Nettles, the new growth, vibrant green poking through last season’s old. I have missed the young leaves – a taste that will now accompany my camp meals along with wild garlic, tossed in for just a minute to transform my evening dinner.
The ground changes. Slowly the leaves will lift, part to one side and allow the virgin vegetation to change the floor of the woods from a crisp clutter of dead browns to a new, living and breathing visual delight. Young buds, curled shyly, tentatively peek out like frightened children.
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Trees offer the finale. I sense the impatience, waiting for leaves. Each species comes to life, each corner of the woods changing until a giant canopy has unfolded. The oak, beech, birch, ash and accomplices waiting their turn. Amazed at the birth of one, the next cacophony of green always makes me smile. The love of looking skyward, lost in the illumination of leaves.
Gratefully I acknowledge a rise in the temperature. The chill diminishes, the cold days recede, losing a battle with my new friend – warmth. Now I live in the change, an odd place between winter and spring. A corner where winter struggles to let go, and spring fights to regain control once more. A frosty night, a misty morning that dissipates and surrenders to hazy sunshine. I pause on my walk and lift my grateful face to suck up the heat.
Shadows lengthen and linger. The dents, creases and ripples of my home on the South Downs take on a new personality, experimenting with light and shade. Summer storm clouds, a day’s anger clashing with blue, sunlight streaking through breaks and racing across the landscape.
I’m just following the lead of the animals. A glimpse of an adder sliding away through the grass. Rabbits diving back to the hedgerow, a startled fox adamant she had the woods to herself. The call of the birds, more of them every day, new songs as we progress.
Spring can never arrive soon enough.