of stitchwort were starting to emerge in the rapidly-greening hedgerows.

Just one week later and the marsh marigold is now a mass of glorious flowers. Stitchwort numbers have doubled, the violets have trebled, there are already wild strawberry flowers appearing. Scurvy grass is suddenly flowering where last week there were just glossy green leaves: the wild garlic leaves are well and truly up and the dog’s mercury now has its sprays of flowers—those humble little things too tiny for the naked eye to register as such but flowers, nonetheless.

Ten days ago there were no chiffchaffs; on today’s walk I encountered eight of them, singing lustily from eight different trees spread evenly across my three-mile route. I fancied, in my anthropomorphic way, that they might be singing about how glad they are to be back: glad to have left the south before it hots up too much: glad to have made the journey safely back from the macchia to these English woods of oak and ash, beech and sycamore. There are other warblers again too now, singing from the about-to-leaf-out branches of the goat willows. And the robins, who never venture far but spend their winters quietly alongside us, are well into their glorious annual songfest now.

Soon there will be bluebells—their leaves are now well up. And today I searched for a hint of the wild orchids. No leaves yet except in that certain place in a nearby bank where I knew one would have already emerged. Why that plant is so far ahead of the others I’ll never know but it always is. And when I parted the ferns and peered down into the tangle of undergrowth there it was, sure enough, its exotic-looking spotted leaves already in position, patiently awaiting the flower spike that always comes.

In the worldview of many indigenous people, such as Native Americans and Australian aborigines, time is perceived not as a linear progression but as cyclical, with patterns that appear, disappear, reappear. Living with that worldview also involves living with a sense of responsibility for maintaining balance and harmony. It comes with a feeling of deep embeddedness, a knowing that we humans, as one species among millions, are part of the very fabric of the Earth. As part of the Earth, we can never be separated from it. Thus it behoves us to take care of whatever other parts of it we come into contact with, whether directly or indirectly. For if we harm the Earth in any way at all, we are harming ourselves. 

Being outside, walking these green lanes in the fullness of spring, I find myself remembering other springs, just like this one. As I walk, springs past present and future merge together seamlessly and just for a few precious moments I know what it is to live in cyclical time. These celandines, as they fade and reappear, shining golden again in the sun, year after year, are eternal celandines. They are the celandines of my English Dreamtime. There is only one timeless spring, a pattern that appears, disappears, reappears in endless celebration of the life force. There is just one chiffchaff, a bird who was and is and always will be, singing those two joyful notes again and again from the top of the tallest tree.

(Chiffchaff photo by Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons)


Sarina McEwan-Bell said...

What a lovely post!
I so agree with your sentiments on not harming the earth as we will ultimately harm ourselves.
Unfortunately, mankind has already harmed the earth considerably. Only this morning did I see some shocking news on the TV about climate changes we have created over the last 50 years harming this earth. The extreme weathers with ice and snow, floodings and stronger winds than we used to experience are apparently going to increase in the next 30 years. A man made climate change that will also bring more desperate weather conditions during the summer month. All this is happening all over the globe and ultimately shall effect our crops and the way that we can feed ourselves in the future. Carbon emissions released into the atmosphere over many previous years are to blame for this, so we now can not prevent climate change from happening for us all. Your idyllic picture of wild flowers in bloom and the birds singing overhead might well change, too. And change will be more apparent over the next few years, experts predict. Scientist that specialize in climate change are now urging our government to prepare us better for the future. Sea defences must be strengthened and newly built housing should be raised well above predicted flood levels, too. It`s no longer just speculation. Climate change is happening, not just here in Britain, but everywhere else, too. Winters will get harsher, colder and longer. Summers will have more extreme changes in itself, often also giving long dry periods that shall effect crops all over the globe. Therefore, food prices will rise and the availability of varied foods will decline. All that I hope for is that there will be a secure future for my granddaughter to grow up in. She might not experience the beauty of the spring time wild flowers in years to come, or be able to listen to the spring time bird song. Change is coming faster than we anticipated, I`m sure. All we can do is to make the most of what we have for now and educate ourselves so that we might be able to adapt to those changes that are unstoppable.
I hope and wish that you and I can enjoy the beauty of the spring time for a little while longer. I also hope you had a lovely Mothers Day.

Elderwoman said...

Yes, you are absolutely right when you say that “Scientists who specialize in climate change are now urging our government to prepare us better for the future.” What you did not mention was that those scientists have actually been urging governments along these lines for more than a decade now. The reason nothing has changed is that ‘big business’ has paid millions to the pseudo-experts to contradict them and make it sound as though there was doubt. There never has been any doubt that humankind is playing havoc with Earth’s natural systems—polluting, recklessly gobbling resources, chopping down rainforests…
Why does ‘big business’ persist in pretending that everything is fine and ‘economic growth’ is a desirable goal? Because we live in a materialist/consumerist society and we ALL participate in it. Every human being currently alive on this planet whose eco-footprint exceeds 1.8 gbh (global hectares) is actively contributing to the problem. And that is most of us. The average UK footprint is 4.8 gbh and the average US footprint is 8 (see: ) There is no hiding from these realities.
I blogged a lot about this back in 2007/2008 – see:

Linda said...

Lovely photo, and great post. So sorry to hear you weren't feeling well, and I hope that when you read this you are feeling better.

emma said...

Thank you, Marian, for this post. It made water come to my eyes for its gentle loveliness.

I hope to be just like you when I grow up (and im 45). You are a marvelous inspiration - a true Wise Woman. Thank you for sharing.