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Waiting for the annual miracle

IMG_0095The wagtail has arrived. Five days late, but still. (And yes, the wagtail tends to be very exact, showing up on April 6th. Not so this year) Over the newly ploughed fields the lapwings dip and wheel, the wrens and sparrows are squabbling in the shrubs and the willow is in full, if muted, flower, the silver catkins converted into miniature greenish yellow powderpuffs.  As yet, the trees stand stark and denuded against the pale blue April skies, but the buds are swelling and the birch bleeds sap.

There is scilla under the brambles, colt’s-foot in the ditches, and where the sun filters through, the forest ground is carpeted with anemones, shy little things that retract their white flowers if the day is too cold, too cloudy. Spring is in the air, as they say, and there is an element of anticipation, a desire to strip and run out naked to welcome back the sun. I don’t, of course – I’d freeze my butt off.

It’s as if the entire Nature is holding its breath, not quite believing spring is back, with warmth and long, long days of sunlight. A couple of weeks in which it all hangs in balance, while irrevocably the Earth turns and the sun’s heat comes closer. Days in which every glimpse of the sun is a promise, in which every freezing wind carries the dying breath of winter.

I wait. I collect signs of spring as others collect stamps. Look, the nettles are showing, and in the protected corner just by the house, the Monk’s Hood has broken through the earth, pinnated leaves like dark green lace. I inspect my roses and taste the wind, trying to decide whether it is safe to prune them. In the mornings, I wake to frosted windows and frozen puddles, but I refuse to wear my winter coat, shivering in the icy air as I tell myself that it is April, and therefore spring.

IMG_0093The chestnut by our house is decorated with heavy sticky buds, the pod straining to hold the bud closed, while the newborn leaves within clamour that they want to escape their confining prison. The pod cracks, and a glimmer of green can be seen within. Does it hurt? Maybe it does, maybe that is why spring stands on the threshold and waits, not quite daring to break through the constraints of winter.

One of our more famous Swedish poets, Karin Boye, expresses it thus:

Of course it hurts when buds break open,
Why else would spring hesitate?
Why would all our heated desire
remain fettered in frozen bitterness?
The pod was there throughout the winter
so what is it that now pounds and strains within?
Of course it hurts when buds break open,
for that which grows, and that which is burst open.
(own translation)

Every year, life returns. Every year, we are blessed with the miracle of seeing our world reborn. Gratitude sings in my veins, life pounds in my blood. I am alive – and so is the world!

And for those that just want to shape their mouths around the Swedish version of Karin Boye’s poem, see below.

Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister.
Varför skulle annars våren tveka?
Varför skulle all vår heta längtan
bindas i det frusna bitterbleka?
Höljet var ju knoppen hela vintern.
Vad är det för nytt, som tär och spränger?
Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister,
ont för det som växer och det som stänger.

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